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Backpacking the Elements of Magic

by Brook, Cypress Fey, Jim Negrette, Amanda Mehrer, Ethan Davidson, Pegasus

For six days at the end of May, eight of us went on a journey together, both magical and physical. We backpacked into the wilderness at the northwest edge of Yosemite National Park. Along the way, we worked with the five sacred elements as would be done in a Reclaiming Elements of Magic class. And each evening we worked a ritual cycle about a story, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon."

Since this story includes the winds of the four directions, we used those as the magical container for the trip. Each day, the appropriate wind carried us through our day, as in the story, each wind carries the heroine towards her destination. We broke camp and hiked four of the six days. We spread the class ("path") work out during the day: some before hiking, some on the hike, and an exercise or two after the hike. We tried to balance the Elements of Magic exercises with being in, working with, and attending to the Elements as we found them.

We did path work on Air day high on cliffs with magnificent views and a steady breeze. On Water day, we were at a lake. On Fire day, we worked between a grove of trees and granite shelves, and, of course, had a fire later that day for the ritual. On Earth day, we moved together through the woods in a magical state called "dropped and open attention." Center day was the longest hike, which we used as an opportunity to observe the centeredness of ourselves and the group.

We each brought our gifts into the circle. Each of us had the opportunity to do personal work in the rituals, to priestess them, to shape the energy, to weave in our politics, and to deepen our ritual making skills.

The trip was quite physically demanding. Backpacking can just be hard work. We helped each other out, spreading the weight around such that each was carrying her or his capacity.

The backpacking got us out into Her glory, directly living with and experiencing Her Elements each and every moment of every day. By backpacking, we were largely sheltered from unwanted contact. — Brook

We spent six days together, co-creating our lives, personally, physically, and magically. The Goddess provided Her awesome beingness in which we were able to live close to Her and in which and through which we continuously made magic, day and night.

Being with a small group of people engaging with the elements, and doing pathwork and ritual every day in itself was an incredible intensive experience. Add to that the fact that we were in the wild 24/7, under the sky and stars, on the earth, around the water and trees. It was a dream come true, to feel so connected, so fully engaged with the Goddess in everything and have her coming out of our pores organically in our rituals. There was also the plus of the fact that it was a dark moon the first night we camped together, and a beautiful growing crescent as we hiked through the week.

The opportunity to co-create the rituals every day was a great gift. Since this trip I've felt much more confident in my priestessing skills, and my creativity has exploded.

This is an experience that I will always remember and treasure. It was pivotal for me personally, and I hope to see more opportunities for Reclaiming Classes and ritual making in the wild. — Cypress Fey

"Elements in the Elements" sounds like the trite title of some over-hyped media event, but is there any better way to experience Elements of Magic than surrounded by the elements of nature? We camped, hiked, and found wildness on the exposed granite bones and muscle structure of our Mother Earth. We breathed in and were wind-blown by the cool clean mountain air of the Sierra. We danced around, cooked over, and saw visions in elemental fire. We drank, swam, and were cooled by the cold, clear waters of Kibbie Creek and Lake. Earth, Wind, Fire and Water all in their natural elemental form. These natural elements, strong magic worked together, and the spirits, Goddesses, Gods, and fairies shaped eight individuals into a tribe, a family. Eight individuals living together, depending on one another, bonded by mystical visions of elements aspected in incredible rituals and shared mundane tasks such as simultaneous brushing of teeth around the last bear canister to be closed. An initiation for some, renewal for some, reinforcment for some, powerful transformation for all.

High mountain Gods worshipped at sunrise with a cool breeze in our faces; a pause in dinner preparations to watch the sun set behind our camp and thank the Goddess for yet another wonderful day; simple food that tasted better than any before (especially canned tuna on crackers in the middle of a long hike); peaceful, solitary meditations and powerful shared ritual; these and 10,000 other magical moments bonded us and left me feeling stronger, healthier, and more deeply spiritually touched than ever before in my life. — Jim Negrette

There were nights when our imaginations competed with mosquitoes until blessed movement at sunrise. Then, red and golden glow filled the valley with sacred presence. My soul stepped into the wind that morning, over the cliff's edge, to ride the waves with the ravens.

For me, the ascent into the granite landscape was an orchestra of divinity. All the while we grew on each other, pushing buttons, finding power, watching the clouds hover over the peaks of the Sierra in the distance. We soaked up the moon's growing light, becoming mirrors. Clinging to that tactile granite hill, we explored her curves and crevices and cleansing pools. I worshipped the gardens of alpine flowers, green rushes, and singular pine trees that collected in the few spots where soil could gather. The smell of wild onions danced around us like summer fog.

I marinated in divinity in wildness. In that context, all was speechlessly sacred. The surprisingly blessed part was that our cluster of human creatures who collected for this journey became ingredients in this magical stew. The path of those in my tribe became just as sacred as the manzanita bush impossibly growing from a crevice in the granite. To me, we had become a wild tribe, hungering for the deep work, listening for the strength of Her flow, open to the bits of wisdom whispered on the wind, to the messages bubbling up from the ground.
— Amanda Mehrer

Sacred Space in the wilderness deepened my connection with Mother Earth and her elements. It also left me feeling strong in my body. A large part of the magic for me was the connection to the group and the individuals present. It was my Witchcamp, and I loved it.

I worried that we'd only have the water we carried in for all our needs. Have you ever noticed how heavy and awkward water is to carry? So after a long first day of hiking I thought I was imagining a phantom body of water, a small lake. It looked so clear and calm and wonderfully wet — I wasn't hallucinating! I stripped my heavy pack and clothes to submerge my body in this refreshing water.

The flip side of the water gift was a veritable cloud of mosquitoes that descended on us before dusk (and stayed all night). I mean clouds, our magic that night included the mosquito dance with people wearing rain gear to prevent the mosquitoes from biting right through our clothes. It certainly wasn't what you'd call ritual finery, but the magic had begun and more important issues were ahead.

In the end, it felt like we'd cast so many circles that we just existed in sacred space 24/7. It made for quite an interesting re-entry; I was stunned to see my kitchen cabinets at home so full of food choices. I came home feeling excitedly strong in my physical body and so alive in my spiritual body. — Pegasus

On the morning (of the last day), we packed up, then did a group appreciation, where we went around the circle and gave each person positive feedback. Cynic that I normally am, I found this quite touching.

We did our last hike, arriving back at our parking area and the shocking site of cars. We met for lunch at the restaurant, our first meeting in "civilization" since our orientation. It became obvious that a group mind had developed. When somebody found something on their plate that they didn't want, they announced it to the group, and somebody else ate it. I contrasted this with a normal group of people, who would put it aside and then throw it away. — Ethan Davidson

I was struck by the beauty of doing this work where we were, there in the wilderness. As each of the participants took her or his part of the magic, the beauty of the place, and the beauty of each us filled me. Our caring for each other, holding not only our gifts but also, as much as we were able, our completeness, was profound for me. The magical intention and focus that was being brought to our work, and the ease in our working together, left me in awe and wonder. I was, for one fleeting moment, able to touch just a bit of what Doreen Valiente's Charge of the Goddess expresses: "For behold, I am the Mother of all life, and my love is poured upon the Earth." — Brook