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People of Beauty, People of Peace: CPC Summer Gathering 2005|
For me, the Hollow Hills opened this Summer, just outside of Darlington, Maryland, and I passed into the Realm of Faery, on August 4th. Surprisingly enough, when I emerged again, only four days had passed and it really was the 7th. That seven years had not gone by in “the real world” was a great shock to me, because I truly felt that I had been in the Land of Peace.
I knew it was going to be an exceptional weekend when I rolled into the parking lot at Camp Ramblewood and felt the energy. I now believe that when we Pagans gather together in sufficient numbers, the whole concept of sacred space becomes irrelevant. When we reach a certain critical mass, which has as much to do with intent and focus as it does with numbers, I believe we spontaneously create our own sacred space, and as I passed through the boundary of that space at CPC, 1 I felt the weight of the real world slough away from me.
Well, to be honest, the weight of the world may have sloughed off, but the weight of my own insecurities was still clinging tight.
It was my second time at dear ol’ Ramblewood this year, and for the second time, I had no idea what to expect. I was looking forward to a number of things – meeting folks in person I only knew from email, working the sweats, attending workshops – but I had no idea what was actually going to transpire. And I was, frankly, a bit nervous. On my previous trip, I had Pagan friends from “down home” to support and guide me, as well as a wife in tow to keep me cuddled and safe. On this trip, however, I was “all alone, ” and as I walked toward the registration kiosk, a host of misgivings were bubbling up inside me. How would the people I had met before greet me this time? How would the people I knew only from the Internet react to meeting me in person? How would I get on with complete strangers? What would the workshops be like? Would I ask some stupid question or make some doltish point, and look like a complete ass in front of “heavy hitters” in the community? Would I trip and fall through the sweat dome while I was tending a sweat or – worse – would I pass out during the sweat I intended to participate in? Geez - it sounded like somebody tuning up for the opera: “Me, me, me, me, me…”
(In case you haven’t realized it by now, what goes on between my ears is often quite horrifying. The only thing that keeps me marginally sane is that, over the years, I’ve learned to detach a bit when it gets really bad, and sort of observe it from the sidelines, the way one observes a really vociferous argument between in-laws. That, and the fact that my Goddess loves me.)
But I needn’t have worried. From the first handshake and hug (Jason and Caroline, respectively), to the last wave and fond farewell, I was welcomed and embraced by gentle and loving people. Strong people, mind you, each with their own ways, traditions, opinions, stories, peccadilloes and eccentricities, but for all that – or perhaps because of all that – they are yet people of beauty and peace.
I could tell you what I thought I was looking for when I went to CPC – it’s the same thing I’m always looking for: the Will of the Goddess. I am yet a Seeker on this Path, and will likely remain so until She “gathers me home again.” I am always looking for the next bend in the Crooked Path, the next entrance into the Barrow-Mound, the next omen, sign, portent or vision. I live with a great passion for our way, a great love for the Gods, particularly the Goddess as I understand Her, the dark and majestic Queen of Elfhame, and I am always striving to be closer to Her, to hear Her voice, to see Her face, to know with all of my being Her will for me. The shadow-side of that great passion and love is a great longing, a hunger that is never quite satisfied, a thirst that is never quite quenched. I yearn for the mystical experience, the deep communion, the ultimate surrender and unity with the Divine that we are told about by Rumi, Eckhart and the other great mystics.
I know what the wise would say: We can never attain what we desire so fiercely. And yet, I cannot stifle this impulse within myself, even if I would. I must simply try, as best I can, to not let it interfere with or eclipse what I truly seek. And the Gods do take pity on me, occasionally, and give me what I am so earnestly seeking, although it is seldom in the form I would have expected.
I often quote Robert Cochrane: “It is not enough to see The Lady, it is better to serve Her and Her will…” But I don’t always use the full quote: “It is not enough to see The Lady, it is better to serve Her and Her will by being involved in humanity and the process of Fate...”2 You see, there is a part of me that still thinks I can somehow serve Her Will in a vacuum, isolated from life and other people. What the Gods do for me when they lead me to something like CPC is to show me the folly of that thought, and to help me realize that to be involved in the process of Fate, of Wyrd, the true Will of the Goddess, is to be involved with people. It can, in the end, be nothing else.
I’ve talked to a lot of my Pagan friends this summer about going to various festivals. Over and over, I hear the phrase, “I’m going for the (insert item here).” I’ve done it myself. “I’m going for the sweats, ” I said, in the weeks before CPC. What would the sweats be like, without the people who come to sweat, and those who come to tend? The sweat circle would stand empty, the covering still over the dome area, the firewood un-split and the dome still packed neatly away. “I’m going for the firecircles!” What would they be like, without the drummers, the dancers, the firetenders and the onlookers? Empty sand and cold ashes. “I’m going for the shopping?” Shop from whom? There aren’t any vendors. “I’m going for the workshops!” Empty buildings, the sigh of the restless breeze, and no one to teach. “I’m going to see old friends!” or “I’m just going to have a good time?” Why? How? There was no one to organize, plan or work, so there’s nowhere to go at all.
There’s only one real reason to go to CPC, or any Pagan festival: The People. We are what the gatherings are all about – our tribe, coming together in as much peace and beauty as we can manage, given our tendencies to disagree and squabble. It’s the people that bring the focus and intent that rouses the Power sleeping in the Land and spins it up into that spontaneous sacred space I spoke of. It’s the people who come to teach, to learn, to meet, to debate, to dance, to sweat, to laugh, cry, hug, kiss, gossip and have the occasional tantrum. To heal and be healed. To love. It’s the people who are the heart and spirit of these things and for all our minor disagreements and disputes, we realize this at a fundamental level – we understand, in our true hearts, that if it were not for one another, we would all be so abysmally, so desperately alone.
I can look back at CPC with the Eyes of Wood, the eyes that do not see the Otherworld, and I can still see the workshops, the firecircles, the sweat circle and the vendors. I can see the beautiful grounds, the tents, the cabins, the outbuildings and facilities. But when I look with the Second Sight, with eyes that can see what is True, I see the people…our People…Us. I see the heart of the gathering beating in scores of hearts that have come from near and far to worship and dance and journey and vision and, yes, shop. I see the People. I see Dio and Jon, Caroline and Jason. I see Richard and Naomi. I see Ivo and Jim. I see Beth and Peggy. I see Buffalo and Tigré. I see Andras and Tyrtle. I see people putting up the sweat dome and stacking wood. I see people dancing as other people drum. I see people gathering in workshops to teach and to learn. I see people swimming and singing, sitting in meditation or balancing in asanas. I see people laughing and crying, healing and being healed. I see people in a great circle, raising our voices to the Gods, as we stand upon the Sacred Land, the beloved body of our Goddess. I see us all come together in the heat and brightness of Lughnasahd to celebrate our Gods and each other, our community, our unity…us.
I went to CPC seeking the Will of the Goddess, as I always do. And I found it, where it always was, where it always is – in the people of beauty and peace. My people.
1 Chesapeak Pagan Community
2 Howard, Michael (Ed.), The Robert Cochrane Letters: An Insight Into Modern Traditional Witchcraft, Capall Bann, 2003.
Copyright: © RuneWolf 2005
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Article ID: 10101
Posted: September 4th. 2005
Days Up: 5,162
Times Viewed: 11736