I’ve had three showers and put all the clothing that went with me in the laundry, but I can still occasionally smell smoke from the sacred fire at the Gathering on my skin. The Gathering is in my pores.
This year was a cocoon year for us: we were small and compact, getting ready for transformation. Our community could look very different in the future, but this year, there were old friends back again – some for the first time in years – and new friends to circle with and many much loved faces missing.
There were many wonderful rituals this year (they’ve been added to the Gathering timeline) and I was blessed enough to attend all but one. I know many people had powerful and magical experiences both in the circles and outside of them. In between, there were conversations about life, about science, about theology, and about where we are going next as a community.
At the annual general meeting, several people talked about ways to intensify or deepen the Gathering experience, to try to offer something more to potential Gatherers. A few people made reference to camps that offer more intense training, such as Witch Camp, and that sounds amazing, but somehow doesn’t seem like a match to me. I don’t think we should become a shorter version of something else, but more ourselves and offer our own unique event.
As often happens at the Gathering, I end up marvelling at the diversity of our community. I ran one ritual and attended seven others, and the closest thing we had to the “conventional” Wiccan-like rituals that are common at public and semi-public events was the very fun and funny Chocolate Ritual (similar to this ritual). Attendees at the Gathering are from all over the typological map of magical traditions, from all parts of the colour triangle of the three deisms, and from all the overlapping circles of the centres of Paganism. But as a community, I think the Gathering as it is right now might be best categorized as part of the fourth centre of Paganism: community-centred. We come together to make a single event out of all our different beliefs, practices, and paths. At an event with fewer than 50 people, there were nine rituals (some with very large casts and a lot of preparation), as well as workshops. Fires were kept, rain protection was put up, lights were strung, a temple was assembled, and everything was cleared up at the end. So many people invested time and love before and during the weekend. Though as individuals we may be deity-centred, or focused on our higher selves, or about honouring nature first, at the Gathering, we make our offerings to each other and to the good of our community as a whole. We don’t always succeed, but the effort is magical.
Working from the idea that, as a whole, the Gathering’s spirituality is community-centred, and inspired by Steven Posch’s beautiful post Sun Horns, Moon Horns, I have a plot afoot for next year. I’d like to recruit people from all parts of our community to say food blessings before each meal and to lead short rituals at sunrise and sunset (and maybe moonrise and moonset too, if I have enough volunteers). That’s eight meals, three sunrises, and three sunsets; fourteen opportunities to be together in a sacred moment and to connect with each other, and maybe with something more, should the prayer be offered that way.
Anyone from the Gathering or considering the Gathering for next year: Please let me know if you would be interested in offering a food blessing or being a part of a brief sun or moon ritual next year, or even if you think this is a good idea or not. I promise that comments or constructive criticism will not result in you being volunteered for anything.
Richard: You have a year to perfect your horn blowing; no more drunken moose!