Friday, September 10, 2010

Post Camp Wrap Up! (Part One)

Camp altar, left side
So my partner and I just returned from The F(a)eri(e) Magic(k) Gathering that we helped organize. It was a camp bringing together those interested in the intersection and cross-pollination of Feri Tradition and Radical Faerie culture and magick. He thought of the idea originally, and I jumped on board right away, as I also identify as Feri and Radical Faerie simultaneously and thought that the idea was juicy.

Camp altar, middle
We quickly assembled a team of like-minded people once we got the idea approved by the folks at Wolf Creek, where we wanted the camp to be held. Wolf Creek is a sanctuary for Radical Faeries in Wolf Creek, Oregon. They hold almost 80 acres of land and magick has been the land's primary use for decades. It is a sacred place.  We hit the ground running to make this camp happen, as by the time we got it approved, we had a mere month and a half to organize everything and promote the camp to get people interested in attending.

Camp altar, right
It was hellish, especially that last week before camp when several people had last minute problems (Mercury Retrograde, anyone?). We were in a car accident (minor, no one hurt, but the car went into the shop, causing the need for a rental); two others attending had repairs to their car costing serious cash; and the other two Feri initiates  (in addition to my partner) got so ill that they could not come. (This was stressful because as a mystery initiatory tradition, Feri must be transmitted and passed from a priest to seekers- leaving my partner alone in that part of the work.)

Ambar, our second in the kitchen!
But we persevered, got there, and in the end, it was wonderful. But it didn't start out that way. Our first day started late as people were just arriving and settling in. We did manage the meals, Feri teaching, and a ritual (starting with a ritual planning meeting after dinner). It was at that planning meeting that we all realized what we were up against: everyone on either side (and many of those spanning both sides) of the aisle had specific ideas of what ritual should be (and by extension the "meaning" of magick) and were firmly entrenched and invested in those ideas (and somewhat closed off to others).

Elfin, Kitchen Queen
It was probably premature to expect that we could design a ritual together before we got to know one another. Next year, I think the first night should be a social gathering, with dancing and revelry! So our first night's ritual was Rad Fae by default, leaving very little recognizable Feri in the mix. It left much to be desired on everyone's parts, and as an organizer I was left wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. Was it even possible to do this work? Many were mightily discouraged after day one. How to come together?

Jared and Rachel
Many strong personalities had issues that were brought to the surface with this camp. I suggested to one person that, while s/he did not want to embrace Feri as their personal thea/ology, coming to Feri class was worthwhile. It allowed us a common magic(k)al language and made sure that we all knew what one another were talking about. I suggested that s/he "play tourist" and not to take the student-teacher dynamic as an insult (which s/he was), but as a mutually agreed upon, consensual power dynamic. I told her how I also struggled: with the seemingly lackadaisical attitude of some of the other Rad Fae. How it felt like in Faespace, nothing ever happens on purpose, that they lacked discipline (in its original meaning it shares a root with "disciple"- it is a religious term) to manifest their will- rather they appear let their "woo" control them. We both had issues.

There were some interesting discussions about this topic throughout the weekend, and some of the language used on the exclusively Rad Fae side squicked me, to say the least.

First, there was the characterization of Feri as a "technology driven" practice. This term to me smacks of artificiality, machines, and soul-lessness and I was greatly bothered by it. I think what was meant that there is a thea/ology and specific tools of alchemy for the practitioner. Rad Fae does not have a unified theology, nor lots of tools (but some, which we included). To me, Feri is a religion, whereas Faerie is a culture. That statement does not make one trump the other, it just acknowledges their difference to me. But some Rad Fae think of it as a religious tradition, and felt like because there were no tools to present, that it was at a "disadvantage" in the schedule.

The next term that bothered me (HARD!) was the characterization of Rad Fae as an "indigenous" tradition (as opposed to Feri), which made no sense to me and smacked of cultural appropriation. (Perhaps they meant "pertaining to the self" when they used that term?) Whereas Feri has actual elements of indigenous traditions, Rad Fae is a culture that has no thea/ology to speak of, and just because one has a land to tie you to a place does not make you “indigenous” (especially since most Rad Fae are overwhelmingly white.)

Peacock and Tomkat
Days two and three had a regular, proposed schedule that included one Feri class, one Rad Fae tool (the Heart Circle) and choice of Paths that were both Feri and Faerie and simultaneously neither one. On paper, it looked balanced. Yet one Rad Fae person suggested that they felt it was too heavy on Feri, while still others thought that not enough time was available for diving in deeply to the Feri tools presented, and ended up taking that time for themselves, and not attending other things in the schedule. I am a firm believer in feelings and perceptions over paper, so both were true. In retrospect, we overscheduled the camp, not giving enough time for free time, sex, and land exploration. This needs to be built into next year's camp.

Stella Maris
We had some amazing discussions- both in Feri class (which was a facilitated open discussion about specific tools of Feri: blue fire breathing and manipulation, Iron and Pearl pentacles, grounding, the Kala rite, and soul alignment) and in Heart Circle, opening us up to one another and allowing trust to build.

Sunday was a near perfect day. Our Feri class was actually an open-ended discussion of what Gods people work with and how they do that work. It worked well, as even most Feri work with some Gods outside the Feri pantheon. We did body adornment and mask making in path work, and some amazing masks were made. The ritual that night FINALLY balanced Feri and Rad Fae in a way that we all hoped was possible but no one was sure if it would actually happen. Nimue made an appearance and possessed several people- including a Rad Fae who had never met Her before! The Peacock Angel also was there. We hooted and hollered and cackled and drummed and danced.

And how did Rowan do in this all adult gathering? Stay tuned for part two!

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