Cache or Carry?
“And the rubbish” I reminded them sternly. There was a certain amount of uncomfortable body language and assurances of “Yes, yes, of course the rubbish too”. Students of human nature will quickly guess what happened when it came time to leave. Sluggish with all the food, and a lot of the group not at their best because of all the drinking, they staggered to the parking area with their personal gear. They slung it in their various vehicles then contemplated the trip back to the camping area, and possibly another one after that, the miles mounting up in their head.
Quickly they came up with a 'plan B' which involved a small select group of three people going back to the campsite and bringing back what they could and stashing the rest for pickup later. The site was, to their worldview, relatively out of the way, so they picked up some more of the groups' stuff and hid the rest - which included a lot of the heavier ritual regalia and, of course, the rubbish- in the bushes "to get later on". Rather than return the next day, or even later the same week, they left it almost two weeks before going back. It was then they found that both the rubbish and the ritual materials were no longer where they had been left.
Panic ensued. Most of the ritual tools had been given or loaned to the group by other Druid groves and had a long history of magickal use as well as being intrinsically valuable in themselves. It had reached the point of people in the group accusing each other of stealing them before I heard what had happened. I pointed out that the rubbish had gone too which was the best clue as to what had happened, namely that they had failed to take into account that the forest they had camped in was, like most countryside in the UK, managed by a local authority. What had probably happened was that the forest's rangers/wardens had obviously found the items and removed them- probably to their base until someone came forward to claim them. A discrete check confirmed that this was the case, and rubbish and relics were in the Wardens possession. According to reports they were willing to return the magickal artefacts but wanted a stern word with the people who had also left several sacks of rubbish stuffed into the bushes in a noted beauty spot.
At this point things became a bit farcical, none of the Druids wanted to claim responsibility for their actions, particularly the one involving leaving the rubbish in the forest. They approached several members of the local non-Druid Pagan community to go to the authorities on their behalf, but were firmly told to take responsibly for their own actions and to go and apologise for littering and ask for their regalia back. They never did, as far as I know the items are still in the charge of the rangers to this day unless they have been sold in some local authority auction.
Naturally when I heard about the loss of the artefacts my immediate reaction was "Why didn't they cache them and just bring the rubbish back?" This was quickly answered when all the people I asked didn't know what the term 'cached' actually meant. This was several years before the development of Geocaching or, indeed, the general availability of GPS equipment for the public. One Witch I spoke to commented that, had her Coven known about this technique, it would save them a great deal of troublesome curiosity. Both from children and other residents of the urban area they met in who followed their group into the woods to see what they were up to. It didn't help that some of the newer members of the group insisted on dressing in cloaks and other 'witchy' regalia which attracted unwanted attention.
Once I had explained the basics of burying containers and how to both hide and find the site this problem stopped. The only minor difficulty was convincing the members who wanted to still dress up to wait until they reached the ritual site, or an area they could change into their exotic costume en route. Caching the heavier and bulky items cut down significantly on the amount of items they had to carry and meant that the members could park and walk from several separate areas. This avoided them parking in one area and then trooping off, carrying odd-looking items into the countryside as a group. Apparently this was the main reason for all the curiosity as a Neighbourhood Watch member from that area explained to me when I was talking to them at the annual meeting about perceived suspicious behaviour in their area over the last few months
In the next article we will look in greater depth at the art of caching and other ways of storing items in and around the outdoor ritual area. Plus simple precautions to take to avoid the cache being discovered, and how to protect metal and powdered herbs from being affected by environmental factors such as damp and wildlife.
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