On the third day after camp, my head cold lifts. My ears no longer ring, my mind, chest and eyes are clear. Mother Mountain has had her way: physically, I am home in my lounge room.
I light a candle, and prepare myself to return to Day 1 of my fifteenth Australian Reclaiming Witch Camp. It is the first time since I started blogging for camp, that illness has prevented me from writing when I wanted.
I mentally return to Mother Mountain …
A few breaths, and in the magic of my mind’s eye, I sit in The Bower with about 25 witches. The sound of rain beating incessantly on a tin roof replaces the bright sun shine and blue skies of my home, which rests on Gumbaynggirr country.
Three hundred kilometres north on the rim of the Wollumbin caldera, and exactly one week ago, on Yugambeh country, it is bucketing down. Sheets of rain pervade the earth. Erishkigal the Dark Goddess is with us: during this camp, we are to be enveloped in grey clouds.
In this grey Queenslander room, with its wooden vertical joints, I look through a clear window to the grey outside. Water drops trickle down the window pane like tears trickle through my body.
I am nervous. I am hesitant. I do not quite know what to expect: I know that seeking and receiving enthusiastic consent is paramount, After casting circle, I listen as my fellow travellers introduce themselves. We are a diverse group: gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight and transgender people. At 66, I am the oldest, and, possibly the least broadly sexually experienced.
My ongoing relationship started at 20, and I married at 22. I have two adult sons (ages 34 and 30). I sought and gained enthusiastic consent from my ‘other’ before choosing this Path. I hold a special place for my ‘other’ in my heart, but their needs are now different to mine. My witch community help me reference a world somewhat alien to me: cuddle puddles to kink; bdsm and burlesque; intense performance art to relationship anarchy, alternative relationships and polyamory. I am fascinated with what I know and do not know. In these new experiences, I am a Loki on my own wall.
For me, life is a ‘love spell’: a relationship adventure: I have a need for touch, intellectual engagement and sensual pleasure. While being an intense introvert, relationships fascinate me. They may last from less than a minute to a life time – meaningful depth is available in a moment as fleeting as the flap of a bird’s wings as it arises the ground.
In the final moments of a past witch camp, with agreement, I hugged Copper Persephone, disappointed for us not to have conversed. We exchanged eye contact, and I said: ‘I am sure we will meet again, I know you will be my teacher.’ Copper Persephone and Rose Weaver, the teachers of this Path, sit beside the Bower Altar. The room is long and narrow, minimally lit by a single set of sparkly lights frozen on the ‘still’ setting. I can barely see the faces of the participants at the other end of the room in the subdued light, but, their voices reverberate clear as mountain bell birds.
Copper Persephone is talking about Pleasure Activism: resourcing ourselves as an antidote to grief. Copper Persephone moves onto self-care. We are all experienced witches: I have completed two directly relevant paths before this, which I have mentally named: Naked I, and Skyclad II. Self-care is a prerequisite for this Path. We are to all have at least three strategies readily available from our safety tool belt for when we are inevitably triggered. I choose:
- The grounding exercise that Copper Persephone teaches us. It is not the same as ‘pagan grounding’. It is a simple breathing exercise to be done with my Eyes Open: Breathe in – 2 -3; Hold – 2 – 3; Breathe out – 2 – 3. Copper references Lisa Najavits’ Seeking Safety work for this exercise.
- To breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth while looking for colours; patterns or counting things I can see.
- Breathing and humming aloud, while thinking: ‘I am safe. I am present.’
After a discussion around confidentiality and boundaries (both physical and emotional), group agreements are affirmed. We take a bio break: enough time for a cuppa and a quick wee.
The second part of the morning is lighter. This is the pattern that our mornings will take: thoughtful discussion followed by a break, and then a lightening. Rose Weaver and Copper Persephone are clever and astute teachers.
I return to The Bower. We are asked to throw words related to sexuality into a ‘word salad’ mix. Words that might be hidden, forbidden, taboo or unavailable to us in our dominant culture lives. I vocalise a few words: my throat is still constricted. I feel inadequate: in this cacophony, no one can hear what I am saying, and yet, I am still inhibited and my throat remains closed.
Gradually, I become aware of the music playing. I perceive a naked woman to my right. I join her: shedding my layers, my fibres, my bras and panties. Her body is exquisite in all its flaws, faults and rolls. Her spirit’s vessel is a human body that has carried her through many years of life. It is a beautiful container. I get up and dance; I am dancing naked and free: the two scars of my recent breast excisions bare for all to see. I am proud. I feel so lucky to have access to modern western medicine and technology. I show off the work of my female surgeon. I relish my breasts and their capacity for pleasure and nourishment.
The sensual, glorious, freeing movements continue for about 15 minutes: some are fully dressed, some half-dressed, and some reaching for that sarong as the music ends. All appear comfortable with each others’ choices: there are many smiles, shining eyes and glowing skin. For me, many familiar faces: I am blessed. I have chosen the right path for me.
After Path, I am feeling lighter than air: disconnected, floating, happy, too happy … I decide to take 10 minutes of solitude before going to lunch. I use a fourth strategy from my safety tool kit: I draw with pen from my memory or reality. Here is The Bower: