In 1996, in the company of a dear friend and sometime girlfriend (we had a boyfriend in common, but that’s another story), I went to what was then simply called Four Quarters Farm, a campground administered by the Church of Four Quarters, an interfaith, largely Pagan church.
What follows is my account on this day, this moment, and any errors are my own, and no other’s responsibility.
The Stone Circle
It was there that I saw the beginnings of a Stone Circle—four or five Stones standing upright with other spaces marked out around a 200-foot-long oval oak grove. By 2008, the last time I attended ceremony there, there would be many more multi-ton Stones. They would run from the East Gate, around the long south side of the ellipse, all the way to the West Gate where the largest Stone stood, many thousands of pounds.
But in 1996, there were few, and they were a challenge to the community by its founder and Landskeeper to commit to what would likely be a 20-year project, at least.
Over the years, the Stones would be raised with rollers, sledges, and ropes, winches and pulleys. Hundreds of people pulling on the ropes, and no heavy machinery. There would be Stone pulls up steep hills. There would be Stone pulls ¾ of a mile in dark and silence, with only torches to communicate what to do. There would be “Seed Stone” pulls on Beltaine—smaller Stones pulled by the many children of the community so they could learn about rollers, ropes, and pry bars.
The Stone Circle caught my imagination immediately. I could see it finished, I could see the majestic rocks-turned-Standing-Stones all around me from the very first time I stood in that space.
The Sacred Center of My World
And then there was the North Altar. The structure that would become the omphalos, the sacred center of my world.
The altar is simple—two stones like the Standing Stones, but lower, topped by an uneven tabletop stone something five feet long and three feet wide. Over the twelve years of my association with Four Quarters, I would make ceremony after ceremony—dozens—at that altar.
The North Altar made me into a priestess, just as my comrades and teachers did. I watched others create ritual there for months before I dared to participate.
I don’t remember when I led my first ceremony at the North Altar, but I remember when I first did something, anything for a ritual.
I was asked to call a Quarter. Judy teased me: “It’s about time you did something useful.” It was fall and the oak leaves over the grove of the Circle crunched beneath our feet.
The Quarters are the Cardinal Directions and the Elements they represent. In many kinds of Pagan ceremony, especially ones derived from Wicca, the Quarters are a core part of the ritual. From East, clockwise stopping at each of the other Directions, ritualists read or recite invocations.
I just remember that it was magic, and I wanted more. More ritual. More creativity. More of God/dess.
Over the first couple years I was there, attending full and new moon services and festivals over the summer, I didn’t write a ceremony of my own. But I watched. I watched, fascinated and hungry.
How I Came to Write Ceremony
In 1999, I would join a group of others to learn about Wicca. In 2006, that group would form Stone Circle Wicca, but that was a long way off.
Eventually I would write ceremonies.
I wrote one featuring the Furies, the wild goddesses who called the community to account.
I wrote one for Yemaya, the Orisha (for lack of better explanation, a goddess out of the Yoruba traditions) of the Ocean.
I wrote small, intimate ceremonies for new moons and giant ceremonies that hundreds attended.
I wrote ceremonies that happened on clear nights when Luna lit the midnight blue sky. And I wrote daytime ceremonies, like one I did for Beltaine, that happened in the pouring, pounding rain.
I sang and sang and sang. I invoked. I blessed. I worked my butt off with dozens of other people I loved. Worked to raise Stones. Worked to camp and cook, to set up and take down our nylon houses. And worked in the joy of constructing, organizing, and performing (the wrong word, but I trust you to forgive me here, just this once) ceremony.
I became a leader. I was a liaison to the Board of Directors at one point. But most important, I became a priestess.
Real Life of That Time
For the twelve years I was there, there were all kinds of ups and downs.
Camping in the sun and packing up in thunderstorms. Fighting with people I loved. Taking lovers and leaving them. Struggling with leadership. Kissing the woman (I would later marry her) for the first time. Showering naked under the sky, laughing and singing. Relieving the summer heat by swimming in the creek, also mother-naked.
The reasons for my leaving in 2008 boil down to frustration, leadership, and long-standing differences about how we should treat one another. But I have no hard feelings now, eight years later.
Afterward I would simply long for the North Altar…