The early part of the day slipped by easily with a few casual meetings and I was in my tent putting on some makeup when I heard the delicate sound of a handbell and Anna’s voice saying “Allting… Allting, time for the Allting, we begin in ten minutes.”
She walked past our circle and on to the other campfire circles. I could hear her repeating the announcement as her voice receded and she continued on her progress. I gathered my cushion and blanket to sit upon as we had been advised and made for the meditation circle.
The sun shone into the entrance of the meditation marquee. A portion of the canvas wall had been removed in the Eastern facing wall. A pole remained in the middle of the gap with about five feet or so on either side.
A tall and blonde, slightly portly woman perhaps in her late fifties wearing a pink jumper and long blue skirt was standing by this entrance with a dark blue velvet bag slung over her shoulder on a plaited cord.
“Angel cards?” she proffered me her bag.
“Ah, thanks!” I dug a hand in, stirred around the leaves in its depths and pulled out a small paper about two inches by one and a half folded like a paper dart. “I brought these for daily blessings.” She explained.
It bore a stylised silhouette of an angel blowing a trumpet and the word ‘Acceptance’. Interesting, I hoped I would be able to accept the different views that were to be expressed. I had heard of these Angel cards, but never seen them before, a kind of divinatory tool akin to Tarot cards evidently. They were photocopied and cut by hand judging by the irregular edges. Blessings by the handful! We had all been invited to take on some role or identification for the camp, so she had chosen to be the Angel card lady. I wondered what other blessings or insights she might have in store for me later.
She was offering the bag to all and sundry as they streamed into the interior space and were finding themselves places around the edge. I saw a gap to my left and set myself down in it, some half dozen or so poles round the circumference from the entrance.
Two women whom I did not recognise were waving smouldering bunches of dry leafy twigs around, wafting the smoke around, drenching themselves in its aromatic fragrance. I did not recognise the herb or its smell, but like so much of this world I had found my way into, found it highly evocative, just as a good incense should be. Now they were offering it round the gathering, the participants fanning the fumes over the heads and faces in what appeared a ritual manner. I followed suit when it came to me. I was experienced with some types of ritual magic; mostly Cabala based high magic of the Western Hermetic tradition. What I was being introduced to now seemed more pagan based, with a strong feeling of the native American tradition.
The space was becoming quite full now, the incoming flow had slowed to a trickle of stragglers and these were squeezing into the remaining small spaces. A total of thirty-two poles supported the perimeter. I didn’t count the number of the crowd present, but clearly most of those on site were there. The poles acted as useful backrests and with two or three people in the spaces between each of them our number must have been close to one hundred.
A few had curious wooden seats without legs, but comprised of long flat boards which lay on the ground with backrests that could be removed or slotted into the groundboard and propped up by chocks behind them. Each one of these was entirely unique, they were obviously individually handmade and designed for no other purpose than that to which they were now being put. Some were plain unadorned wood, others varnished and still others painted with designs of leaves and flowers or stars and planets. There were also a number of portable canvas camp chairs, some of these with short or no legs, so that the majority of the gathering were sitting at ground level.
The clothes of the assembling multitude were perhaps the most varied collection that I had ever seen in one place. Palden’s invitation to shamanic dress had been exuberantly embraced. Not only casual everyday wear, jeans, woolly jumpers and tee shirts, but tie-dyes, flamboyant hippie gear, all manner of baggy trousers, combats, leggings, bright colours, leather waistcoats, flowing skirts, bangles, beads, headbands, carved and ornamented staffs, bare feet, shoulders and arms, boots, sandals, rustic hand woven meditation blankets spread out and wrapped around willy nilly, embroidered cushions and my bearded neighbour from last night in a tweed jacket somehow did not seem out of place.
Like a ship’s mast the central pole upon which the circular marquee depended was strung with ropes lashed to stays at its base, a weblike dream catcher hanging from it at head height.
In front of this facing the entrance was another tree stump like the one at the centre of the field, a tangle of roots spreading out to all directions. On and about it were a multitude of candles, smoking joss sticks and incense cones in brass holders. Some devotional pieces were spread before it on a small patterned blanket. A Buddha, a mandala, several crystals, one of them a huge rose quartz the size of a child’s head and a polished wooden box about fifteen inches by three by two with a brass clasp.
Palden and Anna were sitting opposite the entrance, conferring over notes, jotting the odd thing down. Palden was wearing a pink speckled jumper, red trousers and floppy hat. Anna a long flowing skirt and rainbow tie-dyed tee-shirt.
The hubbub began to quieten and I felt a tremendous anticipation. The gravitas of the previous evening’s Om returned and was amplified. We were now assembled for what we had committed to do.
Once the silence had been established for a few seconds Palden spoke. “Let us all hold hands and open the circle.”
The link was made and we held it in silence for a moment which seemed to have an immense depth. Distant sounds of children reached our ears from outside, but within our circle was absolute stillness broken only by the occasional brief muffled sound of a cough or clearing throat. The signal of the pressed hand rippled round the multitude and we were back in the present.
Palden stood up. “Welcome to the Hundredth Monkey circle. Before we begin our meditation I just have a few pieces of information to share. This afternoon we shall begin the workshop groups. To help choose who shall be in which we have decided to let the Universe decide, and so we shall pass round a hat with the names of the group leader/facilitators in it, so that you can choose one at random. If you really feel you would rather be with another group, go and speak to its leader to see if they have room, but please think about why you want to change if you do, and what it is you are looking for.
“Soul friends: you will each have been given the name of another camp member who you do not know. These are your soul friends. The purpose of this is twofold, a stimulus to reach out and mix with new people, and then to have someone with whom you are able to share your experiences, your highs and lows.
“At the Oak Dragon Camps the morning circle was called Pow-Wow, drawing from a perceived Native American tradition. However this term is not actually used by Native Americans, but is rather an invention of White Americans from the late nineteenth century. We did not want to use a term which might be seen by some to be a stereotyped caricature of Native American culture and traditions, so we have taken the name Allting, derived from Scandinavian culture. A Thing was a moot or gathering, and so an Allthing or Allting is a moot in which all things may be discussed, a grand council if you will.
“Now today we begin the Hundredth Monkey Camp with our first meditation circle. The subject is the testing of nuclear weapons by the French at the Mururoa atoll in the Pacific. You are welcome to meditate using any technique which you are comfortable or familiar with, but there is a method which we have been offered by the beings who have asked us to set up this camp. When we begin meditating, go in your mind to the place of our focus and wait to see if there is anything which draws your attention. Don’t try and actively change what you see, but allow yourself to become part of the situation, respond naturally and observe the outcome. We are visiting observers who are there to help. Don’t force yourself into the scene if those already there don’t seem to want your involvement. Just see what happens, don’t attempt to control what is there, even for the better.
“By the way you may be interested to know that this is the same marquee which we used for an Oak Dragon camp in the Spring of 1986. Chernobyl had just blown and an Easterly wind brought rain to Britain which carried particles from the dust cloud. Some of those particles are perhaps still embedded in the fabric of the marquee. Not at dangerous levels I hasten to add, but perhaps leaving a homoeopathic resonance. This nuclear theme is a synchronicity which may be appropriate to our first meditation.
“We’ll take a five minute break after the meditation which will be for twenty minutes, and then we shall reconvene for the Allting.
“Let us begin.”
He sat down and gently clashed a pair of finger cymbals.
The gentle ringing faded. Shutting my eyes I listened to its sharp note slowly disappear, swelling and ebbing to an almost imperceptible beat frequency between the two brass cymbals until it was lost in the ambient background. We began.
I had a moment of anxiety. My intellect did not know what to do with the situation and I had to actively work at disengaging it. I focussed my attention on the feeling of the ground against the weight of my body, the smell of the grass which is always magnified under canvas, the gentle sounds of that canvas as it swayed in the light breeze, the creak of the guy ropes which held the shape in place and the presence of all those attendant.
Looking inward I pictured a nuclear explosion. It was surrounded by water in all directions. On the horizon were miniature vessels. It seemed that all the world was there to witness and record the event. Momentarily I felt I was in a crowd meditating on that image. How did the rest of the world see this I wondered? Then I was in Northern Nigeria. A young Fulani boy had heard the news of the tests on the radio and was wondering what it meant. He asked the teacher at the local school what this thing was and why people on the radio were so concerned about it. The teacher said: “This is a terrible weapon that the white people have. It is like a spear of fire which they shoot from their aeroplanes, but it can destroy a whole city like Lagos or Kaduna.” The boy had heard of Lagos, the great city on the coast in the South, but of course had never been there. Kaduna he had seen once before when he had accompanied his father to sell cattle in a market there. He could not imagine a larger city, it had stretched for miles in all directions with tarmac roads flanked by stalls selling everything from soap powder to fruit and vegetables, sunglasses to transistor radios. Everywhere was crowded and in the centre were huge buildings. They had an airport and even television. The teacher continued: “When the fire is made it sends out a terrible burning wind like a thousand Harmattans which flattens everything before it, but the dust it carries is not sand, it is a terrible poison which kills slowly and for which there is no medicine. Afterwards the land is poisoned and any crops grown will be too”
My young Fulani boy was bewildered and frightened. “But why did the white people make this terrible weapon. Is it not enough to kill their enemies, why do they burn and poison the land?”
“Many years ago,” the teacher replied “ when the village elders were no older than you are now, one of the nations of the white people rose up and made war on the others. It was defeated, but it’s ally in the East would not surrender and so they used this weapon to vanquish it. It was made by the magic which is called science. They have looked into the deepest knowledge of how the world is made and discovered the secret of how to destroy creation. This weapon has never been used again in war, but when the white people had defeated the Eastern enemy they turned against each other in suspicion and threatened each other with the weapon. Knowing that to use it would mean that both sides would be destroyed, they both feared its use, and after many years made peace, not long ago.
“Now the French, the white people whose language they speak to the North in Niger, fear that they have forgotten how to make this weapon, or that theirs is not as strong as that of others, and so have practised making it again. They burn it in the great ocean on the other side of the world, but even there people live on small islands and are afraid that it will poison them. The white people argue amongst themselves as to whether this is good or should be stopped.”
The Fulani boy had a lot to think about. The power of the white people could not be avoided. His grandfather had been a young man when Nigeria had gained independence from the British and had told him how high the hopes had been for the future then. But many years of civil war and military rule had left the people disillusioned. Meanwhile the white people played their terrible and frightening games on a stage totally removed from the affairs of Africa. He felt very small.
The sibilant ring of the cymbals sought my attention and I stood back from the pool of imagining. Who was this boy? Did he even exist? Was he any more than the projection of my own unconscious and what difference had I made even if such a thing might have happened?
copyright © 2011 Claire Rae Randall