|Food Circle, Guatemala Gathering 2014|
Rainbow Gatherings and the Rainbow Family has been, and is, a really important part of the traveling life for me and I think many other travelers. It's not so much the gatherings itself - I have myself only attended 3 gatherings since my first one in 2009, but the biggest thing, I think, and why I so many times heard the phrase "Rainbow Gatherings changed my life", is the discovery of the family. Of a home. Anywhere.
|Welcome Center, Ukraine, European Gathering 2009|
The first thing that will meet a traveler approaching the place of a gathering after many days on the road, is most probably a 'stranger', a person from the gathering you have never seen before, but who at the sight of you will burst into a smile, open his arms and in a hug tell you "welcome home!" as if you were a sister sincerely missed. You arrived! Home!
The second will most probably (depending on the size of the gathering) be the welcome center where a pot of hot food or tea will be ready and you will be welcomed and be told the guidelines of a gathering if you never been to one before.
|Roberto, Costa Rica Gathering 2014|
|Misty morning from my campsite at Ukraine Gathering|
The guidelines of a gathering mostly include respect and care for each other and all things. No drugs or alcohol. No violence.
|Kitchen to Beach path, Guatemala|
A general purpose of the gatherings is also to heal the land and leave the spot the same or better than we found it. In Guatemala the gathering was held on a beach full of plastic bottles and old shoes washed to the shore. A lot of the plastic was collected in piles, but what to do with it was a more difficult question.
Burn it and release toxic fumes into the gathering and atmosphere? Leave it in piles, just to be washed back into the sea? Carry it all somewhere else?
In the end many of the single shoes were collected, fixed and paired for many of the travelers (including me) that didn't have shoes for walking on the spiky grass. Then a lot of the bottles were used for art and for making the border of the path (above) from the kitchen to the beach and main fire.
|Main Kitchen, Guatemala|
Cooking in a rainbow gathering is done by anyone who feels like. And food is prepared for everyone. Usually one person takes the lead and other people help and if there are not enough hands, the people in the kitchen will shout "HELP IN THE KITCHEN" and anyone in ear sight with time on their hands will come and help.
|Food Circle, Ukraine|
Food is then brought to the main fire, the 3rd call of "FOOD CIRCLE" is called and people will gather to hold hands in a circle around the food and sing a couple of songs (anyone can start a song) to bless the meal and then bow to the ground to give thanks to mother earth, and eat together.
|Food Circle Guatemala|
The food circle is the heart of the gathering where everybody meets. After the food, announcements are being told by people walking around the circle for everyone to hear. Also the magic hat is going around and people can donate money for food if they have and want. But nobody has to pay. Somehow there is always magically food enough for all.
|A dispersing morning food circle, Costa Rica|
The magic hat is the only time money is out in the gathering, since one of the other rules of the gathering is no buying or selling of any goods. Only trading, and bigger or smaller trade circles are being held during the gathering where people will trade their handmade stuff, herbs, stones, clothes or anything really.
|Ida carrying a palm front to building the gathering space.|
I attended the "Seed Camp" at the Guatemalan Gathering. Seed Camp is the group of people that arrive first and start the gathering. This was a very spontaneous gathering. Normally gatherings are planned months in advance by the local rainbow family with scouts to find the land and so on, but this was just a bunch of travelers who decided to start a rainbow gathering after the festival Cosmic Convergence.
|A tarp, a few sticks and some palm leaves is the humble beginning of the Guatemalan gathering|
We didn't have a lot to start with, so we just build up the gathering of what we could find and just had to buy some big pots for the kitchen. The site was an open beach with no shade and we had to spend a lot of time in the beginning to build shade from the burning sun.
|"Bienvenidos" - the space in Guatemala after a few weeks.|
The site in Guatemala was very close to a small village - normally gatherings are held further away from towns and villages, so we were very close to the local people. We had to think a lot about how not to take over their space and disturb them. Luckily they were very happy to come and visit and they even showed up to almost all the food circles, carrying their own plates (like the custom in a gathering). One time in the beginning we were only 12 people at the site and more than 30 locals showed up at the food circle. Somehow we managed to feed them all and ourselves!
|Other locals visiting|
We also had to deal with the local animals, the cows were pretty friendly, but dogs and pigs were out for our food every night.
|Tea Ceremony, Guatemala|
Tea parties and workshops of any kinds are what the days in the gathering passes with when the day's job is done.
|Me and Roberto watching the sunset|
So after some of all the practical things about a rainbow gathering is said, again, as I started with, the biggest thing about the gatherings is to find a home for a while, between the days on the road.
It is a place among people who treats you as family. As a brother or sister. A place where you always have food and a place to sleep -if even just under a tarp on the beach- and feel safe. You are always welcome here (if you don't bring alcohol or violence) and there are always a rainbow gathering going on somewhere! So what meant most to me after attending my first gathering was the knowledge that there is always a place to go, if everything else fails. If you have no money, no friends among you and you've run out of ideas. Everything will be at a rainbow gathering.