Along with my music, I also facilitate the Anderida Gorsedd (www.anderidagorsedd.org) with my partner Cerri. This last weekend, we held our Spring camp.
The theme this year was the Arthurian tradition. We managed to set up the structures on the Thursday night with help from a number of friends, then went home ready to return on Friday morning.
Our Autumn camp last year focussed on Animal Powers, and we had storm-force winds almost all weekend. It was hard, feeling like you were being constantly battered, but it was still a great camp. I was hoping that this one would be less windy….
People started to arrive about lunchtime, the vibe good, the field welcoming. The wind picked up a little, but was still ok, but the rain began to fall, so we held the opening ritual in the marquee (known at this camp as Camelot). Then everyone stepped out into the rain to watch the Ancestral Ash being sprinkled on the Sacred Fire (we have collected ash from every fire that has been lit from every camp we have put on, and this Ancestral Ash brings the Spirit of those past camps, and the people who shared them, back together again). The camp was declared open!
The people who were going to be doing the evening’s sweat lodge got together with facilitator Chris and began to prepare themselves for their night’s work. Others went back to their tents and caravans, others went to Camelot and began the Eisteddfod, which is where I went. It was lovely to share songs with other great musicians, story, poetry, with Camelot lit by hanging lanterns, the wind picking up outside, but us safe and snug. There was a competition to play the hippiest song – I played Sunshine by John Denver 🙂 Then the gentle vibes of ‘We are stardust, we are golden….’ snaked their way across the field – I was DEFINITELY born in the wrong era…. I love that stuff!
The music ended and bed was calling, but during the night a storm hit, and I got about 2 hours sleep, worrying about the other people in their tents, and also whether Camalot might not be there in the morning…..
……but all was well.
I drove out of camp to pick up our speaker, Professor Roland Rotherham, from Lewes station. I saw him speak at an OBOD gathering some years ago, and just knew he was going to be a hit with people at our camp. He had to set off from his home at 5am, so we were very lucky to have him there. His lecture style is like a cross between a Sergeant Major and John Cleese, but his words are like precious gems. He told of the legends of Arthur, and the stories of who the real Arthur might have been. He was so passionate, that many of us found our eyes wet with tears during his talk. Imagine the most morale-boosting war speech of Churchill, but about our own Once and Future King, and you’ll not be far off.
After taking Roland back to the station I came back to camp to find almost everyone in Camelot again listening (and joining in with) Paul Newman’s Merlin workshop. I heard gentle sounds, chanting, shouting and screaming coming for the castle, but had to do maintainance on the compost toilets, so couldn’t join in. By this time the sun had began to come out…….
I sat in the Sunshine then, watching two lines of people learning sword skills taught by the wonderful Preest – laughter, mayhem, the Spirit of the Warrior (with giggles) spread across the field.
And the wind dropped. And the Sun shone.
The evening ritual was an Immrama, a Celtic Soul Quest journey. People began by gathering in Camelot, a perpetual Awen sounding, as the Grail Hermit placed the Hand of Fate upon a shoulder, and each journeyer began their Grail Quest. Out in the fields were Gods, Goddesses and Heroes from the Age of Arthur, invoked by the Druids, who the Quester could approach with questions. The Faerie ran around the fields offering their bitter-sweet food….would you eat the food of the Faerie?
I had invoked Merlin, and I felt the madness of Merlin descend into me. No longer quite myself, I found myself stooping, occasionally running, occasionally screaming into the dark of the night, being stopped by Questers, and stopping others. I can’t remember much of that night other than the feeling, but it can be like that when you invoke the Old Gods…
The sky was clear, the wind a gentle breeze, after the ritual had ended the fireside Eisteddfod continued until 4am.
The next day it rained while we packed up the camp, but the enthusiasm and help people gave to pack away was wonderful. Me and Cerri got home that night and could barely walk, we were so tired. But what a transformative camp, what community, what connection…
Now a memory, held in my head, and in my heart.