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FWC Summer 2006: Oregon, August 13-21 / East Coast TBA
Free Witchcamp Features
Free Witchcamp 2005 - Impressions
Witches, Earth First!ers, Radical Faeries, Rainbow Family, Seeds of Peace gather in Oregon wilderness
150 people gathered in the wilderness of Central Oregon for the first Free Witchcamp - an experiment in creating community while organizing the most basic necessities of life, including water, food, and shelter.
This page incudes reflections by organizers and teachers at the first-ever Free Witchcamp.
If you took part in Free Witchcamp, you can add your voice to this dialog - email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For info on future Free Witchcamps and other Witchcamps in North America and Europe, visit Witchcamp.org
Intro by Baruch, organizer and teacher
This is a collection of impressions from some of the folks who organized and taught at FWC 2005, offered with the intention of serving all of our learning as we continue to be world changers, self-changers, witches. Please excuse any redundancies. Rather than edit these out I'm leaving people's statements intact. Each voice has it's own tone, and I didn't want to obscure any of that.
For me FWC was a promise kept, to bring ourselves to the edge, to trust the magic and each other even when faced with uncertainty, fear, challenge, disagreement; all this and more. It's inspiring to be with so many people who have chosen to make their lives count even at the possible cost of that life; to whom the work matters more than personal comfort.
The blending of cultures (Reclaiming, Earth First!, Radical Faerie, Rainbow Family and more), as you'll read about, was not effortless, neither was it difficult. It was beautiful. The presence of people from 3 weeks old to over 60 years was satisfying and made our culture feel whole, for me anyway. I could see in the young ones how the seeds we're planting with our magic and our love are growing. These young people are going to take our work to whole new levels of commitment and effectiveness. They need us to help them prepare. As far as I'm concerned serving those that come after us is the most important work I can do at this point. Dogs were also a wonderful energy in camp, showing us aspects of wildness we might not have seen otherwise.
I particularly loved teaching at this camp with Delyla, a long-time forest defense activist, street medic, mother (of a teen at camp) and powerful person. We taught a path of Healing which went very well, combining the pragmatic work of health and wellness in the street with self care, mental health concerns, learning to sense energy and communicate about what one is sensing, and to use those perceptions in the healing work.
Andy - organizer, teacher, and original conceiver of FWC
A few quick logistic notes on Free Witchcamp...
We camped in the Twin Lakes region of the Umpqua National Forest. It was primitive camping with almost no amenities, but had 2 beautiful lakes for swimming and untold natural splendors... Cost: $85 for the group camping permit...
We worked with Seeds of Peace, a local activist cooking group. They served lots of vegetarian and vegan food which most everyone said was really good. 7 days of food for 100 people: $1350.
At this year's Free Witchcamp we managed $6000 in donations, $3000 of which went to cover our expenses, including teacher travel, $1000 of which is seed money for next year, $1000 which went to the teaching team, and $1000 of which we haven't decided what to do with yet, since it just came in after camp was over...
Children were present at camp. Maybe a dozen, ranging from babies to teens. There was an All Ages Pixie Path to teach magic to those who were not mature enough to be part of an adult path. They were worked into many of the rituals in some way, but the work was all very much the adult work of a witchcamp. They were accepted, but not catered to.
Drugs and Alcohol
We decided against a "Bright Line" policy on drugs and alcohol, which would have alienated a good portion of the activist community we hoped to serve. Instead, at the start of camp, we described the kinds of magic we wanted to do and why we believed it was better if everyone came to all paths, rituals, and other workings in an unaltered state. And then we empowered everyone to make their own decisions. "Don't inflict your intoxication on anyone else." was the mantra. There were only 2 problems noted. One drunken person hit on one of the teachers late on talent show night, and one person had a panic attack after a ritual which some people have theorized was substance related, but which could just as easily have been energy overload...
We had 10 teachers: 4 experienced witchcamp teachers, 4 student teachers in the traditional Witchcamp form, and 2 student teachers who had never even been to a witchcamp before. By all reports, the paths and rituals were all great...
Brush - organizer
(context: i was involved in email organizing preparations for the camp, and focalized energy for infrastructure throughout the event itself. i am wearing the same clashing stained green army pants and patched green long-sleeve, barefoot.)
we moved energy (and she moved us) last week. dozens of people experienced deep transformation of relation with land, with spirit, with self, with others. wildness flowed through us, catching our breath and growing our roots. we mucked through the preparatory challenges (and they were many) of organizing something new and unusual online; and i think we managed through it all to become a space for the goddess' work, and in thanks she gave us great gifts of beauty, ease, healing, and grace. we wove a web between reclaiming witches and radical faeries, forest activists and rainbows, community organizers and traveling poets: we became a node of relation that emanates and resonates now as a quantum leap in the density of ecosystemic interconnection. this camp was not a new community, but a coming together of deeply rooted existing communities through the tendrils of individual liaison: a training ground for spirited interconnection. so we became possible, and now carry in us new seeds of gathering wisdom.
i experienced no organizational stress all week. the greatest challenge we were given was the delayed arrival of seeds of peace, our kitchen; and that ended simply in an affirmation of our capacity to co-create our food too, if necessary (we potlucked and scrounged sunday dinner, for everyone). we were blessed with a committed minority of worker-bees (most with rainbow or activist experience) who volunteered for the substantial proportion of the digging, portering, shuttling, cleaning, cooking, paying attention, disappearing, and other infrastructure tasks. i found the general presence of children to work, like the magnificently diverse old-growth conifers and gloriously blue lakes, only to ground and enrich our spirit work. i/we experimented with a maximally co-created and un-scheduled infrastructure; when seeds of peace expressed a need for a more organized cleaning model, we shifted to affinity groups choosing meals to clean after. seeds left the gathering much clearer on our needs, happy with the experience, and expressing a strong desire to work with us again next year.
the sense of general participation and inclusivity with the infrastructure, which (as i once said) warmed this old anarchist's heart, was also reflected in the integration of the teachers into the community. while teachers did camp separately and had long, private meetings, they also participated in the infrastructure work and community play of the week. i felt this was a clear step towards an extended empowered learning model that reflects our goals for an emerging new world, new political economy, in which many different people and communities are recognized as offering aspects of the life of our being. in this model we are each empowered to become as effective as possible in valuable niches, recognizing the differences between niches, without imposing a hierarchy of niches. i found the inclusion of the "pixie path" a powerful step in that direction, and agree with others that a "hearth path" or similar would also have helped us ground our witchcraft, stacked functions, and extended horizontality.
Diane - teacher
Children at Witchcamp
Thought that I would drop a note while I remember our discussion on children at camp. As best I recall our discussion included the ideas that children did not provide much of a disruption at all to the camp. Including the teens in the adult Elements path worked very well for the adults and for the teens. The teens seemed to really blossom from participating with the adults in class and from receiving positive feedback from adults as to their abilities and participation. We did not have to change the material content of the class for the teens. We did include some games, which really worked well for the adults and the teens, and which I will probably want to include in adult Elements classes now also.
They gave me feedback that being with adults in an affinity group did not work for them, so a separate affinity grouping for teens might work better.
Truly, my feedback to teachers and organizers is that children really add to the camp experience and there are no real reasons that I can point to to keep the witchcamps adults only.
PS - I feel that way about dogs too, I loved having the dogs at camp!
Sinnerjee - teacher
Here's some thoughts on my Free Witch Camp experience.
Some people are more open than others to affinity groups chosen by random chance. Other people tend to prefer groups chosen around an actual affinity they all share. One suggestion is to have folks who live near each other form affinity groups in hopes that connections might continue after Witchcamp has ended.
Opening ritual planning meetings up to the larger community can be a way of decentralizing planning power and demystifying the process for folks who wish to learn more about planning large group rituals. When time constraints make this option less feasible, it is worth noting that planning meetings can be expedited when we strive to have the members of the teaching team reflect the diversity of Witch Camp participants.
Drugs and Alcohol
Reclaiming Witch Camps are designated Clean and Sober spaces. If you choose to partake of mind-altering substances during your leisure time, we ask that you do so with mindfulness of the boundaries that have been set by the community you are participating in. Please do not inflict your intoxication on others.
Children are becoming a welcome addition to our Witch Camp communities, and there are considerations which can help to make this inclusion as smooth as possible.
At times, children's behavior at group rituals or paths may be viewed by some people as disruptive. Parents or designated caregivers are primarily responsible for addressing their kids' perceived disruptive behaviors. It also helps to have teachers on the team designated to respond to perceived disruptive behaviors in a compassionate and timely manner.
Following episodes of perceived disruptive behaviors, some people may feel a need to vent their frustration. It can be beneficial to have members of the teaching team available to listen to complaints, concerns and suggestions. Helping people to feel empowered to talk about their frustrations openly and immediately may likely reduce instances of shadow behaviors such as gossiping, suppressed frustration and untimely outbursts later on in the week.
Keep in mind that if one is considering participation in direct action and other types of street activism, it is incredibly beneficial to learn how to remain grounded and centered in situations which are noisy and chaotic. In light of this, some children may be viewed as among our best teachers.
Mature teens can bring much positive energy into adult paths that are deemed appropriate for teens. Additionally, teens can also benefit from one-on-one mentorship with members of the teaching team. These instances are best held in open, public spaces where the teen and mentor are within sight of the larger community. Mentors can model age-appropriate interactions and can encourage teens to have strong, clear boundaries. Mentors can also support teens in empowering themselves to say no if invited alone to a private space by an adult.
Many of us would appreciate more ways to incorporate feminist values and critical approaches to gender power dynamics into the Witch Camp experience. Several Faeries asked me a few times where the Faerie path was. Perhaps next year we might design a path focusing on Gender Mysteries including Men's Women's and Third-(Other)-Gendered Mysteries...
Service and volunteerism are common values in Faerie, Rainbow Family and Earth Activist communities. Often, people prefer to volunteer for a task (e.g., washing dishes) shortly before it needs to be done rather than planning for it far in advance. Another value common to these communities is going with the flow or the sense that one is (and will be) in the right place at the right time in order for the work to be done. This approach is sometimes at odds with a more linear approach to time based on clock-determined schedules.
Delilah mentioned that next year's Earth First Rendezvous will be taking place in Tennessee in early July. There are are a number of Faerie and other collective rural communities located in Middle Tennessee. it might be a good time / place for the larger Reclaiming community to consider hosting an East Coast Free Activist Witch Camp. I'm already talkin' it up with folks and planting the seeds.
Lucy - teacher and organizer
Free witchcamp felt like an overwhelming success to me. Community creation does work. We learned that the models for the Earth First Rendezvous are very adaptable to the needs of witchcamp. Here are some of the key elements that seemed to add to the success of camp.
- patience with process (consensus, email organizing, proposal blocks, individual, and group)
- clarity of intention, what was the purpose and goal of free witch camp?
- trust that everything can eventually be worked out to the satisfaction of all parties involved
- trust in the willingness of people to be personally responsible and to step into the roles of work, and organizing, and leadership
- commitment to doing what needs doing
- openess to being in heartspace
- honoring individuality, while creating a mindfulness of the container
- diversity of age and respect to all, from infants and children to our revered elders, to teens and to youth and to middle age
- an amazing kitchen crew, thanks to Seeds of Peace
Lucy's thoughts on Pixie Path and kids at Witchcamp can be found on the next page - "Kids and Teens at Camp"
Photos ©2005 by aoblack.com. To see more photos of Free Witchcamp, visit www.aoblack.com/camp/index.html
Please do not copy, reproduce, fold, spindle, mutilate, or otherwise use them without written permission. Thanks!
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