Wolf and I returned from Four Quarters last night. It was a long drive, about 10 hours, but beautiful. Wolf had never been to Pennsylvania before nor had he been to western Maryland. He, like myself, was blow away by the beauty of Our Mother despite the drought which appears to be more widespread than I thought.
The drive down was pretty uneventful. We left at midnight on Friday and drove through the night. I slept for the beginning part of it while Wolf drove and then I woke up to drive so he could nap. We arrived without incident and chose a prime place to set up our tent and watched as people filtered onto the property since we were one of the first to arrive. License plates from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland dominated, although we did see Virginia, Florida, Delaware, and North Carolina plates.
Friday night started the Samhain rituals with a séance in the Cafe. The ritual leader* set white flowers into a vase which was surrounded by goblets filled with water. Also on the table were pictures and small items belonging to the dead. Cigars were passed out so we could smoke them and make the room smoky to facilitate Spirits in their passage through the veil. Alcohol was served however neither of us imbibed.
A circle was cast to protect us from “bad” spirits but which allowed “good” spirits to come through. It was a simple casting, that I do remember, but not the specifics.
We started out by saying a number of prayers, which we continued throughout the whole ceremony. Four Quarters works at being interfaith, with a focus on Paganism, so the chants and prayers we said were Catholic, Jewish, Pagan, and Protestant. At first I was a little iffy on saying the non-Pagan chants and prayers, but then I thought about it and it made sense: there isn’t a single Pagan in my family as far as I know, most have been Christian of some sort — Protestant or Catholic — so it made sense to pray using prayers from those belief systems.
There was a second woman who, like the first, was dressed all in white (we were encouraged to dress in white. If we couldn’t, that was ok, but we all needed white head coverings) and channeled the spirits as did the rest of the participants (about 30 or so). While I myself didn’t see any Spirits, I did feel *someone* hold my hands. I could see (her?) hands, but they faded as I looked up, so all I could see was up to about mid-arm. Also, I could feel Spirits *behind* me but none would come around for me to see who they are. As is my norm, I could not hear any Spirits speaking, I could just feel their presence. There was one point where I turned to Wolf and put my hand on his face in a manner I would never do. Someone wanted me to do that to him specifically. I asked him if his grandmother did that and he said no, so maybe it was one of his relatives who died before he was born.
There came a point when I needed to touch the second woman, so I did so. I walked to her, I remember clearly, and had to her “I need to touch you”. She smelled sweet and nice as she held me for a few minutes. It was as if someone else wanted to hold her, not me per se.
Those who went too deeply were rubbed down with sweet smelling blue water–which was used to cast the circle–to bring them back to this plane. There were a few women who just *wailed* and cried. They were held in the bosom of large busted women who calmed them. I too felt this overwhelming desire to wail. Just as I was about to let out a scream of anguish, the feeling dissipated as suddenly as it came onto me.
I noticed I came in and out of the meditation throughout the night. There were moments I was fully there and others where I wasn’t there at all. This “in and out” sensation made me realize I need to work on meditation more. I put in a little practice before I left using the Meet a Guide meditation by Jeff but it’s obvious to me I need more practice.
After the seance, we went to bed. By that time it was about 1am and we were exhausted from the drive during the night and the intensity of the ritual.
It got very cold during the night, cold enough to frost everything over. Although we have a great tent, designed for winter camping, the tarp didn’t cover the bottom of the tent so we were very cold and a little wet. I tried to get Wolf to be naked (letting your body heat circulate in the sleeping bag will keep you warmer than keeping your clothes on) but he wouldn’t take off his clothes.
Saturday we got up and just hung out with our neighbors Richard and Michelle around the fire Wolf started to warm us up. A very cool couple, both are librarians in Delaware. We hope to see them when we go back to 4QF, maybe for Beltane. Then Wolf and I went up to the labyrinth, which is on the highest point of the land, to help with its construction. Wolf did much more work than I did — digging trenches, shoveling dirt, setting stones — but he felt the need to sweat where as I was more in the mood to feel the last of Sun’s warm rays on me, although I did help in digging and shoveling. He said he felt good not only sweating but by leaving his mark on the land.
Saturday evening started with a silent dinner with the entire community to honor the ancestral death. Because it was Saturday, more people were there than on Friday. I’d say there were almost 100 people.** We then went up to the Standing Stones to hold the ceremony. Again we were circled in by two women. Then they started with the ritual in which they talked about the pain they felt when they lost someone. They encouraged us to seek out fellow community members to accept love, friendship, and shoulders from those near and far. Then they had us shout out names of our dead loved ones — I said a bunch, Wolf said only one: his maternal grandmother — and then accept gifts from the three aspects of death. Wolf got the Queen of Swords and I got the Knight of Swords. Then it was time for the ritual to end and for socializing however Wolf and I went to bed despite it being about 7p. We slept through the night — it was a lot warmer — and left first thing Sunday morning. We got home at 8p Sunday night.
Overall it was a very fulfilling weekend. We would like to go back for future rituals however we’ll break the driving up over a two day period. 10 hours is just too much in the car for us.
Regarding the physicalness of 4QF, the property is very long and narrow. It’s a campground build on a ridge with ridges on both sides and deep valleys. There’s a stream which runs along the back end of the property, the lowest point between two ridges, which one can swim in and where Drum and Splash takes place. The only complaint we have is how unclear they are regarding when they provide food and when they don’t. The website is unclear and when we called they said we had to bring all our own food, but then we found out they were going to feed us. We have no other complaints.
The landscape is beautiful and well preserved. You can see how much people love it there because there were many regulars (and a few new faces besides us) who told us they had been there X amount of times in the last year (or whatever). That we traveled from our home seemed really odd to many regulars. The biggest question being “how did you find out about us?” The answer is from Jeff. He was writing about The Nature Church and someone commented on his post (which he took down so I can’t link to it) with a link to 4QF. I followed the link and wa-lah!
Overall, it was a wonderful experience despite the first time either of us participated in a large ritual with people we didn’t know. It was nice I got to see how to cast a circle, so now I know how to cast one myself. I feel more fulfilled than I have in a very, very long time. And it was awesome Wolf joined me in the Practice. Before he embraced Paganism he was very tolerant of my belief system but for me, I wasn’t fulfilled. Now that he practices too, I feel much more centered and balanced.
I recommend 4QF to everyone. And it’s very family friendly so those of you with kids should consider taking the gang down. There were a bunch of kids there, probably about 10, and it was cold. I can only imagine how many will be there come summer!
*I got very few names. Sorry. Also, the batteries in my camera were dead (how appopro!) so no pictures. Not that I would take any during ritual, but I would’ve after if I could’ve. Double sorry.
**When we checked in they said we could park our cars with our tents, which is not something they usually allow. They allowed it because it was a “quiet” weekend with not a lot of people. Wolf figured there were 100 people on Saturday night, so if that’s a “quiet” weekend, I can imagine how busy and cramped it must be on the warm holy days such as Beltane, Midsummer, and Lughnasadh.