Before I begin: This is my personal observation and feelings. This is not political commentary, not a public criticism, not an official statement of any sort. I am only speaking as myself, a person who experienced these things and had these reactions, and not as any official representative of anything other than my Gods. I hate that I even have to state that, and I know there will be fallout anyway, but there it is.
I should also state that this is going to take quite a while to get the point, but I ask that you hang in there, because I think it’s a fairly important one. You just need to understand all the experiences that lead to the revelation for it to make sense. I promise I’m not usually this verbose.
There we were, standing by the firelight. I was coming back to my body after a prolonged possessory experience. I looked around at the people gathered, and I could feel that each one of them – the strangers, the supporters, the guardians, even those who were there for my benefit – all wanted the same thing. They wanted her to succeed. As the tendrils of His control faded, one of the last things I shared with Him was this sense of support for her in this journey. It was more than just her spouse, her family, her friends. It was as if the very air we breathed, the flickering flames, the grass beneath our feet, the tears in our eyes were all reaching towards her, wanting the best possible outcome. – An excerpt from my private ordeal mastery journal
Ramblewood is locally well known as the campground that allows us to be our true selves, in whatever way that manifests. I have attended all sorts of gatherings there, from family friendly pagan festivals to weekends intended to help collectively grieve the passing of a friend. Sometimes I watch children playing on the jungle gym and fondly remember when a naked man was tied up inside of it, being shocked by a violet wand. There is something wonderfully freeing, knowing that there is at least one place on the planet where I can come close to being all the things I am, without fear of reprisal or rejection.
I’m absolutely positive that some of that feeling of acceptance is energetic. Over time, both the people who run the place as well as those who host the events there have invested a great deal of themselves in the flow of whatever creates that feeling. I’ve seen BDSM play there that I would never see in a dungeon. I’ve been a part of rituals that could only happen in a place like that. I’ve borne witness to solo workings and thousand-person rituals that had “be who you are” as the theme on that land. Whether you’re meditating at the labyrinth or dancing around one of the two fire circles, the land vaettir love you unconditionally in a very rare sort of way.
I guess that’s what bothered me about some of my recent experiences there. I attended two events (one in May and one in June), run by different but somewhat entwined organizations, where I thought maybe some of that magic had been broken. Instead of feeling unconditionally accepted for all the things I am – a madness shaman, a trickster, a God-touched spirit worker, a self-identified monster, a edgy kinkster, a Master, a magician, etc – I felt shamed. Things happened that made me feel as though in order to “fit in”, I had to put parts of me back in the basement; those very parts of me that I come to Ramblewood to allow to breathe.
After the May event where this happened, I thought it was a fluke. Maybe the wind was just blowing in the wrong direction, or maybe I was still too emotionally wrung out after having surgery, or I don’t know what. I tried my best to write it off as an aberration, a single bad experience, and at most something that could be pretty easily fixed. I reached out to the people in charge and let them know how the event made me feel. In the end, I decided that I just need to step back from that particular event and let it become what it wants to be, which seems to be not the event I had originally fallen in love with. That’s cool; I’ve had a lot of lessons lately about how sometimes the loving, supportive choice is to give space or move on.
I will admit, although the June event in which I felt this way was run by a different group of people (but there is a significant amount of crossover), I arrived with a sense of trepidation because of what happened in May. I also knew that this particular group has been wracked with political, medium sized group drama that was bad enough that there was open speculation that this might be the last of these events. The current president is a controversial, divisive person that you either love, or love to hate. He knew that the success or failure of this event would stand testament to his legacy with this organization, and he was prepared to work his balls to the bone to make it work. I have to admit a complicated bias – he is a close personal friend, and a member of my leather family, but I am also not a big fan of many of the decisions he has made as the president of this organization (and this is no secret to him).
Tensions ran high during the event. Everything had this air of conflict about it, and things that would have usually regarded as fairly insignificant events – like noise complaints – turned into these unwieldy complicated situations that required either Holmgang-level resolution or such diplomatic intricacy that no one left satisfied. Even the act of calling an ambulance for a person suffering from dehydration caused a tangible upsurge of contention. As a group, it seemed we could nothing without fighting about it, and mostly behind each others backs.
The more salient point about this particular event, the one that relates to the title of this post, is that it was no secret there were people rooting for the event to fail. There were some who purposefully chose to stay home, and to encourage others to follow suit, in order to make the event lose money. There were staff members who usually throw their backs into the event who either did half-ass jobs, left the event before their obligation was discharged, or openly mocked/questioned/shirked authority. There were many times people tried to pull me into private conversations that appalled me. I come to this event to connect with the spiritual, and in the end, that’s exactly what happened, but not in the way you’d think.
All of this energy had to manifest in one way or another. We claim to be a magical people (it was a pagan event) and most of us believe that thoughts/feelings can become manifest. What happened Saturday night, which I am somewhat oathbound from talking about, was a direct result of this dramatic tension. It may sound odd to some, but I saw real monsters that night – and I know, because I am one. (All children of Loki are, in one way or another.) I have never been so scared at Ramblewood before, and I’ve seen three tornado-level weather events, horsed Gods I’ve never met, and saw someone stop breathing before the ambulance was on the property (these events have happened over the course of all of my Ramblewood experiences, not at this particular event).
So when I watched the last person from that event leave on Sunday night, and myself, my slave, and my partner Winter settled into the manor house before the next event began, I felt no small amount of relief that it was over. Winter and I went so far as to cleanse the property energetically of the negative sludge that had built up (focusing on some of the areas where a lot of contention happened). We cleansed and warded our new sleeping quarters so we knew at least here we could relax.
Slowly but surely we watched (and helped) as the land was transformed for the second event in as many weeks. It changed from a family friendly Pagan spirituality event, to a sexuality/kink event with a deep spiritual focus (but not everyone who attends is necessarily Pagan or even spiritual). Part of what helped me shake off the dregs of the first event was this physical transformation. Even the names of the places changed: instead of “Cabin ABCD”, it was “Oink”; instead of “The Tin Can” it was “The Playspace”. I also took some private time to release whatever I needed to in order to fully engage in the second event. (It didn’t hurt that His Boy was coming and we were going to spend the week together.)
As the sacred kink/sex event got into full swing, I made a little facebook status update about how it felt so radically different than the Pagan event. This, understandably, ruffled a couple of feathers. So much so that the organizer of the Pagan event came to visit the second event and sought me out in some sort of defensive attempt. But I really meant it – it was as if the land itself was reacting differently to my footfalls. The air was easier to breathe (even though it was 20 degrees warmer!). The lights at night seemed brighter. I decided to take some time to try to figure out what it was that made the second event so much different than the first.
I had some great ideas, too. But then IPCookieMonster (I hang with people who use odd names) wrote a great fucking post (warning: link goes to adult themed website that requires membership signup to access) that lead me right to the answer. It became blatantly obvious why the two events felt so broken and the third felt so whole. Don’t get me wrong: the third event had its share of organizational and personal drama. There were times my job was just to witness and listen while staff members worked out their frustrations with how things were going. Also, the land suffered a terrible microshear (basically, a tornado-level weather event) that destroyed over 20 cars, many tents and other temporary structures, severely damaged a cabin, and forced us to go without power and flushing toilets/running water for over 24 hours. And yet, that was the good event.
Anyway, IPCookieMonster’s post brought it all into focus. Even in all the stress and infighting and what-have-you at the third event, you could feel the passion. People were upset because they cared. Everyone I met (staff and attendees) wanted to create the best event possible, and would go out of their way to do it. The event even supported attendee-driven programming, so if there was something you and your friends wanted to happen or include in said event, not only could you do it, but the event would advertise and give you a small budget to pull it off. Everywhere I went, I saw people providing service to community in some small way. Someone worked a longer taxi shift because they enjoyed meeting people. Someone stayed in HQ extra time so their cohort could go get a blowjob. An off-duty firefighter jumped in during the storm and even though he was on vacation, he made sure everyone was safe and anyone who needed medical attention got it in a timely fashion. Although one can never be sure, I felt like at this event if I approached someone for an interaction they weren’t interested in, their response would have been, “Wow, that sounds great, but not for me. How about I help you find someone who’s into that?”
The events I felt alienated at almost had the opposite effect. I felt like even if I were willing to make something manifest in order to allow myself and people like me to feel included, it was always an uphill battle. Interacting with the organizational structure felt like a chore rather than a joy. I had to carefully craft each word so as to not offend or activate some pre-existing drama and get sucked into that. I consider myself a pretty proactive person, and don’t normally shy away from speaking up and saying, “hey, if we moved that three feet to the left, six more people will have a great time.” But I just didn’t want to. I was afraid to. And even when I did, most of the time my suggestions were ignored and not implemented. It felt like no one cared that I felt left out, like that was a completely acceptable loss at an event level.
So, magical collusion. The idea that in order for magic to happen, two or more people have to agree with their souls that the intended effect is desired, wanted, necessary, and capable of happening. That they commit with everything they have to enacting that change. Magic doesn’t happen half-assedly. You have to dig deep in your soul and bring it all up into your heart or your head (or wherever the magic manifests in your body) and really feel it there. We have to accept each other as all being important to the process, even if outside of the Work I think you smell funny and you can’t stand my lefty politics. You have to invest in the idea of success, not that “maybe it’ll work”, but “this will work, and I will do whatever I can to make it work, both mundane and spiritual”. This was so palpable at the third event, working any sort of magic became that much easier. I was able to transform tears into joy, pain into pleasure, scary things in the night into places of refuge from the storm, because I could tap into that collusional stream of potentiality.
The secret to creating magic of any sort, including sacred space, is that magical collusion. I knew it was time to leave SMS when I was in a ritual with them and all I wanted to do was be somewhere else. I also knew that I was ready to join the Clan when I done some spiritual work with them and all I wanted to do was that, for as long as I could. And it’s so much easier to affect change when you’re not doing it alone; when you have all kinds of resources at your disposal, energetic and logistical.
How are you colluding with those in your life to create the most powerful, meaningful experiences you can handle? Are you desperately trying to walk a loner’s path, but finding that nothing is coming your way? Maybe it’s time to find out why that is. Reaching out to those who can connect with your intent and lend their energy, shoulder, ear, or time to helping it come to fruit is part of the process. Another part is being honest with those around you – if you aren’t feeling that connection, maybe it’s you who is making it fail. Endings are as blessed as beginnings.