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The turning of circles

Palden with old friend Barry Hoon. Together we created isleofavalon.co.uk in the 1990s

Oak Dragon called me. I returned. Something came full circle.

It all goes back to 1986-87 when I started the Oak Dragon Camps. For three years previously, with a lot of help from friends I had run the prototype Glastonbury Camps on a spontaneous, improvised basis, and this was the next step. Apart from a solar eclipse camp in 1999 in Cornwall, I hadn’t been back since 1993. I had been ousted by ‘we, the people’ (well, some of them), and went my way, soon to work for the Council of Nine and then to start a new generation of camps, the Hundredth Monkey Project, in 1995-97, inspired by the Nine and drawing on experiences gained earlier.

Ruby is on the right

Ruby and Penny took me to the camp and, in the process, found a new family. Ruby, 12, grew a year in one week. Penny, one of those souls who holds the world up, found new context for it in a big-family setting. Everyone loved them. As for me, staggering around on sticks, periodically drifting off into dozy psychic reveries while flopped in my seat, I was so welcomed and cared for that I was moved to tears by the poignancy of it all and the love of a tribe I had set in motion, lost and suddenly regained. “If you hadn’t started this, all of us wouldn’t have met, and some wouldn’t even have been born“. Believe me, it was really moving to hear that.

Fiftyish of us were camping in a big circle divided into four smaller circles. Some were regulars who had met up for years, some hadn’t been for years and some were new, finding themselves melting into a new family they hadn’t anticipated joining.

Each day started with an optional meditation and the Dance of Life (a native American greeting of the day). Then came a daily camp meeting in a big, circular marquee, then group activities or a ‘council’, a talking-stick sharing session.

Ronald Hutton with a group at the yew tree

In the afternoon and evening, group activities ranged from talks, artwork, Breton dancing and making things, to visits to a nearby ancient hill camp, Dundon Beacon, or the ancient yew tree at Dundon church. One day we had a sweat lodge, a day-long process that Ruby and I joined. Some days we cooked the evening meal over campfires in our tent circles and sometimes we did it communally. Nowadays, Oak Dragon has all its developed ways and custom kit – marquee, domes, showers, tools and bits – but, in the earliest days it had been a matter of makeshift improvisation and doing our level best.

This is not just a nice bunch of people doing enjoyable things. In originating the camps I sought to create a space in which people could experience living in an accelerated growth zone, a different world without walls and with very different ways. Crucial here is life-education and what community living does to us as individuals, but the main issue is that an enspirited magic circle like this helps people go through breakthroughs, revelations, resolutions and great leaps forward. Then they spend the rest of the year integrating it, and they return for more whenever it’s right.

Throughout the camps, one of the most rewarding things has been watching young people grow in leaps and bounds, and seeing whole families release their power issues, conflicts and tensions. Everyone comes out glowing, whoever they are. There is pain, dilemma, choice and wobbliness too yet, when a camp is well set up, focalised and run, a supportive and safe atmosphere makes it all very different from the world out there.

Penny, actually sitting down

I myself was a case in point. Back home, I rely on one helper, Penny, who comes once a week and is also reliably on call, plus a number of people who assist in disparate and occasional ways, and it is something of a burden on them. With my partner, our relationship had gone from one of equals to one of dependency, and this had weighed heavily on her. Meanwhile, at the camp, anyone would roll up with offers of tea or carrying my seat and I was both cared for – amply hugged, heard, supplied and assisted – and much appreciated for what I could, within my scope, contribute.

Becky

When Becky, the camp focaliser, invited me, I wondered how long I would last, physically. At the camp my body ached, camping was an effort and my psyche was rather overloaded after 2-3 years of relative isolation. But my spirits were lifted up, they kept me going and, on balance, I had a great time. It’s all a matter of attitude, really.

And… what goes around comes around. Once upon a time an organiser, this time I was on the receiving end. I was relieved of a pattern of mine: I couldn’t work my ass off. I used to be one who felt unconsciously that he had to pay off karmic debts to family, people, society and ‘God’ by contributing more than was due. I tried too hard. This is a common ‘server soul’ syndrome, though it does cause amazing things to come about.

I watched Penny acting out her own version of it, a few times dropping a hint to her that she could also sit down and hang out for a while, but she’s a compulsive helper and lifesaver, and this is her path. Frankly, if there were more people like her, the world would be so much better. Humorously I introduced her as my bodyguard – well, she is a former nightclub bouncer. She’d be great in a war zone. She calls me ‘boss’, with a cheekily ironic look that keeps me safely in my proper place.

In a week from now I’ll be back in Cornwall doing blood tests and scans. When I was tunnelling around in Hades in February-March, my readings got worse. In spring I stabilised. I suspect that, now, the readings might improve. At the camp I found I could keep going longer, sit cross-legged for a whole three minutes, my posture and digestion improved and the biggest medicine of all, spirit, shot up. I even started forgetting my sticks, which worked for about ten paces before rather painfully I remembered I couldn’t hold myself up any longer.

It feels like I stand at a new beginning, perhaps a new mission. A mission-driven person, this is my path, even in this last chapter of life. It gives me something to live for and I feel that, if I can bring about what is asked for, I’ll be kept alive to do it. If not, something else will happen.

I reckon I have between one and seven years to live – longer than I reckoned during last winter. But this brings up various questions. It makes life more complex, surrounded as I am with people living more normal lives and going at a pace I cannot keep up with. Then there’s the matter of making plans and how I shall live during whatever time I have left. I’ve been lonely and under-supported and I need that to change. Losing my partner six months ago impacted all areas of my life and, in a variety of situations, I still find myself wishing she were here, not only out of need but also from a wish to share and to give – we had grown into each other so much.

Today I planned to go clothes shopping but, frankly, I’m unsure I can do it alone – I need a second brain, an extra pair of hands and someone to scoop me up when I droop. But I’ll try anyway. Many of my life-needs are quite specific and it doesn’t work for just anyone, however well-meaning, to help me. That’s tricky – it has taken Penny time to figure out my nature and quirks, and really I need an extra person to complement her and cover those times her hands are already full. So there are issues I must contemplate when I return home. Something needs to change. Or I need to change. Or both.

Pete and Dot, my camp neighbours – they were so kind

Coming close to death made me acutely aware of what I haven’t done – you’ll find this happens when death approaches you. My book Shining Land, about ancient civilisation in Cornwall is now finished and coming out before long, I hope. I think it’s my last book.

This cancer blog, and my podcasts and events, all grew out of squaring with cancer. But I’m unfinished on a few fronts: family (I miss them), love (a big gap that is not healed by admonishments to love myself), world-work projects, and finding someone to step into my shoes with the Tuareg and the Palestinians. I’d like to close these circles before I’m done, if life permits. In the last chapter, some things we must accept as final and some can still be progressed.

While this cancer blog is not as medically oriented as many others are, it’s about the side-issues that have arisen for me as a cancer patient. Life has been hard overall, and one reason I appear to do cancer relatively easily is that it follows in a continuum, albeit in a new format. If you’ve done jail, exile, unpopularity, poverty, loss and bullets, cancer is just one step further. I’m a flawed human like anyone, with lots yet to learn, but I do hope that, by exposing my struggles and joys in this blog, you might gain a few glimmers of light.

Soon I turn 72 but cancer has thrust me into my eighties, with what seems like 120 years’ worth of experience trailing behind. This happens when you live intensely, wading around in a variety of high-risk zones and deep altered states where time shifts into another dimension. Cancer has pushed me into a new phase: I’ve stepped into a new archetype and even the patterns on the palms of my hands have changed. Even so, one thing I do need to learn is how to write shorter blogs, and I never seem to manage.

As for the ‘magic circles’, the first one in Glastonbury went really well. Thanks to Bruce Garrard for organising it and to the remarkable people who turned up, and to Avalon, my old home, for wrapping us in its energy-field. The next is in Avebury, this Saturday 13th August, and another follows in South Devon on Saturday 24th September (a link is below). It lights me up to do these – at last Tuesday’s circle I started out frail, coming alive and on-the-pulse as I warmed up. I think I’ll tighten up the next one – time went too quickly and I need to present everything more succinctly.

John and Chrissie Ferngrove. Chrissie was one of the founding Oak Dragon team, back in 1986.

This is an experiment and a new way of working, for me, an old hat entering a new chapter. I’m fishing for new avenues, people and a way forward, while finding out whether I have it in me to follow through. So far, so good.

Sometimes ‘guidance’ comes from within but, for me, it reveals itself when I act on possibilities and prod the future – this is how the alchemy works. Besides, when I get inner guidance, it’s often cryptic, pointing at principles and possibilities that then have to be applied in real life. It starts with preparing the ground, planting seeds and seeing whether and how they germinate.

An old friend, Dechen

After Avebury, I’m back to Cornwall for a recharge, cancer drugs and blood tests before the next wave of activity in September. One step at a time.

Right now I’m staying for a few days with Lily, a new soul-sister, having a quiet time in her studio, writing and recuperating under the calming gaze of Tibetan thankas, sorting myself out before the next bit at Avebury.

May you be blessed. You bless me by reading this. There’s more to come, inshallah.

With love, Paldywan Kenobi.

Magic Circles: www.palden.co.uk/magic-circles.html
Podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html
Forthcoming book: www.palden.co.uk/shiningland/

The sweat lodge fire, busy cooking hot rocks

Off to Pow Sows

The Land of the Sowsnek

Scenes from the OakDragon Camp in Wales in 1987

Pow Sows is the Cornish name for England, where the Sowsnek live.

When you have cancer, everything becomes a much bigger challenge. It could be easy to lapse into staying inside a comfort zone to keep difficulties down, but I don’t feel like that. It’s time for a change.

So on Friday I sally forth upcountry into the great wide and wonderful, feeling a bit like the little boy I was when I made my first trip to London, around age eight – my Mum put me on the train hauled by an impressive steam loco and I was met by my aunt at Paddington. But this time, this seventysomething little boy is under the Amazonic protection of Penny and Ruby and we’re off on an adventure to meet a dragon and work a circle or two. Erk, fasten your safety belts.

We’re going to an OakDragon camp. I’ve been invited back, and this is rather an honour. I was OakDragon’s originator. It’s a long story. It started in 1983, when a friend asked me to help organise a gathering in Glastonbury for earth mysteries enthusiasts. We did one at Samhain 1983 in the Assembly Rooms, seventyish people came and it was dynamite. In 1984 I did two gatherings in May, on earth mysteries and astrology. Again, dynamite. A weekend wasn’t long enough. How could we cheaply bring people together for a week? Ah, a camp. Hm, that’s much more to sort out. I was reluctant. But I knew it had to happen, and that year too. As an astrologer I pulled on my contacts, and Glastonbury friends appeared to help run it and, in late August 1984 the first Living Astrology Camp took place. A hundred people came. The Glastonbury Camps were born.

In 1985 we did three memorable camps, in earth mysteries, astrology and music and dance, and three or four more in 1986. One, an earth mysteries camp that turned into a Chernobyl camp, was a life-changer for everyone. But the volunteer crews were burning out and much was changing. The idea for a new start, the OakDragon Camps, dawned. The camps formula had worked and started proliferating – others started camps organisations in the following years too.

The OakDragon Camps’ first season was in 1987, running seven week-long camps in four locations. It was big, intense, amazing, memorable and tumultuous. But things also started going awry. There was a rebellion out of which, the following year, were born the Rainbow Circle camps – it weakened us but we kept on going. There were internal issues too, and by the end of 1988 I was leaving, rather burned out, undermined and unpopular.

I left them to it and OakDragon carried on. Within three years I was working for the Council of Nine and, in 1995, I started the Hundredth Monkey Camps. Here I managed to demonstrate more clearly what I had been seeking to bring about – the Nine had clarified my understanding of it all. Looking back, in the 1980s so many new ideas had been taking shape, we improvised as we went along, the challenges were big, and complex dynamics tugged in different directions. Yet it was a flowering, an awakening, an eruption of possibilities, a collective peak experience, and it was great to be part of it – and I think everyone involved would agree.

In late life, I’m moved to do more circle-working, with a little help from my friends, to share new ways of doing this work that have dawned on me during my cancer process. It’s not cool to build up expectations, but what’s available is quantum group transformation, if and when it works right. It’s the principle of ‘more than the sum of its parts’: when a group of individuals synergises into one being, something can happen beyond anything anyone imagined.

I believe that, later this century, this is how things will change. It’s all to do with the hearts and minds of humanity. It’s about mass focus of consciousness. When multiple minds give attention to one objective with a certain intensity for a certain amount of time, things can change, particularly in terms of human values, viewpoints and mindsets. It is these that determine so much else. Unless at least a majority of humanity joins together to pull in roughly the same direction, I don’t think we’ll get to where we need to go, this century. Humanity is in disarray, and this is no way to run a planetary home. We need to go through a kind of mass synchronisation of basic human intent, a re-resonance of human dissonance. This isn’t as airyfairy as it sounds: we have seen something like this happen in Ukraine this year, with the mobilisation of a nation.

How such a situation can be engineered globally is anyone’s guess, but a fortuitous combination of pressures could do it, if felt worldwide pretty simultaneously and if they evoke a similar response from everyone. Today’s major crises are quite unexpected, deeply stirring and breaking new ground, so this is in the hands of the Great Unknown. But there is something in the nature of these crises that is pushing us ultimately in a good direction. They are accelerating things. I’d even suggest there’s a guiding hand behind it, forcing us to face a plethora of important issues, for our own good. I’m not referring to Big Brother but to the group soul of humanity, or the heart of Gaia (or however you prefer to see it). A crunch-point could come where multiple simultaneous crises force us over a hump of social mobilisation and a collective melding of intent. That’s when the magic starts.

What is needed is an intense global situation activating sufficient shared feeling, fear, awe or goodwill, or all of them, so that billions of people find themselves spontaneously focusing on one basic thought – probably to do with survival or breakthrough. It needs to be sufficient to create a reality-wave that tilts the scales, making life look and feel quite fundamentally different, shifting people’s values and core aims over a critical hump. If we are to succeed in solving our problem here on Earth, some variant of this is what is likely to be needed.

Small groups can’t do it on their own, but they can lay tracks, train people, gather experience, evolve networks and embed and propagate the principles involved. It becomes a body of knowhow available to others to adopt when the need arises. It is a quality, not just a numbers issue, and a matter of time. For global-scale miracles to take place, a combination of factors must be dead right.

This has been a preoccupation for me since the LSE ‘troubles’. Fifty years later, I wasn’t expecting to be doing what I’m now setting out to do, but cancer has prised me open and I’ve seen something new. This winter I nearly kicked the bucket but my rebirth instincts eventually fired up and suddenly, to my surprise, by springtime I found myself with an ‘instruction’. It’s a bit like falling into hell and finding a lump of gold there, in the murk. I get these now and then.

It was strange because I had honestly felt I was heading for the final fall. But suddenly Life was saying, ‘No, there’s more’. I work on the basis that, if it is meant to happen and if I can pull it off, I’ll be helped and kept alive for it. Or the right thing will happen, whatever that needs to be. We shall see. But it does fire me up, this. And, as a cancer patient, having a good reason to stay alive is, well, a good reason to stay alive.

Meanwhile, OakDragon still exists decades later – and well done to them for doing that. No doubt it has changed a lot. I haven’t been part of it. I go now to the OakDragon as a guest, though it’s a bit like going home. It’s a healing. Everything comes round in the end, especially if we let it – and this is what’s happening. I’ll be interested to find out how I manage with camping – it’s one of those addictions I have difficulty letting go of, despite bone cancer.

On Tuesday 2nd August, during the camp, it’s the first ‘magic circle’ in Glastonbury and, whatever state I’m in, I’m going. Just as well, really. As a cancer patient I don’t know how I shall be on the day, so I can’t necessarily put on the competent airs of a normal person and get away with it. I’ll have to fall back on my root-resources, and there’s something rather special about that. It puts me on the line. Something in me loves that because it pulls out a second strength, or ‘superpowers’ that normal life doesn’t demand. So it doesn’t worry me, whether I’m weak or strong – the right thing will happen. It does. And, believe me, it’s a wee bit easier than operating in a war zone.

I have no idea when I shall next write a blog or do a podcast. They will come when they do. I’m peripatetic for two weeks, and around 15th August I return to Cornwall for my next shot of cancer immunotherapy, and to take a break before September adventures start. For you who cannot come on August 2nd, we’ll be in session from shortly before 14.00 to about 18.00 UK time so, if you wish, take a few pauses during that time to see if you can get us and pick anything up. Get a sense of the invisible presence that, I hope, will be with us. The next magic circle is in Avebury on Saturday 13th August (info below).

Hey, I really love you – whether I know you or not. I really appreciate your eyeballs and the goodwill you seem to feel, and it really does me good. Thank you so much for that – it makes a big difference to me. Thanks to Bruce, Ivan, Jackie and Jeanne for organising magic circles, and to Penny, Ruby and Lily for holding my hand. There’s an enormous smile on my face.

Muslims give God ninety-nine names, and they leave the hundredth entirely open. That’s pretty nifty. The Nine used to refer to ‘what you call God’ – they had their way of putting things. When Parkinson the talkshow host asked the Dalai Lama whether he believed in God, the Dalai Lama simply said, ‘No’. Spot on, Tenzin. Lao Tzu said, ‘The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao’. So when I say ‘God bless you’, you know what I really mean.

God bless you.

Paldywan Kenobi

The photos are by Tara Dancer, taken in Wales and Cornwall. Ironically, the campsite for the first OakDragon camp, held at Sancreed in Cornwall, is but a mile from where I now live, and I have the same landlord!

Podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html
Magic Circles: www.palden.co.uk/magic-circles.html

Here’s a rather historic amateur video record of the second camp ever, Beltane 1985, at Butleigh, Glastonbury, made by the late Mark Walters:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZaNwHo9wrM