Birth of the Witches’ Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll

Birth of the Witches’ Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll
posted by Austin Lawrence, April 2013

This is a guest post written by Juniper Jeni describing what you can expect at the of The Witches’ Sabbat gathering to take place for the first time at Raven’s Knoll this summer.  Juniper is an Ottawa witch with a wonderful blog called Walking the Hedge.

fes·ti·val
/ˈfestəvəl/
Noun: 1. A day or period of celebration, typically a religious commemoration. 2. An annual celebration or anniversary.

Grey and I are western girls, each coming to the greater Ottawa Pagan
community a few years ago.  We were very impressed with the
organizational power of the local community here.  And the events were
fantastic, fun, informative, full of laughter and friendship!  However
after attending a few festivals, we discovered that while there were
local discussion nights and such, at the actual festivals we often spent
so much time having fun that there wasn’t really as much of a chance to
share and discuss the actual practice of our Craft.  Workshops and
rituals at festivals are great, but not always the best forum for deep
contemplation of the practice of witchcraft when everyone if a little
hung over and shenanigans are going on right next to you.

I lead a workshop on Hedgewitchery at Kaleidoscope Gathering in 2012
that was very well attended and had some really wonderful discussion.
After the workshop, as people were milling about and chatting, and as I
was answering some last minute questions, Auz (one of the stewards of
the land) wandered over and sat beside me.  He casually mentioned that
there was a new ritual space at the Knoll that seemed to be attractive
to trance and spirits workers and such.  Then he said it might be an idea
to have an intensive weekend at the Knoll on Traditional Witchcraft,
Hedgewitchery,  Cunning Work and the like.  I thought to myself “Who would
want to attend such a thing?” and then looked up to see a few young
people standing around us with huge smiles on their faces, nodding in
their heads with enthusiasm.

So, after returning home Grey and I sat down and had a discussion
about how there is a gap, or niche, to be filled for providing space
where people can focus on learning and practising together.  Festivals
and fun are great and all, but maybe it was time to create an event that
was all about the work.  And thus The Witches’ Sabbat at Raven’s Knoll
was born, and intensive weekend of witchcraft, spirit work and the
cunning arts.

in·ten·sive
/inˈtensiv/
Adjective: Concentrated on a single area or subject or into a short time; very 
thorough or vigorous: “intensive research”.

An “intensive weekend” is slightly different from a  festival.  A
festival is a celebration, while there will be celebratory times during
the Sabbat, such as rituals, the majority of the weekend will be about
working and learning.

Here, we focus on ritual, magickal working, spirit work and the
sharing of knowledge.  While there will be some free time to socialize
and relax, it is not the purpose of an intensive weekend to celebrate
late into the night, to dress up in costumes, or to tell tall tales
about dragons.  An intensive is for the serious practice and study of
witchcraft (or whatever the subject matter may be) and to provide a
thoughtful and thorough introduction to witchcraft for newcomers.  The
time is also meant to provide a place where experienced practitioners
can seek what lies beyond “Witchcraft 101.”

This is achieved in part by performing rituals and workings to
facilitate each individual’s personal experience of these practices, be
they newcomers or experienced witches.  This is also facilitated by
discussion, story telling, and teaching each other.

So, what can one expect at an intensive weekend?

You can expect there to be fun, friendship and laughter, don’t mistake
this for a witchy bootcamp of doom.

Rather than having one or two people presenting material to a captive
audience, we are facilitating a collaborative experience.  Everyone will
be encouraged to share, contribute and take part as much as they feel
comfortable.  While the purpose is to be participatory, we do not require
you leave your comfort zone anymore than you feel can.  Also, you are not
expected to be the most learned witch in the world, sharing “oops
moments” and asking questions is very much encouraged.

You can expect the rituals to be more intense than typical public
rituals.  You can participate as much or as little as you feel
comfortable with, but don’t be surprised to find that the energy is
stronger and the rituals go on much longer than you are accustomed to.
There will limited free time during an intensive weekend.  Allowances
for wandering, private meditation and making meals will of course be
scheduled in.  As this is a participatory event, you will be gently
encouraged to attend and take part in all, or most, activities.

Because we have people coming from many different paths and different
levels of experience, we will be encouraging a climate of spirited and
respectful discourse.

You can pack your drum and your pretty dancing-around-the-fire-dress,
but also be sure to pack a notebook and pens.