After 3 long years, last weekend I was able to return to Camp Cedarcrest in Orange, CT, and rejoin my spiritual family for the Morrigan’s Call Retreat. It was wonderful and bittersweet to be back in person. I have so many thoughts and words, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to convey it all in one post. And these thoughts might be a bit scattered and rambling.
This year was different. It was always going to be different, given the nature of our physical inability to return. There was an awkwardness, and anxiety as we relearned to be together. Maybe not for everyone- some were very lucky to still have close knit groups that could get together. Some people were able to have social bubbles, but not everyone. Some, like me, were alone when it came to social bubbles. Outside of my family, I have not seen people more than a handful of times in the past 2 years. So things felt strange, wanting both to hug deeply and to stay away. In the end, the hugs gave in.
There was also loss- I knew it would be different without Cori, friend, sister, mentor, priestess, and her not being there physically was noticeable. It was quieter, and where once my down time would’ve been spent chatting and laughing with her, I found myself wandering aimlessly, thinking of that fact. I adjusted- I met and talked with so many others. And that was awesome- I met so many new folks this year. There were so many new faces. While I missed quite a few people who couldn’t be there this year, the fact that there were so many new faces to get to know sort of made up for that. (I mean, no one can replace anyone, but new bonds can be made while holding space for the old bonds.)
My friend Sam, over at Ravens Keep Forge, has a post on his experience this year at the retreat. It’s the perspective of someone new, and everything he says is how I’d describe my first experience. This community means so much to me, and it’s hard to put into words. It holds my sisterhood and my spiritual family. A place that I belong. We don’t all practice the same, or see the Gods the exact same. But we do our best to accept those differences. No one is trying to stand on a pedestal screaming “no no no, it’s this way or you are wrong!”
I’m reminded that Kings of Ireland had to be blessed by the Goddess if they wished to remain king. Kings that abused their community and others, kings that were selfish, and poor leaders could easily lose that blessing. A good king listened and appreciated his community, he didn’t get in their faces telling them that they were wrong about things they carried in their hearts. A community built on such control was weak- a community that accepts each other and defends each other and supports each other is strong. And we are a strong community, and it starts with the leadership. Not a single one of the leaders in this community is standing on a pedestal yelling "me, me me." Not a single one is forcing their beliefs and ideas and views on the group. The leaders here have always been warm and accepting. They have always been supportive of its members finding their own path. We are united in a single idea: Devotion to The Morrigan.
It's honestly refreshing, to be surrounded by our likeness in that idea, and to lack so little drama. Oh sure, there are moments, I'm sure. But it's not prevalent.
What was new for me this year was that it was my first time serving in public and in person as a leader, and priestess. In past years, I have to say, I took advantage of free time that is granted as an attendee. This year, I worked, and I worked hard. This isn’t a brag- it’s a realization of how much work the staff does- something I knew but didn’t know. Yeah, they run so much, do so much, but just how much was done to keep it a smooth and comfortable retreat? Totally overlooked. Noting what could go wrong, and did go wrong and how it was still all kept together. The staff is amazing.
Things weren’t perfect- the catering had many issues and hungry people are not happy people. Schedules changed when speakers could not be there, location changes and announcements missed. These are normal and mostly uncontrollable things- the staff does (and did) their best. More than once I felt like a chicken with its head cut off. And I wouldn’t change that- any stress I felt dissipated when I remembered that I chose this path, and it was a complete honor to serve The Great Queen, and this community.
As I type this from home, I am exhausted. I’m still catching up on sleep, because I didn’t get much at all. That happens when you want to spend as much time as you can with others, as well as being on an uncomfortable bed when you already have issues with pain. The work isn’t always glamorous- there was a toll placed on my body. And despite shielding and grounding, it is draining. This can’t be helped- lack of sleep, moving a lot, not eating a lot, not staying hydrated (I tried! I really tried!) and a storm of deep emotions does this to you.
But it was worth it. Service and priesthood is not everyone’s path, but I’ve discovered it is mine. I felt at peace in the Temple, something I wasn’t sure I would be comfortable doing. The flow of it, the healing and peace, the presence- it was so natural and comforting. Once I was able to relax and let go of control and my own ego (and not believe I’d be lynched for forgetting lines), I was able to flow in ritual. I leaned a whole lot. This was my space, this was where I was meant to be. And while I didn’t seek the oracle, she did speak to me. “You were a joy.”
And this retreat, the work that everyone, not just the staff, brings, is a joy. With this retreat, came healing, and connection, and my path taking more turns, my tasks laid out. I’ve made new friends, deepened my friendships, and deepened my relationship with The Morrigan. I am so thankful for this community, and Herself.
May it be nine times eternal.
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