We enjoyed a full and special time this year as the Wood Sisters and Red Tent Council came together to co-create a mini midsummer festival in our Red Tent. On Friday 20th a cheerful team of women and men gathered at Green Dragon Barn in the late afternoon sunshine for a bring and share BBQ. Various firewoks, BBQ buckets and hearths were fired up to cater for meat eating, vegetarian and vegan choices, with Lesley’s vegan Red Tent burgers (featuring beetroot, I believe) being a particularly gloriously colour themed option.
Fortified by delicious food and drink we then discovered just what a pleasure it is to raise a large Red Tent with lots of folks to help – so a big thank you to all. As the sun set and the first stars and bats began to emerge in the blue twilight, we settled round the campfire to share songs and stories. Visiting storyteller, Claire Viner, joined us for the first time and with the music of her sistrum and voice carried us back to Arthurian times with a beautiful re-working of the story of Guinevere.
The next day various sleepy eyed Wood Sisters emerged from their camp of yurt and tents early on Saturday morning to celebrate the longest day. Old friends and new came together for sharing collaborative wisdom, trance telling from Sam and meditation with Sue in the morning, followed by a medicine walk and simple closing ceremony in the afternoon. In honour of our female ancestors, Sam’s story featured the biblical matriarch Sarah in a meditative journey which ranged from the earliest hunter gatherer times in Ancient Mesopotamia, through to Sarah’s possible role as a priestess in the city of Ur and her journey with Abraham to the sacred terebinth groves of Canaan. The story ended with her being laid to rest in the cave of Mamre… and an invitation to us all to remember these often overlooked women in the Bible and the Gods and Goddesses, such as Nanna and Ningal, El and Asherah that they served.
After a rich day together, we carried on into the lovely long evening with a Red Tent storytelling fundraiser, open to all. Wood Sister and Red Tent Council member, Lisa Schneidau opened the evening with a seriously sexy story of Sheherazade and the Arabian nights featuring feisty women, demons, dangerous kings and more… and visiting storyteller, Jane Flood, then spirited us away to Africa, Russia, Ireland and beyond with a glorious feast of traditional tales and music. It was a very special evening and our heartfelt thanks go out to our inspiring storytellers and the wonderfully engaged audience.
On Sunday, the midsummer sun continued to shine and another open group of women gathered for our first Red Tent Retreat Day. As veteran holders of sacred space, it was really great for us (Sam & Sue) to be joined by the rest of the Red Tent Council in this collaborative offering. Once again, heart wisdom was shared by all the women in the circle who gathered around the central altar with the roof wheel above us open to the clear blue sky and bright sun and the good earth beneath us. Our morning story was a collaborative telling with four female voices speaking of the reclaiming of the divine feminine and women such as Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel and Dinah in the biblical traditions. We spoke of the sacred power of women gathering together to bleed, to give birth and to share their stories and wisdom…and to close we remembered the first known woman writer and storyteller, Enheduanna, who features as a ‘woman who was willing to learn’ in Sue’s telling of the Sumerian story of Uttu the Spider Goddess… and the themes of sacred groves, circles and webs were then woven into our meditation.
After a truly spectacular vegetarian feast, thanks to Sue and Jan, we settled in for an afternoon of putting the treat back in retreat. Each council member present offered something of their own skills and experience and participants had the choice to sample any or all of the sessions available throughout the afternoon. In the yurt, Jo gave delicious mini aromatherapy massages, while ‘Gypsy Jade’ offered insightful tarot readings in Jo’s vintage caravan ‘Poppy”. Lisa led special storywalks from the Red Tent and Sam looked after a succession of naked bathers in the hot tub! Both Saturday and Sunday were also greatly enhanced by Wood Sisters Abigail and Laura who wove in beautiful songs and music throughout the weekend, with Abigail also offering powerful sound healing sessions with voice and harp on the Sunday afternoon.
The retreat closed with a moving collaborative ceremony. Each woman wrote a love note to themselves (to be posted home later) and affirmed insights received during the day… each lit candles for themselves, loved ones and the world and added rose petals to a fragrant bowl of rosewater which was then passed around the circle with each sister taking their turn to both give and receive blessings.
As we often say in the Wood Sisters… ‘thank us’ all for a wonderful Midsummer weekend in the Red Tent!
And finally, when most had headed home and all was cleared away, the stalwart Sue went out with her family to dress the Tent in Her new black waterproof. So we close with a particular ‘thank you’ for the generous donation received at the Wood Sisters Winter Festival which has enabled this Red Tent summer residency at Green Dragon Barn… and invite any sisters reading this journal to join us for our next gathering for Lughnasadh/Lammas on Saturday 2nd August.