It’s come to this. To a hall of people moving to the sounds emanating from a bodhran, a base drum, a guitar, and a violin. And human hands. The hall is humming with both excitement and perhaps a kind of no-not-now, knowing that because it is the fourth ritual, the final ritual of the arc of camp, tomorrow we will be returning to our homes – out there.
On the first night of camp, as at the first night of every Reclaiming WitchCamp, we cast the Circle that takes us between the worlds and conjures a container for all our work… tomorrow at our closing ritual we will release that Circle… but this great Circle shimmers now, pulsates, is swarming with spirits, our spirits, and all the spirits we keep calling to, naming, leaning into, and daring to be with.
I feel how between the worlds we really are. This is no metaphor. I can feel the profound reality of it as I drum, as I sing and tone and my voice melds in with the emergent soundscape. And we are also very much completely in the Underworld, between nothing and nothing. I have never experienced so much rain at a CloudCatcher WitchCamp before. I keep reminding myself, and this is my 18th camp, that Underworld camps are like this. It rains a lot. It’s still raining. I saw the sun for a little while today when the clouds broke open and revealed our nearest star. I danced on the grass, arms up – singing in praise and with desire. Before the rain completely took over though, on the first full day of camp, I looked up from what I thought was the surface world and stared into clouds at wonder. Up there were blue whales swimming through their ocean. We really are in the Underworld, then. We are deep below the seas, or the sea just keeps going down and down.
These thoughts and memories jostle around and play tricks in between and through my mindful concentration and attention on the invocations, both simple and succinct and intricately wondrous. But now – now we get serious. Now we trance ever deeper into these mysteries Erishkigal, Queen of the Great Earth, holds for the World.
The Gala, the demons of the underworld, Erishkigal’s spirits, spirits of Kur, are all around me in my visions. And I can hear them in the ritual hall too. Or more properly, my insides and my outsides aren’t different anymore, there are no distinctions. This is magic. This is real. The Trance is working.
Oh my insides… Oh your insides.
Erishkigal’s labouring, her screaming into the cold darkness, into the dust of the depths below, through the houses of bone, guides us, holds the whole world, all the worlds, right now. I can feel what She is doing for, with, through us all.
It hurts, so much. And so does listening to the stories of people I know and love. Stories that make the 10 of Swords look pathetic and asinine. Stories of the Underworld: the parts of the Underworld that take it all, that don’t tolerate anything, but welcome, embrace, devour all. All are home in the Underworld. We are born of the Underworld, place of secret wealth, terrifying pain, divine beauty, and so much rest.
So the gala, the demons, are not my enemies, they are helping me. Cleaning me. Taking from me what is not mine to be burdened by anymore, so that I may emerge refined, transformed, different… and we are going to emerge.
Gates. Seven. Remember them? Inanna did this, does this, forever. That’s what makes a Godd, they are great and noble spirits who have sacrificed themselves on the altars of their own stories. They become the blood of myth and they are eternally this Name, this Thing, this Mystery and profoundly so… and yet, the magic of witches, well – paradoxically working together we can reweave our-their stories and we can recover the treasure and truth in stories that have been warped by Empire’s deceit.
The gates open wide, remember!
Seven gates. I notice when I am at the third gate because it’s different. Later I discover other witches also found this at the third gate. For me, bat’s wings – I have to pause here. It is like I am being pushed down through the birth canal, now I must really do this thing. Now I must really choose this birth.
And I do. I choose this birth. And I emerge. And the world is different because I am different. Don’t forget beloveds, we are this world, we and every other mysterious one, every other creature, every other one and too many are dying and going away forever – extinct.
So I come back to this world of horror and beauty, some would say a hellish world, and yet I am filled with a dark and formless flame speckled through with gold flashes of wonder. And I will carry this wonder through this beautiful, mutilated Earth, and I will be the healer I can be, be the witch I can be, be the human I must be.
I have seen the Goddess and I am changed.