I left from Angela’s house and stayed overnight at Karen’s in Cincinatti. It was good to be able to check in with her, although we didn’t get much time together since by the time we arrived, it was after 9pm and I needed to sleep to get up at 4am. I went to sleep with the threat from Jeff of “If you’re not there on time we’re leaving without you” still sitting in my head, so I was stressed that the alarm wouldn’t go off or that I wouldn’t hear it or whatever. So when the phone rang an hour later, I thought it was the alarm going off. It took me longer than the rings to figure out it wasn’t. I checked voice mail and Lorelie had called (obviously forgetting about the time difference between here and Phoenix – and not really knowing where “here” was for me anyway, come to think of it). So I now have her new cell phone number – YAY! But I didn’t have a lot of sleep. I woke again at 2:30 thinking I had missed the alarm and was finally roused by the alarm at 4:10am. I stumbled through my morning ablutions and headed over to Kathy/Keter’s (one person, two names) house. After a hurried greeting, we headed out.
We arrived at SPiRaL (Southern Pagan Renaissance Festival) at about 3pm after two stops for food and a couple more for gas/pit stops. It is about an hour east of Atlanta in a state park. It has cabins (yay! – no tenting!). I was greeted by a naked man with many genital piercings named Richard. He got me signed up for my work shifts and sent me off on my way to my cabin to unpack and get settled in. The opening ritual was at dusk and centered around the fire. I wish I could give you more details about it, but to be honest, with everything that came after and the fact that I was exhausted from lack of sleep and driving all day, I don’t remember much about it. The festival was centered around the tarot card of The Sun, so it was based on us being our lightest, most radiant selves. It was a very heart-centered format. The first ritual had this sort of stuff in it and ended with us getting a necklace as a token and each lighting a candle which represented the light we bring to the world. We set the candles in the sand in the fire pit and they were used to start the fire that would burn for the entirety of the event. Each of us was asked to maintain the fire as part of our statement of continuing commitment to ourselves and our community.
That ritual flowed into Ragnar’s pub which was basically dinner with a theme (lingerie or other fabulous clothing). That was where I really started to meet people and get a feel for the attendees at the event. I just want to say this now – the people who attend SPiRaL are what I would term true spiritual seekers. They are invested in the process and they come to do the work, not just to party as is common at other festivals. I have a lot of respect for everyone there.
After a good night’s sleep, we had brunch the next day. (They were trying out a new format for food which was only two meals a day with snacks in between.) We were informed that we would be doing a consecration ritual that afternoon and that we should shower first with the intention of coming clean to the ritual and to arrive naked to the rite. I was placed on a massage table and had smoke dragged across me to remove one layer of things that keep me from my brightest self. I was also splattered with consecration water to wash away another layer. I left the consecration feeling the need to be alone with my thoughts. I went down to a little shack that is behind the dining hall and sat with my thoughts about who I am and where my passions lie. I was thinking about what I wanted to do with myself when I got back from this journey – an answer that I had hoped to come up with as a part of this walkabout. Kathy and I had had a discussion earlier in the day about our respective backgrounds and the work we were doing. We had also come to a basic understanding that, if we were both willing, we could easily put the work we had been doing together and make something amazing in the form of corporate seminars designed to change the nation by changing the face of Corporate America.
(Update 2013 – Kathy and I finally got together and did that seminar thing – but we decided to focus on helping spiritual leaders step into their power and their businesses profitably, gracefully, and powerfully – come see what we’re doing at www.SpiritualLeaderUniversity.com)
So I was sitting with that idea and seeing how it fit into my idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I had come to the conclusion that it was something that I would like to pursue, when I caught the eye of Cheri, one of the attendees at the event. She smiled and kept walking. I sat for a few moments more intending to get up and walk about a little before heading back to my cabin. Before I had gotten up, Cheri had returned with a lit stick of incense and a wooden heart. She handed them both to me with a smile and headed back off without a word. I took the opportunity to sit a while longer until the incense burned out. I sat for about 2 hours total, alone with my thoughts. This is the longest I have ever done this intentionally, and the last 20 minutes or so were tough. Just as I was getting up to leave, a spider came to see me to remind me to take my conclusions and put them into the context of my purpose on the journey. I still haven’t completed that part yet. I’ll have to work on it.
That evening, we did part two of the ritual – the ritual of sovereignty. We each were told to dress in our finest clothes. We were taken up to a room where they had placed an 11th century throne complete with crown and scepter in a bedecked throne room set-up. We were told that each of us were to enter between the pillars of Mercy and Severity (lovingly referred to as the “chipper/shredder” for their ability to strip away the last of what kept you from your highest, most radiant self) and to interact with the throne in some way (put the crown on, hold the scepter, sit on the throne, etc.). We would then have everyone else in the room bow to us and eventually, when we had settled in accepted that space, we would have our picture taken. About two people into the rite, Cheri started chanting and I picked up the chanting/toning shortly thereafter. It helped to focus the energy. By the end of the rite, I was doing a different chant for each person, tapping into where they were in their process and helping it along with tones if needed. It was a powerful exercise for many of the people at the event. For me, it was more powerful in the fact that I got to participate in a support role than in the rite itself. It also got me noticed by the powers that be.
Saturday was purposely kept aside as a fun, recovery and integration sort of day. There were no major rituals planned and only a few workshops offered. I attended the drumming workshop with Cheri (an amazing drummer/singer/ska artist who, coincidentally is friends with Julie Woods, Magnus and Spinner). She and I made a connection and she finally gave me permission to not have to learn how to drum (it’s really hard for me to hold a continuous beat – I keep it for a while and then I lose it). She allowed me to participate in the drumming by toning and singing along with the drums and to use my voice as my instrument. I loved it. That evening was the SPiRaLville talent show. I performed my song “I’m So Tired of Loving You” followed by a recitation of the poem I had written that day “The Rollercoaster of Enlightenment” (text at bottom of this entry). Both were big hits. There were many really good performers at the event and the evening was a blast. It was a nice break from the hard work of the day before.
(Update 2013 – Despite Cheri’s permission not to learn to drum, the universe was having none of it. I was handed drums over and over again during this journey and in the 10 years that followed. I even ended up running a drum circle at one point. Needless to say, I’m a pretty good drummer these days. Still not sure why I needed to learn this skill, but I’ve got it now.)
Sunday, I was giving a toning workshop and I was approached by one of the ritualists to put some intention into the class by preparing them to act in a support role for the final ritual. I went to the class with the intention of showing them how to clear their charkas with toning and how to act in support of the ritual by learning how to express emotion through toning. I was not prepared for the depth of work that we would do in that space. It was awesome. I have always taught my workshops to mostly mundane people, so when these people jumped in and started sharing themselves through song, I was blown away. We had a great experience and ended up going over time in the workshop so that we could finish up with spirit songs – a vocal/tonal expression of who you are and where you are. They were intense and intimate expressions and I honor the people who shared them with me. We took that experience and translated it to the third ritual which took place around the fire circle. We were asked to hold the space of coming from a heart-centered space in which we shared our most radiant selves. So we held and molded the toning for the event. It was a strange event because of a lack of communication/planning with the new people the ritualists brought in (they had asked Cheri to help with her drumming as well, but were not clear about the format or the roles that everyone was holding, so it got a little muddled in there). So the rite didn’t go as planned, but many people still said that they got a lot out of it. The next day, I was asked to participate in the planning for next year’s rituals (they‘re going to be awesome). (Update 2013 – they were. I learned a lot from being part of that ritual team.)
Monday was a slow day with the annual business meeting and the preparations for the feast. I was surprised when Richard (vice director of the board for the 501C3 corporation that runs SPiRaL) asked me to consider taking the At Large position on the board of directors. I had to decline because it required regular access to email (which I can’t guarantee given my current circumstances) and a pledge to attend next year’s SPiRaL, which I also couldn’t guarantee since I don’t know where this walkabout will take me. But I appreciated the offer. I had signed up to be one of the wenches at the feast that evening, so at about 5pm, one of the other wenches and I headed down to the lake to collect our mud. We had decided that the best approach was to be aboriginal women in sarongs. So we painted up our upper bodies, faces and hair in mud and stuck twigs in our hair for the final touch. We looked really cool. There are lots of pictures, so I will see if I can get a copy of at least one, so you can see what I mean. We spent the evening in feast, serving and eating and watching performances. One of the attendees, Phil, is Hawaiian and he did several hulas for us that were incredible. Plus, Cheri did some performance pieces as well that were really good. After the feast, I got a massage from Denise (we traded, I made a necklace for her the next day). I rolled into bed happy and spent at about 2:30pm.
Tuesday morning I decided that since no other opportunity had arisen, I would stay on for another day and help the staff with cleanup. I’m really glad I did. It gave me an opportunity to really get to know the staff. They are all really cool people. I had had a few run-ins with the woman who ran the festival and I was beginning to process my end of things (I still needed to forgive myself for having been such a bitch in the past). I was really impressed with her when I finally got in a little closer and realized that she was doing a lot of her work and I had misjudged her. She asked me to do a piece of jewelry for her and I was honored to participate in her journey in that way. The making of the jewelry for both Diana and Denise was an enlightening experience for me. It was the first time I had been able to actively ask the person for whom the jewelry was made what their goals were for the piece, etc. I found that there was no fumbling around for the right combination of stones or the right pattern, it was simply there when I had a clear picture of the goal in mind. It was refreshing to work with people who were truly aware of their process and making conscious choices to engage it.
(Update 2013 – I still do create the occasional piece of transformational jewelry these days. It’s rare and usually as a gift since I haven’t marketed it in some time, but I enjoy doing it. The premise is that the person identifies what energy they are trying to create in their lives and I add that energy to their own and then build it into a piece of jewelry which they can wear until they live into the new energy. Then, when they are done with it (usually 6 months to a year), I will recycle the beads and apply them towards the next piece.)
Since everything I had been seeking in going to Thing in the Woods (connection with the people in charge, learning at a higher level, etc.), had been accomplished by attending SPiRaL, I opted to skip that event and head south. I have an invitation from one of the SPiRaL attendees, Chris, to visit him next week when he gets back from a music festival he’s attending this weekend. So I called Caroline and told her I would be dropping in for a while. I arrived here last night and have settled in nicely. Being that she and George live very busy lives, I am getting some much-needed time alone during the day. I’ll be calling Mom later today to request the Express Mail of my contacts and book that were shipped to her house. Yay! Vision! It’s a good thing.
Well, this is a long entry and my fingers are tired, so I’m heading off now. I’ll write more later, as it shows up.
Here’s the text on the poem as promised. I have a long tradition to referring to the express train that you step on when you make a spiritual commitment as a roller coaster and I felt it was time to put that into form. It was much more fun with the visual of me performing it at SPiRaLville, but it’s not too bad on paper. Just think of me pretending to be on the rollercoaster and my cartoon facial expressions and you’ll have it…..
The Roller Coaster of Enlightenment – By – Kelle Sparta
Here I go again
On that uphill climb towards enlightenment.
I’ve followed directions.
My fingers, hands, and arms are inside the car.
I’ve packed my spiritual duffel bag firmly beneath my seat,
And I am trying to be patient
As the car clack, clack, clacks up the hill.
I have stepped onto the path
And pressed the safety bar of faith firmly in place.
No turning back.
Now there is nothing left to do but wait
And see what awaits me
On the other side of the hill.
Oh, nearing the top now.
The adrenaline is kicking in
As things fall into place
And life speeds up.
Here I go!
Downhill at mach speeds
Screaming “whee!” to remind myself that I’m not afraid.
This is fun, right?
Ooops – I almost forgot.
It’s much easier and less bumpy if I
* This is part of an ongoing series of posts detailing what happened on a spiritual pilgrimage that I took in 2002. To start from the beginning, go to July 2, 2013. To see the entire journey as it gets published, click on the category “You Want Me To Do WHAT?!!?” to see all of the posts.