The Gathering of Circles is a primitive camping experience bringing together people of all ages, walks of life, professional backgrounds, spiritual paths and belief systems to share teachings and come together in community in a beautiful natural setting.
TO THOSE ATTENDING FOR THE FIRST TIME – The original inception of the GOC was based in two intentions. The first was that it be free, with no cost to attend or participate. The second was that it was to be a vehicle for sharing and creating opportunities for healing, personal growth and awareness. What has occurred over the years is nothing short of “magic” and definitely grounded in transformation. Attend, participate, and become part of a transformational experience for yourself and others. The investment of your time, love, and energy will be rewarded as you resume your life’s journey and can “remember the magic” you experienced at the Gathering of Circles.
For All Our Relations -AHO!
GOC T-SHIRT HISTORY – Buying t-shirts helps the GOC defray costs for firewood, porta-potties, etc. and represents the theme for each year’s Gathering. It is the best “evidence” that you have attended and received some “sweet medicine” at the Gathering of Circles. The first shirt was designed by Ms. Lou Dale and it represented the campfires of various Sweat Lodge communities that were invited to participate in the Gathering of Circles when it began. As “healing communities” they were invited to share their “sweet medicine” (“sweet medicine” is anything that heals). These respective communities camped together and all came together to form the first GOC community.
CIRCLE ETIQUETTE – Treat the community circle/dance circle as Holy from the beginning. We create it as “Sacred Space” at the start of the opening ceremony of the Gathering. Though it is a heavily social circle during the early get-togethers, it is still “Sacred Space,” and especially so during the Sweet Medicine Dance. The circle is the emblem for all of life; it is round and has four directions; life bending back upon itself.
TALKING STICK – The Talking Stick is used in the community circle when we gather. The person with the Talking Stick has the undivided attention of all in the circle while they are speaking. This means we will speak one at a time and pass the Talking Stick to whomever wants to speak next. We call for the Talking Stick by raising our hand and waiting our turn.
SACRED PIPE: BEING “UNDER THE PIPE” – The opening ceremony puts us on a Spiritual plane where, even if we are not fully aware of it, we act, during the days of the Gathering, under the penumbra of Spirit, where nothing happens by accident, where each encounter/each conversation/each “coincidence” carries meaning and direction and message. (over)
The “Opening Pipe” lifts us off the earth plane so we can be fully available to the events, occurrences, and “magic” of the Gathering’s events. The “Closing Pipe” returns us to the earth plane so we can return to our lives, renewed and empowered by this experience!
THE DRUM – The drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. During the Sweet Medicine Dance, the beat of the drum surrounds the dancers, it gives them power, and it fills the air of the Gathering with the heartbeat of the Mother! It also fulfills a pragmatic function. It serves as a signal for the community to come to the circle, as activities are about to begin. If you have a desire or intention to drum for the Sweet Medicine Dance, it will be important for you to “practice” (as the community is being called to the circle) to make sure you can maintain the beat that is used for the dance.
SWEET MEDICINE DANCE – The dance circle is an emblem for life: it is round; it has four directions (East representing “new beginnings”, South “family”, West “moving on”, North “wisdom”); it has the fire of life in the center, the source of light and strength. When we go to the fire, we go to Creator/Energy/Spirit for renewal and power! On the edges of the circle individuation occurs. As we go out from the fire we enter the realm of the individual self. It is in this dancing between the center and the outer rim that we weave our life – Spirit driven and individualized manifestation that is each one of us. The dance circle is full of the social aspect of the GOC, but it is diminished if there is casual socializing in the circle. When we enter the circle through one of the four directions it is important that we do so with consciousness and reverence – likewise when we exit. We say a Prayer when we enter or leave the circle – “For all of our relations.” It is good to have an intention for the dance – our why, our reason for the dance – what we wish to dance for. It may be simply to dance the joy of the Gathering, our participation and interaction with others at the Gathering. It may be a dance of letting go or planting seeds for the future. It makes no difference what the intention is, but it makes a big difference that we have an intention. The intention makes us more alive to the turning, more in tune as change occurs.
THE SWEAT LODGE – The Sweat Lodge is a ceremony where the individual sits in the “Spirit House” to go through a cleansing and purification. This is achieved by bringing in hot rocks and pouring water on the rocks as prayers, songs, and stories are shared. These are “sent up” as the water transforms to steam and is felt by all in the Lodge simultaneously. The Lodge imitates the creation of the world. It represents the womb where each of us was formed. When we exit the Lodge we are re-born and are greeted by the words, “welcome to life.” Shorts and t-shirts, bathing suits, or other loose fitting clothing are worn in this Lodge. You may bring 2 towels (one to sit on and one to dry off with).
THE GIVE-AWAY – In one sense, the Give-Away is the most important individual activity of the Gathering. Each individual brings something to the Give-Away that they are ready/willing to “move on” from. It may, or may not, have monetary value. It will be something that each person consciously selects as the representation of their “moving on” at this point in their respective lives. It is also the forum where each individual gives a short public account of the impact the Gathering had on her or him. When she or he addresses the group in the Sacred circle, the emotional power of the experience of the Gathering is apparent as well as individual realizations and specific connections with others.
Revised by Bobby Ashworth and Tom Casey 07/21/2017