travel log, europe

Love note from a Shamanism Festival

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photo by wil stewart

In front of a sweatlodge, a man speaks. Half to himself, half to the flames licking the stones. Many ears strain to follow the laconic US drawl over the crackle of burning wood. While we wait for the rocks to gather heat, stories pour out of him like a river.

“Word is Crazy Horse had a vision in captivity, one he didn’t understand. He saw his people doing the Sun Dance, their most sacred ceremony – but there were many others there too. People of many different colours.” He chuckles to himself. “And here we are. Fulfilling prophecies”.

Andrew is a Lakota Indian. His conversation with the fire takes place in the French countryside, at a gathering of a hundred and fifty shamans, healers, wise men and women from all over the planet. We are at the Shamanism Festival (Festival du Chamanisme), close to the sacred fire lit by people from all continents. It will burn for four days, standing in the centre of a vast field of tents, yurts, teepees and natures shrines.

This is the second time I attend the festival. Last time, I asked people with no interest in healing why they came every year : “There’s so much love here, it’s just… warm, you know? Like getting high with hundreds of people, with no drugs. There’s no other place like this. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Maybe the sack of grain at the entrance can serve as a good metaphor. Someone left a bag, holding a dozen kilos of grain, with a note : “This is good, organic wheat. The world needs more of it. Help yourself, and plant it far and wide.”

This is a temporary refuge from the monoculture on many levels. As I sip chai under the shelter of a huge Bedouin tent, one of my greatest dreams is coming true – the one where I could travel to meet the great diversity of human culture, in a time before the far-reaching influence of TV, blue jeans and Hollywood chewing gum. Here the queues to a hot cup of tea boast embroidered kimonos, feathered headdresses, facepaints of red, white and yellow, braided hair with bells, felt snakes and straw, great dyed cloaks of silk or sheepskin. People wave to each other and cry out greetings of “Hauch!” and “Namaste!”.

Each day is packed with enticing invitations to dance with the Maori, the Kimuntu, to take part in group meditations, ceremonies, conferences, to clown and sing and get individual healing sessions. Freak coincidences crop up like mushrooms and tongues loosen : in the buzz of food truck chit chat, I hear people giddily confess to healing hands and alien abductions, to randomly entering a rift in space and time. I’m French, and I have yet to visit a country more suspicious of all things spiritual and magical. Glee and relief shines from the faces of those who find sympathetic ears and “Me too!”’s to their long-kept secrets.

The soundtrack of the event is unmistakeable. I close my eyes, and hear Pygmy chants, drums, songs and wordless cries, stomps, the twang of mouth harps and citar strings, and so much laughter. Our spirits everywhere teach that laughter is the first medecine, and we are welcomed to each ceremony and workshop with twinkling eyes.

Documentaries may have shown us these faces before, but now they have punctured the silver screen (and this is, by the way, a phone-free event). They bring us samples of their worlds, eased out with our questions.

“So how do you cure Parkinson’s and gluten intolerance in your jungle?” A puzzled blink replies : “We have no such things in our jungle.” Some find it hard to believe that a famous Shuar healer will simply takes ayahuasca, listens to the messages spoken to him, and follow whatever cure the spirits counsel. I learn that every single detail of the gorgeous embroidery and paintings bought by the Mexican Wixarikas are just so many symbols of the sacred peyote. I learn that on each full moon, the young Haka Pygmies gather to dance together a fertility dance, then scatter from the light of the village fire to make love under the stars. I meet an Australian clever man who seems to walk in a dark cloud – because he practised his ancestral ceremonies, three of his children were taken away by the government. Many have suffered exile, persecution, death threats, but still they come to share. They have acquired the globalized weapons of university diplomas, and carry on what they have practised for years, bearing the titles of music therapists, ethno-pharmacists, conservationists, linguists, anthropologists.

Among countless others, a family of Yezidi refugees share their story. They are part of an ethnic minority in Iraq, with a culture rooted in the land long before the arrival of Islam. “We are a persecuted people. Four years ago, we survived a genocide, and had to flee. We have never truly felt at home since then – until today.” Many tears are shed during this great family reunion of the human race. Fairytales will tell you that tears are the necessary water to mourn our loss, wash our wounds, and bless our strengthened resolve. They create a halo of protection where we can be vulnerable.

During these four days, it is not uncommon to bump into people standing ankle-deep in mud, staring into each other’s eyes in speechless wonder for half an hour at a time. I watch people receiving healing with instruments, fire, voice, an outstretched palm. The great modern disease of loneliness dissolves in our connection to each other, to our many ancestors, to the elements hailed as teachers, neighbours and parts of ourselves. The four directions, the winds and moon are called upon for blessing and guidance. We sing to our great tribe of our elders, their differences melted in the cauldron of time, who fought to give us life, and passed down their sacred teachings. Our barriers are blasted away by the insistent, relentless message of love and care that throngs the air, whispered in dozens of dialects.

In the dark belly of the sweatlodge, Andrew’s voice softly repeats : “At the end of the day, all we have is each other.”  

I think a lot about the role of language during my time here. The festival is entirely run by volunteers, including the interpreters. This key role often falls into the lap of travelers, who have spent some time with our guests in their home country. Many are overwhelmed by the formidable task of instantly translating words they frequently don’t fully hear or understand, standing on a stage to an audience of several hundred people. Of the languages I speak fluently, I note that only about 30% of what is spoken accurately reaches those on the other side of the language barrier.

Part of me feels like this is a tragic missed opportunity – and at times a dangerous fault. Miscommunication about the risks of taking ayahuasca with weak kidneys springs to mind. Another part of me feels that life will intervene when it feels like it. Instead I spend hours contemplating the beautiful flow of non-verbal communication :

Are you okay?
Oh wow, that was unexpected!
Ready?
This is incredible!

And Thank You. A thousand ways of saying Thank You. Of saying I See You. I Love You.

The festival was a great example of cooperation and respect.

An opportunity to remember all the old ways in which we have always said : We Are One.

  

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europe, travel log

a season of water and women

gaetan’s hand spreads out over the flats : “all this was water. still would be if it wasn’t for the drains. that’s why it’s flooded right now, with all the rain. this here is the island of avalon, over there by the evergreens they would send off bodies on boats from the isle of the dead. it would all be impenetrable swamps, clouded in mist – you’d need to find a way here then wait for the lady to summon the boat…”

perched on my terrasse, we gaze at the horizon. today the mists of avalon have loosened their grip and the fields are drenched in sunlight. the land here bathed in song as much as it bathed in water. chinese medecine links the element of water to the winter months, and the cards follow suit, leasurely showering a deluge of cups on everyone around me, of water bringing memories, ancestors, connectedness through time and space – incubation.

here i am sitting with women again. i listen to their stories. we’ve had freak february daffodils, gales and a snowball holiday where the town celebrated its 20cm of powder in utter delight. meanwhile, the rest of the island labored in waist-high snow. we pour cups of tea before we start the women’s circle, staring through curtains of endless rain and experiencing leaking dreams : we wander in and out of other women’s heads, curious birds swooping in our wake between the cracks. a woman down the hill dreams of me sitting on a sofa, rain splattering indoors. “that happened – a couple of days ago”. hypnosis summons an image of a radiant bull, leading a herd towards the sun, while the woman sleeping the room next to me sees a cow jumping over the fence, back and forth. tara and kali, smiling at each other from each side of a double page, wreak havoc in dreamed funeral homes and real salt circles. i dream the name of the water god tlaloc, indignant of being treated as if he had no feelings – how many, many more coincidences we would discover if we all constantly shared our dreams with each other… i tattoo a spider on a thigh, an invitation to a certain kind of womanhood, of courage, of connection to the mysteries –  a few days later a woman has to be brave for a younger girl, and lets a tarantula rest on her petrified hand.

i spend a long time blowing steam in the candlelit cave. the numb soles of my bare feet can feel everything. i blink through this deluge and feel the action of the slow drops of healing.

this community of women is like the soft call of home. “take a moment sisters, breathe…” sacred feminine were just words, before. now it’s a feeling with texture and colour. an experience in my pocket. a craving i didn’t know i had.

i’ve had a whole life’s worth of inventive ways and reasons of steering clear of the female community. whether i was a scruffy tomboy, a lone bookworm or an angry punk, the hats i picked up never held any breadcrumbs back to a peer group i could relate to. the word femininity only summoned pink razors, cosmo quizz and other hollow icons of the consumer culture, manufactured to pollute women’s brains with vapid noise. traveling was slowly, steadily unscrewing the bolts of what i knew, but still – the mainstream latino culture of my new homes wanted to know where were my babies, where was my husband, why my hair was short and my jeans torn. i kept my own company. i’d never met a community of sisters and never dreamed such a thing could ever be waiting for me.

but lo and behold – first, i meet kinswomen! this has never happened to me before! wild souls pining for the road or plotting for a roof, depending on the day. they stride into my life one after the other, we wave friendly banner like ships entering a harbour, we trade news from the trail, goods and houses, tattoos, haircuts, massages, plant friends and sponges. i feel like the ugly duckling, looking up to the family of swans.

then there’s all the others, the many faces of the goddess. we connect in the simple way that were used for millenia and buried for centuries. on a new moon we arrive  at the circle depleted and part company elated. leave your archetypes by the door, the maidens, crones, single mothers and tired warriors, the broken-hearted and sick and homeless. here we only have women. drums. songs and shrieks and how can you describe what happens in a circle. “you’ll just have to try this out at home”. a space where the civilized animals are played down. we talk blood and bones. “oh wait, you do that too?”

as the legend goes : we are women, standing on the shoulder of an older woman, who stands on the shoulders of an ever older woman… it’s inexpressible, feeling this umbilical cord of kinship, stretching back through the fabric of time. shining from every eye gazing back from around the fire. suffice it to say i am loved and blessed.

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europe, travel log

the Everything That’s Ever Turned You On List

on the café table there’s an apple, a cup of lapsang souchong smelling of bonfires and the queen of wands. the perfect cocktail for simmering arousal.

my cheeks feel warm, the soft skin of my stomach tingles. i am sitting with every single lover i’ve ever had or wished i did, scribbling away. filled to the brim with quiet fire.

when gorgeous meg told me about the list, i didn’t get it. “write the qualities of your perfect lover?”. it sounded like idly wishing for something that wasn’t there, feeding daydreams. like a horny 13-year-old’s craving, before you learn that the greatest thing about love is that it comes in marvelous, unthinkable flavors.

“the way it works is : you identify and name qualities, behaviours… then instead of hunting for them in someone else, you cultivate them in yourself.”

that caught my attention.

“you start by writing down everything anybody’s ever done that’s turned you on.”

oh, mama. caught again.

it started like a shower of sparks. one memory would suddenly flare up, then the next. a trail of butterflies in my stomach that had me giggling.

patterns then emerged from these isolated moments, traits that would come back time and again, gaining sharper definition as time went by.

as i sifted through these moments i watched my needs change. from the people who wanted me instantly to others, who can bide their time. from the one i could talk to, to the one with whom i can share silence. i wrote “closeness to nature” and suddenly remembered a boy in chile, who first made me notice that i touch every single plant i come across.

there was : the light touch of fingers on my wrist. a slow, hour-long foot massage. though sensual delight made an appearance, it was scant compared to the details revealing a certain temperament, a vision, a set of values. a playful mind, a gentle heart. a respect for boundaries. speaking uncomfortable truths, that need to be spoken. the list included friends and unlikely faces i did not expect to add there.

when i was done, i had an ébauche, a recipe for the best version of me i could imagine. me in my days of radiance. i fell in love with myself a little more.

the greatest impact was yet to come : i skimmed back through my words, looking for patterns. i was in for a surprise.

years ago, i’d climbed the creaky staircase of a dark, dank parisian library, and came to a doorway.

a hand had painted on the lintel :

“Be not inhospitable to strangers
Lest they be angels in disguise”.

the message had hit me like a sledgehammer. i’d spent the rest of the day in a daze.

the imprint of that sentence was laid out in front of my eyes : that time a love of mine left his shoes to a sleeping beggar, and walked home barefoot, mine de rien. that other man who got lost for hours on any simple errand, happily making lifelong friends along the way. people’s attitude to strangers was a key player in my list. i had no idea that this was so important to me – maybe because my default role in people’s lives is often “the stranger”, the traveler, the new face. it made me think of a card on the postsecret website that read, in a similar vein : “i judge you by how you interact with my mentally retarded brother”.

the last one, added like an after thought, was : “knows their medicine.” to know what you need, what you want, and how to get it. i blew a kiss goodbye to my past self, who had no idea of what she wanted in a lover. i felt a page turn.

that night, i dreamed of giving painless birth to miraculous twins, that glowed like the sunrise.

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europe, travel log

december

on the blank page of half a sketch pad i was gifted while traveling, there’s a verse written by an unknown hand : “Once upon a time, there was an ant”. with the ant drawn under its namesake. in the middle of the page, like someone leaving a hidden gift.

just before leaving on the christmas pilgrim trail, i’d met a man called soul. after two minutes of casual conversation i thought “oh, there you are! we’re really close friends! we just hadn’t met yet.” when i arrived in my childhood bedroom, the first thing i laid my hands on was an engraved wooden box which reads : “Soul Slices”.

glastonbury gave me a beautiful sendoff in the form of a winter solstice celebration. i should have been in bed, eating antibiotics and resting. i piled on layers and limped over to the gardens – bumping into friends wearing celebratory glitter on the way. we giggled as we blessed each other with holy water. we all raised our hands and blessed the log for the fire of our shortest day. there was a labyrinth where people walked barefoot, meandering the sand paths for long stretches of time to the sound of harp music. the air was thick with song, a strange warmth and a heady, cinnamon-scented kind of love. it padded down the street like a slow smoke, stronger every day since the month began.

i gave myself this day : in the early morning i would be hurtling down the roads back to france, in a rush. too many people to see, places to go to see them, timetables and slow trains and are you free between 1:15 and 2:03 in 12 days. but to my surprise, the days since december have been a study in slowness.

when i joined my family we were all in a similar state – wounded and bone-tired. we floated around in a tide of exhaustion which washed away the usual to-dos. what took its place was a vague nothing replacing our family rituals. we lit every candle in the house on christmas eve, played cards and did not exchange gifts. i felt like we let ourselves be, most of the time – be alone more than usual when we gather under the same roof, be silent, be inactive. these things do not come easily to my womenfolk – it was quite a privilege to share with them this unusual, collective aloofness. i got the time to go through the cycles of tenderness and irritation, quietly enjoying each step. i found myself smiling at us all, going through the same old dramas that have clung to the walls for the last ten years.

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the sex magic readings have been my personal christmas present to myself. “you’re going to just come up with something great. then watch it work so well. then be happy”. i’d never read long-distance before : a name, a picture, that’s it. no safety net, you just jump. i was nervous as hell but as soon as my fingers flutter over the cards it’s obvious – i’m not the one doing the picking. listening to my recorded reading offers the privilege of refining my analysis and correcting speach mannerisms, the pauses allowing long periods of unrecorded silence, letting things bubble up without hurry. when i send off the audio files, only a few hours pass before i receive excited pictures of symbols over there that had come up in the cards, emails exclaming at connecting dots, orders for readings to gift to friends. i’m glad i can end the year with the important reminder that i can invite any exciting new pinch of magic into my life. i don’t need to wait and prepare – i just have to pick a star, get up and walk in its direction.

 

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glastonbury – sex, magic, clowns

Whirlwind. The winter days have pushed me decidedly off balance, snatching away home, job, money, health, and sniggering while i groaned and sweated and stretched on tiptoe, trying to snatch them back. i feel like i’ve been running around like a headless chicken, getting painted, sketched, crippled, overenthusiastic, overworked, dazed and confused. a good hard cry in the emergency room, fever coursing through my pores, death blows a fond kiss in my direction. the crisis gets washed away with tears and the puzzled doctor says “but… is it going to get better? do you have friends who can help?”. it is. i do. the solstice is past and the days are getting longer again – like the tide, the dog days are slowly starting to ebb away.

in the middle of this jolly chaos, things are growing.

working with sex and magic has been on the horizon, the back of my mind, the edge of my vision for a while. i never gave it much attention, it seemed like too vague an intuition, unlikely, undefined. but when the glint caught my eye and escaped my lips, ears around me pricked. there were questions. the questions pulled and tugged like a midwife’s fingers. explaining the obvious to each other, discovering, again, that it isn’t. what seemed like the lightest of whispers on the wind – so slight perhaps only i could hear it, imagined it – developed into hours of whispers in vans cars beds sofas hilltops. follow the buzz of the bees, you will find the honey.

a close friend who experienced sexual trauma back when we teenagers had recently told me something that really started shaking up my tree. she said hanging out with me helped her more than most of the therapy ever did. that i had always experienced sex like an excited kid having a ball at the funfair – picture a seven year old who wants to do all the rides, chocolate smeared around the lips, a balloon and a goldfish squeezed under the armpit, making friends with the dogs and the candy man and breaks things down in the ghost train and gets lost and cries. then gets up, distracted by a butterfly, does it all again and gapes in disbelief when the adults say it’s time to go home and there’s school tomorrow. (wow, that was fun to write!) the point here being that it’s all an adventure, it’s exciting, sometimes scary, it’s fun, and did you go to the fair, what ride did you like the most, ooh yeah that was scary and did i show you my goldfish?

the other big shake i got was slowly realizing all the women who are my close friends have been through sexual trauma – and i had no idea. i thought we talked about those things, but clearly, we didn’t. we don’t. it took an even longer while for the penny to drop as to why i was receiving these confessions in the first place : i had found a complicated path to excavate some buried pains from my own past. their stories were only coming because i had opened that door in the first place.

the shame that clamped out mouths shut… i wondered what the hell i could do about it. after the questions started, i continued this whole conversation with unlikely people – my landlord, my family, vague acquaintances. and i watched something interesting happen to the shame : at first it feels close, too close, but as the words go on, look at that! shame stretches. a little further away. then a little further. it does that thing like when we name fear and put a spotlight on it. often in the light of day it doesn’t seem quite so big any more, it can be scrutinized and broken down into smaller pieces and dealt with. after piecing together the cards, some tips from a student of pnl, non-violent communication, poetic license, scribbled diagrams about trauma recovery, spread recycling, a fun photoshoot and check-listing deepak choprah… i was ready.

   

in a sharing circle after hours of dancing and sweating, i suddenly followed an impulse to present the readings to an audience. it was electrifying and scary and what a kick to see those sparkling eyes! the intention of the readings is to create a space to have some earnest, caring introspection about our sexual needs, and to encourage us all to share these thoughts and the questions they provoke with others. to bring this conversation into our daily lives. on its first night out it was already a complete success : that night was buzzing and humming with sex talk.

 

Introducing the Sex Magic Tarot Readings

Sex Magic is a combination of words that usually provokes a jolt of excitement, and rings many alarm bells of caution. I will not use safer-sounding labels like Sacred Sexuality. Let’s call things by their names here.

We’re talking about sex, that wild journey to ecstasy and madness that creates life. Burning, healing, dissolving – it tastes like earth and glows like the cosmic dance. It simply doesn’t get more magic than that.

I am inviting you for a chat around this great feast. Let’s talk about sex. Let’s explore what wines we have sampled, and what exotic flavours might make our mouths water. Appetites vary with the seasons : what kind of nourishment do we crave and need today? Where will we go forage for it? How did we get past our share of the bitterness, the poison also on the table? When was the last time you discussed favourite foods and swapped recipes with the other guests?

I started brewing these spreads after realizing just how many of us are struggling, trying to recover from trauma and physical abuse. How many of us close our hearts after they have been broken. And how all that pain is often digested alone, in silence.

Let’s break the silence and open the door to being witnessed. To looking deep within ourselves, and communicating our needs, our hungers, our insecurities. We are not alone. Sex is the fire feeding our creativity, our potential for transformation : let’s feast and get warm. Work up some sweet Sex Magic, and reclaim this power as our own. 

The Sex Magic Readings

Sexual Exploration
Titillation, fun, inspiration. Oh la la.

Sexual Abundance
Introspection on what sexual abundance looks like for you today, and how to manifest it.

Sexual Communication
Tackles the root of most problems : clear communication with yourself and others.

Sexual Spring Cleaning
Skeletons in our closet? We all have them. Let’s shake ‘em out, and move on.

Note : these four readings are about empowering you in your sexual and creative power. Whatever sexuality you chose to engage in (or not), with yourself and/or others, your fire comes from within and that’s where our focus is.

Book a Reading Here!

“oh, you want to explore the theme of shame do you? well, careful what you wish for!” manical laugh. we’re given a checklist of key words and concepts which i’ve kept and pored over half a dozen times since, musing on just how much deconstructing the world of clown sets out to do against the world of Common Sense, Dignified Adulthood and Fear. zuma puma’s exercises felt like we were receiving a long-overdue formal training in group socializing. “when you flop, make it bigger!”. clown brings this flabbergasting notion that you have to come as you are, as you really are, and that we love it, every minute, especially when you’ve failed to make us laugh. “put it in your pocket! well, that was a STUPID idea!” a rollercoaster of humiliation and raw honesty, exercises geared for failure and how to keep things flowing when everything goes tits up. “maintain eye contact! don’t lose them!”. once you’ve been laughed at for two straight days, sweating and grappling for inventive ways of making an ass of yourself…. what could happen? “that didn’t work – but this will!” it feels like the expanded awareness of training martial arts, acute sensitivity to the environment and instant adaptation. and the simple things – “make us laugh with one sound. with one movement.” mostly we have no idea why they do laugh. the distance between us just dissolves in our gaze and their smiles. the only agenda is connection. after this brief peak from under the jester’s hat, i can now feel in my bones why it is that a king will always listen to a fool. to get lost in the light of a clown’s pupil… a friend working on slava’s team talks of the master’s clown with wonder. a lifetime incorporating our most lonely moments of ridicule, misunderstanding, shame and isolation, and bringing it back to us : look. i’m there too. we’re all here.”what if you decided this was fun?” wink. bow.

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europe, travel log

samhain – november

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costume design

when i was preparing to cross the channel, set on exploring my ancestral lands, i had this feeling that my stay would extend beyond the few weeks planned. an intuition that i would spend the autumn threshold there, to meet my dead in a proper introduction, such as i could not yet imagine.

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the samhain gathering was a sunrise, a nest, a bubbling cauldron. four days dreaming in the moss with a colorful tribe of newfound brothers.

catapulted to another tor, i head to dartmoor under the gaze of a sheep skull with a string of pearls. first day, new faces. each one voices an intention and pulls a card – as effective an introduction as i’ve ever seen. the hanged man stares back from between my fingers, and the feeling of hovering persists. my senses sing in rapture : there are songs like golden feathers drifting in from another plane, group massages in front of a red stove, bare feet in the grass and slow breathing in the morning. the clinking of cutlery, whistles and miming while our silent lunch slips into clown, the grazing of charcoal on paper. the naked man’s voice sweeps us into a conversation under a teepee. i give tarot readings in the bath. we have casual cabaret, a casualabaret in the drawing room. ellie tells us a story of the handsome young man trying to escape from the love of the fairy queen, and  the tale leaks into our dormitory that night. in my dreams, the fairies steal from you “your laughter and your sadness”. meanwhile a scared man seeks a refuge among the slumberers, then disappears without a trace. 

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the day of the feast feels like something i’ve done many, many times before. the women go shrieking with pleasure into the frozen stream. we call the ancestors. cows answer the wolf howls. the dances and tears and offerings make the air crackle and thicken, i can feel them, the countless generations that sail in us, witnessing, humming in our blood. breathing down our necks, just outside the circle. after cleansing and paying our tribute, we paint our faces, don our finery. we feast : each of the 22 arcanas finds a seat at the table, a card for each passer-by,  child, trickster, and the lord of the house in a plushy animal costume. we toast and name our dead, we fill the room with their stories. the ones whose names have been almost forgotten, the ones we didn’t know and the adventures that we sometimes took part in. the devil and i strip and strike a pose before dessert : the drawings are passed around, a casual reminder of the diversity of our visions in the myriad interpretations of our curves and muscles. at some point my head starts swimming with too much stimulation, the scene, the songs, the food, the presences. red ribbons dance from the conifer bonfire and the sky pelts down ice from the full moon.

 “you are a miracle, and a landmark on the territory of a new world”.

it felt like home. we emerge filled to the brim with love. stronger.

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i volunteer once a week, working in the garden at paddington farm

back into my new home, i settle into a rhythm… little eden screaming MOMMY LOOK ANELICOPTA. i rip open the blackened, dry skins of the beans. hard caramel seeds rain down into the pail at my feet. the beans climb up, the dry branches of black quinoa, the kale that i’d never met before. colorful home-schooled kids mill around, prodding at the earth while a mum gives me golden words – “there’s no lesson, no plan. we just do what they want to do. they’re learning to learn, and we try not to get in their way.” michelle wanted to teach eden about the trees, and instead got a lesson about how to evade monsters and aliens in the forest. i’m sitting in a pool of organic learning. the esoteric library, with its dusty crammed shelves of witchery, druidery, magickry, its string of muttering, beringed midde-aged men, delivers its treasure into my hands, but. it’s a trickle, compared to the rest of this river. friends made on the way to the sunset. promises of black clouds of starlings above a lake. the frost fair, where all the tribes of celts, fairies, witches and muggles mingle in their winter finery to watch morris dancers,  buy sheepskin slippers and gather to watch the man beating an arrowhead on the anvil.

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i spend a whole week dancing. the five rhythms unveiling its surprises as i watch my body shake in ways i’ve never felt before. like taking a walk down your dna trail, responding to the drums with convulsions, spinnings, percussions, low sweeping motions that i suddenly recognize, sowing seeds, bent over a field a few days later. my body caresses itself, stomps, breathes in the whirlwind of other dancers with only the slightest impulses coming from me. the house and techno music make my soul shrivel and wail, but no matter where i turn, they are honored guests here. i work on my patience – people go wild and love it, they’re a delight to watch. we’re all so beautiful when we stop trying. contact improvisation turns out to be SO MUCH FUN, halfway between dreamy hibernation and a playground. the barriers between your body and other bodies, between the kid and the adult blur as we run around, rub up, and throw ourselves onto the ground, breathless, screaming with laughter. like post-coital frolicking, with random strangers.

speaking of drugless trance : i find myself watching amma, hugging. a man on her team tells me she simply does not sleep. with each step closer to her, my body flushes with heat, and the inside of my arms tingles, anticipating the imprint of her embrace. i get dizzy and slightly nauseous, like when you’re falling, falling in love, hurtling down. i watch her for hours. a queen bee, surrounded by a buzzing mass. she the dreamer, and we the whisps of her dreams. she clamps the side of her forehead against another, mutters some syllables and jumpstarts an earthquake. watching a miracle – five hundred times. a fox greets me every time i go for some night air on the racetracks. the glorious sunrise welcomes us back into the real world, and i glimpse a buddha statue between grazing sheep on the motorway.

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arbre bleu

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weeping willow

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travel log

glastonbury

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“you’re going to meet such exceptional people here!” i heave a sigh of relief as i put down my bags under the bunk bed. i become an attentive student of ritual.  in the first light of the morning there’s chanting, offerings of light, flowers, water. stories of the life of krishna, leaving cowherds in a forest drunk with love for him. meditation. i take about four days to settle down enough for the quiet to really fill my cells. the ashram sits on earth kissed by millenia of pilgrim feet. one tower standing alone in the green, pillars of wind rushing around it, through it. this place has a tiwanaku feeling to it, a sparkling jewel left without polishing, half-buried, away from the centre stage.

20171011_172840dishing out food on the main street with sharon and david

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20171010_095409minnie has a selection of cushions, but damn it – nothing like dead leaves for a nap

the signs are unmistakeable – i pull one card on arriving, “trust”. the first person to whom i ask gives me a bed, a workroom, a garden. i go to a conference by the apprentice to a famous magician, most of the books on my reading list are in the high street windows – along with crystals, cauldrons, goddess temples. no one else seems to think that the water from the springs tastes like our juices, but their names don’t lie – white for semen, red for blood. my hands burn like hellfire, an eco of an acquaintance in a distant spiritual town, who cured his ruined hands “with the power of the mind”, so long ago. there used to be a perpetual choir here. the land was bathed with holy chanting, every hour of every day. my conscious self understands – “that’s what you’ve been feeling, like a deposit of silt under your feet.” the texture of deep sacred sound, washing into the earth, the centuries. i give my first reading in a church – sitting on the grass. against one of the few walls still standing. i have a magnetic attraction to churches, with both polarities. i’m drawn to the grass breathing in the crumbled ones, and repelled by the walls of the closed ones.

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bridie’s yard

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we have a day of almost-end of the world with a huge storm, eerie yellow light and a red sun. i read cards, rumi winks : “ruby sunshine”. i give up on the idea of leaving and get a huge buzz every time i’m asked if i’m a local. “i am now!”. tastes like honey on my tongue.

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raspberry harvest

putting stuff on shelves. a desk, all mine. fresh flowers. settling, slowing down at last.

the strongest pull here is the togetherness. on the way here, i did an exercise where you dig up the books that have been most relevant to bring you to your calling, however vague and cross-sectional that is for me. having read hundreds, i was surprised at how similar my top-off-my-head pick are – the hero of a thousand faces, women who run with the wolves, and a tie between midnight’s children and stranger in a strange land. every one tells of us woven in the bigger picture, dancing the same dance as our mothers, our gods, our rivers. being a molecule in an expanding horizon of molecules, every day is different in exactly the same way. the visible and invisible, the then and now all tickling and licking at each other. bref, here i sense the togetherness, a common mud holding us in the conscious collective. a man dances his demons away in a workshop where our guide speeds us up to his rhythm, as he cannot calm down to ours. we tense up, run, shout as he beats the floor with his fists. a dj talks of feeling seen, and dealing with death, words pouring out of her at the end of her show. i give out free food in the high street, receiving fifty strangers’ gratitude. at bridie’s i share a very special feast after the privilege of sweeping the hearth and the altar, its shiny trinkets, mirrors and four-armed deity. “all revolutions eventually fail because they don’t control the food supplies. we’ve been feeding the spiritual revolution for ten years now.” it’s the community shop’s anniversary, and at the table there are three generations, half of us strangers to our hosts. “and that’s as it should be”. it’s so tangible, the number of lives traveling through this hub, the trading of goods, information, good vibes, with a wind of change blowing fresh air through its corridors. i’ve done two tattoos, had an emergency apple crumble delivered at my doorstep, pilgrimed to the tor in motley company, picked apples from the avalon orchards, been offered a bike, shoes for the mud, plant tips, rides, jams. i feel like abundance has decided to monsoon and just drench me to the bone.

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