Joshua Tree Candlemas Retreat – 2015
I was in a coven for three years. This is a journal of what I was allowed to chronicle during our yearly retreat to Joshua Tree.
We left for the retreat a few minutes ahead of schedule on Friday morning, avoiding the L.A. traffic (yeah!), heading East. Somewhere out past Yucaipa, giant wind turbines started appearing like guardian sentinels in the desert. The light, misty rain of Pasadena was getting slightly more serious by this time and you can see the raindrops on the windshield as we passed these impressive, metal beasts.
After a quick lunch at the Sizzler in Yucca Valley and a stop to get some food to contribute to grounding ourselves after ritual, we got to the resort around 2:00 pm, ahead of quite a few others.
Welcome to Hippieville
And then it got weird…
I was excited by the information on their website that the buildings were constructed by Frank Lloyd and his son Lloyd Wright. I expected some interesting architecture as a result. It was a mixed bag of strangely configured room space – including a tiny, pie-shaped space between two turns in the wall that was too small to function as anything, but they had the weird idea to cover with a door. Many people started calling it the “Winchester Mystery Closet”! A staircase just outside our meal room – Friendship Hall – had a wide walkway and staircase, but the left-half of it doesn’t go up because of a granite wall blocking it. Weird.
The views outside (when it was warm enough to enjoy them) were of the other buildings and the surrounding desert. They call this place Joshua Tree for a reason. These bushy, bristly overgrown bushes are everywhere on the property and pepper the area, keeping lots of space between their neighbors.
All of our meals were in Friendship Hall, so we got used to where this space was quickly. It is a pentagonal shape, with a beautiful main support in the center of granite slabs in concrete, supporting a high, beautiful wood ceiling where all the support beams are visible. This gave the room a feeling of a very large and open space that was refreshing to dine in.
Our wonderful cooks and servers!
The food was FABULOUS! Full-blown breakfasts for brunch – pancakes, fruit, yogurt, bagels and dinners, OMG! Chicken, beef so tender it fell apart, carrots and potatoes and EVIL deserts *swoon!*. I ate better here than in many, many Southern California restaurants.
It was cold as hell in Joshua Tree. The evenings dropped down in the 40s, which for this Southern California girl was barely tolerable with the help of thermal leggings. I was shocked to hear a dove cooing in the morning – first off, how the hell do they survive the cold and what the hell were they living in? It couldn’t have been those ugly joshua trees with their pointy leaves and bodies! They were probably perched in the landscaped oleander bushes around the buildings.
The retreat is famous for their many vortices located on the property, indicated by the blue bulls-eyes on the map above. I didn’t know much about them when I arrived, but was rather physically dizzy the entire weekend from their effect. Also known for their healing properties, a nasty pre-cold pain in my throat and right ear disappeared while we were there and promptly reappeared once I got back home. Even after getting back around 7:00 p.m. Sunday, I was still so dizzy I HAD to be very careful about my balance and sit or lay down the entire day, doing only necessary errands like going to the chiropractor and the bank. Twenty-four hours later I still felt like I am “walking between worlds”, with a foot on the physical ground and one across the Great Divide!
There was barely time to change between programs and eating and no time to get on my netbook (which was fine with me. I wanted a weekend off from work!). It was a heavy schedule of rituals as well as my initiation and I was really worn out by Sunday evening, but it was so worth it. They are a big, loving, happy coven that welcomed me in like family and I was moved to tears by the experience.
The last thing we did was burn the corn dolly we had constructed the first day we were there. It went into an outside firepit in a large parking lot. The men were very happy to grab lighters and make fire and we the women were quite amused and happy to sit back and let them deal with burning things! Many of us brought herbs and offering to burn with her and there was also a basket of Brigid’s Crosses and Jacob’s Ladders we had also made that got torched with our Corn Maiden. We circled sang and burned things for about an hour, then went in for one last grounding meal before heading for home.
There is very little I can say about the Tradition – okay, well NOTHING about the Tradition, which is fine with me. Have you read my stories? Whocate’s Children, the New Coven, are EXTREMELY secretive by nature and necessity. Human’s extreme fears about death and what is across the Great Divide that bridges our world from Whocate’s has led the uninitiated into fits of madness, fear and hysteria, oftentimes putting Her Children in mortal peril. I understand why my new family needs to protect their own. My own husband, while always patient, loving, long-suffering and understanding, is VERY nervous and upset that I am not a Christian mostly because of his perception of where I am going when I die.
There are also those that are not mature enough to handle the power of witchcraft, the heavy responsibility it carries. It was emphasized to me in a way that was UNMISTAKABLE how important it is to keep their (now OUR) secrets and I greatly honor that trust.
So, before I slip up and say something I shouldn’t, I will close here with the simple statement that I have found my religious family and a beautiful people they are. I have come home.
I am still learning the songs of the tradition and shot some video. Because there are those who do not want their faces online in connection with a pagan tradition, I stripped the audio from the video and have the songs archived here if you would like to learn them. They are commonly known songs and I am not breaking any rules or vows by sharing them.
)O( Luna Whoticore
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