Jane Meredith - The Dream

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In 2002 I set foot for the first time in the Mendocino Woodlands. It was Day One of California Witchcamp. Before the day was over I had three ambitions: To teach at Witchcamp, to take my son to Witchcamp and to have a Witchcamp in Australia.

            I had been in large rituals, with a hundred or more people before. I had worked in the overlay between myth and current-day reality before. I had cast numerous circles, calling upon elements, place, gods and goddesses, worked magical paths and stayed in many, many magical places. I had been part of – and even led – rituals that became ecstatic blends of music/movement/passion/change and invocation. I had felt my magic, my politics and my reverence for the earth blend into creativity. I had been dedicated to rituals for days on end. But never these all at once.


By the air that is her breath
            By the music that is his song
            By the fire that is her bright spirit
            By the heart that is his passion
            By the waters of her living womb
            By the dew that is his tear
           And the earth that is her body
           And the grove that is his home

            Witchcamp was a rich, magical carpet – the warp built strong enough to hold the weavings of a hundred diverse souls – that could take the traveler anywhere they wanted to go. The story that year was Scherezade and I watched in awe as the myth was dissected, played with, turned around and put together so that each one of us became Scherezade, just as each one of us watched her and each one listened to her stories.

            Whispering in the deep of night
            A thousand birds take flight
            And change is born on the wing of a dream
            We change our world tonight
                    - Chant sung in the first evening ritual

            I had visited magical, powerful places before – Damanhur in Italy, a place where 1,000 people live an in a mini-socialist reality, seeking to change the course of earth’s history through a mixture of Occult magic, teaching and politics; and the Glastonbury Goddess Conference where for many years I had run workshops and rituals, including evening rituals at the Chalice Well and dawn rituals on Glastonbury Tor. I had visited Temples and sacred sites in many lands, including ancient Temples on Malta, countless stone circles in the U.K, Goddess temples in Asia, sacred mountains and bora rings in Australia, Egyptian temples, pyramids and tombs. Never before had I felt this belonging to a path, a movement, a pattern or style of magic as I did at that Reclaiming Witchcamp.

            Remembering beauty
            Remembering truth
            Remembering love
            Remembering birth
            Remembering pain
            Remembering power
            Remembering death
            Remembering joy
                   - Chant created during evening ritual

            I had gone to Witchcamp knowing no-one. Although I met many people I felt fiercely individual – as if I had found a place my own magical path could and did meld with others without being lost, blurred or compromised. I saw and appreciated the complex and sophisticated magical weaving continually working to focus these diverse individualities into one powerful energy.

            I am breathing, I am open, I am willing
           To step forward, into the unknown
           I am walking, though uncertain, I am willing
           To listen to the yearnings of my soul
                      - Suzanne Sterling & Jeffree Alphonsus Mooney

            I had many powerful moments at that first Witchcamp. One of them came in the Beauty Path; invoking the Blue God. Each person in our small group took the Blue God mask in turn, placed it over their face and spent a few moments there, in that altered space. I was almost the last. When I put it on, a raw power rose up in me and a sound came out that went on and on, loudly, to the ends of the earth. I was angry with those in my group who were vaguing off, I was playful and fierce, demanding their attention, engagement. The trees seemed sexual to me, rather than people, although I felt them wanting that engagement from me. One man in our group closed his eyes, I snapped my fingers in front of his face, then thumped him on the chest and shouted, Open your eyes! I felt alive and ferocious and unapologetic.

            I am the air around you, I am the breath of life within you
            I am the wind blowing through you, I am all that I am.
            I am the fire around you, I am the spark of life within you
            I am the flame burning through you, I am all that I am.
            I am the water around you, I am the pulse of life within you
            I am the ocean flowing through you, I am all that I am.
            I am the earth around you, I am the heartbeat within you
            I am the ground beneath you, I am all that I am.
                    - Abbi Spinner McBride

                        By the end of California Witchcamp I felt wedded to my own magic and its potential in the world, and included as a single thread in the complex weaving of Reclaiming.

In 2006 one of my wishes came true; I took my then 14-year old son to the Lorely Witchcamp in France, on the boarder of Belgium. The Camp language was English, but German, Dutch and French were commonly spoken and amongst the twelve children (aged 10-16), my son was the only one with English as his first language. For something that belonged to the same family as the Californian Witchcamp, it was an incredibly different event.

            I hear a call
            It comes from far away
            I follow where it leads
            No matter how hard the way
                   - Adapted from a chant by Rose May Dance and Jan Bates

The presence of children (twelve children to 48 adults) meant the Camp became a family event. Even though the children had their own Path and often – with their Path teachers – held their own evening activities, the adults’ roles as parents and carers were obvious. Networks were deliberately woven in all directions, adults went out of their way to spend time with others’ kids – playing table tennis, writing songs and just hanging out. It was as if the presence of children created instant community; we were not a stack of individuals there with our own agendas, or a series of friendship groupings but a deliberate, magical community of adults-with-children. Because we had come from many countries (including Norway, Israel and Australia as well as America, Germany, Holland, Switzerland…) we seemed indeed to be in a world that lay between the worlds; in our own magical, created world that yet touched the real world in many places.

           Return, return again
           Return to the land of your soul
           Return to who you are
           Return to what you are
           Return to where you are
           Born and reborn again
                    - Shaina Noll

By speaking in English, nearly everyone was speaking their second (or sometimes third) language, and often rituals or parts of rituals would be repeated in two or three languages, giving everything a layered, considered and deepening tone. Perhaps because of that, or because of the small size of the camp, or the children’s presence, or because we were in Europe with mainly Europeans –– this Witchcamp was as different as you could get from the Californian one, while still being within the same format, having similar structures and a shared ethic and understanding of magic.

            Humble yourself in the arms of the wild
            Gotta lay down low
            Humble yourself in the arms of the wild
            Gotta ask her what she knows.
            We will lift each other up
            Higher and higher
            We will lift each other up
            Higher and higher  
                    - Reclaiming chant

The Affinity Group I was part of was a collection of disparate beings who were Dutch, German, French-Swiss and my Australian called the Apples. We bonded fiercely and met under an apple tree. Still today there is a Apples group in my mailing list and I feel a connection with each one of those Apples. Some of us continue to correspond and even overlap in our work.

            We are the stars
            We sing with our lives
            We sing with our light
            For we are birds made of fire
                     - Algonquian people, via Mary Ellen Hill (adapted)

My son was frustrated – in magical terms, he would have been better placed in the Elements Path, since he had years of magical training behind him and felt held back by the unevenness of his group and the endless translation that had to happen, often into three languages – but he also bonded into the tribe of children in a way I had never seen before, preferring their company to that of adults. He loved being part of the Camp, participated unself-consciously in rituals and had his own experiences, out in the European woods.

            Spirit is rising
            Spirit is moving
            Spirit is walking
            On celebration road
                 - Carolyn Hillyer

One evening Circle we were told to head off, in our affinity groups and then go separately into the forest. On his own he cast a circle into all the directions and then – his back to the North – felt wolf presence behind him. And he recognized it as the shadow, the dark goddess and held himself silent and still as he felt her leap upon and through him, melding into him and claiming him. He was a long time on his own in the woods. When he returned to the main Circle I saw all of my teaching through the years, the dozens of rituals I had done with him and the songs and elemental teachings and spell work and invocations had culminated in this mature, youthful magicianship of his. I felt even if he were to walk away from this path, it was now a full thing within him.

           We are the rising sun
           We are the change
           We are the ones we have been waiting for
           We are dawning
                 - Ravyn Stanfield

My own affinity group separated that night and then came back together, in a copse of spindly trees and uneven ground with tiny streams trickling through everywhere. We linked arms – squashed between saplings, straddling waterways and hillocks – and bent backwards, supporting each other with our arms. Gazing at the stars we sang a high-pitched, wordless chant drawn out of our most ethereal selves.

On my Inward Path I struggled against what seemed a tide of polite reluctance, such a slow unfurling I jumped impatiently forward, pushing myself to the edges of my own hesitations with life. I gathered messages in seedpods from the trees (scatter many, do not count them, scatter many, many), pulled my shadow-self from a dark pool and made love to her and, during a silent meditation, took off all my clothes and danced naked as I received a message from my deepest self:

Do not be afraid of your power
You are beauty manifest
You hold the moment
You are light, becoming
Every atom of you is necessary
Do not hold back

By the end of Lorely I felt more deeply woven than ever into the woods and landscapes of Europe, and Reclaiming as a community – and I knew my son also had a place there.

In 2007 another of my dreams came true and I went to California Witchcamp again, this time as a teacher. Conferencing on the phone with eight voices, we had found the story of Avalon and chosen our Paths and co-teachers. Already on the phone, and again in person I felt the deep connection that comes from not just a shared vision but a shared methodology, an understanding of the magical/mundane mix that is my affinity with Reclaiming –  however distant I am, geographically.

            Strip away, strip away the veils of illusion
            Drink from the well and see with clear sight
           Come away, come away to the Isle of Avalon
           Shining beings, arise! 
                        - Suzanne Sterling

            Bound together in a three day meeting, we stepped, danced, swam and steered into the mythos of Avalon. Being a part of this was everything I had dreamed of; I revelled in it. A process I usually undertake on my own, of delicately unweaving the myth and stepping through its doorways began. Exploring story, form and character and laying out our own fascinations and understandings we then got out of the way as the process created itself, weaving the myth back together, now imbued with our visions and directions.

            We are the kiss between earth and heaven
            We are the song between sky and ground
            Sing for this life and the earth we live on
            Nothing is lost that can’t be found. 
                          - Ravyn Stanfield

We tossed ideas back and forth, we argued storylines and emphasis, we invoked gods and characters. We created the basis of the Camp’s story and four of the evening rituals, one of which we layered to be a surprise ritual-within-a-ritual, echoing the labyrinthine levels of Avalon and its Underworld. We wrought a connection with the fairy king, Gwyn-ap-Nudd (who surged up into the group as an impatient, raw power demanding to be met); we spun threads to the pilgrims to Avalon, from all the lands and through all the ages; we lent on an alliance with Morgan Le Fey and we brokered a contract to invoke the Wild Hunt.

            Avalon, ancient land
            Lady of the Lake take me by the hand
            Avalon, ancient land
           Take me by the hand to the Greenwood
            Avalon, wild and free
            Lady sing your song through me 
            Avalon, wild and free
             Sing me to the Greenwood.
                         - Jessica Braun-Ferris, Crystalline Ruby Muse and Beverly Frederick

With my co-teacher, I led the Elements Path, re-shaping it into a Path of Elemental Alchemy. We took earth, air, fire, water and aether through an alchemical process: Calcinating, dissolving, separating, conjoining, fermenting and distilling ourselves in the quest for our personal, inner gold. We released wish-birds into the world, we held a ritual funeral for every member of the Path; we chanted through the fire at each other and performed healing rituals in the river.

            Born of water
            Cleansing powerful
            Changing healing
            I am
                   - Starhawk

In the evening Circles I experienced two stand-out moments. The first was when I invoked the land in a three part trance/dance. That land of Avalon, that I have walked so many times. Those hills, forests and apple orchards; houses I have stayed in for weeks or months at a time. The Tor that I have climbed for ritual at dawn and pre-dawn; under the moon; to hold rituals and to gaze across the landscape so many times. All the times I have been part of the Glastonbury Goddess Conference there, rituals by the Chalice Well, on the Tor, through the streets and in the halls and courtyards. That was the land I traveled to in my trance, leading 100-strong Witchcamp full of mainly Californian and US witches there.

Your body is the land, you are laid over the land and becoming one with it. Your flesh is becoming soil, your bones are the rocks beneath the earth, you are clay and mountain and deep deep earth. Let yourself dissolve into the land – expand into earth and dissolve across the land. Feel the springs and the sources of rivers rising with you, feel the red and the white spring. Find the places of the secret fires deep within the earth, and molten rock and lava inside the heart of things.

            You are the forests, you are the trees rooted deep in the earth and stretched to the sky, you are the ferns and the tiny flowers and mosses, you are the beetles and insects and tiny desert plants… you receive the rain, the sun, the moonlights, the wind, you receive them into your body.

            Feel your body becoming animal, stretch into animal, or into bird, let your skin become feather, become fur, become scale… slink, slide, crawl, gallop… dig in the earth, roll on the earth, race across or fly over the earth… become animal now, one with the earth….

            The second extraordinary moment I experienced was when our ritual-laid-over-a-ritual erupted into life. We had set an elaborate labyrinth-walk (representing the three-dimensional labyrinth over Glastonbury Tor) into one of the evening rituals. Each participant focused on an intent as they followed the neat lines circling on the ground; a long, careful snake of people. And off in the woods, the hounds of the Wild Hunt howled.

            Led by Gwyn-ap-Nudd, King of the Fairies and the Underworld realm that lies inside the Tor, the Wild Hunt burst chaos into the labyrinth, snapping, growling, howling and running behind their god. The hounds and Gwyn were red and white, the colors of life and death, the colors of the sacred waters and the colors of the Underworld. They crossed through and through the labyrinth, disrupting and blurring its lines; disorienting those walking, interrupting intentions, pulling, tugging and hounding the meditative walkers, who attempted – through chaos – to hold to their course and what they had thought the ritual was about.

            Into the Wild and into the Weird
            And into the strangely queer
            If you can hear me, then you are near me
            And you will know my name.
           Come dance with me on the full moon night
           When your heart is pure and true
            If you look through me, I will look through you
           And all the worlds will change
                    - Ravyn Stanfield & Suzanne Sterling

It was one of those moments when the ritual has its own life. The world of Faerie does not necessarily wait to be invoked. It does not always respond politely. Our planned disruption had a life of its own and no matter our careful instructions to the hounds prior to the event, once in hound modality they were Wild. I – a ‘keeper’ of that particular ritual, not a labyrinth walker, not a hound, not one of the faerie or gods – watched the carefully drawn labyrinth ground into dirt and sensed the spirits of the Wild filled with pleasure at this eruption of chaos. Ultimately, as the ritual expanded to include them, they – very gently – came towards a harmony with us.

            Three Witchcamps, three dreams. Now I am just left with my dream of an Australian Witchcamp. And I’ve developed another dream along the way; to participate in a truly global Reclaiming, one which takes the differences of the US, Europe and every participant and welds them into a lattice of shining magic to cradle this earth and all her inhabitants upon. A magic where differences are strengths and harmonies. I’m dreaming of Reclaiming as a localized magic with global resonances.

Note: Songs included in this article were sung at the relevant Witchcamps. Their authors (individuals both present at the Camp and not, groups and spontaneous chanters) are all gratefully thanked.