I go to a place that is not a place,
To a time that is not a time,
Where the day is the night,
And the night is the day,
And there I will fly away, away,
And there I will fly away.
~Original chant by Eric Jeffords
This last weekend I went to the Gathering for Life on Earth and there I went between the worlds to dance with the Witch of Forest Grove, a Wise Shaman, a Czech Seer, a Messenger of the Gods, a Wild Irish Woman, a few drummers, a Fiddler, a Devilish Bodhran player and many, many witches, pagans, gods and the spirits who speak for them. For four days we wandered the paths that few do tread and were transformed by each other and by spirits and strange powers. It seems like a dream now, and constantly I found myself tempted to pinch myself to wake myself up, but I knew in my heart that it was real, and I abolished all doubt. It was a true Witch’s Sabbat.
My friend (the Wild Irish Woman) and I drove a culmination of fourteen hours. We took it in two trips (thank goodness) and we drove over the beautiful cascade mountains. They were truly breath-taking. I do not have a very good camera, but these were the ones that I feel came out the best.
There was a bridge that we crossed that had this beautiful natural spring that flowed down about a hundred feet (probably more) under a grated bridge so you could see the bottom. Then we continued on and drove another seven hours to get to Bellingham and then straight up into Canada. We got it lucky; there was a huge line waiting to get into Canada because of the weekend, haha! It was the same coming back, but the line to get in was even longer than getting out.
And so we drove through and into a little place called Belcarra, absolutely beautiful. Moss grew on all the trees in the directions of the sun, and the ferns, and sweet growing things. Everything was green! It was beautiful. We got out of the car and were greeted by a Horned Woman who cried: “You must be the Americans! I can’t believe you drove all this way!” to which I replied: “Indeed we are! Look, my friend, a Canadian rock. Maybe we can sneak it over the border upon our return!” And much laughter was had. We signed in and move dour stuff to our cabins. We decided to study the map and take a little tour of the place. It was just stunning. The cabins were part of the landscape, hidden away in the trees. I sadly do not have any pictures of the lodges or anything like that; I don’t know why I didn’t take any.
We wandered about and met the DJ of the Grotto. He was just a sweetheart. Everyone was! Everyone was so accommodating and nice and wanted to hear about us and we wanted to hear about them. We met a druid who drove about a third of what we drove to get here, and there was one Elder from California!
Then a funny part, hehe. I went back to the car to get something, I don’t even remember what, and they were looking for a couple to consecrate Aphrodite’s temple. The registrar looked at me and said: “Oh! You’re married; you can consecrate the temple!” to which I replied: “Nope, I’m a homosexual, haha! Find me a boy, and we’ll talk.” *wink wink*It was most hilarious. Sadly there were no gay men there (that I knew of!). There was a sister, and we hit if off fantastically.
The evening commenced with a beautiful ritual put on by the pagan group NROOGD. There we made our journey into the Between, set up sacred space, changed into beasts, and danced and sang. Following this (it was around 11 now) I went down to the fire and sat with my friend and we started fiddling away while the DJ played the Bodhran. Later he taught me to play this beautiful instrument. Now I need to get one myself and come back to the next Gathering a virtuoso, for this is what I promised to him. We were joined shortly after by those that had attended the skyclad ritual. Then there was much dancing and drumming (some shirtless drumming and dancing) and storytelling, and carousal! Then it was time for bed and fresh start in the morning. I skipped breakfast having gone to bed at around 3am, haha. Not for the last time!
The next day we walked with the spirits and they reached out to us. We discovered the various spirits of the Land and the Guardians of the place. It was good to have confirmation that the sensations I feel when spirits are near are not just flights of fancy, but actual true feelings. I hung out near the lake after that, dipped my toes in the nice water and chatted with a few people. It was such a beautiful day out. I wish I had taken more pictures, but it just didn’t come to my mind. I didn’t have even a phone because I couldn’t get service up in Canada, and time didn’t really matter so why did I watch!?
Then it was time for a stunning ritual with the Wise Shaman. He took us to the Underworld where we met with our Ancestors and the Mighty Dead and saw to it that the recently dead, and the lost received a safe passage into the Underworld with the help of Raven. It was truly a release, an unknown weight off my shoulders that I didn’t know I had. And the Fiddler sang this song that I felt was very appropriate:
To friends deceased, Wassail!
To grateful dead, all hail!
We hoist to you the parting glass,
We’ll join you when our time has passed
Wassail, Wassail, Wassail, Wassail!
We drink to you, Wassail!
Tears were shed, and voices raised up in exaltation for the dead, and a Raven flew over and croaked three times. And that was that. Many commented that they had never done anything like that before, and I am so grateful that the Wise Shaman could show them the more primal side of ritual. To show the Stone, the Bone, the Staff and Flame side of things.
I went to a hypnotherapy workshop. Unfortunately the chairs were super uncomfortable and I was unable to fall into a hypnotic state Ah well. I learned a lot anyway. Following this I went to a Plant Spirit discussion group where we discussed the plant spirits and what they can do for our paths. The Wise Shaman led this and he had a lot to say about death, and ego death, and losing control and letting go. This scared a lot of people, but I feel that they needed to hear it. On the other hand there were many kindred souls there that got it. There were few of us giving knowing smirks and chuckling at inside jokes. Ego death is a complicated thing and it is one of the topics that I will be discussing in the weeks that follow the Gathering.
I had a security walk and I got to take a lot of really nice pictures for about three hours. I went out on a log into the lake and found these beautiful lily pads and flowers. It was a lot of fun. I met with a squirrel and also a robin and a slug.
The slug was really cool because we don’t have them down in Montana; it’s too dry. The security walk was just a great time to experience the Place. I enjoyed it immensely. During this time the Bardic no-talent talent show put on by the Witch of Forest Grove was going on inside the main lodge. I could hear people laughing and singing. There were others that did not go and I got to chat with them on my walk a bit. They had fun things to say about the various workshops that they had attended. It was nice to get a different perspective on things, which is what gatherings like this are all about!
My shift ended and I went inside to recite my monologue. I’m afraid I may have frightened the children, but all the same I got a good smattering of applause. Next time I will have to be a bit more appropriate I think and put my naughty words away. Then it was time for an awesome drum circle at the firepit. I learned how to the Bodhran here, and I picked it up really fast. So much fun! More drinking and dancing at the grotto, and great fun times with the Witch of Forest Grove and the others around a firepit. Good times were had.
I stayed up to watch the sunrise with the Druid. We talked of many things and the differences between modern occultism and shamanism. How modern occultism puts on layers and layers of knowledge to reach enlightenment, and shamanism tears away all that is known to find the knowledge within. I fell asleep and woke up within two or three hours and had some breakfast ready for the next, very rainy, day. Canadian bacon is everything they say it is. Fucking amazing.
Then was the part that got really fun. In the rainy weather the Witch of Forest Grove took us into a pavilion and summoned the spirits to protect us for we were going to go into altered states of consciousness. She showed us different triggers that we may use to reach the trance. This included drumming, swaying, dancing, chanting, sensory deprivation, exhaustion (my sleep deprivation really helped for this workshop!), flying ointments, smoking blends, and many others. So we drummed a bit which sent me oot and aboot. And then we chanted that powerful transvection chant:
Horse and Hattock, horse and go,
Horse and Pellatis, HO HO!
That chant, coupled with the swaying I was doing, with the heavy breathing that was going on sent me reeling into trance. The Witch gave us a formula that she uses for all sorts of magic. It is Intent + Physical Action + Spoken Word = Magic. And this can be applied to trance. So for example: if your intent is to fly from here to there you would hold that in your mind. The physical action could be drumming, or swaying, or dancing, or sense deprivation, what have you. And the spoken word is the chant. Voila! Magic, and you fly oot and aboot. It was a very safe and comfortable atmosphere to practice trance in, which is oh so important!
Moving right along on my journey! Next was the men’s ritual run by the Wise Shaman. I was a little apprehensive about this because, while I identify as a man, I have many feminine qualities and see myself as between most of the time. I can easily slide between them, especially when I am between the worlds (another blog post!). So I didn’t know what to expect from this ritual. He focused on the Root of our being. Where our ancestors came from, who we were, what are we. Which is important in the masculine sense because we create the line. This is what he was driving at, I think. Following this we made some shouts using our chest voice and are throats. I was amazed at how much masculine energy this called up within me. Invigorating. We chanted, and drummed, and summoned the rain. Then we sat around the fire and chatted about the workshops and funny jokes. I played Tic-Tac-Toe with the little boy that was there and taught him to use the center to move anywhere. Then he played against himself for a while, which was fun to watch.
The women had their mystery ritual as well. We heard them singing and chanting to heal the earth. Beautiful to listen to, and we did not break circle until they were done, which was very respectful.
My friend and I went down into town. This was a mistake, or rather I did not take the correct steps to make it not a mistake. I did not expect the space to be so visceral because when we left I became very agitated and I felt threatened by everything around me. I learned that it is important to leave sacred space in the correct way and protect yourself in the area beyond. An important lesson. Upon returning I had a stiff drink of whiskey and water (Aqua Vitae) and prepared myself for storytelling by getting into a nice drunky trance. I drummed a bit with the Fiddler and the other Bodhran player and a guitarist. Then my Wild Irish friend showed up and we fiddled some more!
Then it was story time. In my drunken trance I told the story of the “Faery Flag of Dunvegan”, the story of the clan MacLeod. I will tell it in another vlog. One boy told a creation story that consisted of buttholes, which was just bloody hilarious! Everyone was rolling around laughing. Poems were told, stories of gods were told, sonnets were recited, jokes were told and laughed at. It was a merry time.
The final drumming circle had to take place inside, unfortunately, because of the rain. The innocent *wink* Witch of Forest Grove gave those that wanted to try it flying ointments. I had brought my own jar of her mandrake ointment so I broke out my measuring spoon and slathered it over my wrists and chest and neck. She also had her Avis ointment, but I was not ready to try belladonna just yet. And then the drumming began. Sweet, glorious, thrumming, bumping, strumming, beating drumming. I had wicked permasmile and I flew high into the air. I became a squirrel and a woodpecker and a wind. I was free, I was here and there at the same time. It was just ecstatic and I fell into ecstasy. Mead was brought out in a drinking horn. More whiskey was taken of. Dancing, divination (including a bean tossing from the beautiful Czech Seer! once again, thank you) and the chanting of:
Har, har, Hou, hou, danse ici, danse la, joue ici, joue la.
It was a true witch’s sabbat. The energy in that place could have torn off the roof, and I was surprised that it did not! It was just ridiculous. And then it all spiraled down, as all things must, and we went to bed exhausted.
The next day I was still pretty trancey. But I did the work of cleaning up my cabin and packing everything away. And then, as we must do always, we returned to the material and the mundane. We pulled ourselves out of the Between and slowly we trickled away and back to our own lives. I was not sad to go, for I know I can always return. The flowers from the Temple were cast into the lake and they floated away with chants to Aphrodite. I said my final goodbyes to the spirits of the place and also the beautiful and wonderful people that I met there. Just in those four days I learned more about myself and my path than I could in an entire year. I will return next year to meet with my friends and the spirits of the place. But even if I can not return in the physical I know I can always meet with them Between.
Wassail and Frith!