Tents at the Bavarian rainbow gathering

Gathering of the Rainbow Family in Bavaria

I did it! I went to a gathering of the Rainbow Gathering! For over a year I had been looking for opportunities to join one of these “family reunions”. Now it became true. Getting to the secret spot only vaguely communicated through offline channels was easier than I thought.

Map on the street towards rain
The location of the rainbow gathering is kept secret. You only get vague hints on where to go but enough to make it. (The red dot doesn’t mark the gathering point)

Friends in Munich knew a friend who was going there by care and luckily I was allowed to join them. Among the four other people in the car I already knew two, so it made me feel way less nervous than tramping to a vaguely known destination on my own.

When we got there, a young man with dreadlocks, dressed only in shorts welcomed us. He gave me a big and long hug. Then he smiled and said softly: “Welcome home.”

Resting under an old linden
On the way to the Rainbow Gathering we stopped at this beautiful old linden tree and enjoyed the view over this Bavarian village

Even though he was a complete stranger I really did feel like I had come home, because it felt so familiar and safe to be among this “tribe” of conscious, loving people.

Rainbow people regard each other as family. Fellow participants of the gatherings are called brothers and sisters. Some of the few rules include: no alcohol, no drugs, no violence, no electronic devices. When you need to use the “toilet” just go to the designated “shit pit” area, a gully hole in the ground. After you do you business, ideally don’t use toilet paper but water (Indian style). If you do need to use toilet paper, the cover it well with dust along with you other “remains”. Bring a bowl, a cup and a spoon, and ideally a cover to sit and sleep on as well as a tent.

Rainbow people
It is very easy to approach members of the rainbow family, like these two great folks from the Netherlands and the US.

In the “welcome center” – a tent at the entrance to the big meadow on which already some 40 to 50 people were camping – the warm “welcome home” continued. Even though I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of the Rainbow before I came I felt very comfortable and I perceived a lot of trust among everybody. Soon I realized that there were more people present that I had met before so it felt even more like coming home.

Rainbow meadow in the morning dew
The mornings can be quite humid on this meadow in Bavaria

Since I don’t own a tent, I didn’t bring one and intended to sleep under the stars. Freestyle. But when I arrived the others warned me that the long grass of the field would get really wet due to morning dew. I didn’t worry about a sleeping place for long because a “brother” offered me to sleep in his friend’s tent that was not used during that night.

The food circle ritual 

Soon I heard somebody call “food circle” from the kitchen area. I learned that this was the first call of three. It meant that dinner was about 2 hours away. Volunteers had kindly gathered in the kitchen tipi to prepare a meal for all of us. They would call again after about an hour. The third call (“food circle now”) announced that dinner was ready.

It was after sunset that everybody gathered in a big circle around the place called “main fire” in the middle of the field. Somebody lit the fire easily. A young woman played songs on the guitar and most people sang along. Then three brothers and sisters from the kitchen team took the big heavy pot and walked around the circle putting food into the bowls everybody had brought along. After a while, they did the round again for a second serving. The ritual finished by the “magic hat” that circulated so everybody could throw in some money to buy more food for the following meals.

Kitchen tent at rainbow gathering
Volunteers prepare dinner in the kitchen tent (similar to this tipi). If nobody feels like cooking there will be no food.

After dinner, the group split according to interests. Some played werewolf, somebody offered to host a cocoa ceremony, somebody invited to chant mantras around a smaller fire. That’s where I decided to go. Since I was very tired after a bad night’s sleep the night before I just laid down at the fire and listen to the beautiful sounds of the Sanskrit verses. I didn’t understand anything but I knew they must be about love, opening the heart, the unity of all beings on earth and other wonderful things. It felt so good to have my body relax and listen attentively to the songs. (I just recently discovered that apparently only few people are able to give their body a rest while being completely alert in their minds. For me that has always been normal).

Double morale doesn’t stop at the edges of the rainbow gathering field

When I felt better after a while, I sat up.  The man next to me was playing the guitar and other instruments I had never seen before (I guess from India).

He was singing the loving mantras from the top of his lungs. Then he bent down to me and hissed: “If you don’t sing, please go to the second row!” I looked behind me and faced the void of the cold black night. Nobody was sitting behind us.

I said: “Even if I am not singing I will be cold and lonely in the second row.” When I mentioned that this was my first rainbow he started lecturing that it is always like that and anyway I should have brought a cup for the Chai tea because everybody does it. (I did have a cup but no intention to drink Chai as midnight was approaching.) I took the chance to practice what I had learned some days ago: let annoying people just pass by your mind like a little cloud. So I focused on the beauty of the fire.

A few moments later he bent over again: “My girlfriend has arrived now and I want her to sit next to me. So you need to leave now.” I couldn’t believe his rudeness and replied: “If you want to sit next to your girlfriend, just sit somewhere else.” His eyes moved to the top of the half-tipi when he grumped: “This is my tent. I build it. So I make the rules here.” Again I practised the thing with the cloud. But my mind raced: We are at a gathering that is explicitly against hierarchies. This guy believes he can set the rules like a king just because he built a tent. While chanting about love he intends to separate me from the rest of the “family”. It would be so easy to make the circle a little bit bigger so everybody, including the now arrived girlfriend, could sit in the first row….

Peace and Love

After a while, somebody on the other side of the fire left and I went over. The “brother” who owned the mat warmly invited me to sit next to him. I felt peace and love.

Tents at rainbow gatherin
Eventhough I don’t own a tent and couldn’t bring one to the gathering a “brother” invited me to sleep in his friend’s tent that was empty during that night.

Learnings

That night I learned an important lesson: Even in non-hierarchical settings groups are bound to form hierarchies.

Some people (assumingly mostly men) just declare themselves leaders and expect others to follow them. Some really follow just because they want to follow somebody. In that night I realized that it doesn’t work for me that way. Trust needs to be earned. If somebody wants me to follow, he has to prove he is trustworthy and wants my best and not solely push through his own ambitions.

Healing tipi at rainbow gathering
The healing tipi is for everybody to use and very comfortable inside. A little fire gives warmth.

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