Phew! I’m still reeling from the weekend that I spent down near Glastonbury at my first Witchcamp, run by Avalon Spring, which is a community of Feri and Reclaiming Witches in the UK (with teachers from the US coming over too…more on that later!). The focus of the weekend was paradox and possibility, (re-)claiming ourselves as fully human and fully divine. The campsite itself was extremely luxurious, with a couple of dedicated ritual rooms and an outdoors ritual space circled by trees and bushes. The dorms were great too, with room for outdoor camping if that’s what you’re into. However, the best thing about the location was the food! The chef, Andy Murray, was fantastic and he has written a great book on vegan cookery, which I and most other Witches there duly bought. (And he signed it!)
The teachers that I met there were truly inspiring. As well as my regular teachers, Brighde Eire and Georgia Midnightcrow, I met Dawn Isadora and Susan Moonroot. Dawn is easily one of the most powerful and striking people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She is the type of Witch I aspire to be; aligned, present, with a great sense of humour and fabulously wise. Susan was equally as inspiring, but in a more subtle way. She seemed quite quiet, but knew exactly the right thing to say. She is warm, grounded and also very funny (something I’m seeing as a Feri-Reclaiming trait…) I bought a couple of items from her stall that now sit proudly on my altar. Apart from the main teachers, the organising team was amazing, and I feel privileged to have been a part of the whole process. I hope that Avalon Spring can organise a longer Camp for next year.
A surprising part of the weekend for me was that I got in touch with the Reclaiming part of my Tradition. I have always maintained that I was training in Feri and that I wasn’t interested in Reclaiming (even though Reclaiming is what brought me to Feri). To me, Feri is serious, demanding, powerful, and magical. Reclaiming reminded me of feminist eco-hippies who were constantly banging on about The Patriarchy, with little or no focus on the individual practitioner’s spiritual progression. While I still maintain that Feri is the more individually powerful side of the Tradition’s coin and that Reclaiming is a bit more airy-fairy (dancing like bees, anyone?), I have come to embrace what Reclaiming has to offer. I now feel like I am part of a community. I appreciate the (sometimes frustrating) value of consensus. I like the open and inclusive nature of Reclaiming (while also loving that Feri is taught one on one – or two on twelve, like our group). So, as of this weekend, I would now say that I am Feri-Reclaiming. My teachers and Trad-mates didn’t let me forget my unfolding appreciation for Reclaiming!
Possibly the most Reclaiming-esque part of the weekend was when a few people and me tranced underneath a thousand-year old yew tree in a cemetery at 6am. I was actually given a new name during the trance, which tied together bits and pieces of symbols I’ve had recently. So, my new name is Leaf. I didn’t originally like this name. It’s very New Age-y and hippy. But now, I’m starting to like it. Dawn called it my ‘working title’ but the name conjures up positive images for me, so I think I’ll stick with it. I think part of its message is that I need to spend more time in the natural world, rather than constantly being surrounded by humans and human-centred creations (even though, obviously, they/we are a part of nature).
The group rituals that we engaged in were fantastically informative. I had never participated in a large ritual before, yet my teachers asked me to call one of the Guardians in front of twenty strangers! The dynamics of group ritual were very interesting. Sometimes things went very smoothly; sometimes we needed a bit of prompting. Nevertheless, energy was raised and magic was made. We created a ritual as a community on the Sunday and it was great to be a part of ritual planning. However, being a part of a community means having to get along with people that you perhaps don’t really like. The Pagan communities have their fair share of crazies and Feri-Reclaiming is no exception. It was a challenge to try and see the sacred in each individual without giving up my own standards.
Towards the end of the weekend I could feel a type of new energy running up and down my body. It felt ecstatic and deep and I can still feeling it running through me, although it is diminishing as time goes by. Perhaps this is the Feri current, and being in circle with so many initiates allowed me to feel the energy through osmosis. If that is what the current feels like, then I am very excited! I spoke to Dawn about what she looks for in a potential initiate and she confirmed everything my teachers have said. She looks for a strong vessel for the current, someone who knows their strengths and weaknesses, someone who has a dedicated personal practice, and someone who has a deep and engaging relationship with the Gods and Guardians. I have come back with a renewed commitment to these goals, and I have included a prayer in my daily practice to help me align myself with them.
There was so much more to this weekend that will remain unspoken, some of it because it is private and some of it because it can’t be expressed. Roll on next year’s camp!