I try not to push my own ideas and experiences on other people. Don’t get me wrong–if you ask me what I think of something, I’ll tell you the truth. But I don’t like telling other people what to do. We’re all so different, so varied, so unique in our needs and perspectives, that pushing my solutions on another person could be as useful as trying to put out a fire with a can of gasoline.
That said, I do have one full endorsement for those of you on the Earth-centered-spirituality Path. Go to Twilight Covening. Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with sparkly vampires. The name refers to the transition between light and darkness, and has been the title of the festival since 1986. Twilight Covening is a retreat in Massachusetts, and a beautifully intense one. I’m going again this year, and it will be my fourth year attending. I’ve pasted my reflections from previous years below. Read them. And then go register. It’ll do you a world of good.
I’ll begin with the reflections from my first year attending, since this particular missive explains a bit about how Twilight runs.
October 13th, 2010
This is for the Pagans, or those of you who have been curious about some of the Pagan stuff I do. Everyone else, these are not the droids you’re looking for.
This past weekend (Friday-Monday), I attended Twilight Covening in Massachusetts for the first time. It’s a four day spiritual retreat for those on the Pagan path and this past Covening was its 25th year.
There are a lot of things from this past weekend that I’m still processing and am not ready to talk about yet. Maybe I never will be. Some things there are no words for. So what I’m going to try to do is tell you about the space, the environment that Twilight creates and envelops you in. Perhaps that will be enough to give you an idea of what’s happening up North.
Imagine four days of ritual space. The ritual begins in the evening on Friday, when everyone arrives. The initial circle is formed, the energy spreads out. And the energy… There are around 200 people there. Every single one is there because they have chosen to devote four days to intense spiritual, emotional and psychological work. Imagine ritual space infused by the focus of our most committed practitioners. And that those committed practitioners stand to the right and left of you, holding your hands.
Now we add to that. That ritual space is constantly actively held. At all times, a Clan (usually 6-18 people) is actively concentrating on maintaining the spiritual connection of the space. They lend their energy to help your connection, to help you focus, to help you on your path. At. All. Times. Night or day, you are energetically guarded, enhanced and protected by a team of dedicated energy workers. Even while you sleep, they help you stay attuned.
Now we add to that. Everyone is there because they want to work as hard as you do. Everyone is there because they are actively trying to improve themselves, to heal, to connect, to grow. So everyone you talk to is sharing a lot of the same things you are going through. Everyone there wants you to succeed. The people you interact with honor your trust. They listen when you share your insecurities, your fears, your weaknesses, and do not trivialize or brush off. Instead, they try to find ways to help you. They pray and laugh and weep with you. They help you find ways to lower your shields and to reach out in ways you didn’t know you could.
Now we add to that. Your specific Clan is even closer to your own path. Clans are small–the largest I saw was maybe 18 people. They are led by one or two facilitators–some of the most accomplished Priests and Priestesses our tribe has to offer. The Clan you are in is specific in its focus. The people closest to you not only share your goal of working on your spirituality, but they share some of the specifics of that goal. You eat, sleep and work with your Clan. You share and learn from each other. You hold each other while you cry, you raise energy together, you joyously witness the steps each Clan member takes forward because you know just how hard they were to take. You’ve been taking those steps yourself.
Now we add to that. The space that you are in is breathtaking in natural beauty. You’re on top of a mountain in the Berkshires. There is no light pollution, so the sky at night is a sea of stars. The trees are in a full autumnal riot of color and their vibrant tones are reflected in the lake. There are boulders and tall pines, towering oaks and birds singing. There are spaces for quiet reflection, there are spaces for intimate conversation, there are spaces for group work. There are even spaces for silliness. Mirth, after all, is the counterpoint to Reverence.
These words can only capture a fragment of what that space feels like. I wish I could give you the memory of that feeling. I wish I could cover the world with it.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should go. If you’re on the Pagan path, if you’re working on your spirituality, Go. Set aside those days for next year now. Start setting aside the money now. Go. Please Go. You probably need this as much or more than I did. And I needed it. I needed it the way a rose needs the sunlight.
Go to Twilight with me next year. Our tribe has built something beautiful in Massachusetts. You should feel it, too.
Reflections from my second year: October 11th, 2011
Some days are all about Gratitude. Today is a day like that.
I got home late last night from Twilight Covening, a four day spiritual retreat for those of us on paths of Earth based spirituality. It was my second year attending the retreat and as ever, I find myself struggling to put into words the beauty and depth of the experience. The overriding emotion, the greatest arc and simplest expression I can find within my thoughts, is Gratitude.
I am grateful for the Space. For the trees as they slip into their autumn colors, for the deep blue of the lake, for the rushing of the streams that race down the mountain to meet it. I am grateful for the boulders warmed by the sun and silvered in moonlight. I am grateful for the open fields of soft grass where we stand in circle, create labyrinths in flour, spread out our yoga mats or simply lie down to recharge our solar batteries. I am grateful for the quiet of the northern forest, and the way it gently reaches out to soothe our senses.
I am grateful for the Community.
For the circle of Elders who somehow felt the call in the wind from those of us who wander. Pagans do not have Churches. We do not have sprawling infrastructures to support us. In many cases, we walk almost totally alone. If we’re lucky, we have some friends to share the path with. If we’re lucky, we somehow manage to find our way. And now I know that we are lucky, for the hearts at the center of EarthSpirit felt the song inside our wandering souls, and made a space in which to sing it. The love and work and joy and energy our Elders put into the retreat is a palpable force, reaching out to embrace all the drifting leaves the autumn blows in.
For the Clan Leaders who choose to spend four days in service to the Twilight community as a group, and specifically to a small group on a particular, focused path. These wonderful people, some of the best and brightest Priests, Priestesses, Shamans, Yogis and Pathworkers our community has to offer, wait for us with open arms. They embrace us as we walk in, help us shed the layers of dust, pain, sorrow and stress we carry. They wrap us in their attention and guide us. They hold a lantern to light our way. They hold our hands as we take the first steps. They share our triumphs, our baby steps into a better place. They love us and teach us. They celebrate and grieve with us. And they do this out of a desire to serve, to help, to midwife transformation in others.
For all of the attendees of Twilight Covening. We come from our jobs, from our families and stresses. We come from places of joy, places of work, places of pain. We come from all over the country. And we join hands and hearts. We raise our voices together in song and chant. We eat and talk and laugh together. We share our paths with each other. We marvel at each other’s stories, and at the lights that come on inside ourselves when we realize that we are not alone. We travel into ritual together, into altered states. We journey, we work. And we become a family through that process. Whether we smile, grieve, pathwork or meditate, we do it in the spiritual and often physical embrace of our family. Of the Twilight Tribe.
I am grateful for the Experience. For the moments that dance in my memory, that illuminate and warm. They will feed me this winter. They will carry me into Spring. They will dance with me in Summer, and they will follow me back to Twilight next year, to collect more threads for the tapestry.
I am grateful for Fires in which we burn the things that hold us back. I am grateful for the drums that echo, for the flames in the night, for the stars that see our work. I am grateful to release, and to then turn about and push energy toward the releasing of others.
I am grateful for the soft, sweet chanting in a space for Dreams. For the music of harp and flute, for a place to come to stillness. I am grateful for the inner quiet, and for a chance to foster that quiet in others.
I am grateful for Ritual. For the passage through a waking dream. For learning, and growing, and flowing. I am grateful for the transformation of pain into joy. Of walking in darkness alone to walking toward a fire on a moonlit field where dancers spin, singers weave their voices in song and healing flows like water.
I am grateful for Celebration. For dancing for hours beneath that almost-full moon. For feeling so much joy, so much love, so much connection, that the only way to express it is to dance.
I am grateful for Twilight Covening. For the thousand little and big things that make it what it is. For the dozens of people who work to create a space of Mystery. For the light that burns so brightly inside me for having been there.
And so it is with these words that I close. Come with me next year. The door that you are seeking exists. The path beyond it is real and is waiting for you. And the forest where that path begins?
It’s at Twilight Covening.
And, at last, this past year’s thoughts. October 10th, 2012
The nights grow longer, and for those of us within Earth-centric spiritual practices, the year is winding down. Thoughts are of endings–the final gathering of summer’s gifts from the garden, the last outdoor rituals and festivals, the thinning Veil around us. The voices of the Ancestors and Spirits grow stronger. We prepare for work, for the inner journey of the dark season. Walk beneath the open skies to hear the song yourself.
Listen to the trees. The green world calls out, the pulse of life thumping through the rough cloak of bark at your touch. Place your hands upon their bodies. Feel the vibration of the autumn wind passing through upper branches. Close your eyes and listen. They hum, sway and sing a song of Time. Feel that tide pulling you in, pulling toward darkness. Breathe. Follow the song down into their roots, spreading out beneath you. Let the wave wash over you. The endless current of roots to crown to roots, the slow drawing-in of sap for the winter. The trees are Centering. Feel the balance of an inward shift. Sink.
Listen to the rocks. There is a bliss in the quiet stones, gently humming with a sound both bright and low. A stillness carries up from their secret hearts, passing into the warm hands resting on their craggy surfaces. Feel them. An echo touches the human caress, passes into you. Hear their endless song of dark to light to dark. Sink in. Lean against the boulders. Breathe. Let the pulse take you deep into the ground. Feel the turning, the tilting of the Earth. The song of winter coming, the song of darkness lives in the ore beneath your hands.
Listen to the night. Let the cloak of the long shadow wrap around you. Hear the wind sing, the calls of the night animals, the crackle of footsteps on dry leaves. Lean into the coming quiet and feel your heart beating warmth into the cool air. Turn within. You see, you hum as well. A rhythmic song crackling with both the fire and frailty of our human shells. Listen. Let the endless cycle of heart to limbs to heart take you deeper. Breathe. Feel your song turning you inward, gathering closer to the light within, the candle in the night.
Listen to the Song. The eternal hymn of Time. This is the family we share, these vibrations the language we all speak. The song of the forest, of the mountains, of the Earth. Of yourself.
Listen. Let the music take you deeper.