Tag Archives: affinity group

CloudCatcher 2019 – Affinity Group Ritual – Day 3

At CloudCatcher WitchCamp we almost always have an affinity group ritual. This is an opportunity for these small groups to turn inward to each other, drop deep into the arc of ritual-work in the cauldron of the Story and Theme of the Camp and open to the magic of the moment, of desire, of need. Affinity groups are an essential ingredient in Reclaiming WitchCamps. I have had okay, wonderful, and not-so-great experiences in affinity groups as a camper at Reclaiming WitchCamps. Most of the time we end up in affinity groups “by the hand of the Goddess or Fate Herself”. We pick tokens or found objects and then we are sorted… though sorting hats aren’t usually around. Affinity groups usually consist of 4-7 people.

I did not randomly or by fate choose a token and then get sorted… I chose to enter the pre-determined Person of Colour affinity group. At CloudCatcher and several other Reclaiming Camps affinity groups are also organised around axes of oppression and experiences of social and political marginalisation. Reclaiming is intrinsically a politically-engaged tradition and feedback in the community of late in various countries has clearly communicated a need for these kinds of solidarity groups. As well as this, choosing to go into the PoC affinity group as a self-identified PoC is entirely optional.

We are collectively exhausted. WitchCamp is called a magical intensive quite specifically… it is thorough, “full on”, and well – often, intense.

One of our group excuses themself so they can get the rest they sorely need. Another does not feel completely safe and feels a spirit that has been pushing against their edges all day might invade their space if we do not ward ourselves, so I offer to cast a Circle of warding, containment, and strength.

I take my wand from Inanna’s altar in the East and I move with the arc of the sun below the equator: beginning in the south where the sun can not be seen, through to the dawning east, to the high tide of day in the north, to the twilight dusk in the west, back to the midnight south, arcing above, swooping below…

“By the centre which is the circumference…” These are words I often use to seal the Circle-casting ritual in Reclaiming and Feri practice. They are a meditation to me, they have deep meaning, and I open to the mystery between the words, and evoked by the words.

And then we simply sing. We sing, and sing, and sing.

We sing a song Riyana taught us at ritual conspiracy. It was woven by Jennifer Byers, Pavini Moray, and their path at Free Cascadia WitchCamp:

Deep, dark velvet, Earth my lover
Open my mind and open my body
Wet and welcoming, sweet surrendering
Starlight and bone, my power from within –

We sing, I am drumming on my bodhran while others sway and rock singing with their eyes closed. A few of us take pastels and colours and form magical sigils on the paper on the ground. Each group has been tasked with this by the teaching team. This too is for the compost. This ritual matters too. This ritual is what we need.

So, we sing. We sing and then we laugh.

Cloud Catcher 2016 Day 2: – Affinity Group – Silver Bells

Today, I have agreed to walk the Labyrinth with my Affinity Group.

We meet outside the room which held the original Bower at this WitchCamp. The Bower is a very special place. It is a place of healing and discussion, focusing on sex and sensuality. It is an intimate place and a place to be intimate. The tools of safe sex practices are always close at hand. Cosent is vital. It was in the Bower at CloudCatcher 2014 that I learned to be skyclad with others. That I reclaimed my birthright to be comfortable in my own naked skin.

On our final day of Path at that Witchcamp two years ago, I proceeded skyclad outside. During trance, I moulded a sigil between my bare hands. I looked down to see a small almond sized piece of clay now a thumb nail size vulva with its own clitoris. As I held it in a blue flame, the small piece of special metal clay became tinged with silver. With alchemy and modern chemistry, it transformed from a dull clay to a whitish grey polymer flecked with silver. I burnished it with fine emery paper until it shone. I forgot about the sigil until two weeks ago: it had fallen through a tiny hole in the bag I take to Path. There it was curled up in the inner lining, waiting to be rediscovered. I’d reached in and picked out what I felt like a pebble: no, indeed, it was the silver sigil returned. Mmm … I’d thought …

The Labyrinth is constructed on a slope. At CloudCatcher, there are nothing but slopes: it is after all an ex-caldera. The rim of an ancient volcano, it’s fairly steep everywhere. I am 20 kg overweight, morbidly obese (as a witch the irony of that death-laden term amuses me) and physically unfit. Walking the Labyrinth is a challenge for me. With my head down, sulking in my obesity, I walk down the slope ankles twisting underneath me.

I look up to see one of my Affinity Group is skyclad. MY first thought is: why didn’t I think of that? My next is: too late. I needed to make that move on the flat, cement path at the top of the slope. Disrobing on a slope, leggings and panties would surely have me tumbling down. Fear of falling rather than flying: or maybe flying with face flat, exposed vagina skywards, prevents me. I sigh. Silver grey clouds overhead, slight breeze, I can feel the moist wind on the back of my hand and face. Incident light reflects everywhere: it is like being bathed in a natural high intensity white light. It is perfect. And yet I still hesitate. Too late. Sad. Wistful. Regretful. Damn.

At nearly 64, I’ve been to death’s door a few times, when am I going to just do? just be? and stop regretting: moment to cosmic moment regretting. Arghhh! Frustration, next time … I resolve to keep working on it. Living is a work in progress. I walk through the Labyrinth’s gate.

I look up to see my affinity friend stretch skyward: lithe and confident. As she moves she honours the Goddess. I glance in her direction: her body looks perfect. I do not allow my eyes to linger: in pagan circles this would be unacceptable and very impolite. I am sure her body is not perfect: no human body is, and she is beautifully human. She walks gracefully through the faery gate positioned about half-way through the Labyrinth. Caught up in her own reverie, as I am in mine, she brushes her hair upwards allowing the cool breeze to kiss her sweaty neck. My eyes, slightly defocused, wash gently over her, from her hair (are those curls or dreadlocks?) to her long, bare feet. She truly honours the Goddess within her. I feel privileged and blessed. I am comforted: there is still hope for this world with such beauty in it.

I continue walking the Labyrinth: up and down, up and down. Deeper now in meditation, I walk through the faery gate. I cross into the fey world. I hear chatter, and folk whispering: dance, sing, turn tumbles, go on, you can do it! Come on, join us. Join us!

Last night, during Ritual Day 2, the Faery Queen had visited, and I saw campers become her faeries. Wildly the camp had danced, chanted, twisted and turned. From underneath the Faery Queen’s altar, mischievous nymphs had played peek-a-boo with my toes. Behind a Faery Wren flag I heard their chatter. Reclaiming is a free-ing, ecstatic tradition, and I had been ecstatic.* I am physically too tired to be drawn in again to that fey world. Regretfully, I bid the Faeries farewell and move back through their gate.

In my meditation, I hear silver bells calling me. I gradually become aware of the present. I see that my affinity group has gathered outside the Labyrinth. I move more quickly now, unhurried, I return to the present. I debrief and our Affinity Group will meet again tomorrow. Silent, I walk away calm, peaceful and present.

* By agreement, Reclaiming WitchCamps are drug and alcohol free (prescribed medications are excluded from this).