In 2015 Spiralheart created the following Safer Space Policy. We are grateful to the work of the Paganicon organizers, whose hard work on their document inspired the creation of our own.
This Safer Space Policy will be available year round on our website, at www.spiralheart.org/saferspace. It will be reviewed yearly at our September organizing meeting, and updated as needed. A summary of the outcomes of any complaints filed during the year (excluding identifying information) will be reported at that time as well. Our September meeting is open to anyone from the community who chooses to attend; feedback on this policy is welcome! If you have feedback during the year and are unable to attend our September meeting, please contact our Media Cell.
In this document we will outline information and procedures relevant to maintaining your physical and emotional wellbeing, and resources for self-care, while at camp. We will also outline behaviors that are not welcome at our events, describe our complaint process, and define consequences of actions that violate our Code of Conduct.
Spiralheart 2016 Safer Space Policy
You may use the following links to navigate within the document, or you can simply scroll down below the contents/navigation links for the full, uninterrupted text. If you plan to join us for an event, it is especially important that you read our Code of Conduct and Complaint Process.
Creating Safer Spaces at Camp
Our goal in creating this policy is to ensure you are supported in the complex and, at times, intense work that witchcamp represents. The Safer Space Policy will also allow us to:
- Maintain transparency around Spiralheart processes
- Show participants that we take their well being seriously
- Explicitly state what behavior is, and is not, acceptable at our events
- Maintain a written record of complaints
- Ensure decisions about people who exhibit problematic behavior are made based on formal, documented, complaints and first-hand accounts (as opposed to gossip or rumor).
- Establish a history of recurrent problematic behaviors and/or individuals
We call it a Safer Space Policy (and not a Safe Space Policy) because no group can promise complete safety, and because Witchcamp is supposed to be a container for taking risks more safely, not a place that’s completely risk free. Our work is magical, and powerful, and we hope attendees will choose to push their growing edges, which can indeed feel risky. Our intent is to ensure that all are able to take those risks in a supportive and compassionate space; a safer space than what the outside world generally provides.
It is important to note that Spiralheart has had very few problems occur at our events. This policy was not created in response to a particular incident, but has been created proactively, as a way to both ensure that we have provisions in place should a problematic situation arise, and to break the silence around issues such as Racism, Ableism, Sexism, Ageism, and all the other forms of oppression that can, and do, exist within the Pagan community. There is an assumption by most Pagans that because we are much more open and accepting of difference than the patriarchal over culture in which we live, oppression doesn’t occur within our communities. This policy is Spiralheart’s way of acknowledging that it does. We’re doing good work to help overturn the legacy of fear and oppression that surrounds us in our day to day lives, and we’re not perfect. We will not be complicit in the continuation of oppression by remaining silent. This policy is our acknowledgment of all those who may still experience marginalization in our very own community. This policy is our commitment to continuing the work of checking our privilege, examining our prejudices, and creating a safer community for all of us.
It is powerful work. It is difficult work. It may be the work of a lifetime, or several, and Spiralheart Reclaiming publicly commits to that work. It is our sincerest hope that, should you choose to attend one of our events, you will commit to stepping into that important work with us.
We ask everyone who attends our events to help keep our container strong by adhering to this policy. Thank you for your cooperation, and for taking the time to read this. If you’re pressed for time, we recommend that you at least read our Code of Conduct and Complaint Process.
With Love and Gratitude,
The Spiralheart Organizers
MAINTAINING YOUR WELLBEING
Spiralheart embraces the ideals of Personal Responsibility, and Self-care. We also do everything we can to ensure a comfortable environment that is conducive to appropriate self-care. While at camp you are responsible for your own physical and emotional wellbeing, and we encourage you to do what you need to in order to stay healthy in body and mind. There is no doctor on premises. In the unlikely event that you suffer a serious injury or illness you will most likely need to go off site for treatment. Those instances are rare, however, and most needs can be met with on site support. As part of that support we appoint a Safety Witch each year. You’ll get to meet them at the All Camp Meeting on Monday afternoon. The Safety Witch is a volunteer. Throughout the week they keep track of our first-aid kit and make sure it’s stocked, they disseminate relevant safety information, and they act as the point person for any minor injuries that may occur on site. They can also act as the point person for folks who may find themselves dealing with emotional upset as a result of the week’s work. They may lend an ear to listen, or enlist further support from other members on a specially designated response team. The Safety Witch is the person to see if you feel in need of physical or emotional support during the week. Remember that seeking out the support of others can be an act of strength as well as effective self-care.
Caring for your body
The first-aid kit is located in the dining hall. This kit is stocked with basic supplies for the treatment of various injuries and/or illnesses. These supplies are available to anyone who needs them. All we ask is that the kit itself remains in the dining hall so that the whole camp has access to it. Please do not take it back to your tent or bunk—it becomes inaccessible to the next person who may need it. If you take an item from the kit, please return it once you are finished. If you notice that the kit is running low on a particular item (like Band-aids or Neosporin) please let the Safety Witch know.
- Sunburn – In the past the weather at camp has run the gamut from frigid to sweltering. While we can’t predict what this year will be like, there will probably be at least one very sunny day. We encourage you to take care of your skin by applying sunscreen daily. It is also helpful to carry a wide brimmed hat or parasol with you to provide shade.
- Dehydration – Camp is an intense experience. Path and evening ritual can be draining, to say nothing of all the other awesome activities we get up to during the week. Even if you don’t feel thirsty, your body probably is. Especially if the weather’s been hot. Carry a water bottle with you at all times to stay hydrated, and re-fill it at every meal.
- Heat Stroke – Along with drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, and wearing sunblock, be aware of how much time you are spending in the sun. Heat stroke is a possibility. If you start to feel light headed, dizzy, faint, or nauseous, find shade immediately and sit down. Drink water and let someone know how you feel. If you are especially overheated, you can visit the cooling pool located in the upper bath house.
- Inclement Weather – For those who are camping, be sure to use a ground cloth, and to stake your tent down well. This will help keep you dry in a downpour, and keep high winds from taking your home on a journey downwind in a storm. If your tent is flooded or collapses in inclement weather, grab your necessities and take shelter in the dorm or dining hall. Let Ops know about your situation.
Plant, Insect & Animal Life
- Poisonous Plants – You may encounter poisonous plants while on the land. Both Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac inhabit the east coast of the U.S. It is less common but not unheard of to encounter Poison Oak, as well. Watch for the classic “three-leaved” presentation of Poison Ivy (and Oak) and look for a slight sheen, or a red tinge, that is sometimes present on the leaves. Poison Sumac takes the form of a small tree, with smooth-edged leaves and red stems; it tends to grow in standing water (like bogs, swamps, or on the edge of ponds). When in doubt about whether a plant is safe to touch, err on the side of caution. Do not touch any plant with which you are unfamiliar.
o Prevention & Treatment – While hot weather may have you wanting to wear shorts and t-shirts, one of the easiest ways to protect against poisonous plants is to wear clothing that covers your skin. The risk of encountering these plants in the main areas of camp is relatively low, but if you plan to venture out into the wilder areas of Four Quarters, consider covering up. If you do contract a rash from Poison Ivy or Sumac (and you are not exhibiting signs of severe reaction) you can treat the rash on your own by doing the following:
- Let the Safety Witch know you have contracted the rash, and where you encountered the plant.
- Rinse your skin with warm water and mild soap.
- If possible, wash your clothing, and anything that may have gotten the plant’s oil on its surface.
- Do not scratch or rub the rash. Doing so can cause infection and help spread the rash to others. If you develop blisters be sure to leave them alone.
- You may apply Calamine lotion or Hydrocortisone cream to treat itchiness.
- Apply cool compresses to the area. A washcloth, towel, or cloth napkin dipped in cool water works well.
- If you are extremely uncomfortable it sometimes helps to take anti-histamine pills. Consider whether this is right for you.
- Insects – Lyme disease is a serious, chronic, illness that is fast becoming an epidemic in the United States. Ticks and mosquitos can also carry other diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and West Niles Virus. While Four Quarters doesn’t typically have an issue with any of these illnesses, it is always good practice to tick check daily, and to wear insect repellant. Please keep in mind that some people are sensitive to chemicals and/or smells. Be polite and apply repellant at least 10 feet from others.
- Animals – We share the land with various creatures, and we want to make sure we do not adversely affect them with our presence. If you choose to bring food to camp, be sure it is kept in a sturdy, air-tight, container (away from your tent, if you’re camping). Squirrels can chew through canvas, and Raccoons are craftier than you might think. Animals that start to equate humans with food face a higher risk of injury or death due to human related confrontations. Help us make sure that doesn’t happen by keeping food securely out of animal reach.
- Norovirus – In the past, Four Quarters has had to deal with outbreaks of Noroviruses. Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach, and large intestinal lining. Symptoms often include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Noroviruses are highly contagious and can spread very easily at a large group gathering like this one. Good hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent infection. Please help us keep everyone healthy by washing your hands often—and more so if you find yourself feeling unwell.
- Swimming in the Creek – Hemlock Hole is a beautiful place to swim. It is also a completely wild body of water and is not monitored by Four Quarters staff of Spiralheart organizers in any way. There is no lifeguard. No provisions for your safety have been taken. When you enter the creek, you do so at your own risk. You may wish to wear water shoes or sandals to protect against slippery and/or sharp rocks. Do not get out of the water on the far bank, and never jump into the water. Be aware that there are fish in the creek, and that they are usually looking to make friends with your toes and the mole on your lower back.
- Falls/Uneven Terrain – For the most part Four Quarters is made up of fairly level terrain. The sharpest incline is the hill that leads from the upper area of camp (containing the dorm, stone circle, dining hall, etc.) to the lower camping area (containing the lower bath house, fairy cairn, creek, etc.). None of the pathways on Four Quarters are paved and the hill is covered with moderately sized gravel rocks. While the stone circle is relatively flat, we do ritual in the semi-dark, and it pays to be mindful of wandering tree roots and stones. Be mindful of your step when traversing camp, and be sure to wear shoes with good ankle support. If the hill presents a challenge for you, or if you have mobility issues, please speak with Ops.
Caring for your SPIRIT
The camp experience is designed to push growing edges and to challenge campers to discover new strengths and new insights. Spiralheart acknowledges that everything great starts out scary, and every opportunity for growth comes with the risk of emotional distress and difficulty. We encourage you to be gentle with yourself in the coming days. If you find yourself experiencing any of the following indications of stress, consider seeking out a buddy or someone from your affinity group for support. The Safety Witch is also available to help identify resources for emotional support.
- Excessive fatigue, more than you would expect given the hectic and busy nature of camp
- Increased irritability, more than usual
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- The urge to withdraw and isolate emotionally
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Forgetting more than usual
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions
- Increased frequency of minor physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches (please see Safety Witch if these persist)
Tips for dealing with emotional stress
- Be sure to get the rest that you need (you may need to skip that juicy optional offering to take care of yourself instead)
- Journal and explore your feelings
- Describe what you’re feeling using images and sound
- Ask yourself how your feelings now may be connected to other times in your life
- Congratulate yourself on how much you’ve grown and changed
- Talk with a friend
- Talk with your path facilitator
- Eat well
- Go for walks in the woods, by the creek
- Ask for help processing your thoughts and feelings
- Maintain your normal spiritual practice (or start a new practice!)
- Make (consensual) love (by yourself or with someone else)
We strive to make witchcamp a loving, supportive environment. If you feel that conditions are causing undue emotional stress, please talk with one of the organizers or the Safety Witch. Remember that we’re all here to learn and grow, and to help each other through that process. Let us know how we can help, and applaud yourself for taking on this life-changing work!
We foster community spirit in many ways; through the process of setting up camp, getting to know each other, creating sacred space, and remaining in that space for an entire week. Building a safe and secure magical container to hold our work is essential. And the best way to build a secure container is to use strong materials. Therefore we ask you to help fill this sacred space we create with the strongest materials we have—Compassion, Patience, Understanding, and Love. We ask you to help us do this by attending camp in a spirit of Tolerance, and above all, Acceptance.
Witchcamp attracts, embraces, and celebrates diversity. You’re sure to meet people whose spiritual tradition, national origin, race, age, sexual orientation, ability, gender identity, economic situation, and lifestyle differ greatly from your own. We challenge you to think well of others—no matter the differences that may exist between you.
By attending Spiralheart witchcamp you agree to abide by the Code of Conduct detailed in the following section of the Safer Space Policy. Spiralheart reserves the right to eject, and/or ban from future events, any individual found to be in violation of this code.
If, at any point during the week a group, an individual, or a situation, makes you feel uncomfortable, please speak up. Talk with a Path Facilitator, RAT member, Organizer, or someone on the Ops team. We cannot address an issue unless we know it exists. Please, reach out! Likewise, Spiralheart encourages you to speak out in defense of others if you ever witness unacceptable behavior. Let’s all set healthy boundaries, think well of others, take care of ourselves, and hold each other in compassion. If you feel the need to file a formal complaint, please follow the complaint process outlined in this document.
As explained in Spiralbound, Spiralheart Reclaiming is a sober community, and requires that there be no drugs or alcohol at any of its events—including witchcamp. Please respect this by adhering to our drug-free policy throughout the week. If you take prescription medicine, please continue to do so.
AVAILABILITY and Future Updates
This Safer Space Policy will be available year round on our website, at www.spiralheart.org/saferspace. It will be reviewed yearly at our September organizing meeting, and updated as needed. A summary of the outcomes of any complaints filed during the year (excluding identifying information) will be reported at that time as well. Our September meeting is open to anyone from the community who chooses to attend; if you have something you’d like to contribute to this Policy, please attend! If you have comments, questions and/or feedback about this document during the week at camp, please see Joan. If you have feedback during the year and are unable to attend our September meeting, please contact Orion.