This year I attended the SpiralHeart WitchCamp at Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary in Artemas PA. This was my third WitchCamp; as always, I had an absolutely amazing time. I want to summarize a little bit about what it was like, what happens at a camp and why it is that I’m drawn to them so strongly.
WitchCamps are a product of the Reclaiming Tradition of Witchcraft. They are a several-day long intensive in the arts and practices of our lifestyle, including empowerment, community building, magic, activism, eco-feminism and ritual. Of course, there’s so much more involved!
I think probably one of the most stark contrasts to mainstream culture is in the answer to the question at camp: Who’s in charge here? The answer: We all are.
Our tradition is non-hierarchical and the setup and functioning of the camps reflects that structure. Committees and focus groups are chosen to represent the needs and wants of the collective. For example, the RATs (the Ritual Arc Team) spend a year with the story that themes the camp and carefully blend the story arc with the evening rituals which serve the campers. The OPS team ensures accessibility and facility needs. The consensus process is often used to iron out the rough spots, to ensure all voices are heard, and to make sure that decisions match the intentions and values of the group.
As I mentioned, there is a story that overarches the entire camp. This year it was a story about Kuan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion. It was a tough story, however I believe the Ritual Arc Team did an excellent job of translating it into Reclaiming-style ritual. Several points throughout the story were selected and each of these milestones became focuses for the rituals for each successive night of gatherings.
To highlight a few points of ritual work, there was ritual drama and a spiral dance; some community building; a healing ritual with aspected Kuan Yin in attendance and healers in the center; a bardic circle (a sharing of the arts), excellent music, dancing, a camp-fire — all in-between-the-worlds.
Each morning was dedicated to path-work. This year’s path offerings were: the Pentacle of Elements, Music as Ritual, Cornerstones of Community, and Aspecting the Modern Myth. Each of the paths contributed their path-working in major ways to the evening ritual arc.
For beginners, the Elements path is the recommended starting point. it orients the basics of Reclaiming ritual structure, and the foundation concepts of our spiritual technologies. I will be working towards arranging an offering of Elements of Magic for our local community later on this year.
This year I took the path “Aspecting the Modern Myth”, having taken the Elements path in one form or another the previous two years. I chose it because of my interest in modern myth, and also because of some of the technologies it touched on (aspecting, anchoring, deep witnessing) were areas I had not previously explored (See here for information on what these are). It was well worth it and I have some really grounded inspirations for how this learning can contribute to our local community, specifically the technologies and the power of modern myth.
I should also mention the grounds and the staff at Four Quarters: What an amazing and caring group. The meals were perfect for my high-maintenance dietary needs. The dining hall was even better than last year. And the stone circle.… WHOOSH! I spent some time down at the Fairy Cairn and even got to play with the Fae! Hooray!
Last but certainly not least, the people. I am confident that we each have the ability to enact “the art of changing consciousness at will” and this week enforced that confidence in me. I can recall little and large miracles, the synchronicity effect, the subtle and not-so subtle changes that occurred within me as I learned, walked towards, around, and through some of my rougher edges and witnessed others doing the same — all powerful things. I leave camp a different person, a better person, than when i arrived.
These things, in truth, are complimentary to the means itself. The community’s ability to draw itself together, to share compassion, to turn none away, and to creating the space for these things to happen: in empowerment and strong solidarity, making a space for this to happen in the first place. This is the true magic. And that is why I come back, every year.