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    The best way to connect with Free Witchcamp planning is via the Living River email list - for more information, email RQ

    Money, Power, and Free Witchcamp

    Spring or Summer 2005 gathering discussed

    by Andy Paik

    I was over at my friend's house. We were talking about possibly going to Republican National Convention protest in New York. "You know," I said, "you really need to go to Witchcamp this summer." I'd been working with him for a few years, but there was so much stuff he didn't know. How to work energy in large groups, or even that there was a different order of energy in a big group than he had experienced before. Working magical connections with strangers. Energetic healing. Skills that would help him stay safe and sane in New York. Things not covered in the 2-hour "Magical Activism" workshop.

    "How much is it again?" he asked. "$500, but if you apply really early, you might get a scholarship space. Then it would only be $250." "$250, and a week off from work." He looked down at his 2-year old daughter, thought of the food they got from the food bank yesterday. He remembered how the transmission in the car was going out. The rent would be late again this month. Thinking of that, he just laughed. "Maybe next year...", he said. I looked down at his daughter, my Goddess-daughter, and hoped "next year" would be soon enough.

    Last April, the Dandelion Gathering represented the first attempt at bringing all of Reclaiming together since it became an international network. There were 150 or so people there, from all around the continent, and a few from outside it. Rich and poor people, street activists and kitchen Witches, crones and small children. It was a great opportunity for mixing outside our local communities and meeting people. Many great discussions happened and lots of fun was had by all.

    From some of the discussions, it became apparent that there are a good number of people not served by the Reclaiming teaching system. People for whom the even the bottom end of the sliding scale is too much: single mothers, students struggling to get through college, traveling activists living on people's couches. Actually, poor people in general. It is one of the reasons that Reclaiming draws so heavily from the middle and upper classes.

    I'm a teacher. I understand the need to be paid for my work. I know that classes cost money to put on. I remember that teaching-work, often done by women, has not been valued by society. And I remember the sense of empowerment the first time I was paid for teaching. But there needs to be a way for us to serve that part of our community that can not afford classes.

    It takes a lot of money to put on Reclaiming Witchcamps. You have to rent the space. Food must be bought and kitchen staff paid. Teachers must be paid.

    An Earth First! Model

    In discussing this situation with other activist friends, the reply was always the same: "Why not do it like the Earth First! Rendezvous or the Rainbow Gatherings? They don't charge money."

    For those who don't know, the Earth First! Rendezvous is the yearly national gathering of Earth First!, the environmental activist group. They go out and take over a section of national forest somewhere for a week. (Unfortunately always the same week as California Witchcamp.) It is primitive camping with NO facilities. No toilets except the pit toilets they dig. No power. No water. No permits, and no money. You drive or carpool out. Rides are arranged. It is always next to a logging road, so getting there isn't a wilderness hike.

    People camp out and are responsible for their own food and water, although Food Not Bombs is usually there cooking for the camp. The week is full of trainings, workshops, and skill-shares put on for free by people who are called to share what they know. There are lots of parties and the occasional ritual (or both) at night. The medics make sure everything is sanitary, if not particularly "clean," and the forest defenders make sure the woods are in better shape after we leave than it was before we arrived. A donation can is available when you check in, and a hat is passed around at every meeting to cover expenses.

    It is another world, a model of an alternate way of life. People come and they share what they have. Everyone takes care of each other. Teaching is an offering to the group, just like cooking in the kitchen, digging a new pit toilet, giving back massages, or doing the bio-remediation at the end of the Rendezvous.

    Free Witchcamp 2005

    Can we do a Witchcamp with this model? I don't know, but at the Dandelion Gathering, a group of us agreed to try. Sometime in the Summer of 2005, we are going to have Free Witchcamp, a Witchcamp based on the "take over a forest and camp out" model.

    Free Witchcamp will be free, but we will ask for donations to cover our expenses. We have a wonderful location for the camp, a beautiful old forest by a lake in southern Oregon. We are thinking about a late July timeframe, so we will not conflict with other camps in North America. We are hoping to work with Food Not Bombs to cover food.

    Personally, I want to see a full Witchcamp with a theme, different paths (classes) and the nightly ritual arc. But all that will need to be determined by the teaching team - as will the degree and role activism will play at the camp. So far many of the people most interested in coming to Free Camp are activists, as are the teachers who are interested, but that could just be a bias of the people I tend to talk too.

    Considering that many of the people who can't afford Witchcamp are parents, Free Camp will be a child-friendly camp. It will probably be like Dandelion was, with children welcome, but not catered to like at a Village or Family Camp. Maybe there can be one path for children.

    In our world today, learning magical skills is not a new age, fluffy bunny way to while away a weekend. Magical skills are survival skills. Having a firm anchor to your open and aware state can mean the difference between moving out of an area before the circle closes and being beaten by riot cops. And these skills need to be available to everyone, not just to people who can write a check. In fact, the people who can't afford the classes and Witchcamps are probably the people who need those skills the most. The Free Camp is a way of trying to get those skills out there and a model of the world we want to live in.

    In talking with people at the Dandelion Gathering, several Reclaiming teachers who have taught at other camps have said they want to teach at this camp as a service to the community. But we need more teachers. We hope to cover all the teachers' travel expenses with the donations.

    Anyway, I'm the point person for Free Witchcamp, so if you would be like to teach, organize, or otherwise be involved, email or call (310) 399-5900. Everything I've said here is completely open to change, and there is lots of room to incorporate other people's visions.

    Andy Paik is a pagan activist, witch, and teacher who has been part of Reclaiming since 1994. He is part of ReWeaving in Los Angeles and can often be found in Crazy Person's affinity group at the front lines of many major protests.

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