Chapter 9 The Call of the Wild

 Preparing to go to your first pagan gathering or the Call of the Wild 

At some point in your pagan/ Wiccan life you will probably end up at a pagan gathering that involves camping of some sort. We are a nature religion, remember? If you have never spent time in either Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or Campfire you had better learn quickly the do’s and don’t’s of outdoor life. I suggest you talk a more experienced friend into going with you and checking your equipment before you go into the Great Outdoors. 

When you sign up for these events they send you lists of what you should bring, READ THEM! They will contain items that you may not use but under hardship conditions will make your life a whole lot more pleasant.  

Make your own list of the things you just can’t do without. I suggest you make a clothing list starting with what you need in the morning or what you like to wear from the inside out. Even if you think it is clothing optional bring some. It could be cold, rainy, full of bugs or you could get parts that have never seen the sun a very painful neon red. 

Bring the essentials. Sunscreen, trust me if you are of white Anglo-Saxon or of Celtic heritage you will need it. If you are at a high altitude everyone burns. It is no fun having to go to the first aid tent because you start looking like someone tried to use you in a sacrificial fire ritual. People object to the screams when you try to lie down in your sleeping bag at night. It is possible to get a third degree burn from the sun. Miss Kat knows because she has achieved this rather difficult feat and not being able to wear anything on your legs for many weeks is not fun. Neither is peeling many, many, many times. If you peel that many times people will wonder if you are a reptile of some sort. It is just ugly and forever after you will have a reminder of your stupidity. There are better ways to remember fun times. 

Bottled water, you will get dehydrated and need to drink lots of water. Think of it as doing your part for the element of water. A note on bottled water. Please pay attention to where it comes from. Some natural springs are now endangered because they have had so much drawn out of them.  

Tarp and tent, if this event doesn’t have cabins. Practice putting it up before you go to the event particularly if you have borrowed it from someone. If you buy a tent mark all the connecting parts with an indelible marker or nail polish. This will make it easier to put it up if you lose the instructions. Practice more than once. Miss Kat has had to rescue some very tired frustrated people at 11:00pm at night and put their tent up for them. Save yourself the embarrassment. Practice it even if it is a dome tent and looks simple. Nothing is simple in the dark. Stake your tent. Winds can make a dome tent roll like a tumbleweed so unless you plan on being part of the entertainment for the weekend use the stakes it came with. And bring a hammer. Trying to use various objects to whack a tent stake into the ground is not very effective and often hazardous. 

Toilet paper. Always bring an extra roll or two. One never knows when a cook’s blunder will hit. Do not use it to decorate a neighbors campsite. 

A flashlight, in the woods it is dark. It is darker than anything you can remember. It can seem darker than the inside of a bucket. Walking into trees and other people’s tents is generally not recommended. There are no currant bushes that will allow you to plug it in so bring extra batteries too. If you want to look really experienced bring a head lamp. Hands free light can save you a chipped tooth from holding in your mouth while attempting some normally easy task. Chemical light sticks are fun and can make a campsite look like a fairy land. Coleman lanterns are an excellent source of light but you will attract insect sacrifices from yards around you. 

Speaking things powered by electricity, leave all blow dryers, curling irons and shavers, etc. at home. You can survive the weekend without them. Everyone else is in the same boat. Don’t worry about it. 

If one is going camping where there is high fire danger please be careful. A lot of the U.S. is learning what Californians have known all long; how to conserve water and not start brush fires. Leave the candles, incense and matches home. If you must bring candles for a ritual use the ones that are in glass such as people use in shrines. If they tip over they usually but not always put themselves out. Never leave a candle unattended and never ever build a fire under a tree. But if the organizers say no candles don’t bring them. The fines for setting a forest fire are not nice and you wouldn’t want to hurt Mom that way. Would you? If you smoke find out where the designated smoking area is or better yet, quit before you have to breathe some nice smogless air.  

Sleeping bag and pillow, I’m sorry but a blanket roll will just not cut it if the temperature drops in the night. Places like deserts and mountains can have extremes in temperatures. When the sun goes down it can get really cold. And don’t bring your little sister’s Barbie cloth bag. Those are for slumber parties. They will not keep you warm. Helpful hint from Hera: Don’t wear the same socks to bed that you wore all day. They will have lost the air barrier that keeps you warm from sweating in them all day. Keep a nice clean pair to sleep in. You also might want to sleep in a hat. 

Food, if there aren’t meals provided. Make sure you have a difficult to open box, one with a lock or a way of cacheing it in a tree if there are critters that might decide your food is attractive. Racoons have an opposable thumb and can open anything they set their little minds to including things like zippers. It is very disconcerting to wake up to snuffling noises near your head and realize your tentmate did not zip the tent. It is really disturbing when you discover your new tentmate is a skunk rummaging in the box of Hershey bars you intended to use for S’mores the next night. It’s going to be a long wait before he leaves and you can’t move. 

Cooking gear, if you are going to need to cook your own food. Make your meals interesting. One does not have to be restricted just because you are outdoors. You might want to practice in the backyard before you go. Some gatherings have everyone cook in a central area because of fire danger. Please respect their wishes. 

Bug repellant, there are nasty diseases out there that mosquitos and ticks carry. Dress accordingly and wear the bug juice. However, be careful of so called “Natural” bug repellant. They almost always have the herb pennyroyal in them. If you are a man this is not a problem but if you are a non-menoposal woman you shouldn’t use them. Pennyroyal is an abortifacient. This means if you are pregnant you may abort. It means if you aren’t your period may start. There was a well known Women’s festival that handed out a bug repellant with pennyroyal in it many years ago and they ended up with many, many, many women in the woods away from civilization (grocery stores) and no supplies. Many, many, many unhappy women in the woods. This is not a good thing.  

And speaking of feminine supplies, bring some even if you think you won’t need them. High altitude and full moons do strange things to the body. So does being around lots of other women. Your body may reset itself if you are around an alpha female. Men bring condoms if you are looking for a partner. Do I really need to say that these days? 

Personal care items, Do I need to explain the whole soap and water thing? Go easy on perfumes. They can attract creatures like bees and unless you are a devotee of Melissa don’t bother. 

If you are allergic to bees don’t bring a lot of yellow and orange clothes. It attracts them. They will think you are a lovely flower and when they can’t pollinate you they may get upset. Green and brown and other dark colours attract mosquitos.  

A first aid kit with your medications in it, make sure there is Benedryl, calamine lotion or cortisone cream in it. You will also need a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Why? Because even if you are healthy as a horse you can have accidents. Willow bark tea tastes nasty and aspirin is quicker. Bandaids, ace bandages, a chemical heat or ice pack, tweezers and alcohol should all be included. By the way, feminine napkins make great pressure bandages. They are made to be absorbent, remember? Guys, get over it even some EMT’s carry them for bandages in a pinch. 

 Miss Kat found out about the Benedryl the hard way. She being a heroic but stupid sort went to rescue her coven sister from some raccoons she was scared of one night. Unfortunately for Miss Kat these cute baby raccoons were involved in digging up a wasp nest in the roots of a large redwood. Somewhere around 35 stings later she got away. It meant I had to find the first aid cabin late at night and We had just arrived a few hours before. It took three kinds of Benedryl to get the swelling down. This was not a fun time in the woods. Moral of the story? Let your coven sister get stung instead, I’m just kidding. But slightly sunburned red heads covered in wasp welts just are not attractive. In short, it was a very painful growth experience. 

 A folding chair, this becomes a more important item the older you get. The sit-upon you made in Brownies just isn’t enough after you’re 35 years old. Ripping off your clothes because you sat on a red ant hill isn’t fun either but it could make an interesting interpretive dance moment. 

A folding table and items to set up an altar in your campsite. Bring a notebook or your book of shadows to take notes, record guided meditations and dreams or just to jot down all the impressions of the event. You can bring art supplies. It never hurts to have a sacred art session. Bubbles? Think of fun things to brings that can be used for magical purposes. Toys can be loads of fun and a super soaker water cannon on a hot day can be most welcome.  

Rain gear, even in Sunny Southern California it can rain in summer especially in late summer in the mountains. Its better than trying to scrounge up a trash bag to make a poncho out of. This is not a fashion forward look. You might also want to bring shade gear. In the southwest this is more necessary than the raingear sometimes. 

Bring festive attire. This is a pagan fest after all. I’d go easy on things like chain mail bras and things but to each her own. Chain mail bras make for some very interested sun burn patterns.  

Now have fun getting this all in the car.


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