Back home again after the Summer Gathering, I'm still getting my breath back.
It has been a rollercoaster week of anxiety, exhilaration, joy, stress, hope, and a thousand other emotions. I have shed tears of both exhaustion and joy. I have also laughed until my face hurt, danced until I was breathless, and had my faith in the strength and power of community restored. I have reconnected with loved ones, deepened existing friendships, gained new ones, and - I hope - made progress in repairing damaged relationships.
It was a small group of us who gathered the first night and joined together in Sylvia's excellent opening ritual. That night under the stars we stirred our wishes and hopes for the week into an imaginary cauldron at the centre of our circle. During the rest of the week, at some point during most of the rituals we gave people an opportunity to stir the cauldron, adding to it if they wished. It was a rich brew that we created together, maturing over the week into a hopeful vision for the future of the community, guided by the Gathering's intention: 'To Nuture Our Community'.
As the weekend drew nearer, our numbers swelled, reaching a peak on Saturday and Sunday, then slowly waning again. This gave a different kind of energy to the week than that we normally get at Witchcamp; it had a more ragged, less intense quality that at times added a kind of chaotic dynamism to proceedings.
Everyone chipped in at the level they felt comfortable with: for some this meant dipping in and out, interspersed with trips into Glastonbury, for others it meant offering talks, workshops and discussion groups, or taking an active role in planning and priestessing the rituals. And what a diverse and abundant assortment of activities we ended up with - workshops on a multitude of subjects, including Energy Raising, Tarot, Mermaid Lore, Reclaiming-Feri practices, Ecstatic Dance, and a Buffy Path; and rituals including a Healing Ritual, a Climate Change Ritual, and a tripartite ritual held over three nights based around bringing the best of the community's past into the present and then visioning how we should carry this heritage into the future. We also managed a Bardic Circle; fascinating discussions on the whys and wherefores of naming ourselves 'witch', and our regular spiritual practices; an audience with Henry VIIIth; a concert by Caitlin & Sika; a Herb Walk; time in the hot tub and much, much more. Come to think of it, no wonder I'm tired!
Overall, people seemed to have had a wonderful time. We managed to cover our costs, infact making enough to be able to repay Avalon Witchcamp the deposit they had paid on the venue - meaning all Witchcampers will now have their full deposits returned. When all the fundraising was added in, we actually had a little left over, so there is seed-money for those who've expressed interest in staging a similar event next summer.
So after all the anxiety, I think the week can be counted a success. My own energies will now be focussed on Avalon Spring, the 5-day intensive planned for next April. But I'm proud of the Gathering that we created at pretty short notice and I'm hopeful that any future events can build on this foundation. I am so grateful to everyone who made the Summer Gathering so creative, fruitful and enjoyable, and I wish every success to those who choose to work on similar events in the future. Blessed be one and all!