Some years ago, during a trance journey, I saw a vision of how a community in coming together and working together can be like a hive of bees: by harmoniously combining our efforts we can create something sweet and satisfying.
Last weekend I joined with other members of the British Reclaiming community to collaboratively create our sweet and satisfying Summer Gathering for 2008. This year a whole new group of volunteers had taken on the task of organising the event, in a completely new venue. They did a wonderful job, and had obviously given much thought to the planning process. For example, they had researched some of the local beauty spots and sacred sites so that people could explore the wider area if they wanted to. They had set up a 'Magic Tent' on the ritual ground, in case of wet weather (and it was just as well they had, as the weather was less than kind!). And they had a provisional programme of workshops, talks and activities planned, but also encouraged people to add their own offerings to the mix, from one-on-one skill swaps, like tarot readings or massage, to additional activities that everyone could join in.
The Gathering ran from Friday 8th to Tuesday 12th August; I went along on the Saturday and Sunday (luckily for me, the Organisers had picked a venue only a few miles from where I live!). My Mum and my friend Elizabeth came along on both days, and on Sunday another friend, Pinky, joined us too.
We began Saturday morning with a meeting where we each put into a pot those things we were hoping for from the Gathering - people put in a wide variety of 'wants' ranging from the more abstract like 're-connecting with my community', to more specific requests, e.g. 'a discussion about the runes', or 'a shoulder massage'. Then into another pot we put our offerings, which again ranged from abstract ('I will be here to listen if anyone wants to talk'), to specific ('I offer a workshop on Ecstatic Pagan Dance'). From this a very packed and interesting programme took shape, which people were able to choose from or add to when they arrived.
I co-taught two workshops myself, one on each day. On Saturday Suzanne and I co-taught 'Becoming an Ancestor' which is a trance journey into the future, designed to get people thinking about the fact that we are creating the future now - and what our hopes, fears and responsibilities around that may be. And on Sunday Pinky and I co-taught 'How to Plan a Ritual', which generated some very interesting discussions and some helpful sharing of ideas and experience. As well as these two workshops I really enjoyed Sid's fascinating presentation about local sacred sites, had fun creating a labyrinth in the rain with Penny, joined Sylvia's discussion about Transition Towns, was thoroughly entertained during a memorable Bardic Circle under the stars (David's story a great start to proceedings and as witty as ever), learned the Welsh translation of some well-known Pagan chants, picked up some useful tips on how to lead a spiral dance, helped plan the Sunday evening ritual with Tobie, Lynda and Diana, took part in the Sunday evening ritual round the campfire, discovered from Adi how to work out my 'Personality Card' and 'Soul Card' using the tarot, ate a lot of delicious food (the lemon drizzle cake was to die for!), spent a lot of money in the fund-raising auction and won some fabulous raffle prizes. And of course I also spent a great deal of time gossiping over cups of coffee with dear friends and making some lovely new ones.
I found that by the end of the weekend I was very, very tired. But being part of creating the sweetness that we all shared at the Gathering was worth it. So worth it.