Most of us, though not all, who consider ourselves part of the Rainbow Family, have attended the Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes, which takes place from July 1 - 7 every year. The first gathering was in 1972, the invitation to it reading as follows:
We, who are brothers & sisters, children of God, families of life on earth, friends of nature & of all people, children of humankind calling ourselves Rainbow Family Tribe, humbly invite:
All races, peoples, tribes, communes, men, women, children, individuals -- out of love.
All nations & national leaders -- out of respect
All religions & religious leaders -- out of faith
All politicians -- out of charity
to join with us in gathering together for the purpose of expressing our sincere desire that there shall be peace on earth, harmony among all people. This gathering to take place beginning July 1, 1972, near Aspen, Colorado - or between Aspen & the Hopi & Navaho lands - on 3000 acres of land that we hope to purchase or acquire for this gathering -- & to hold open worship, prayer, chanting or whatever is the want or desire of the people, for three days, but upon the fourth day of July at noon to ask that there be a meditative, contemplative silence wherein we, the invited people of the world may consider & give honour & respect to anyone or anything that has aided in the positive evolution of humankind & nature upon this, our most beloved & beautiful world -- asking blessing upon we people of this world & hope that we people can effectively proceed to evolve, expand, & live in harmony & peace. - Amen -
The 3000 acres never materialized, and the first gathering took place partly on private land offered for temporary use, and partly on National Forest land. As you can see, this was intended to be a onetime event. However, people liked it so much that gatherings continued to happen annually on federal lands, each year in a different state. The length of the gathering has since expanded beyond the original four-day span.
For many years, there was only the one gathering, and the spiritual focus was foremost in the minds of everyone who attended. Most folks were identified with the "hippie" movement of the times, engaged in establishing alternative social, economic, spiritual, political, and/or environmental consciousness. Many were involved either in the Peace movement in the cities or the communal, back-to-the-land movement in the country. In either case, exploration of alternative spiritual systems and states of consciousness was often a common theme.
Sometime around the mid-1980s, folks who felt it was too far or too long to the annual gathering started coming together for smaller, regional gatherings. People all over the country developed local and regional bonds.
In the past few years, the spiritual focus has been less obvious, due to the huge influx of people who may not realize the central purpose of the gatherings. These folks may come to party, to hang out, to find like-minded people, to gain support for their political causes, or whatever. Who knows? (I sure don't, since I haven't spoken with all of them.)
The interesting thing is that we all consider ourselves to be part of a huge, extended family, no matter what our reason for gathering, no matter what our spiritual or religious or political or economic or social views may be. And many people who have not yet had an opportunity to attend a gathering also feel they are part of this family.
Another interesting thing is that there is no formal organizational structure. There are no membership qualifications, no fees or dues, no leaders, and virtually no rules other than the one of "peaceful respect." Each year, individuals take personal responsibility and work together with others on whatever they are inspired to do, from office work, to scouting, to building the kitchens at the gatherings, to hauling in food and first-aid supplies, to peacekeeping, etc. Every project undertaken operates essentially on a consensus basis. Participation, communication, and cooperation are how things get done.
It is nothing short of miraculous.
The gatherings are free and non-commercial, and everyone is welcome. Each person is asked to bring their own camping equipment (this all takes place in remote areas of the National Forest), their own cup, bowl, and spoon, and whatever they might want to share to help the gathering happen (tarps, shovels, musical instruments, bulk food, etc.). No one will be turned away because of lacks in these areas, however. The Magic Hat is passed at mealtimes and around camp. Donations are used to buy food in bulk for the kitchens and whatever else may be necessary for the communal well-being (plywood covers and lime for the latrines, first aid supplies, etc.).
Besides the work that goes on to help the gathering happen, there's also lots of accoustical music, drumming, dancing, workshops, herb-walks, council circles, sister circles, brother circles, brother-sister circles, people hanging out, people bartering, people enjoying nature, people meditating, chanting, and praying, people talking politics, people talking spiritual and personal growth, people visioning the future, people doing bodywork and other healing work, ...
The list could go on forever.
For me personally, the Rainbow Family is where I have found my greatest opportunities to learn, to grow, to celebrate, to be one with my fellow beings and my mother Earth, to serve, to pray, to play. The gatherings for me are living theater, evolution in process, creativity manifest. I am passionately in love.
Picture twenty thousand people in a sunlit meadow, standing silent in prayer, holding hands in one huge, unbroken circle. Picture a parade of children approaching, singing songs, their countenances bright with enthusiasm and face paint, baloons and banners waving in the breeze. Picture the breaking of the silence with a cheer from the circle, then the silence returning once again, to grow slowly into a thrum of voices united in a single OM reverberating through the valley and on to the hills beyond. Hold the OM in your mind. Let it spread through and around and in you. Feel it pass from hand to hand and heart to heart.
The magic, the connection you feel is the essence of the Rainbow Family of Living Light.