Sunday, 27 October 2013
The C Word, Part 3: Building Bridges
I went to my first Reclaiming WitchCamp (Avalon, held near Glastonbury) in 1998, and loved it so much I went back the following year. The year after that I joined the organising group. It became an important annual event in my calendar: every summer, a week at Avalon WitchCamp, and the people I met at the camp became my spiritual community. In 2006, I nervously became a student teacher at Avalon, and in 2007 I was asked to teach again. Except it didn't happen. For a variety of reasons, Avalon WitchCamp 2007 was cancelled (I'm reasonably sure my shortcomings as a teacher weren't a major contributing factor!). The repercussions of the cancellation were many and various, including the organising of a Summer Gathering, and also the birth of a new, second British WitchCamp, Dragonrise.
It was a turbulent time for the British Reclaiming Community. I've a written a little about it here, but for the most part - not wanting to stir up additional controversy or add fuel to any smouldering fires - I've skirted around the more difficult areas. But suffice it to say, difficulties at the 2006 camp caused divisions that derailed the 2007 camp. Dragonrise Camp arose in part as an alternative to Avalon Camp for those who were dissatisfied with Avalon or wanted to try a different model. And although both camps behaved well - even helpfully - towards each other (agreeing to hold camps in alternate years so as not to be in direct competition, for example), there remained a certain amount of distance between them. Some people in the community fell very definitely into the 'Avalon' side and others into team 'Dragonrise'. Still others - myself included - maintained links with both communities.
In 2009 I was asked to be a resource teacher at Dragonrise but couldn't accept due to other commitments, and in 2011 I was too late booking a ticket and missed out. In 2012, Avalon (by now re-named Avalon Spring) had to be cancelled due to low bookings, so by this year I was determined to attend Dragonrise for the first time! I booked my ticket early, and was looking forward to attending a WitchCamp as an ordinary camper with no responsibilities except to myself for the first time in a while. And then a couple of months before camp was due I got a phone call...
Changes within the teaching team had created a vacancy. Would I like to fill that vacancy? Of course, I said yes.
How does this fit with our theme of Closure? Well, as mentioned above, there was still some healing to be done between the two camps. And I felt I needed some healing on a personal level since the fall-out from the cancellation of Avalon 2007. I'd found the split in the community very distressing, and papering over the cracks and pulling together warring factions to pull off the Summer Gathering was far more stressful than I could possibly have imagined. And now once again, only a week after the emotional upheavals of the wedding in Essex, I found myself faced with the prospect of re-visiting old 'issues' and the opportunity to finally resolve them.
From the outset, joining the Dragonrise teaching team was reassuring. There's a huge amount of work involved in teaching a WitchCamp, and joining the planning process at such a late stage was to say the least nerve-wracking! However, my fellow teachers (Chelidon, Suus and Fortuna) were very welcoming to this late-comer. From the outset we worked extremely well together and things proceeded very smoothly. By strange co-incidence, Chelidon had been my co-teacher for my first WitchCamp teaching experience at Avalon in 2006. We gathered together for in-person pre-camp planning a few days before camp started at the lovely home of one of the Dragonrise organisers, Raven, who had also been on the teaching team at Avalon 2006. Before camp even started I felt loose ends left hanging for years were being tied up, old wounds finally being soothed and healed.
The camp itself was a delight. Lovely venue, amazing food (a thousand 'thank you's to the fabulous cooks, Amanda and Raven), wonderful people (some of whom I hadn't seen since the 2007 Summer Gathering or earlier), favourable weather, and the Paths (teaching groups) and evening rituals went really well.
By the time we found ourselves gathered for the closing ritual I was feeling very happy that we had had such a wonderful camp, satisfied with the renewal and strengthening of old connections, and very sad to be saying goodbye to such a lovely group of old and new friends. For me, Dragonrise 2013 was magical: a totally reaffirming and healing experience for which I am very grateful. I certainly intend to book my place at Dragonrise 2015 as soon as I can.
See you there?
Anyone would think this was enough closure for one summer, wouldn't they? After the Birthday, the Wedding and the WitchCamp, I myself thought that was it. More than enough to process and work through. But there was more in store. Something I had been trying for some time to push away and not deal with was coming to the fore, demanding my attention whether I wanted to deal with it or not. At Dragonrise I had the chance to build bridges. But on my return there was another bridge waiting, and this one needed burning...
(To be continued!)