I spent a long weekend – Thursday through Sunday – at a camping site called Splendor Hollow, one of the few places I call “home”, with SerpentStone Family, which I call “Family” (and which naming has been proven accurate over and over since 1996). This weekend was easily the best weekend in my life, despite other weekends I may have called such, and for many reasons.
First off, I do not give many workshops… in fact, I don’t believe I have had one at a Gathering since the time I was taking psych drugs (which time, as many of you reading the know, ended in November of 2003). This weekend I had two, one called “Hinduism 101” (many pagans WANT to know about Hinduism) and the other “Malas and Mantras with Moss”. Both were well-attended and well-received… well, I want to give more details than that.
On my way to the Gather, in which I was transported by Lady Rhiannon (the spiritual head of the Family and I could not possibly have asked for better company and conversation), I talked about a book I had been reading, “Agnes’ Jacket”. I had gotten through the first four chapters, which mostly dealt with voice-hearers. Some time during the conversation, I became aware that the critical thoughts in my head, which were not at all like me but were VERY like the criticisms I took all the time as a child, were being responded to by me in the same way those who hear voices respond to their voices, quite often triggering fears and, hence, poor performance of whatever they are doing. I knew that the criticisms I was thinking were no longer valid, if ever they were, but they triggered my worst, most nerve-wracked moments.
This morning (Monday, June 22) I decided I am a “deaf voice-hearer” — doesn’t matter whether I hear a voice, I still get the message, so I must be using other faculties. However, before the weekend began, in the car talking to Lady Rhiannon (who hates to be called “Lady” as she feels no need to be held in higher esteem than others in the Family), I had decided that I didn’t need to follow my triggers anymore. I had spent years working to not be the person my “non-voices” kept telling me I was (or was in danger of becoming if I did not listen to them). It was no different from not listening to the VOCAL criticisms I have learned to stop giving myself, the energy-robbing, initiative-stealing negative thoughts. At this moment (Thursday morning in the car with Rhiannon), it was a small and simple, even easy, step to take, so I decided to take it.
If that were the only thing good that happened, it would have been a great weekend.
Most people do not get to the Gather until Friday, some even Saturday, and I was there at Noon on Thursday. My tent was the first erected on site, I even took a picture of what Splendor Hollow looks like without tents, something I had never before seen. Two hours later, after a nap I took during a thunderstorm, I awoke to find about 20 campsites set up.
Thursday night I had trouble sleeping early, and heard one group of voices across the site and decided to visit them and have a good conversation. I found about 4 or 5 people, one of whom was a very lovely lady who was also very obviously already 3/4 way through a bottle of R&R Canadian Whisky. She started passing it to me during the conversation… and about the time the conversation was breaking up, perhaps 90 minutes or two hours later, she (in her words) pounced on me (which she apologized for later, although not as if it were a mistake). The next few hours were spent in her tent, and I won’t give details… although she was loud enough that it got to be the talk of the Gather for the next day or so. (I do not mind at all taking responsibility for giving pleasure. I do not, however, take responsibility for the volume the other person chooses to employ in expressing this pleasure.) Yes, I’m bragging. About f’ing time, too, in the past I would have been so embarassed as to never show my face again for the rest of the weekend, and be scared about attending future gatherings. (Note that she, among all mentioned in this particular blog, was not named. I think that’s the right thing to do.) I will state that this has never happened to me before at a Gather, and I’m not expecting it to happen again but hey, whatever, ya know? Pagan gathers are NOT gigantic f’-fests, as many people believe them to be… if you want that kind of thing, there are gathering FOR that kind of thing. It’s not my kind of thing. I like to be able to talk to people afterwards (and before, and sometimes even during), whereas that kind of gather usually doesn’t have much to do with talking.
If that were the only thing that happened, it would have been a great weekend.
There are many loving and knowledgeable people in my Family. There are many truth-tellers as well, which is a good thing. There is no one person I know who is both of these things more so than Owl. If Owl thinks you may be sensitive to the truth he is about to tell you, and cares, he will warn you first if you have asked for it… and then he will tell you, with no prevarication whatever, and most times you will find yourself laughing your head off at the bright truth of it and the way it comes out his mouth.
Owl’s wife, Mau, is also a truth-teller and someone whose knowledge and spirit I honor.
Both came to my Hinduism 101 workshop.
In times past, I would have wilted or turned into a ball of nerves, am I going to say the right thing, in the right way… how much will they feel the need to correct me…
Instead I welcomed their presence — if indeed I did not cover the material as well as I wished to, not only could either of them improve my knowledge but that would, in turn, improve my workshop, and it gave me a chance to practice ignoring my triggers.
I sailed through the workshop. There were many bright eyes. When I completed a section on the history of the various sects of Hinduism, I looked at Owl and Mau, and asked Owl directly, “Did I miss anything?” And Owl didn’t blink (do owls ever? LOL), he looked at me and said, simply, “No, I think you’ve pretty well covered it all.”
If that was all that happened, it would have been a great and successful weekend. (Even better, I was talking with some friends including Mau later Saturday night, and Mau said she was so impressed with the workshop she called Starrah and told her about it — Starrah being another Family member whose knowledge and affection I treasure, but who was not at this Gather.)
I went to a workshop Owl was leading, at the same site and immediately before my second workshop. During the workshop, Owl referred to a statement which, at one point, was common in pagan rituals but which, he said, has long since been forgotten, “by just about everyone, except maybe Moss.” I’m amazed someone didn’t start looking for an off switch, I was glowing so brightly. I did tell him, no, I didn’t know that one… but it was clear I was being viewed — by someone whose knowledge and affection I valued most highly — as a valuable resource, not someone who was going to fuck up all the time — and piss everyone off — the way my thoughts had it.
If that ONE COMMENT was the only thing that happened, it would have been as great a weekend as I have had, probably in the top 20 all time.
Needless to say, I sailed through my second workshop just as well. With one funny exception. I had separated the handouts from the first workshop from those of the second, and thought I had left the FIRST group of handouts in my tent… then discovered, no, I had left the handouts for THIS workshop behind. No problem, I asked people to wait as I went to my tent, got the handouts, and returned, without dissolving into a nervous mass of embarrassed tissue as I would have in the past, and the workshop went on gloriously after that.
I will state that the closing part of the workshop was to chant “OM GAM GANAPATAYEI NAMAHA” for a full round of 108 times, ALL of us in the workshop (many of us with malas). I would further add that this workshop was being done at the Central Fire, a spot which has years and years of energy being worked around it (and that this choice was intentional on my part).
I have asked certain members of the Family, including all at that workshop, to keep records of what walls fall in their presence, including (especially) ones they were not aware of the presence of.
Saturday night was even better, although I had already begun to succumb to heat exhaustion. I got in another late, deep conversation, on a variety of topics. I held my own without feeling the least obnoxious. I had about the right amount of alcohol — and then they started passing more to me. I refused a few times, but then after you get so much in you, you stop refusing. So I was beyond where I wanted to be. However, all during this time, a beautiful woman was sitting next to me on my right (and at other times I had one or two other beauties on my left side)… at some time early in the discussion she reached over and held my hand. That’s all. We smiled at each other a lot, but nothing was expected — i.e., we were in the company we wanted to be in, and we were holding each other’s hand. I did not waste my time thinking whether it was a signal of something else (remember my non-voices? they get REALLY BAD in situations like this, and I start wondering what she wanted me to do next, or if I don’t do something will she be insulted, or… or… or… Well, this time they SHUT THE F*** UP and left me to enjoy the fact that a beautiful woman was holding my hand, and a wonderful conversation among several friends was going on including us and around us.)
If that had been the only thing that happened, it would have been a GREAT weekend. I also know she knows how to contact me should she choose to do so, and I’m not going to worry about whether or not, or when, that is going to happen.
In the meantime, I completed knitting two hats over the weekend, got to play a fair bit of music, sold a few malas and a mala bag, hung out with some of the most beautiful, wonderful, spiritual people in the world, with all of them accepting me as the same and as Family.
After the Gather, Lady Rhiannon’s daughter, Diana, was my ride home… but first we went to Golden Corral in Sevierville TN for dinner — myself, Diana, Rhiannon, Astarte, Owl and Mau. The conversation was as always exceptional, I was not nervous in the least (I hope to not even have to keep saying that, and that a time will come when I will forget about my past nervousness because it was SO FAR IN THE PAST as to be immaterial). The air-conditioned atmosphere and good food went a long way to healing the effects of my heat exhaustion.
And if THAT were the only thing that happened, it would have been a great weekend. The trip home with Diana was at times good music, at times good conversation, and at times I just sat in the passenger seat and knitted (finishing my second hat of the weekend.)
So. I had a WONDERFUL weekend, probably my best ever. My next step is to learn that I don’t have to tell everyone about my weekend (the non-voices say that if nobody knows, it didn’t really happen or wasn’t all that important. I’ll get over that. Soon?)
This is NOT a work of fiction. Some details may be different from someone else’s perspective, and MY wonderful weekend was not the ONLY wonderful weekend had.