I peel my dress over my head. My breasts rise up: caught in the folds, my nipples, stimulated, stand erect. I place my pendants on the Bower Altar: Cerridwen from a working at EarthSong WitchCamp, and Freyja from CloudCatcher, 2013. I breathe an intention.
From the EarthSong fund raising raffle, Freyja’s necklace with long needle-pointed crystals of a light amber shade: My Brisingamen, joins Cerridwen and Freyja.
The soft toy snake I brought to the ‘Gates of Paradise’ slithers among the cracks formed by the steep vertical cliffs where the mattresses abut. I imagine these edges as the sheer, solidified lava cliffs of the ancient volcano: cracks made hot as molten lava pushes through from deep within. Naked. My routine comforts me.
Twenty-three or twenty-four million years ago, the Springbrook mountain was formed from the northern flank of the Tweed Volcano. With a diameter of 100 kilometres, she was a massive shield volcano. For a million years, basaltic lava, ash and gases oozed and spewed.
The maiden mountain was erotic in her hot, steamy shroud.
I feel wary: Day 3 is usually the most difficult for me: sleep-reduced, effected by dietary changes I become easily triggered. The release that crying gives is generally denied: I am a product of my social history and upbringing. My marriage relationship reinforced the ‘no tears’ policy of my childhood: a stiff upper lip was mandatory and my mother tolling: ‘No use crying over spilt milk,’ still rings.
I can stand naked before others more easily than I can cry. I regret this: I scrieve a future WitchCamp when I crack my shield. As a role model, I dearly wish this crone, this elder, could show her vulnerablity to the maidens and mothers. It shows great maturity to express grief, joy, fear and laughter openly.
While I wait for Path to begin, I journal. I pick up my pen and realise I feel less naked with it in my hand. I experiment. Pen down: naked. Pen in my hand: less naked. Pen hidden: very naked. Mmm … interesting. I resolve to shed my pen whenever I pause my writing: it will not be a shield.
The deep work of yesterday’s path is integrated today, and celebrated tomorrow. The work of the individual is woven into community today. We do this through ritual and dance.
Jane Meredith borrows the carpeted space next door for a trance exercise. Our ever patient and generous Path neighbours have agreed to lend us their room.
I hear the steady beat of a frame drum and go deep into trance. Yesterday, in Path Day 2, we were individuals. It is time to dance with community. Under the spell of gravity, Jane Meredith asks us to fall gently to the floor and then slowly rise. Jane says: ‘Imagine you feel the pull of gravity on your body.’
Throughout the dance exercise, we are asked to repeat this falling action over and over. As an elder person with mobility issues, the repetition is impossible for me. My health, back and self-care say ‘no’: I feel isolated. I dance on the periphery of community.
My feelings amplify as two of my age peers are able to complete the action.
Seemingly disengaged, a third, older, male-gendered person stands leaning against the wall.
It feels like we are no longer a party of thirteen: as if some have left the room, but I am unclear about this: absenting oneself during Path is not an action any witch does lightly. Witch etiquette dictates that we journey together unless a high level of self-care is needed.
There is a meaning for me in every activity. What is the message here? I continue to engage as fully as I can: feelings of anger stir. The upper palate at the back of my throat constricts. I feel my tongue tight against it. My mouth becomes dry, and my thumping heart accelerates. I breathe and move towards the edge.
During Path Day 1, our teachers gave us a tool: Pendulation. In trance, using the image of a pendulum, we took our thoughts towards a personal, disturbing thought, and then away from it. Our pendulum swung from the ‘edge’ to ‘not edge’.
In the ‘not edge’ place, we created an image of our own personal ‘oasis’. I realise if I mentally move towards the disturbance, and become activated, I can pendulate my thoughts back to my oasis. I use Pendulation now.
I pendulate to my edge: During the movement piece, I cannot sink deeply to the ground and rise. I feel nauseous when I can’t do what is asked of me. ‘What is the source of my anger? What lies beneath?’ This is a community that prides itself on inclusion: the all gender bathrooms witness this To encourage fuller participation the dance could be modified easily. I feel invisible, my needs discounted: I relate to those disabled or marginalised by their perceived ‘imperfect’ bodies.
I pendulate to ‘not edge’: my oasis.
Towards my edge: Some in this community are yet to confront the reality of aging. I remember that what I project on others is most likely what bothers me about myself. Sigh, reluctant, I admit this truth: my aging body reminds me each day that I have less years to live than I have been alive. I do not want to write further about this. It is too hard: I feel crushed, powerless.
I pendulate towards my oasis, and then move back to the disturbance.
I think: ‘I cannot stop the clock, nor can I turn back time.’
I swing mentally to my oasis. I hear the drumming and instructions change. Our individual naked bodies form a tableau. We move to a central point, get as close and as low to the ground as possible and build a mountain shape rising from the floor.
Towards my edge: We are asked to extend one finger and/or toe to touch another on foot or hand. I choose a simple posture but It is difficult for me to keep my balance for the extended time required. What if I tumble, fall and break our agreement? I know my sisters will understand but my heart breaks at this thought.
Oasis: We meld, hold the pose and then dissolve: individuals shaping into community.
As a check-in we ‘popcorn*’ a few words summarising our experience. Mine are: jealousy, rage, envy and disquiet. I’m taken aback at how angry I am.
Later, in small groups, we contribute to a ritual linking our community to Mother Earth. I am the element, Earth, I hear my voice rumbling like a stirring volcano. It is angry, constricted, not the sound I want to make for the mountain. It is not what I feel the mountain is telling me. She is calm, not pent up. She is a crone. She is wise. I have found another edge to investigate: the unintentional, seething anger my voice is expressing.
It is clear that I need to do more work around this issue of my ageing.
I have an image in my head of a young maiden running from cave to cave at the base of the mountain looking for some place to hide. She wants to be invisible. She doesn’t want to come out and face the mountain and see how old she has grown. Where did the green lush forests of the mother stage go? The mountain feels old, eroded, scarred by her human experience. She is wounded and wants gentle tending. She is tired, weary of human impact and wants to be healed.
Path Day 3 closes.
popcorn: a term used to describe sitting in circle and individuals speaking as they feel the need, rather than going around one by one. The first to speak may speak again at the end.