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CloudCatcher 2018 – Day 2 – Elements Path

Day 2:

“Clouds are gathering”

I began my morning by reconnecting with the mountain and revisited the small altar we assembled the day before. The rain had been steady, but it has stopped for the moment, so I went deeper into the forest in search of pademelons, and hopefully a snake or two.

Not finding any wildlife, I explored natural bower formations made of wattle, fern, and vine, which involved fending off persistent wild raspberry.

It was a gentle, grounding introduction to my day, one that was welcomed before starting my work on Air and Fire.

We were introduced to further breathing techniques, and concepts that supported a greater integration of air into ourselves as an expression of unity with the element. The vernacular was somewhat different, but I found the techniques familiar and comfortable to perform, so was settling into a relative space of security and wellbeing.

Then we were asked to perform an activity where we chose three pieces of paper that were printed with extracts that formed part of a much broader statement known as the ‘Reclaiming Principles of Unity’.

I randomly chose three, and then we began to move around the workspace amongst ourselves and read through them silently. The first instruction was to choose one that most closely resembled something we felt strongly about and share that with someone close by. Then, we were asked to choose one that we didn’t have a strong connection with, and once again share it with a different person and this time explain why? Lastly, we were asked to think about the remaining statement and imagine what the world would be like if it was true?

Emotion, that unwanted companion I was never comfortable expressing caught in my throat as I pondered what the world would be like if we, “worked to create and sustain communities and cultures that embody our values, that can help to heal the wounds of the earth and her peoples, and that can sustain us and nurture future generations?”

I couldn’t, and the pain I felt at that moment washed over me and left me feeling hopelessness and an overwhelming sense of loss. Tears were in my eyes by now, as I allowed the rawness of my loss, your loss, my descendants’ loss sting my heart. I simply stared into the eyes of my companion who I shared this with and silently saw in their eyes the same deep knowing that such a world is a foreign place.

We then returned to the circle and read the entire statement as a group before checking in again and describing which part we identified with. To single out a single statement was near impossible, the statement was beautiful, challenging, confronting, and exquisite in its authenticity. One principle however stood out above all others because reflected what I try to do with my Druidry, “…our tradition honours the wild, and calls for service to the earth and the community.”

I was beginning to hear the calling.

The next stage of our path through air was going to take us deeper into our quest. We were instructed that we were going to take the same path up the mountain as the day before, however this time we were going to be challenged three times along the way. The first challenge was to develop a creative expression to Hermes that conveyed our desire. For me it was a variation of something I sometimes say when acknowledging fire:

Creative and vital Hermes inspire,

My vision, my passion,

Your honey, my desire!

I made my way further along the track and was confronted by Apollo, and this time the challenge was to look deeper into the desire of my quest. I was still under the delusion that my quest was the noble task of finding the balance of creativity and passion between both paths – Druidry and ecstatic practice and carrying home the sweet honey that reclaiming inspired.

Finally, the third challenge came as a surprise, as I was confronted with the desire to find the elements of creativity to build stronger ties with the wilding of my spirit, so that in my practice I can become closer to the animal ancestors.

Gathering our breath, we returned to the hall and moved once more around the circle to the element of fire!

I had the good fortune of pairing with a beautiful soul and together we cast the circle in a fashion we had already witnessed several times throughout the short time we’d been at camp. While not unfamiliar with ritual, leaning into the uncertainty of what words would tumble out of our mouths, we simply leaned into that edge and stretched it that little bit further.

Something that features in almost every ritual is chanting. This served the ritual on many levels, for me it allowed a deeper connection with the people around me, and a device to raise and focus our ritual intention. I was really surprised at the ease of which I was able to grasp and hold onto the chants! Usually I have to work a lot harder to retain them, but in the loving support that was developing between us all, I was beginning to lose my self-consciousness and just allow my imperfections to show. Raising energy in such a large group was transformative, and completely new to me.

What was most apparent, was that our path was developing into a deep container that was starting to expose our vulnerability, our weaknesses, and our willingness to share and support each other through it.

The fire was drying my tears for now, but I was beginning to feel raw and exposed.

Emotional. I don’t like being emotional, if only I knew what awaited me on day 3.

CloudCatcher 2018 – Day 1 – Elements Path

“The rain is coming”

Breathe…

The clouds catch in the mountain making it impossible to find the edges of the valleys, and clouds overhead swallow the sky and the horizon.

Breathe…

Day one of ‘Elements’ path began the morning of what could be considered day two, after an energetic opening ritual of ecstatic drumming, dance, and chanting the night before.

Breathe…

I had never worked ritual in this manner, and the awkwardness I felt held me back from truly engaging. Being around reclaiming witches I quickly built up a vocabulary with which I could better articulate my experience: I found an ‘edge’.

The ‘Elements’ path is quest-based, and from the very beginning we’re invited to stretch our edges – to push past the discomfort of the unfamiliar and discover what it truly means to be immersed in the elements, and to take a journey that will hopefully allow our quest to become fully realised.

As part of our induction, we were introduced to some fundamental principles of reclaiming ritual ‘structure’. However I use the term loosely because the ecstatic nature of the tradition appears fundamentally open to personal experience and expression.

However, three key focuses for ritual include: ritual conspiracy, ritual Intention, and ritual affinity. The three principles were explored more deeply throughout the path and the general camp evolution.

What was perhaps the most fundamental component of path work – or even just being in camp – was agency. This was explored in various ways, but what moved me the most was deep listening, something I recognised as an edge that I needed to stretch. The concept may seem simple, however it involved ending statements and interchanges with the word ‘check’, to indicate we’d stopped talking rather than vocalise or gesture. We simply ‘twinkled’, holding up a hand or two and wriggling our fingers as a sign of acknowledgement, because they didn’t need me to fix anything, simply to be a container in a group that could simply hold space and listen!

We followed up the typical rounds of names and check-ins with breathing exercises. Before any work, during work, or simply to break up the work, a deep breath was encouraged. It slowed things down for me and allowed me to check myself when I came across another edge; of which I discovered were varied.

After casting circle, we began the fundamental work of the elements, starting with Earth.

Each witchcamp is built around a broader intention, and this time it focused on the myth of Apollo, Hermes and the Bee Maidens of prophesy. Using aspects of the myth, we were asked what our quest was – the intention behind taking the ‘Elements’ path, and were guided into a trance to explore that. I already had all the answers of course, and knew my quest was to lean into my edges and find ways that reclaiming could be introduced to influence my own personal practice of Druidry.

I was expecting to receive information that would build my confidence to use inspired utterance to guide and direct my intentions when holding ritual. Not used to working with aspects of deity, when invited to pass through a gateway and meet with Hermes, I was met with a bee maiden instead. She led me to a stagnant pool and the stream that fed it was blocked. The trance continued, and I was led to a larger catchment at the base of the mountain. There, a path took me up to a cave where my guide joined the other two maidens. At their feet flowed three streams, each cascading to the pool below. What followed was an oracular experience that suggested something much deeper was coming, the runes I received were Perthro, Tiwaz, and Algiz.

I knew at that moment that I didn’t know my quest at all, in fact my true quest was still buried beneath the deep waters to come.

As I was led back to where my quest began and leave behind my inner work, the bee maiden left me with the inevitable awareness that something else was underway, and the words, “the rain is coming”.

The second part of the work involved a small meander up the mountain to a small clearing where our quests were made clear to the group, and objects collected with intent were assembled on a makeshift altar on the ground.

The object I found that represented what I thought was my quest was a fern frond, a simple ladder like structure that was made up of many rungs, ultimately culminating into a single pinna that symbolised the integration of reclaiming witchcraft with my Druidry.

We left that sacred grove we created and our quiet contemplation, before wrapping up our first day of working with the elements the same way that it begun; with a breath.