Welcome to the Blogtown series we like to call Worst. Night. Ever.
Every Wednesday during our weekly "My, What a Busy Week!" pitch meetings, someone suggests an event which is the equivalent of shooting burning acid into our eyes—but we also realize a more enlightened person might love it! Hence, these "risky" events are often unfairly pushed aside. WELL, NO MORE. Instead of allowing these events to vanish forever, once a year—and only for Worst. Night. Ever.—we attend them. We write about them. We share with you, dear readers, our Worst. Nights. Ever.
Each member of the Mercury's editorial staff will be presented with events that do not match their personality or interests... like, AT ALL. Afterward, he or she will review it right here on the blog! NOTE: Everyone's taste is different, right? So while attending a "weird sex ecstatic dance naked thing" might make Ned absolutely miserable, Dirk would probably love it! As ever, competitors must stay for at least two hours (or until the event is over, whichever comes first) and are not allowed to get drunk, or use any substances (drugs) or distractions (phone/reading material) to dull the pain they may experience.
Next up: Mercury Arts Editor Megan Burbank attends Goddess Temple Portland's Wild Woman Camp-Out!
When my coworkers conspired to send me to the magick-ladies-only Wild Woman Camp-Out )0( Full Moon Lammas* in a distant forest in Vernonia for the full moon, I felt like I’d sort of won the Worst Night Ever lottery. I went to a women’s college! I’ve read The Mists of Avalon! (Did you also love The Mists of Avalon as a young person? Here, I'm going to ruin it for you!) I’ve owned at least one Loreena McKennitt album! My drunk Pinteresting has at times wandered shamelessly into The Pyramid Collection. Maybe Lammas was a mispelling of llamas. I love llamas!
Sure, a Pagan campout with strangers wasn’t something I would have gone to had I not been sent by my employer, but it sounded pretty okay—oh, aside from the teeny-tiny fact that the description made it seem sort of like Burning Man, AKA my idea of hell. I’ve seen The Wicker Man, you guys. Dehydration is the least of your worries! [Eds. note—Dehydration is probably actually the most of your worries.]
*From now on, referred to by the short version: Goddess Camp.
From the event description. The bolds are mine:
Calling all wild women for a shakti-filled celebration of sisterhood and earth communion! On sacred land, just one hour west of Portland, we will come together under the brilliance of the full moon in honor of the ripe abundance of summer and All That We Are. Through drumming, dance, song, and ceremony our bodies remember our connection to the Mother and attune us to Her primal rhythms. Join us as we nourish our feminine spirits and fill our wellsprings with the beauty and bounty of natural sanctuary and conscious community!
We'll be staying on beautiful land with meadow and wooded tent camping, gorgeous views, hiking trails, hot showers, potable water, and port-a-potties. Organic, vegetarian dinner and breakfast will be served at meal times (vegan and GF options available) and an herbal hot tea and cool elixir will be available all day. We will also will be having a sweet magical village with chill integration station (a shady altar space with cards, books, pillows,) tarot readings, fairy hair, massage, art play corner, many of these offerings are included in the ticket price and some will be by donation. We encourage you to bring your offerings, your talents, your heart-fires, the evenings festivities will be a collaborative experience of sharing, song, drumming, storytelling, dance and ceremony.
There was also this schedule:
noon - 4:00: Arrive, Set-up camp, Ground into the land
4:00 - 5:30: Opening Circle
5:30 - 6:15: Divine Feminine Dance Flow
7:00 - 8:00: Dinner
8:30 - ?: Fire Ritual & Lammas Festivities
8:00 - 9:00: Morning Star Meditation & Yoga Flow
9:00 - 10:00: Breakfast
11:00 - noon: Closing Circle
noon - 2:00: Break-down & load-out
Does this not sound a LITTLE like Burning Man?! I mean, I grew in the Pacific Northwest. I know what shakti is, and while goddess-centered devotion isn't really my thing (although I do find it way nicer to be around than, say, the punitive misogyny of fundamentalist Christianity), I'm cool with it. Life is hard enough as it is, gather ye woo-woo rosebuds while ye may, you do you, YKINMKBYKIOK, etc. But the shades of Burning Man had me very afraid I might be conscripted into a cult, or yelled at for the Mercury's stance on fluoride, or lectured about my unwavering support for vaccines. At the very least, I was worried I would have to talk about my feelings with people I'd never met.
And, well, I’m sure as fuck not going to Burning Man ever (especially now that it’s full of giant monster-bugs!), but only one of my fears came true at the Wild Woman Camp-Out.
After the jump, find out which one! Also, what the fuck is fairy hair?
Arrive, set-up camp, ground into the land: First things first. The camp-out was in a secluded woodsy spot with poor cell phone reception, and the invite came with a sprawling packing list, so I had to bring a lot of provisions—including a tent (borrowed), a crystal (also borrowed—we were instructed to bring “magical items,” and though I managed to rustle up a cool-looking light-up sword in the office, I felt too weird about bringing something that was (a) a weapon, and (b) a phallus), plus a yoga mat (for morning meditation and yoga), and a whole bunch of cutlery and flatware (unlike Burning Man, the Wild Woman Camp-Out is environmentally-friendly!).
- All the shit I brought with me to Goddess Camp.
I then had to procure transportation to Vernonia, an hour's drive from Portland. Luckily, my long-suffering boyfriend enjoys scenic drives, so off we went! This seemed like a great idea—cruising along, listening to David Bowie, enjoying rural Oregon—up until we pulled into the parking lot, where the Parking Goddess fielding cars took one look at my male squire and said he “didn’t look like a Wild Woman!”—oops, bringing a man, however briefly, to the Wild Woman Camp-Out = minus 1,000 of my hard-earned #misandry points.
I needn’t have worried! At registration, I got the lay of the land from the Check-in Goddess, who had a beautiful flower in her hair and smiled warmly behind a sparkly sign that read “WELCOME SISTARS”—low-key check-in AND an inclusive, gender-neutral spelling of sisters? I’ll take it! Check-in Goddess told me where I could pitch my tent and what woods I could pee in, and where I could get tea and a hydrating elixir at all times. And then I made a friend! Jaimie was also checking in, and we decided to be campsite pals, pitching our tents (okay, Jaimie pitched both of our tents, she also shared her trail mix because she’s delightful) beside the tea and elixir station.
Meanwhile, ladies milled about between lovingly appointed tents strung with cool banners and string lights: ladies in long, floaty dresses and loose-fitting pants, rockabilly ladies with intimidating tattoos, ladies holding babies, ladies with sparkly strands in their hair, ladies putting sparkly strands into other ladies' hair (turns out this is what fairy hair is), ladies giving Tarot readings—and all of them were instantly so nice and welcoming that I felt bad I’d unfavorably compared this event to Burning Man. I decided then and there that I would really commit to my woo-woo weekend. For journalism!
But an hour later, at Opening Circle, this seemed to be a horrible mistake: Lo, there was singing. My croaky getting-over-a-cold voice was NOT happy about this. But in another fortunate turn of events, I learned that most neo-Pagan chants ‘n’ songs are mercifully short, and many wonderfully witchy. Here's one:
We had to talk about our feelings a little bit, but it was fine. It was like being at the most supportive sleepover ever, only with more fierce eye contact and spontaneous laughter and ACTUAL TRILLS. By our opening ritual’s end, I wanted to hug everyone, while knowing full well that this is probably the type of feminism Joan Didion hates.
^^^A celebratory trill, for the uninitiated.
After the opening circle, I went to investigate the "sweet magical village" (skipping the Divine Feminine Dance Flow, for those following along at home), where you could have fairy hair installed on your head, or get a tarot reading done, or soak your feet at a lovingly appointed cooling station. I'd assumed the "art play corner" was a kids' thing (there were a lot of kids who came to Goddess Camp with their moms), but it was actually a tricked-out crafting tent for everyone, and while I am not an aspiring Druid, I am a boss at making collages. While I collaged, Jaimie drew a mandala of my energy. A mother and her toddler daughter came into the crafting tent, and the mother asked the toddler what she wanted to draw. The toddler wanted to draw a man. “A man?” said her mother. “That’s surprising, but okay.” It was perhaps at this point that my anthropological investigation angle morphed into, nope, just having fun!
- Jaimie Gunn
- This is a mandala of my energy, drawn by my new pal, Jaimie.
Fire ritual and Lammas festivities: After dinner (excellent Lebanese from this place, 10/10), I put on my witchy finery (okay, A DRESS) to take part in a Lammas moonrise ritual straight out of The Mists of Avalon. (Turns out that Lammas has nothing to do with llamas, but is a Pagan celebration of the harvest. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
My inner 12-year-old was THRILLED.
In the interest of protecting the privacy of those who were there, I am not going to disclose specifics of the ritual itself—there wasn't any freaky shit, get your mind out of the gutter—but the short version is that we burned stuff, and then ate a bunch of desserts. Also, I recreated the original clipart shorthand for feminism—ladies dancing around a campfire—with 90 new friends. A lovely mother-daughter pair showed me how to charge borrowed crystal next the fire. By the time I went to bed, my tent was cool and I crawled into my sleeping bag wearing every layer I’d packed. In the middle of the night, I heard coyotes howling.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early for Morning Star Meditation and Yoga Flow in a grove of evergreens, then booked it to breakfast, where I sat on a bench next to a singing bowl someone had left out the night before, while bleary-eyed ladies ate granola and there was more feelings talk. The premise of this blog post came up, and while I’d expected the women I met at Goddess Camp to be wary of me and my project, they were exceptionally nice about it. When I explained that I wouldn't normally have gone to a gathering like this, one of my new acquaintances gave me this knowing look and said, “Because you’re so introverted, right?”
This was a nicer way of putting it than, say, "Because you're pathologically afraid of Burning Man-adjacent activities and also sharing your feelings with strangers!" She had perhaps noted my inability to form full sentences before I’d had coffee.
After breakfast, I brushed my teeth in the shade of a giant tree and then went to Closing Circle, which was, like everything else had been, pretty fun. There was a final witchy tune, and then we were sent on our merry way to break-down and load out.
My Xena trill is still hella weak (NOT FOR LACK OF TRYING!), and I’m not planning to become a Pagan (or to ever go to Burning Man). But it was delightful to spend a weekend at peak woo in the company of such friendly strangers. I suppose I could have tried to have a terrible time, but even if I’d been profoundly uncomfortable, it’s hard to argue with getting to sleep in a cool solo tent outside when it’s balls-hot out. And though I was worried I would feel extremely out of place, it turns out there are no pariahs at Goddess Camp—not even if you’re an introverted journalist hogging the cooling elixir. Goddess Camp may not be for everyone, but for me, not even dehydration was cause for concern.
Don't be too disappointed, though: I'm going to my 10-year high school reunion in a couple weeks, and that will probably be new levels of horrifying!
In closing, here's Loreena McKennitt's greatest hit (I tried to find an ad-free version, but the music video is kind of essential). Blessed be!