We slept solidly throughout the night, and when we woke, it was to the sound of people preparing to leave the squat. “Did you remember the…” and “What about the…” along with the clanking of pots and pans. We tore down the tent and arranged all our stuff into our backpacks. The practice of unpacking and repacking our backpacks during our travels paid off. We could manage this with speed and accuracy.
Peter and Karen were busy tacking their large van for the journey. Cabinets are secured so they cannot open; drawers cannot slide. Cups, spices, bottles, and any other items must be attached. Nothing can be allowed to move; everything has its unique place. Soon, we were hoisting our packs into the van and stored on their large bed.
When I say “large van,” I suppose the description would be more precise if you understand that the preferred alternative traveler’s van in Europe is the Mercedes 508. This van is a six-meter long (almost 20 feet), five-ton panel truck that Peter had converted into a traveling home. I think the closest American equivalent would be a UPS delivery truck. Spacious home with all the necessary amenities. Theirs even had a wood-burning stove! It was very comfortable.
Finding the Rainbow Gathering
Peter spread a map out on an outside table and, together with some other drivers of vans, plotted a course to the Gathering. They had a basic idea of where it was but would be looking for “signs” along the way. Some people stayed behind to guide other travelers while the rest of us climbed into the various vehicles and continued the journey to the Rainbow Gathering. Peter and I sat up in the front while Karen, Donna, and “baby Jade” sat in the back on the bed. There were some other people that came along with us in the middle of the van.
As we drove along, Peter and I discussed our various Rainbow adventures. He was particularly interested in my American stories of the enormous gatherings Stateside. European gatherings sounded more intimate and different than my previous expectations. I was looking forward to experiencing it for myself.
The road led us through the Slovenian countryside, which became more wooded. “Look, there’s a homemade sign with a rainbow heart and an arrow pointing; this must be the way!” Peter turned the van left past the sign onto a side road. We drove deeper into the forested countryside, eventually passing other signs that guided our way.
Parking and Hiking
We pulled into a clearing and parked next to several other vehicles. A few people drinking chai around a small fire looked up at us as we piled out of the van. “Welcome home,” came a chorus from the chai drinkers in unison.
“Thank you! How far is the hike into the Gathering?” One of the new arrivals asked.
“Just a couple of kilometers that way,” one chai drinker pointed up an almost indiscernible trail into the forest.
We gathered up our packs and guitar. Peter, Karen, and Jade gathered a few things, and we all started hiking up the path. Sometimes it was difficult to tell precisely where the course was, but occasionally a piece of cloth on a tree or a little cardboard arrow showed us the way. We could see the blue sky of a clearing ahead. We had arrived!
People, singularly and in scattered groups, dotted the hillsides. Teepees and tents clustered around, creating campsites. A large circle of people was beginning to form in the center. “We are arriving at lunchtime; let’s eat!” Someone said.
A Rainbow brother bounced toward us, exclaiming, “Welcome home! Where are you all from? Over here is “kid village,” and down the hill over there are the “shitters.” Kitchen, dishwashing, and showers are over there,” he said pointing at a valley on the edge of the clearing.
We told him about our various countries of origin, and we were looking for the Israeli encampment since Peter and Karen had previously been at the Israel gathering the year before and had made lots of friends. We were warmly welcomed at the Israeli camp with big hugs and smiles. We dropped our bags, and all went to the food circle.
The food circle was where everyone gathered to eat as a “family.” One Kitchen cooked up enough food to feed the entire encampment. There must have been 1000-plus people in the circle, and more were on the way. You bring your bowl, spoon, cup, etc., for which you are responsible. The Kitchen is run, as everything at the Rainbow Gathering, by volunteers. There is no money involved other than donations. “Grab your guitar and follow me,” Peter said. We went around the circle, slowly playing a little song I learned on the spot as someone passed the “magic hat” for donations.
“Magic hat, magic hat.
Imagine that! It’s the magic hat!
It helps provide the food we eat,
So give to the magic hat!”
Back at the camp
After eating, Peter, myself, and some of our new friends returned to the van to retrieve their teepee and carry it back to the Israeli camp. While they set up the teepee, Donna and I found a flat spot and set up our tent nearby. Located on a hill at the edge of the forest, the lovely view overlooking the Gathering was magnificent. Peter and I went into the forest to search for “down wood,” wood that had already fallen from the trees naturally for the camping fires. Next was to ensure enough toilet facilities for the growing encampment. While there is no requirement to do anything at the Gathering, one of the mottos of the Rainbow family is, “if you see a need, fill it. “So, we found some shovels and extended the trenches.
How it works
The Rainbow Gathering’s non-organizational structure is that anybody who wants to get involved in making decisions can sit in on the discussions. All major decisions concerning the community are by consensus. We learned that every year after a group consensus determines which country the Gathering should occur, a small group of scouts finds the location and begins to make deals with local farmers to help grow the food to feed the mass of people that would come. Then, about a month before the actual Gathering, the “seed camp” arrives to begin the final organizing of the facilities, the central circle, the Kitchen, showers, toiletries, etc.
An exciting aspect of the Gathering is sharing and teaching any skills you have to anyone who cares to learn. There are “workshops” on dancing, healing, meditation, playing different instruments, yoga, and reiki, among other skills. I taught some guitar and learned a bit, too. Donna and I both attended reiki workshops and got our first-degree reiki certification. There is always something to get involved in at the Gathering.
After the official Gathering, which lasts about a month, there is a regression camp that cleans every last piece of evidence that anyone has ever been there. They reseed the area with native plants, and after the first rainfall, it is impossible to tell if this Gathering ever even happened.
Another benefit is that the local communities often make more money during the Gathering than they would make in three to five years.
On one of our first days at the Gathering, the local Slovenian police showed up, insisting a group of attendees must shut down the Gathering. Elder rainbow was quickly on the scene. Because together, the community represented a certain number of different countries, The Elders successfully defended the fact that the Gathering fell under international law and would require UN International Peacekeepers to enforce an evacuation. The stunned police called their supervisors, who checked it out and informed the officers to leave us alone. They left saying, “You can stay, but please don’t make any trouble!”