Food Circle was the central calling at the World Rainbow Gathering 2010 down in the South Island of New Zealand. The primitive kitchen would yell out “FOOD CIRCLE” in unison causing all the surrounding people to follow in turn with their own proclamation: “FOOD CIRCLE”! This call would be re-called throughout the land until everyone within the 10 mile lush green wilderness valley would be aware that the food was on its delicious way.
The people that make up a Rainbow Gathering are about the most diverse group I have ever encountered. There were people from Israel, Argentina, Russia, Australia, Japan, Ghana, San Francisco and everywhere in-between. There were jugglers, yogis, painters, poets, builders, dancers and plenty of musicians. This was the all star event for grungy, penniless world travelers.
One quickly learned that you must wait for the 3rd FOOD CIRCLE call before the food was actually prepared. Upon that 3rd call coming through the valley, the gathering commenced. People begin descending from their caves, tents and teepees on foot and approach the raised valley center.
As the people all reached the top of the plateau they would play and talk without direction for a while. Slowly, people would begin to organize by holding hands. More and more hand holding commenced, until the whole population (maybe 400 people) were locked together hand in hand in a great circle around the sacred food circle bonfire.
There are nearly no rules at a Rainbow Gathering. 1. It’s important that only organically occurring wood is to be used in the Food Circle fire. The paint from the fire is used for paint and covering waste. 2. No Smoking in food circle. 3. Vegan kitchen
As everyone stood around in an enormous circle of hand holding, the brave and organized would begin singing to center the energy of the large group:
We are circling, circiling together,
We are singing, singing our hearts on
This is family, this is unity, this is sacred…
This chant continues and continues until the circle is made whole by all the congregation of gatherers. Upon complete participation with the singing pieces some individuals break with the song and commence with a long vocal “OHMMMMM”. As the “OHMMMMMMM” caught on the whole energy of the circle would become concentrated and peaceful. Each individual “OHMMMMMMM” for as long as they wish and then become silent. Once silence is unanimously reached each gatherer would raise his or her hands into the air while releasing the hands of the adjacent person. One’s own hands then met palm to palm in the air above your head. Everyone would lower their hands to their chest level, slowly lower themselves down to their knees and kiss the ground. Concentration and energy was so focused from the beginning of the “OHMMMMMMM”. After the ground was kissed the chaotic energy and gypsies laughs would return as server volunteers were openly called upon to carry the large pots around and dish out the food to all gatherers.
The food was prepared in the most primitive of kitchens. The stove burners were simply a long narrow pit dug into the ground. There must have been 4 long narrow pits with sticks across the moth of the pit to create a place to hold the 60 liter anodized aluminum pots above the fire. The only signs of a contemporary society were the pots, knives, food graters and the vinyl tarps used to keep the blistering sun back. Everything else was fabricated from the forest.
Twine and woven tree bark was used to bound boards together which functioned quite excellently as a preparation table. Cutting boards were made from sliced tree trunks that appeared to have been made by a hand powered saws. A group of dreadlock gatherers maintained a fire, periodically moving red hot embers down under the pots. This was a bare bones kitchen to say the least and all ingredients had to be packed in by volunteers.
Any volunteer would help to carry each days ingredients up the 3 mile hike from the nearest road, through the soggy green valley to the kitchen. It’s astonishing that this system works so well. No one seemed to be in charge, there was no organization or delegated responsibilities. Nonetheless, this kitchen provided hundreds of meals for all that gathered, three times a day for a solid week. The food was always delicious and was enough to feed everyone with very little gone to waste.
All the ingredients, permitting and other expenses for the event are funded by the “Magic Hat”. Its a simple hat, colorful and large. Like everything else, the magic hat never seemed to be the responsibility of one individual. A group of performers (poi spinners, singers, dancers, jugglers and musicians) would gather and begin dancing around the circle singing the Magic Hat song in repetition for hours:
The more that I give, the more I got to give
It’s the way that I live, is what I’m giving for
Anyone was free to join the magic hat group as they danced around the circle. One person would carry the hat. He or she would go person to person accepting donations while smiling energetically. There was no real pressure to put money into the hat. Most people would just touch their hearts or heads and wave their hands over the hat. Though the hat would only go around the circle once, the magic hat parade would continue on and on for hours and hours. It was a loud cloud of giggles and joy. Drummers would join after the sun went down. The night would pump on primitively deep into the night around a massive fire that was being cared for by whomever wanted to care for it. You might think there was massive drug ingestion to create such a parade but there wasn’t any! No one was on any physical drugs other than the inexplainable joy you get from a delightful meal, interesting company and the comfort of being deep in the wilderness.
All of this takes place an hours hike into the bush of New Zealand. It’s silent out there all the time. However, after a healthy, sunny day at the World Rainbow Gathering the nights would be thriving with drumming, singing and laughter.
The central theme of the gathering is the idea that creation is dependent on each individual creator. Everyone is responsible for making the gathering whatever it will become. People will offer workshops while food is being enjoyed. Workshops like:
– Direct action discussions: how to enact change to stop babylon (or modern industrial society) from destroying the planet.
-Standing up logs: An immense muscular Australian man was dead set on lifting some giant logs vertically like great obelisks to demonstrate the “strength of this Rainbow Family”. His speeches were reminiscent of Russell Crows performance in Gladiator. He would accentuate each statement and triumphantly declare, “join me in this noble goal, so that all who arrive can bare witness to the strength of this rainbow family!”
-AcroYoga Workshops: Yoga exercises which utilize partners ability to hold one an’ other aloft in the air. (http://www.acroyoga.org/)
-Flock energy Workshop: Groups of people doing chants and movements together to develop a sense of community.
-Vision Circle: A discussion on when and where the next World Rainbow Gathering would take place. This is the organizational structure for the planning of a Rainbow Gathering. It is essentially a group that comes together to reach consensus on where the next location will be. It could be anywhere from Argentina to Russia.
-Shit Pit Diggers: The shit pits were often in dire need of improvement. Some brave souls offer their help in digging the holes. All shit was buried at the rainbow gathering.
-Primitive tool construction classes: building things like baskets, knives, or whatever one might need from natural materials
-Drumming workshops: developing your drumming skills
-Rainbow Gathering Song Workshop: Learning more of the many Rainbow Gathering songs
Somehow, all of this anarchy wored together to make the gathering a success. The food brought in, the people entertained, the shit burried and the people happy. It was unquestionably a success.