(Note: I started writing this after the weekend of May 19-20. I’ve just finished up my thoughts and finally posted. It is rather long, for my memory more than anything else.)
So last weekend I went to Circle Sanctuary for a sacred fire dance. I had seen the posting, but originally had plans on Saturday and was unable to go, but when my plans moved to Sunday and I was invited to go with some friends, I signed up. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, but it sounded neat.
On Saturday we got there in the morning for a community work day. We were on the cemetery cleanup crew. They are in the process of a creating a “green” cemetery, right now it’s just cremains, but eventually I think it will progress to a place when one can be buried unembalmed in a biodegradable box. We walked up a hill past a stone ridge, and on the top is the cemetery. We pulled out weeds and raked leaves, and I have the blisters to prove it.
It was fun to hang out with a different group of people. Selena, the director/priestess of Circle Sanctuary would explain the weeding with “we honor the spirits of the plants, but they need to reincarnate on the _other_ side of the hill.” We found an anthill in a pile of stone that used to be an old altar that needed to be moved. We honored their spirits too, but explained that the stones would need to be moved.
(In case you’re wondering, I don’t describe myself as Wiccan. But I have been thinking about exploring shamanism, and in any case, I think there is something deep and wonderful in nature.)
The place was really beautiful. At first, as we were in a forest, I thought it was a little useless to rake, but you could see the rocks leading into the ridge a lot better without the leaves. We brought up the veteran headstones with the newly approved pentacle emblem on them. We also helped to clear what would be a new road, complete with cutting down trees and hauling away brush. I was pretty tired by the end of the day.
Paul wasn’t going to be arriving until later, so Kelly and I had a feminist moment and unpacked my tent that had never been put to use. I am proud to say we put it up all by ourselves.
At that point, we started getting ready for the night’s activities. We had a potluck supper and then orientation. We sat around in a circle as Windwalker talked about what would be happening in the evening. He ask us to all introduce ourselves and to tell why we were here. As people started to go around the circle, I felt like I didn’t know how to put into worlds why I was there. But then I said that giving birth to my daughter had broke open my heart, and I didn’t know it was closed. I was looking for connection. Which was so true I teared up.
I also volunteered to be part of the ritual. Since I happened to be the first to volunteer, I got to choose my direction. Of course, I couldn’t remember what any of the directions where associated with–male/female, elements, etc. I thought of our plants in the south window and how that gets the most sunlight, so I chose South. As it happens, the South is associated with fire and masculine qualities. Whoo hoo for me.
We met with Fearn (sp?) and went over the ritual. (Luckily I didn’t choose East, which had to go first) We each had a direction, a word, and a herb that we were supposed to mention when we cast our direction. Mine was South, humility, and cinquefoil. By then it was about 8:30 pm, and we all got to have a little quiet time. I decided to into the tent and lie down, while Paul and Kelly went up to the graveyard. I laid in the stillness listening to the frogs. There must have been a horde of frogs because it was actually pretty noisy. It took me awhile to get to sleep. And then I realized I hadn’t brought a flashlight or an alarm, so I had no idea how I was going to get up by 11:30. But I napped a little and did manage to meet Michelle at 11:30. I wanted to go up to the circle with someone, and it was kind of her to wait for me.
We got up to the circle, which was lit with tiki torches on poles. There was wood for the fire in the middle, and a layer of dirt around the inside circle. On the dirt was colored powder to mark the six petals of a flower (corresponding to the four directions plus two for the god & goddess), the six words, and six cups to hold six herbs. It was pretty neat. We had little cotton pouches that we had put a personal symbol on (I had chosen the rowan branch) and we placed a little of each herb in our pouches. I took a little of each, and a lot of the one associated with Vision. (No, I can’t remember which one that was)
We began to walk in a circle, singing the counter chant. Then the rest of the group came up the hill, singing their chant, and as they joined the circle, the two chants intertwined. Eventually we fell silent and Fearn said a few things, then we got into place.
East went first, then it was my turn. As I had been falling asleep in the tent earlier, I had been thinking of how I was going to “invoke” the South. I was trying to go for something really cool, like fire destroys and creates life, and how all the atoms of our bodies are made from dying stars, because as a star gets older it gets less efficient and starts producing heavier atoms, and all this stuff. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t think of anything much more creative to say beside, “We invoke the spirits of the South to give us the gift of humility through the use of the herb cinquefoil”. Which sounds like I have a drug problem, but oh well.
After that, the drumming began. This was the part I had looked forward to, but I had a lot of trouble getting into it. I think I may not be into drumming. 🙂 Well, perhaps not, but I certainly find it easier to dance with music.
Many of the regulars got right into it. We were supposed to dance or drum or use one of the instruments. I finally decided to at least walk around the circle and then perhaps I could start to dance. But then I realized there was one guy who was starting to really get into it. I had noticed him earlier because he seemed to do a lot of Tai Chi moves (or possibly some other martial art) He kept going to Windwalker, one of the high priests, who was at the perimeter of the circle. Windwalker would almost stare him down and shake his instrument (a rattle?) Then the Tai Chi guy would go to Moonfeather (a high priestess?) and she would do the same thing.
And then I realized something was happening. The Tai Chi guy was prostate on the ground, both Windwalker and Moonfeather were rattling and even a couple of other people came and put out their hands, I presuming to direct healing energy or somesuch thing. I was reminded of an exorcism. Then the guy screamed, once, twice, and started to make snuffling noises like some large animal. I thought to myself, “Does the guy think he’s a boar now? What’s to stop him charging into us?” But he came to, and with a weak voice, said “Where am I?” and Moonfeather said, “Welcome back.” The whole incident unnerved me, even though rationally I had expected something like that.
This would have been around 1:30 am, and I still couldn’t get into it. I went and tried a little drumming, but the cold started creeping into me. The frogs were loud beyond our circle. Finally, I decided to go lie down in the “Nesting Area,” which had been set up with sleeping bags. This would have been around 2:30 am or so. I slept fitfully, but in all honesty, I just got colder and colder. The outside of the sleeping bag was damp from the dew. I woke up about 4:30 am and Paul and Kelly were standing outside of the area. The light was starting to change, something you could feel more than really see. So I went up to the circle to try again.
But whatever threshold I was trying to pass wasn’t going to come. I started feeling so disappointed. My finger cymbals sat in their little bag in my shoe, I didn’t even try to play. I just wanted to go back to my car so that I could cry in private. And then I thought, this is stupid. I could just cry here. Everyone’s so open and no one is going to be offended if I just went to cry. So I went to the “Healing Tent’ (yes, I know it sounds cheesy) and just let it all out.
After awhile, Selena came to visit me. She asked if I wanted to be alone or if I wanted company, and as I wanted company, she sat down besides me. I told her about the disappointment I was feeling, and how much I had been unnerved by the guy who had an out of body/animal experience, whatever it was. She laughed and said, “Yeah, I didn’t really know what was going on with that. I was sort of doing my own thing when that happened.” It was sort of comforting that she didn’t know what that was all about either.
Then she asked if I had had any dreams lately. And then I remembered that as I had fallen asleep in the tent earlier around 8:30, I had woken up from a dream. In my dream I was looking up at the ridge at Circle Sanctuary, but it was huge and I was looking at it from a great distance away. On the ridge was a huge living sculpture of a galloping horse (facing left) made entirely of enormous tree trunks growing horizontally. The mane was streaming behind. As I looked, a chunk of tree from the hindquarters fell off and I could see through the wall, although I could only see open sky beyond.
Selena asked me questions, such as were the trees alive or dead? They were alive, but there were hardly any leaves. It was mostly just huge trunks (note to self: probably around 7 trees, certainly not more than 10). She asked if I knew what kind of trees they were. I didn’t, but I think from the bark it was either maple or oak, since that’s what I’m most familiar with. She said, “Well, that’s interesting, isn’t it? What does the horse symbolize to you?” I told her, “Freedom.” “Yes, but it’s made of trees that are rooted to the ground.”
Which made sense, it is a juxtaposition of movement and inertia, freedom and stability. But at the time I thought, What do I need to be free of? Leif grants me a lot of freedom as it is, for which I am grateful. I didn’t get it, and actually, though it could mean any number of things, I still don’t have a definite explanation of the dream. But I really enjoyed receiving it, I don’t often get “big” dreams. I might try to paint it, but I don’t know—I’m a watercolor girl and this image is very much oil.
The other significance of the evening that had more immediate portent was my word, “humility.” Though it probably comes to no one’s surprise but my own, I did not like that word. Isn’t if funny how we categorize ourselves? Part of me is still stuck in my old high school persona—I don’t think highly of myself, people pick on me, I wouldn’t know how to be stuck up! Which was probably true for my 15-year old self. But these days, I’m pretty happy to be where I am and who I am. I don’t like to think of myself as arrogant, but in a few weeks after my Circle Sanctuary experience, my “humility” was tested. So I am still learning from that.
Anyway, to finish off my night, the gray dawn came, and after leaving the tent, I went for some tea. Although it was more like sodden spinach than what I would call tea (what was it?? Mint?). I went to talk to Paul & Kelly and everyone else was starting to sing. I think this is where Paul had had it, because it was pretty hippie-ish.
Everyone would pair off and sing to each to each other:
“You are the Light, the light in my eyes”
over and over. This was done while walking around the circle, holding the other person’s hand on your heart, with the other hand on their heart. Meanwhile, during the singing you would STARE into that person’s eyes and sing. Which is a little uncomfortable with people you don’t know. And then you would split off and sing to someone else. I am pretty sure that Paul and Kelly abstained from this part. I did go into the circle, and because of the little amount of sleep and my emotional state, I did cry again. Especially with Fearn (who was crying too) and Moonfeather, because they seemed so sincere. When I think people like me, I tend to get moved. 🙂
Probably the most interesting person to do this with was the Shamanic Guy. (Can’t remember his name either) By this time, he was dressed in animal pelts, with a fox head hood, and his squinty eye fixed on me. I told Paul about it later and he said, “Squinty-eyed? More like one-eyed, didn’t you notice?” So yes, I was singing to a one-eyed, animal pelted guy in a fire circle. At least I can say I don’t do that every day.
Finally it ended, we took down the camp, and that was it. We had breakfast and went home. I actually felt great the rest of the day, though tired. Will I do it again? I don’t know. If I do, I will dress in layers, I was really cold, which distracted me from the whole thing.