Carla's Gathering Basics

At 02:35 AM 7/15/96 -0700, wrote:
I personally have never been to a RFOLL Gathering as of yet. I do hope to to be able to attended one eventually and perhaps become one of those helpers, I do have a bellybutton. I have heard of people that promote "Gatherings", and it would seem that they have reasons, other than what I thought the RFOLL brought peoples together for. How can any one person distinguish between what one group sez is a gathering and anothers? The gathering of the vibes is a well known happening, as are many others. If someone in my area, though, sends out requests for supplies and meds and volunteers, how can I know what they are gathering for? Other than reading between the lines of the flyers, it seems that it wasn't casey at the wheel of that train that just roared thru my front yard,but it sounded good! By this I mean that I have heard of people complaining, campaigning and rasing cane because of gatherings that might or might not happen.The locale is always the neighbors concerns. How would I know if some cockroach laden,heatseeking,just crawled out of the wall group is trying to get some quick cash,saying one thing, yet meaning another? This is especially true since I rarely watch T.V. and sometimes read the newspaper, so keeping up with all the scams is indeed a difficult task.

Carla's Reply:

Good questions, all of them.

What follows is my take on it. No one put me in charge (thank goodness), so you may get other answers from other folks that add or subtract stuff - but basically I think most folks will be in agreement with what I see as being the basics for a gathering.

  1. It is free and non-commercial. This means no entry fee and no money charged for any service at the event (food, medical, etc.). There are people at gatherings who hang out with the barter circle and essentially have a commercial trip going either with trade or cash, but this is their own personal trip and has nothing to do with the actual set-up of a gathering. I personally consider these folks in violation of the basic spirit of the gathering and wish they would go away, or at least put away their trade goods. But since we have no cops, no courts, and no jails, they continue to do as they please, over the objections of many but also with the support also of many. Anyway, with the exception of these folks who are taking advantage of the free space, you shouldn't find any commercialism at a gathering whatsoever.

  2. Rainbow gatherings are non-aligned both spiritually and politically. There is no one right religious or spiritual belief; people of all faiths are welcome to come gather. Often, people from specific churches or temples come set up their own camp and feed lots of folks from their kitchens (the Krishnas and the Bread of Life Christian camp being the most notable). There are no hassles towards any church group proselytizing or trying to win converts - if people want to listen, that's their own business.

    Rainbow also does not support any specific political cause, party, issue, or candidate. Many people come to gatherings to recruit for their own specific Peace Walk, Drums around the Pentagon, environmental action, or whatever; but again, that is their own trip. They certainly have the right of free speech to spread the word about whatever event they are sponsoring. But they do nothave the right to call it a Rainbow event or claim they have support of the Rainbow Family. If they do make such claims, they are ripping off the Family name. Folks involved in such actions have every right to also mention, if asked, that yes, they consider themselves to be Rainbows. No reason not to fly your colors, especially when you're doing something you consider a good cause and are proud of being involved in. You just can't say that your event (protesting logging the rainforest, for example) is a Rainbow protest as such.

  3. We have no leaders. We operate by consensus process. No one is in charge, we have no board of directors. For many regional events, a small circle of people often initiates the event, and the circle grows and becomes many. All the labor of getting the gathering together in a safe and healthy manner is done by volunteers.

  4. The only rule we have is that of peaceful respect. That actually encompasses a lot, when you stop and think about it. Sure, no one can tell anyone else what to do, but if someone builds an unsafe fire under a tree, they will hear about it (hopefully in a sweet way) from many people who are worried about the safety of the camp. We like to say that everyone is Shanti Sena (Peacekeeper). The idea is to communicate in such a way that folks doing something non-peaceful, non-respectful, unhealthy, or unsafe will see the error of their ways and choose to get with the program. When something really out of line occurs (a violent individual hitting someone with a club, for example) a Shanti Sena council (consisting in the ideal of all interested parties, as well as some experienced folks from the Shanti Sena Clan to give guidance and physical safety) forms to deal with the issue. If the victim of the violence wishes to press charges, the incident is dealt with accordinly, and the Shanti Sena folks cooperate in turning the perpetrator over to local law enforcement - a controversial move, to be sure, but in some cases unavoidable and sometimes even desirable. If no one wants to see the local authorities involved but a person is considered a danger to the safety of folks in camp, two options are commonly turned to: someone capable of handling the situation volunteers to accompany the offending person 24 hours a day around camp; or the person must leave the gathering and not come back that year.

  5. As per a standing consensus by the Rainbow Family Tribal Council, we don't apply for or sign permits. With the new group use regulations instituted by the Forest Service this year, this has become a difficult position to hold.One regional gathering signed a permit and gathered under a different name than Rainbow. Weird, and lot of people were angry at the folks who signed the permit,but what are ya gonna do? Take away their hippie cards? Anyway, theoretically,if a gathering has a permit, it is by definition not a Rainbow Gathering.

    Also, by long tradition, we do not gather anywhere but public land. Occassionallythere may be focussed councils (Thanksgiving Council, regional councils) that happen on private land, but gatherings themselves are always held on public land. Again, if it happens otherwise, it is by definition not a Rainbow Gathering, though the event may be very rainbow in nature otherwise.

  6. We take responsibility for every aspect of the gathering, from set-up to clean-up. We don't ask for help bulldozing roads, getting donations from local charities or food banks. We are self-sufficient in every aspect of our gathering, and responsible for ourselves. Most important, when the gathering is over, many people stay behind to totally clean up the site. No janitors are paid to clean up after folks. Gatherers are expected to use the recycling center set up on site and to pack out what they packed in. The clean up crew takes out all trash to recycling centers and to landfills, then restores and rehabilitates the site. This may involve scarifying the earth to loosen up compacted areas, filling in ruts caused by vehicles, water-barring hilly areas, and reseeding the ground. All shitters and camps are disappeared and naturalized. This is a lot of work folks! If you've never stayed for cleanup, you've never really done a gathering. This is not a dead lot - this is real, this is a labor of love, and it's one of the only reasons, both karmically and politically, that the powers that be haven't put the ax to us long ago.

  7. A Rainbow Gathering is not a rock concert or a platform for speakers. If cars are allowed in the gathering area proper, and if there is amplified music as a central theme, it most certainly is NOT a Rainbow Gathering (the drive-in gathering in Texas was an exception, as we were not allowed to close the road).

If it were up to me to define it, I would say this is the most important aspect of the Gathering: It is a free assembly of individuals who come together to practice peace. The focal point of the Annual Gathering July 1-7 is a coming together in a large circle, each person praying silently in their own way for peace. Most of the regional gatherings also set aside a day for the Silent Circle. A Rainbow Gathering is not a party, although partying certainly happens. It is not just a big hippie campout, although there are lots of counter-culture and new-age types camping in the woods. It is not just the world's largest love-in/be-in/ smoke-in, although a lot of that certainly goes on. For me, without the element of prayer we might as well not gather at all. For me, without the element of the Circle in which we participate, we mights as well have a hippie convention at the Hilton. For me, without the practice of Peaceful Respect and continuing attempts to create harmonyamong each other and all beings of the Earth, me might as well give up any pretense that the human race is evolving.

So, does that make things more clear? You'll probably get as many different answers as you will people answering. Good luck sorting it all out. The annual Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes will take place in the Northwest next July - Oregon or Washington. Stay tuned for directions, which will probably come out about amonth before the gathering!

Love and Light,