Monthly Archives: June 2005

Active/Activist

Posted on by

Well, I just had an epiphanette (can an epiphany be little?) today that I thought I’d share. I was thinking about all the conversations I’d had at witchcamp last week about being an activist, about how within Reclaiming there are still hard feelings fostered by this false dichotomy between magic and activism. And as always, when the subject of activism comes up, I started chastising myself for no longer being an activist — I don’t get arrested these days, haven’t participated in any big direct actions since the WTO in ’99, etc.

Then I started taking the word “activist” apart, and realized that the main ingredient is “active.” I may not be an activist by my own definition, but I am active, as in being an active citizen and speaking out about things. I vote, I volunteer, I work on committees, I donate money, I write letters to the editor. Who knows? I may even run for the school board some day. I am an active member of my local community, and that’s enough for me right now.

For me, this has cleared up the either/or bs that keeps going round: either you’re a dyed-in-the-wool activist, or you’re sitting around navel-gazing. Either you are a serious magical practitioner, or you are just acting out some teenage rebellion in the streets. Even the magical activism strategy seems strained to me: it makes me feel like I have to be super-mystic AND super-politic in order to qualify. But every community — local or far-flung — needs many active members. Without them, there is no soul to the place or the organization. And it’s not just about going to meetings: without giving some juice to our friendships within groups, those groups will not last as long.

Reclaiming’s California witchcamp teachers’ cell is moribund, because people do not show up. This is so disheartening, it makes me despair about SF Reclaiming generally. It makes me fantasize about moving to Portland with everybody else, where at least people are (mostly) friends and can go to meetings together. The center of our local teacher community has died, and all that is left are my friendships with individuals and the undying hope of a resurgence. But that can only happen with active people. So listen: do whatever spiritual practices you want, and do them intensively. Go ahead and blockade something every month if it makes you happy. But please stay active, too. Attend to your community, to your circle of friends, as much as you do to either magic or politics. Maybe then, even if the radical social transformation we envision doesn’t come to pass, the center of our lives will still hold.

What I Learned at Summer Camp

Posted on by

Teaching witchcamp is not like going to summer camp, except for it usually being during the summer at a camp site. It is a pressure cooker, full of hard work, delicate conversations, and occasionally sublime magic. I just came back from teaching at Dreamweaving witchcamp, where we had as our theme the Feri creation myth. We set out to shed some light on this myth which is central to both the Feri and Reclaiming branches of the Craft, by working each night on a different figure in that story — the Star Goddess, Blue God, Green God, and Red God — and how they came to be.

Part of the success of camp was that it was held down at Diana’s Grove, an absolutely beautiful 100-acre retreat spot in Missouri. The Grove is tended as sacred space by a very grounded, experienced staff, and the community that has built up around it and DreamWeaving Witchcamp over the past 10+ years is really wonderful.

Up until this year, I would never have considered signing up to teach a Feri camp. There has been so much glamour attached to the trad, and so many people were using Feri involvement as an excuse to let their insanity flourish, that I wanted nothing to do with bringing it more into the public sphere. So I actually surprised myself by agreeing to teach this camp when my friend Dawn asked me — and then I was pleasantly surprised by a rock-solid teaching team (no drama queens or unstable personalities!), thoughtful, engaging campers, and a rather lovely jaunt through different levels of the Feri myth.

One of the things that really intrigued us as we spent hours shaping the myth into ritual were the moments just before creation: the Star Goddess gazes into her reflection and calls her Miria, then coupling with herself gives birth to all life in the universe, and something happened to make that culminate in the birth of the Blue God — ecstasy, desire, youth, lust, love, poetry, all cardinal forms of self-expression. That went on for some time, and then something happened: the alchemy between those figures needed a new expression, and the Green God was born — growth, death, regeneration, all the cycles and realms of diverse life forms. Then something happened again, and the Red God emerged — the hunter, keeper of edges and boundaries, lord of death, horned one.

That “something happened” is a great place to start looking, and scrying, when you’re exploring the myth. Basically, “something happened” is a mystery, and will always be so. It’s the same thing when we look at the creation story offered by science: for some reason, hydrogen and helium emerged a billion years after the big bang. Early creatures needed a new way to get around, and for some reason this made them grow wings and be able to fly. We know that evolution happens, we can learn about the steps involved, but we can only guess at the force that stirred all those needs together and created that something new.

The only thing to do then, from a magical perspective, is to enter the story ourselves, feel those processes at work within ourselves, and fill in the gaps with our own understanding of creation. So that’s what we did for seven days, and it was good. I have come back home with a greater sense of intimacy with the mystery behind all life, and that’s a rich, velvety place to be. I’ve also come back with just as many questions about our human role in co-creation as I had at the outset. Even though we all know from the myth that the cycle of creation never stops, that it’s going on right now and we don’t know what’s going to happen next, we all want to know what comes next in the human story. For me, that sense of intimacy with the mystery of creation helps me not get too wound up in playing that guessing game.

Other things I learned at witchcamp: sometimes the same damn joke can stay funny for well over a week. Jumping in a creek is good for just about anything that ails you. (Sleep is good for the rest.) Fireflies at twilight over a misty meadow is just about the most beautiful sight you’ll ever see. Trusting in the basic good intentions of people is the best place to start. And no one can ever be an expert about creation myths, because they’re never over.