Lyn's Thoughts on Magic Hat

I first came across the Magic Hat at the Rainbow Gathering in Ireland. It was taken round the circle at the end of every communal meal by a gaggle of musicians playing and singing Rainbow songs. And it did provide everything we needed, including rent for the land, and there was even a small surplus.
The Rainbow Gatherings are completely non-commercial and the only money that comes in is from the Magic Hat. And now Rainbow Circle has decided to go for it this year! All our camps are to be entirely financed by the Magic Hat! This is a huge leap of faith and it's great that we're going to give it a go! There are a few basic conventions that have grown up around the Magic Hat.

Firstly, donation into the Magic Hat is absolutely voluntary. No one is hassled to donate and no one knows how much anyone gives. This principle is bottom line. TRUST is crucial. Some people will be able to contribute more financially than others, but hey, if you're at a good gathering, you'll surely want to contribute in whatever way you can to make it work! (And to make sure it happens again next year.)

Secondly, the magic hat is usually sent around the circle. What circle can be guaranteed to have almost everyone gathered together? The food circle. But sitting in a circle waiting to be served food, eating together and staying with it till after the Magic Hat has been round (whether or not you put anything in it), is not something that's been 100% successful at Rainbow Circle in the past……..

People want to eat at different times, or want to eat their own food, or don't want to sit on the ground, or have something else they'd rather be doing. A lot of this resistance comes from not wanting to wait to be served, partly through being really hungry and wanting food quickly and partly through fear that the food might run out. Well occasionally some dish does, but it's really not often and there's always something. Again, TRUST is crucial.
The food circle is not just for eating. It's also for communicating, both personally and with the group. Everyone goes out for a meal together and chats whilst it's being served. All the waiting is actually time for being together. And you get a meal as well! If we didn't eat in a circle, when would we pass the Magic Hat and when would we talk about what needs doing?

At the Rainbow Gatherings there are two vegetarian meals each day, breakfast and supper. Everyone comes together in a huge circle, sometimes a double or even a triple circle, and we share food and companionship and communication. After the meal the Magic Hat is passed round to gather everyone's donations. The money collected is used to buy food and to provide for all the other needs of the Gathering, such as rent for the land, fuel for the transport vehicles, tarps, lamps, parafin, gas, healing remedies etc etc.
On a full Magic Hat camp there is no site crew. And there's not much in the way of communal equipment. We will be bringing our huge supply of tat - but we could do with more! If you want to bring a communal structure, that would be great! But please be aware that whatever you bring, whether it's a café or a marquee, a plant, a crystal or a workshop, this is your give-away.

No money should be requested from anyone other than via the Magic Hat at the main food circles or the gate. And no trading whatsoever on site except for the traditional Saturday market. The Rainbow Gatherings have a seed camp that anyone can come to where the main structures of the camp are sorted. This usually lasts at least 6 weeks! We will, however, probably not have to create safe water supplies (as we'll have the mains…..), nor carry everything several miles on foot before being able to create personal and communal spaces, so we'll manage with much less.
Our normal practice has been to have 5-7 days on site before the camp actually begins. If enough people show up, including those who know how to put up a site, that would probably be long enough. In any case, we have a 28 day limit on the land, which has obviously not been the case for the Rainbow Gatherings. The people who come to the seed camp have to be willing to spend a lot of time in circle, plus time doing things. It's a bolt activity and deciding where to put things BEFORE they go up is crucial! However, once the main Gathering starts, the people who come take on responsibility for everything! No us and them!
It's all of our responsibility to make sure that the kids area is sorted, to make sure that food is bought and cooked in time, maybe to set up a children's kitchen or a chai bar financed from the Magic Hat. It's all of our responsibility to make sure that the marquees go up and to make sure that the loos are moved when they are full.

There is also the process of tatting down. This needs to be another communal effort, with circles continuing and lots of co-operation. Anyone who can stay and help with litter picking, or who can search for nails in fire pits (can anyone bring a really powerful magnet or six?), or shop and cook for the crew, or fill in holes, or collect up the wood that inevitable appears as people leave their log chairs etc., AND sit in circles - please do help us clear up the site afterwards. The people from the seed camp take responsibility for passing on the care of a particular area to a circle formed from everyone who comes, but to avoid duplication and to know what we're all doing we do need to circle.

We're currently still discussing whether we'll follow all these conventions. So far a couple of changes have been provisionally decided: firstly there will be a Magic Hat on the gate as well as at meal times and secondly that we'll be calling the first communal meal of the day lunch rather than breakfast. But we have decided to go for food circles! The winds of change!!! HO !! Please, everyone, will you support the circle? Please, everyone who possibly can, do come at least to the supper circle and make it a dynamic and happening place to be!

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Updated 17 th Feb 2001