In 2012, when the Wood Sisters Red Tent was made from the ashes of Killerton Forest and the red canvas sewn by Dee & Kay, our very first outing was to Quest Festival. We spent three intense days in the Red Tent and felt transformed at the end of that time under crimson canvas, cooked in the warmth of the tent by some alchemy into a something new. We now shared with our ancestors an experience of three days of seclusion from our normal worlds in which to honour our creative fertility.
So we headed back to Quest this year full of a combination of anticipation and nostalgia and we weren’t disappointed. The tent was fully used, with over 200 people visiting it during the three days, for meditation, sanctuary, workshops and performances. We had a gazebo space for shade, box office, sales, information and volunteer space for the wonderful Red tent crew who helped to transport, raise, lower, steward and hold the space of the Red Tent. Deep thanks to Sheridian, Joyce, Jo, Liz, Beth, Roni, Roxy, Leo, Ian, Gail, Maggi, Janet, Ronnie, Lisa, Hilda, Jade, Juliette, Abigail, Debbie, Helen, Kate, Susan , Linda, Tam, Martin and others who came over to give a hand and support us.
We had three days of events and the first, Friday 25th, explored the Kabbalah, with the Tree of Life school, remembering the Jewish origins of the Red Tent. The morning meditation was packed as were both the other morning meditations and the day started in deep peace and humming life as many experienced (and inexperienced) meditators gathered to visit the Orchards of the Soul and share afterwards. Sam and Sue explored ancient Sumerian Tree of Life myths (in this case Inanna and the Huluppu tree) which underlie the Torah. After a trance telling, we explored the myth in a circle and through meditation.
Periods of open sanctuary were on offer all day and, in the afternoon, Joyce ran a Tree of Life Drawing workshop – exploring sacred geometry and allowing participants to draw and take home their own tree of Life.
Each day we had one women-only event and on Friday this was the Red Tent workshop in which we explored the story of the Red Tent: in Anita Diamant’s book of the same name, also the story of our red tent and that of red tents across the world. We closed with a simple ceremony.
In the evening the fabulous Shonaleigh came to tell The Ruby Tree in the Red Tent – an evening of deep story with a storyteller of international repute on top form – inventive, funny, moving and totally transporting. Shonaleigh is one of the many matriarchs of the Red Tent – supporters who give their time to raise funds for us and we are so grateful for her love, enthusiasm and creativity. As the world’s last living drutz’yla, trained at her grandmothers knee in an ancient art of storytelling which involves an interconnecting web of thousands of stories, Shonaleigh and the Red tent were made for one another!
On Saturday, it was the day of the Wood Sisters and Celtic wild wisdom: the tent was packed for Jade’s copper spiral jewellery-making workshop and packed again in the evening for the Celebratory Circle: the marvellous Maggi Squire delighting us with a masked dance poem: More Bones for the Red Tent; the talented Janet Dowling moving us with the tale of The Fair Maid of Asolat; the ethereal poet Susan Taylor reading from her latest collection at the Poems at the Moon’s Edge and the Bardic Babes, telling tales and singing a ballad of the Hag at the Holy Well. It was a fabulous end to a hot, sunny day that also saw Celtic Tales for families (some wonderful drawings of Ceridwen and the Selkie) and gorgeous crafts with Jo including harvest mice masks and salt dough animals for little ones and straw favours and corn maidens for Lughnasadh.
On Sunday the tent opened its flap to mystical Christianity, with Open Spirit, in an exploration of the divine feminine. We started the day with women only, in another full group for a Great Mother Morning Meditation with Sam. For the rest of the day open sanctuary space (including beautiful harp music from Abigail) alternated with Sam’s workshop on the Divine Feminine and Ian and Gail Adams leading a session on the female mystic. The day closed, and the Quest Festival 2014 closed for the Red Tent, with a heartfelt collaborative communion. More details from Sunday, including readings and photos are in the Open Spirit Journal.
The tent worked its magic: people were drawn to its quiet power. With her skirts up to let in a breeze during the very hot weather, the Red Tent offered much-used sanctuary and meditation space and brought many new people into contact with our work.