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CloudCatcher 2019 – Primal Witch – Day 3

Day three on the Primal Path and I’m in deep. Between the camp offerings of breathwork and ritual, bountiful meals and even more rain, everything that Cloud Catcher has offered on this pathway invites me to a grounded place within. Today as we enter the ritual hall to begin our Path the drums are in the centre of the room. I am not an experienced drummer though have wished to learn my whole life and gingerly go into the centre and choose a small djembe. One of the things I am noticing at camp and across the reclaiming as a whole is that all is welcome. I’m invited to lean into my edges, or not… As I step in to drum, I am met with encouraging smiles filling me to the brim with confidence. Keeping my eyes on Sue and the beat she’s leading, I join into co-creating the rhythm for the day. We drum for what seems like forever and I close my eyes as my beat matches the collective. It’s time to begin.

We start the day sharing about our hearts, discussing how grief and pain are portals for connection and growth. This aligns so beautifully to the rituals, offerings and threads of the rest of camp and I find myself once again feeling held by the organisers, those who have woven the camp theme for many months before.

I remember the subtleties of the plant world and how, when I use the grounding exercises (i.e. “do” the practice), to include the green breath and consciously engage with nature, my connection deepens. A part of me casts back to my own farm and I can’t wait to walk in the woods and re-meet the green bloods at home.

As Riyana begins to talk about today’s path experience and shares her recipes for open heartedness, the words that come to mind are ‘existential botany’. A learning beyond the root, stem, leaf and fruit of the plant. The Primal witch, as they do with all aspects of self, practices a heart centered energetic exchange accessing the plant medicine on many levels.

I learn about the heart as an organ of perception and how to experience intimacy via the plant world using my newly remembered skills. Greeting the herb Hawthorne for the first time and meeting Rose again is layered on top of yesterday’s dance with restorative mushrooms and I feel I am building resilience, building capacity to live in service and expanding my heart space and capacity for love. One of my favourite tunes appears in my mind, a song from Rising Appalachia – Resilient.

We’re layering our practices for living an embodied life just like I do compost or when building soil in my herb garden. Layer upon layer. Each layer has a different use and rhythm. Each layer has an offering different to the one before yet they’re so intimately linked.

WitchCamp has offered me the opportunity to see the layers and remember. Totally blessed.

CloudCatcher 2018 – Rituals: Affinity Group and Bardic – Day 3

Affinity Group Ritual
Today’s ritual is different – today we will create a ritual in the afternoon with our affinity groups, for tonight is the Bardic Ritual. Affinity groups are small groups created at the beginning of camp to not only help people get to know one another better, but also to help them work through anything that might be coming up for them at camp, especially in their path workings. Since we’ve been meeting every day for discussions and have been doing a few chores together as a team, we’ve already grown close – something easy to do in the container created by camp and the first evening’s ritual. Today we’ll be growing closer still as we work our own magic with each other, and with the energies most often associated with Hermes.

As with other rituals, the entire camp has an intention that we’ll be working with, although the exact words of the intention escape me, the magic having run its course. As an affinity group, we begin by agreeing what we want to do for our ritual – how we want to connect, what we want to offer the land, and what energies we want to work with in the process. While we’re planning, we all agree the trickster energy of Hermes has already started working with us, and we agree to continue working with that energy to offer our laughter to the land.

When the ritual begins and we call on the energies we’ll be working with, and the laughter comes in full force almost immediately. Writing about the belly-laughs and and snorts can’t do justice to the offering we gave, but at one point in the ritual I got to pause and reflect on how magical it is to be able to celebrate the holiness of laughter, how sweet it is to be able to connect with others who also know that laughter too can be sacred. It is for this sweet connection that I come to WitchCamp regularly, and our affinity group ritual was no exception.

Bardic Ritual
The Bardic Ritual is and is not a ritual, per se. It is not a ritual in that many of us are seated; it is not a ritual in that there is a stage and lights; it is not a ritual in that there are no specific energies called into the space. And yet, it is a ritual in that it happens every year at camp; it is a ritual in that people gather and raise energy together; it is a ritual in that lives are transformed together. During the Bardic Ritual all of the amazingly talented people at camp share their gifts, skills, and crafts with others. The entertainment is full tilt with emcees introducing each of the amazing acts. There are poetry recitations – one to the planet(oid) Pluto, for wreaking havoc on the solar system, and one an ode to air, for all the ways it kisses us. There’s a monologue of a camper explaining his experiences to his mother on the other side of the planet (misunderstandings can be hilarious!), and there’s a luscious dance, with the audience of witches providing the wholly improvised music. And there are songs and tunes, too. One piece is played on the ukulele immediately transports me to ancient Greece, and another brings me to tears, as a trio sing their offering to their gods. At the end of the evening I find myself marveling at the amazing group of people assembled here and the beautiful art they create and I do a little spell that the rest of the world may experience the same joy as I have.

CloudCatcher 2017 – Elements of Magic Day 3 – Fire

Following a passionate discussion on the wisdom of fire and its significance to humans as a society and spiritually, my path family and I now stood around an open campfire singing, drumming and raising energy towards the open flames. Fire it turns out is a very reflective element, there is no hiding from it and it taught me quite a formidable lesson about myself.

Over the past few days in Elements of Magic, we had we been sculpting a lump of clay into a chalice. This chalice was to be created using all four elements and made with a magical intention. The chalice had been moulded from earth, cured by air and was now ready to be kilned in fire, but not before a little spell work of course.

As we stood in a circle, chanting and dancing in the early afternoon sun sending our energy into the chalices warming in the fire, a friend I’d made at camp, Julie was playing a drum beat that kept us all dancing and the energy rising. We’d reached a peek in our ritual. I was lost to the beat and the energy swirling within me when Julie caught my eye and yelled across the circle, “Come here and drum! Keep it going!” without hesitation, I ran to the drum, excited to throw myself into this new experience. My only drumming experience was one lesson Julie gave me at the start of camp – but that was all I needed. With Julie’s beat still carrying in my mind, I told my hands to start.

“Right, left – right … no, that’s not it, start again.
Right, right-left – right, shit!
Ok…wasn’t it just, like, no, DAMN IT!
You’re taking too long & now everyone’s out of sync. Why did you even attempt this? You can’t drum…you’re shit at music – just get off and give it back to someone who knows what they’re doing.”

Without a further thought, I jumped off, handed it back to Julie and went back to my place in the circle. I looked around, and everyone was still singing and clapping to the beat even though the drum beat had faltered. No one seemed to notice. But I kicked myself for even thinking I could do it in the first place. I stepped up and fell…think before you act Charlie. I tried to forget it, and I put my mind back into the ritual. Luckily I was able to get my headspace back where it needed to be, and I was happy with how the ritual turned out.

Still embarrassed about what happened I unfairly cast blame on Julie. She knew I wasn’t a drummer, why did she even ask!?

CloudCatcher Rule 1 – Think well of each other, the parts we dislike in others are the parts we dislike in ourselves. 

Julie apologised for putting me on the spot like that. It wasn’t her fault. Based on one 5-minute lesson Julie thought I could do it, that’s a compliment! I was the issue.

While sitting in Julie’s room later that day I inspected each one of her incredible jewellery pieces she had for sale. Julie is a Druid from the Blue Mountains. She has a beautiful and nurturing, creative soul. I have always admired highly creative people. We spoke further about what happened, and I started to open up. “I don’t know what happened. I was so confident that I could nail it and I just flopped. That’s classic me though. Whenever I’m in that kind of situation, I choke, and then my mind disconnects from my body, which disconnects from my energy flow…then I end up so angry at myself.” Julie put a comforting hand on my shoulder looked at me in the eyes and said, “Stop putting your fire out, let it burn”.

I don’t know what it was about those words specifically that resonated on such a deep level. Seven words that struck the core of what was in my heart – self-doubt is my worst enemy. I had learned this lesson before, in the past once I conquered my self-doubt and believed in my power my life progressed in the most incredible ways. Here was the same lesson – slapping me in the face and wrapped in fire.

Beautiful finishing note
I know we are meant to be writing these blogs in chronological order, but hey, at CloudCatcher we found out that time can be bent.

When Julie put her chalices in the fire, she put in a beautiful red stone, a Carnelian. Carnelian has strong alignments with the fire element. We all speculated what would happen to the stone in the intense heat.  After our chalices had been in the kiln all night, we unwrapped them the next day like excited children. The chalices turned from earthy-white to a scorched black colour, and we all stared in wonder. Julie showed us that the Carnelian had lightened in colour slightly and it had cracked, like a beautiful stone mosaic. This firestone had been shaped anew by the element itself and had been adorned with love, community and creation. Julie handed the stone to me “Let your fire burn”.