You may remember that I left for my journey to the Touch Drawing Gathering with some trepidation. An interesting part of the last post is that I accidentally deleted a whole paragraph as I was formatting the images — a paragraph that dealt with my fears regarding the type of people I would meet at the Gathering, how I would judge them (which I didn’t want to do, but recognized as something I would do), and how they would or would not accept me. That was actually my biggest fear, and somehow it was deleted from the post! Maybe the universe was telling me that it would take care of itself. Or maybe I just can’t format my images all that well…
Anyway, after a 15 hour journey by car, bus, airplane, and ferry, I made it to the Gathering just in the middle of dinner with a growling tummy and a fierce headache. Everyone else seemed to already be joking and talking easily with each other…and they all had beautiful, hand-crafted name tags. I already felt tired and uncomfortable, and just wanted to curl up alone somewhere dark and quiet. Deborah, our facilitator for the week and the founder of Touch Drawing, had us go into a sharing circle to introduce ourselves, get oriented, and then “just draw the energy of the room and of yourself right now.” She asked us to not try to draw images, just the energy as we were experiencing it.
Most of my few images of that night dealt with my tiredness and headache — twin spirals w/ thunderbolts shooting from the middle. However, one image was the beginning of the drawing pictured above. At the time I drew it, it looked nothing so much as some swirly abstract pattern in blue. Nothing really to think much about. Shortly after starting, I retreated to my shared bedroom.
The next morning, still on DC time, I woke up a couple hours before breakfast. I wandered down to the labyrinth alone and said my morning prayers. Noticed that it was much easier to do a daily practice when not rushing about trying to get to work and sitting in front of a computer all day. I then went to the dining hall to make my name tag. I was feeling good, like this would be a great, creative week in which to rest and let myself just flow. Then one of the other Gatherers sitting next to me made a thoughtless comment without knowing that she was referring to something I had written.
Over the past few years, I have struggled with naming my work, even in the midst of doing it. I have had several conversations with peers and mentors about the “p-word,” not wanting to say “priestess” in relation to myself. It sounded hubristic to call myself a priestess, even when others in the community used that word for the type of work that many of us do. But naming it has been an internal struggle to get the word past my lips when referring to myself. Inside my faith community, “priestess” is a well established word and used frequently. My personal listing at the Gathering was my first time applying that word outside the pagan community, and it was difficult just to type it into a text field, much less saying it outloud.
Flash back to my first day of Gathering…I said nothing when I felt I should have identified myself as the “self-important” person who labeled her “priestess.” Most of the week I grappled with my anger, my doubt, my fear, my judgements. These were not the emotions I wanted to experience at Gathering. But there were lessons here, I could feel that much.
Thursday morning, when Deborah asked who wanted to help put on the evening’s ceremony, I raised my hand. How could I not? Creating ritual is my life blood — a blending of art, healing, and religion — the work of a priestess. A group of us met over lunch and discussed ideas, which finally gelled into a coherent and beautiful vision. My part was to facilitate the main working — to talk the participants into deep looking at their images and through to breathing those images into their hearts and moving, dancing, interacting with each other as they embodied their images.
Filled with conflicting voices, I did what I do — I talked with Deborah about the logistics of how to get everything set up with the least fuss, what props/equipment was necessary and what would be extraneous. I remember Deborah smiled at one point and said she wasn’t surprised by my train of thought because “this is what you do.” While women were eating dinner, getting dressed, and while the group did the first part of the ceremony around the labyrinth, I and Victoria dressed the sanctuary and prepared to meet people at the door.
While they entered the space, I breathed and slipped into that space I visit when in circle where my personal issues and insecurities flow away and I open myself to the prompting of the energy of the circle. I did my job, and afterward, I cleaned up alone, but not lonely. I watched the women leave the sanctuary and continue their own work.
And I was prepared for only that satisfaction and reward. But I was given so much more! So many approached that evening and the next morning to tell me how wonderful the experience had been for them, how much they appreciated my guidance. Even the woman from earlier in the week approached me and told me that she could really tell that doing this work was my gift, my talent, and that I did it well.
The kindness of these women in reflecting my work back to me still touches my heart that two weeks later I am crying now as I write this. And all I can say is THANK YOU!
My name is Angela Raincatcher, and I am an artist and a priestess. That is the work I do in this world. And I accept the task with a strong and open heart.