I’m helping out with a girl’s camp this week. Monday morning a dozen attendees aged 9 to 13 participated in the opening ceremony. The five women organizers created a truly magical experience for these near- and newly-pubescent young women.
On the open land behind one of the organizers home, we created a circle with “stations” to the four directions: East, South, West, North. Each of the directions had a focus: Angels, Fairies, Mermaids, Animals, with the center being held by the Goddess. This gave each of us organizers a responsibility for the opening ritual. I held the role of Fairy.
I was a bit concerned about connecting with the pixie energy within myself, not to mention holding this space for the girls. Then I remembered a connection from many years back with the blue fairies who live on the hill behind my home. To reconnect, I requested their playful presence during my morning meditation. And later, as I dressed in a flowing turquoise silk outfit, I felt their joyful encouragement.
At 8:30 in the morning, before the sun reached baking status, the adults gathered to create the sacred space. We had thirty minutes to set blankets, divination decks, and intentions. In-and-of-itself this time was delightful and supportive. I love gathering with women and allowing the energies of the moment to define the details.
A rope hanging down across the path, after being decorated with giant butterflies, became the doorway to another world. Now a gateway, energy fields and outer-world concerns were cleared as one-by-one the girls were smudged with smoke from burning sage. Next myself and another wise woman took turns escorting the girls down the golden path of dried grass before intentionally stepping into the circle. Walking in a clockwise direction past colorful sheets, blankets, and sleeping bags we circled the perimeter, until all twelve girls were seated.
We called the directions, inviting the energies of various traditions to join in our ritual, and some of the girls shared a helpful mnemonic—Never East Slimy Worms—with the participants who were directionally challenged.
An opening story, shared by our fabulous Goddess who held the center of the circle, told of the beginning of time, the beginning of stories themselves. Weaving a blend of brother and sister, father and mother, honoring and sharing, the central character, the Sacred Stone, spoke of the four elements: Air, Fire, Earth, Water and how these are vital components of life itself.
The basis for the remainder of the morning—a mandala art project—came next. The girls would work their way around the circle, stopping at each station to draw a divination card. Their selection would represent the knowledge or insight from the angel, fairy, mermaid, or animal they chose. After passing through the outer stations, the girls were invited to the center, where they chose a Goddess card, a culminating glimpse into what their core self wished to impart.
Before the individual processes began, to demonstrate how I choose cards from a deck, I passed my hand slowly over the downward facing row of Fairy cards. Explaining that I felt for a slight pull, or listened for my inner voice to say stop, I came to my selection. Turning it over I was pleased to see I’d received card #7—one of my favorite numbers—with an image of the Will o’ the Wisp fairy. While familiar with the term, I didn’t know anything about its meaning or origin.
Later, as a group of three girls sat waiting for their turn in the next direction, discussing the cards they had chosen, I straightened or mixed up, the “pool.” That’s when the Will o’ the Wisp literally jumped out and flipped over, so I took heed it had a message for me. Here’s what I found on D. L. Ashliman’s site dedicated to this particular form of fairy:
Will-o’-the-Wisp is the most common English designation for a family of fairy-beings characterized by their fiery appearance and their tendency to lead nighttime wayfarers astray. The term wisp refers to a twist of straw, used as a torch.
Digging a little deeper into specific countries and their beliefs, I found the Germany/Poland description particularly fascinating:
The will-o’-the-wisp is a mischievous gnome who leads people astray at nighttime or in the fog, causing them to lose their way and end up in a swamp. He does this foremost with inquisitive people who purposely follow him. He helps some people who have lost their way by leading them home, if they speak to him kindly and offer him a generous payment.
It’s the last line that resonates with me. I like the idea of having help from someone, or offering help to someone that speaks kindly. And a generous payment—though in my mind that exchange can take many forms—is also welcome.
I also found it interesting that wisp refers to the fairy’s torch. I’d never associated fairies with fire before, though as we laid out the four directions for our girls camp ritual, we associated South with fire and Summer, something I clearly associate with heat as our days hover closer and closer to three-digit temperatures.
This afternoon I will return to the girl’s day camp in the role of teacher. We’ll be making braided bracelets. And talking about weaving prayers and intentions into our creations as we follow the rhythmic pattern: up and down, round and round. It seems a fitting way to spend this last day of spring. Connecting with youth and inspiration… and perhaps a bit of that fairy self will visit again.