The Wrap On Marg Murphy’s Astro Camp Morocco September 2018
TripaSista’s favourite astrologer Marg Murphy reports back from Astro Camp Morocco – an adventure mapping the stars within and without. Wild camping at it’s most inspiring!
In September, nine adventurous women met in the Medina in Fez for an adventure under Saharan desert skies. We began our journey with a traditional Moroccan banquet on a roof top terrace just as the evening call to prayer from a nearby minaret had ended. The sun was setting and the atmosphere of the vibrant Medina was tangible. We officially launched our first Astro Camp meal with Jupiter and Venus setting in the clear night sky.
That first evening we feasted and got to know each other. We shared the bones of our astrology charts and it became apparent that the binding agent was Neptune! Each of us was receiving a Neptune transit to a personal planet or point, yet we were going to be nowhere near the physical watery realms of Neptune/Poseidon, mysterious!
The following morning, after a sumptuous breakfast we hopped into our private taxis to be driven by amenable English speaking guides to the South East region of Morocco, the iconic sand dunes of the Sahara desert. The drive was a long one, 6 hours or more. We travelled across the Atlas Mountains , through the fertile Ziz Valley and eventually into desert country. As we neared our final destination, a sandstorm blew in along with a dry electrical storm. Visibility was minimal, the landscape seemed illusory – here was Neptune at work!
This was exciting and seemed resonant of what might lie ahead! We were travelling into traditional regions of the Berber nomads, peoples most used to desert sands and storms. Over half of our group had come from the Central Desert region of Australia and we felt very much at home in this environment.
Astro Camp Safe Keeping
Eventually we reached our destination and home for the next six days and nights, Cafe Tissardmine – Tissardmine means “place of safe-keeping “ in the local Tashlehyit language and indeed it was a place that held us safely for our Astro Camp.
Cafe Tissardmine is the vision and creation of Karen Hadfield, an amazing adventurous Taurean woman who of course was also having a significant Neptune transit to a personal planet! She welcomed us with a mysterious speech where she announced that although we were in the desert she felt this was a place of water ! Aah Neptune again ! Karen had no astrological knowledge so this was a heartfelt response to her adopted desert home and not an obvious reference to our impending journeying.
Karen and her partner Youssef built this amazing space in the desert by hand, her Taurean eye for beauty was evident everywhere we turned, from the adobe riad to the traditional Berber tents and surprisingly many art works from the Central Australian desert! We felt at home.
Amazagibh (Berber) people
Karen found her home here after having a vision on her first trip to the Sahara- to build a place for artists to come and share the beauty and stillness of the desert. Youssef agreed to help and share his knowledge of both the land and the Amazagibh (Berber) people.
Karen has a huge heart and held us lovingly during our time at Tissardmine. She made suggestions for our itinerary and organised an overnight camel trek to the dunes and a visit to the Rissani markets. She invited a group of local women to come and demonstrate traditional weaving techniques and patterns and she also gave us all a lesson, well many lessons, on how to fashion the traditional turban. The turban, with veil, is worn by both men and women and rather than a garment of oppression, as is sometimes viewed in the western world, is a practical protection from the fine desert sands, we were grateful to wear them and actually felt quite stylish!
We all fell in love with Karen and for certain our experience would have been so much poorer without her there.
Turbans, Tagines and Tents
On arrival Karen and her wonderful team of workers Hassan, Youssef and Khadija greeted us and showed us to our sleeping quarters. Some of us were sleeping in traditional Berber tents, with the additional luxury of an attached bathroom and others had rooms in a small private riad. We were then taken to ‘the salon’ for our welcome meal, traditional Moroccan Tagine, delicious! The food continued to impress us, each meal was different, traditional, plentiful and lovingly prepared in the kitchen by Karen Youssef and Khadija. We were also fed morning and afternoon teas, always at just the right time, teas, coffees and local dates and nuts. We were so well looked after, it’s a bit hard coming home to our own kitchens!
Cafe Tissardmine is a walled complex of riad, tent village, salon and other outbuildings. It overlooks a dry riverbed and an oasis and just beyond the mountain range is the Algerian border. The same colour as the sands it appears to have just arisen from the landscape. It is located in a small village of perhaps twenty houses inhabited by newly settled nomads.
After our first restful sleep in this quiet place, the next morning we officially opened our process journey, this time with Jupiter in Scorpio on the ascendant. We explored the chart and felt into what was coming for us. We also each drew a tarot card and laid them down in the traditional Celtic Cross spread, more information to help support our journeying. We all set a personal intention for our camp experience, these were collected and returned on the final evening.
After our first desert lunch we moved into the adobe art studio to make our concertina books. Each day we completed a page in the book, in pastel and ink, to integrate our process and have a visual record to take home with us. This was a wonderful experience usually done in contemplative silence. The art works were really impressive and will probably become a feature in future camps.
Astrology Is A Process
Our days were spent immersed in astrological processes, guided meditations and deep release of shadow material, the theme for the camp. This camp arose from a dream I had five years earlier, Neptune again, and was planned a year ago when I looked and saw Mars, South Node and Lilith conjunction in Aquarius with Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn. It just seemed appropriate to take ourselves into the desert to release another layer of personal shadow material. I work closely with Lilith in my practice and think of her as a desert dweller, in the desert we have nothing to project our fears onto and must face them and integrate them to uncover a richer sense of self.
Back then I had not figured that Neptune would be a significant feature of the camp.
The astrological process work always began with breath work and body awareness, some yoga postures relevant to the area of the body that held our fear, grief etc were included too and then a deep meditation before moving into our charts in an experiential way. My work is very focused on recognising that we embody our charts, learning to feel into the archetypal energies within the physical and emotional bodies brings potential for release of old trauma and pain and creates space for new pathways (aspects) to be experienced. We made a lot of noise at times and Karen had to assure her staff that our moaning and wailing was all OK ! Perhaps we were not the usual temporary residents of Cafe Tissardmine!
As the days unfolded the program became more fluid and Neptune washed some of it away entirely, the program changed to accommodate people’s personal struggles and also outings to desert dunes and ancient markets. Going with the Neptunian flow we all had adjustments to make with twenty four hours suffering heat stroke I had to let go of control. My own lesson amidst the many the collective was experiencing.
Then Came Lilith
The deep guided meditation to meet Lilith seemed a perfect prelude to the camel trek. Riding a camel requires a continuous rocking of the pelvic bowl and that is a very Lilithian movement. Resisting the movement only leads to great discomfort, consciously rolling with it is a releasing in itself.
For some of us this camp was a very cathartic experience, for others it was a quieter, more gentle process. The work undertaken is guided by the individual soul and what we are ready for at a particular time.
On our last evening, we travelled by four wheel drive out to Erg Chebbi to view the sunset from the top of the dune. We held our closing ceremony and gave deep thanks to the earth for holding us. When we returned to Tissardmine Karen had a final surprise, a campfire under the stars, a bottle or two of wine with dinner and then out came her ukulele, she sang and played for us and we all shed Neptunian tears and wished that we could stay a while longer.
Circle Of Sisters
The next morning we said our sad goodbyes to Karen, her loving staff and the place itself before our long journey back to Fez and yet another banquet. There is a very special alchemy that takes place when a group of people come together with a common purpose. Magic always happens in these situations and it did for us under Saharan skies.
We had become a circle of sisters, mothers, daughters and grandmothers. Neptune was at work right to the end. The sky was crying when we left.
If you are interested in AstroCamps under desert skies there will be a deep process camp in Central Australia in May 2019 (limited to 16 participants).
Another magical journey to Tissardmine in October 2019 (limited to 8 participants).