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The naked truth. A new book about Rainbow Gatherings by Josh Shakerley

Blog | May 29, 2023

The first Rainbow Gathering was in 1972, when thousands of people climbed Table Mountain in Colorado to pray and meditate for world peace.

In the summer of 1986, I received an invitation at a Hare Krishna temple in Los Angeles to go to one of the Gatherings in the foothills of Big Sur, California – an invitation that was to change my life.

What followed has been an epic 36-year journey of love and learning with the Rainbow Family, which has taken me to Gatherings all over the world – Hawaii, Thailand, Morocco, Russia, Guatemala, the Canary Islands, Australia, the Arctic Circle, Israel, Mexico and almost every country in Europe. My daughters have grown up at Gatherings and still sing the Rainbow songs.

I decided to put together a new book of my photographs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Gatherings.

The Rainbow Family is not an organisation. It is non-commercial, non-political and non-religious. It has no leaders and no one to represent it.

At least three Gatherings happen every month all over the world. Thousands of people go to Rainbow Gatherings and yet it has no members. Some say it is the largest non-organisation of non-members in the world.

Gatherings can be reached only by foot and are often at the end of a long trail through a forest, a jungle or a desert.

My longest walk in was a gruelling eight-hour climb up a trail in the Dolomites in Italy.

The Gatherings last a month and follow the lunar cycle, new moon to new moon, peaking with a full-moon celebration in the middle.

The heartbeat of every Gathering is the music and the singing circles. Heart-opening Rainbow songs, medicine songs, bhajans and mantras are sung communally in dance, in praise, in reverence – around campfires or in tipis.

There are no facilities. Everything is done as organically as possible. We wash in streams, rivers or lakes. We cook on open fires. We drink from fresh-water springs. We dig communal or private ‘shit-pits’ and use ash, lime and earth to cover up our deposits.

We take everything out that we bring in. We aim to leave nature more beautiful than we found it.

It’s incredible but it works – we always have an abundance of everything that we need. The magic and the connection you feel are the essence and heartbeat of Rainbow.

Joth Shakerley’s Rainbow is available from jothshakerley.com (£65)