Monday, 28 November 2016

Witchfest 2016

Wow.

I think that's all I really need to say. I've had a phenomenal weekend, I've had new ideas and new avenues to explore, new writers to investigate and new shiny things to play with. But lets go back to the beginning before I start gushing about the many things I bought from the market.

I headed to London on Friday morning, on a slightly packed train but I made it largely unscathed. A quick flirt with the underground and I was soon on a train from Victoria to Brighton, I was ridiculously excited. So excited I didn't read any of the books I had brought with me on either train. I met up with my friends Nisha and Chris. We had a lovely lunch at a Vegetarian placed called Iydea and then headed to the flat (after extracting Nisha from many shops along the way). We made our way to our Air BNB, which was small but all we really needed. After a spot of shopping (and more extracting of Nisha) we headed to the Brighton Centre (via a chip shop).

I don't think I was quite prepared for the size of the Auditorium in the Brighton Centre. It was HUGE. We managed to nab seats at the front which was both a blessing and a curse, largely because once people got up to dance it was difficult to see! But we persevered and very much enjoyed Spriggan Mist, Crow Dancers and Inkubus Sukkubus. I personally can't wait for the Crow Dancers album and pestered KT at least twice over the weekend about it! But the bands sounded fantastic, the sound was brilliant and it was the best I've heard Inkubus Sukkubus ever be!

We all got kicked out at 5 to 11 and we headed to bed, via a kebab shop because, food. It was so noisy when we got back to the flat though, the neighbours were playing very loud music when we got in but fortunately had turned it down just before I tried to sleep. But it was Friday night in Kemptown and it was busy, that's life I guess!

The next day we were up early, passed through a Costa for breakfast (gingerbread muffins naturally), and headed for a day of learning and fun. There was a bit of a delayed start due to the fact so many people were still trying to get in. I suspect this might have had something to do with the revolving doors making it slow for people to get in, or it might just have been because so many fricking people were there! I have no idea what the final numbers were but it was fantastic to see so many people turn out. The opening blessing was given by Kate West, and I was a little bit excited about that because this year was my first year hearing Kate West speak, but more on that later.

We, unfortunately, decided to skip Rufus Harrington's talk because we were worried we weren't going to get any shopping time, We were going to be in talks or events from 12 until about half 5 so it was near enough going to be our only shopping time. I ended up coming away with a awl for scratching symbols on candles, a Morrigan Bust, my first two Ember Vincent Pieces, a copy of Magical Times and some oils from Dominae Lunae Apothecary. (I think that's it).






Our first talk of the day was Witchcraft into the Wilds by Rachel Patterson. It took some finding, it was in the Syndicate wing of the Brighton Centre and was a bit difficult to find. But, we got there and as most of the talks we wanted to go to were in that wing we didn't have to move very far for the rest! I have to say I liked Rachel immensely, she very much draws from nature instead of buying things, because it's not really needed (don't tell my husband that). She herself is a self proclaimed "Lazy Witch" which is always something I call myself so I resonated a lot with what she said. She even gave advice to a question which echos things I said in my talk at Artemis Gathering, so much more exploring is required here. Looking forward to venturing down that avenue more!

Second was Raegan Shanti's Talk AKA Nisha! It was on Movement Meditation, and I have to say it was lovely to see it so well attended. Her talk was well researched (far better than mine ever was) and the movement part was lovely, I never usually get to go to Nisha's talks due to things getting in the way so it was great to get to see her talk, especially in front of  group. She was very much in her element there, even if she did get a bit tongue tied at times. (Love ya, Nish!)

Next was Damh the Bard and the Mabinogion, which I learnt I have been saying wrong for years (but of course). I know little about the Mabinogion but it was interesting to finally heard Damh speak. He very much knows his stuff! This is another topic I want to explore further, next year maybe, starting with reading the Mabinogion. An interesting introduction though with ideas I hope I remember while I'm reading.

Kate West was someone I was looking forward to seeing for a long time. She stopped doing events for a while as I was just beginning to attend my first ones so I was a little upset at the time! But she's back and I was delighted. I enjoyed her talk, I enjoyed the anecdotes and advice she had to impart. She seemed very much no nonsense which is the same feeling you get come across in her books. I very much felt inspired to carry on with what I'm doing and again came up with a few more avenues to go down, not least to actually finish her books...

Last but not least, Professor Ronald Hutton discussed Western Magical Traditions and basically how they all came from the East in a way, Egypt and Assyria. A lot of what has been copied down in the past has travelled far and wide, so it's interesting know that at least some of what we practice might have some basis in ancient magic, though it's, once again, something more to read about and to research. Why is it I always come away from these things with what feels like homework!?

At 5pm there was a raffle. After complaining I never win anything I won three things, a print of the artwork from Damh the Bard's Antlered Crown and Standing Stone by Ceri Lee, a signed copy of THe Witching Path by Moira Stirland and a Witch necklace I gave to Nisha (who had no raffle luck in the slightest). I'm very pleased with my picks although I now need more wall space for the Ceri Lee print!



After another quick run around the market before it closed (where I bought the other half of Ember Vincent's stall and a couple of itty bitty crystal Venus of Willendorf's) we headed into town for dinner. We ended up in a lovely little italian place and consumed my only alcoholic beverage of the whole weekend! (I know, it's shocking). Unfortunately timing meant we missed Daughters of Gaia but we did make it back in time to see Damh the Bard.


Now, anyone who knows me, will know that Damh the Bard is my number one top Pagan Artist ever. I could listen to nothing but him for weeks, and frequently have. So I was very excited to be able to see him twice this year (although I'm hoping it will be three times next year!).  He sounded fantastic on the big stage and I think he was quite giddy about being on it himself. For the whole set I was whispering "Play Sabbat, please play Sabbat, you really want to play Sabbat." Then he started talking about playing songs that he didn't play because of huge production (Sabbat?) and how he really wanted to play this one (please be Sabbat?) and he was going to play it for the first time (Sabbat!?). It was! I swear the by the second chord I was on my feet and dancing. I was so excited I grabbed my friend Joy out of her seat and made her dance. (Seriously, Sabbat is like my favourite song at the moment, I was utterly delighted and even ignored the fact he sang the wrong verse). So now I have to spam him before Staffordshire Pagan Conference and hope to get a repeat performance! (Seriously, I was over the fricking moon!) So after buying a copy of Sabbat and got it signed followed by sweaty Bard Hug (TM) we went back in for The Dolmen.

When I saw the Dolmen back at Artemis Gathering you could not get me off of my feet. I danced for their entire set and I was fricking exhausted. While I very much enjoyed the performance of the Dolmen I didn't feel the urge to get up and dance. Maybe it was just because I had had such a full day and I was pretty tired, I don't know. I think the energies of Artemis Gathering suited them better. I also noted they're far more Tribal at Artemis than they were at Witchfest. However, I did finally learn the name of one of the songs I love so I bought the CD with that on it :)

Wearily we made our way back to the flat, that was missing the party next door Friday night had, much to our delight. after a "quick" snack of pringles and gingerbread we went to sleep, ready for our next day of adventures in Brighton.

As we weren't in a particular rush we had a lazy get up and managed to fit everything into our suitcases (although I'm not entirely sure how!) I had learnt not long before Witchfest that our flat was literally round the corner from Doreen Valiente's flat. So we checked out of the flat and made our pilgrimage. We weren't the only ones either, there were people there when we got there and people heading up with great enthusiasm when we were leaving. I had a bit of a moment there. It was weird to think that as I stood on the steps of Tyson place that Doreen had stood once. Possibly on her way to a ritual, possibly after marching up the hill with bags of groceries (I don't know how she managed that!), but there she would have stood or passed. A small tear came to my eye as I could very much still feel here there, slightly bemused at all the visitors to her little flat, but a little bit pleased all the same, that we're there, open and in so many numbers.




We found "breakfast" in town before heading to the sea for a bit. I collected a bit of sea water and found a hagstone so I was quite pleased :) I love being by the sea and wished we'd made more time to be there without having suitcases. Maybe next time!





After a quick trip via a couple of shops (I think we can guess who we had to extract...) we made our way up to Preston Manor to see the exhibition. It was small but perfectly formed. I had goosebumps the moment I went in and had a few more tears in my eyes pretty quickly. What struck me was very much the normality of it all. Gerald Gardner's book was a blank financial ledger, Doreen's was written in biro with a pencil note on how to pronounce Samhain. The items she collected from antique shops were beautiful, and again, the presence of Doreen was very very much present. I'm delighted to have had a chance to see the exhibition, and I am very much hoping that they make something bigger very soon. As it was "exit via the gift shop" I came back with more wares, a copy of Doreen Valiente's An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present which I've not had my hands on before, a couple of postcards from the Foundation, a card of art of John Belham-Payne and a Pentagram notebook, within which I might start a new Book of Shadows with one instruction to myself, "be more Doreen".



Wearily we made our way back to the station to wait for the train home. The remainder of the journey was fairly uneventful, my train was cold and I made it home earlier than I planned.


I did read a bit of ABC of Witchcraft on my way home, and it made me think of a conversation Nisha and I had had about us being the future of Witchcraft, our generation is the next to step up and will be the elders of Witchcraft one day. We sort of panicked over expectations on new ways in the craft, what can we do when everything has already been done? But Doreen says "There are many realms still to be explored, and doubtless many discoveries still to be made." That might be in a book published in 1973, but I believe it's still true. And if we're going to get there we need events like Witchfest to help spark the imagination, to bring us down new avenues of thought. To come together as a community, share ideas and inspire the next generation.

So here's to Witchfest 2017, see you on the seafront :)


Sunday, 13 November 2016

It's Hard To Light A Candle Easy To Curse The Dark Instead

This lyric for this blog was posted only a few minutes after I decided to write a blog - and it kinda sums everything up for me perfectly.

Of late, I've not been happy. It's more a personal frustration at the fact I am not anywhere near where I'd want to be right now. I'm not in a job that makes me happy and I'm finding it more and more difficult to maintain being me. I'm losing interest in the things I love, I've not been reading anywhere near as much as I should be, I've not been doing any of the hobbies I enjoy, making jewellery or painting (well, rarely). I feel I'm repeating things almost word for word from another blog, and I probably am. But once again it's a subject that returns and returns for me.

Also lately, I've felt that my patience is wearing thin. I've been in a group chat for the better part of two years and I've quit that because I was growing weary of all the utter shit that passed for conversation. It was almost like an unending stream of hairdresser small talk about the subjects you couldn't give less of a shit about. Every. Fucking. Day.

And worst of all is these feelings are carrying on into my day to day relationships and I get the feeling that one day I am just going to snap. I don't want to, I'm becoming this grumpy miserable shit I don't want to be.

It's affecting more than just that though, the weight I've lost is piling back on, I'm buying larger sizes and I'm not happy about that and I'm having massive issues with it.

My problem is, I'm cursing the dark. I'm sat complaining and whining about my lot without doing a single thing about it. My candle remains unlit and at this point I don't even know where it is, and the matches are probably still in the shop, waiting to be bought. I don't know how to find find it, or how to even begin.

I've had a couple of kicks up the arse lately. Spiritually, I've had the Morrigan come and basically tell me to fucking get on with it (her words). I think that's an entirely different blog worth of information one day though.

The other thing that's motivated me is something a bit more closer to home. My friend's brother, Matt Bates, passed away on the 28th October. He had a rare form of cancer and was 27 when he died. I didn't know him. We met once in the street while I was with Sarah and sort of said hi to each other and that was it, everything else I know about him came from his blog or from his sister. His death affected me though, small at first, and I spent most of my time feeling sad for his family.

When I was chatting to someone at work about him, who also knew him through a few degrees of separation, we discussed how Matt did what he loved until the end. He was a journalist for a local paper, he recorded an album while he was ill and it was released just after he died. He never gave up hope, he kept doing what he wanted to do, fulfilled his dreams despite what he was going through.

And here's me whinging, with my health, with the ability to do what it is I want to do - I just have to get up, find the candle, then I can light it.

So enough's enough. I'm going to have to push myself to do what it is I want to do, to get out there and find the life that I want to live and want to lead. Find a career that I want to do, find something I love. If it involves education, then I'm going to do it, if it involves spending every moment of my evenings looking for new things to do and try, for jobs, for free courses or ways to find out what it is that makes me happy then so be it.

I'm going to start taking better care of myself. I'm going to start beliving in myself because so many times I have said "I can't do that" and I've gone on to do it. I've stood in front of people this year and given a talk on my beliefs, I've written articles and had 3 articles published in 2 different publications. I've contributed to a book that will be out next year.

So I'm done. I am done being the miserable shit, the one who hates Monday's, the one who goes to a job just for the money. The one who wastes her time at nights doing nothing beneficial at all.

I am fucking capable, and I can fucking do things.

Not only am I going to light that candle, I'm going to light all the candles, there's going to be a veritable bonfire by the time I'm done.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Shift Happens

Hey Pop Tarts (Note to self: Stop binge watching Kelly-Ann Maddox)

I've been thinking of wanting to blog for a week or so now but I had no idea where to start. I feel like I've started going through a bit of a spiritual shift. Whether this is an actual shift or whether it's because it's the "witchy" time of the year, I'm not sure. To start, let's go back to something I said in 2014 on Facebook.


I'm not going to lie, until some time this year I also thought I was possibly off my rocker. Perhaps I still am but I feel I have now gone beyond this point. 

Around the time I made this post I decided to take a step further into my social spirituality and joined a bunch of groups on Social Media. I made a few friends in there and felt I generally got on with them pretty well. At the least I felt like I was part of something and while I wasn't doing much in terms of spiritual practice I could chat about beliefs and read the thoughts of like-minded souls and I enjoyed it. They became my support network, certainly for 2015 where I wasn't able to go to any events, although I did get the chance to spend time in Glastonbury but wasn't as full on spiritual as I would have liked to have been due to being weighed down by some form of expectation that I was going to be hit by a bolt from the blue and a major spark of inspiration that didn't really happen. Perhaps that's another blog. 

2016 has been a much different year for me. I've had more involvement in some pagan groups, I've already been to a conference, a camp where I was a speaker, have written a couple of magazine articles and contributed to a book. I also have Witchfest on the horizon and I really can't wait for the energy that that is going to bring to my life. As part of the year, the writing aspect has gone hand in hand with a lot of introspection. The articles and talk I did were all based on my own experiences and my own spirituality and it is a lot of what I was going through or really still am going through. 

The feelings of being a fraud, I feel, tie in to my Facebook post to a degree. Either I feel like a fraud or that I am off my rocker, or I end up stepping away after such questioning periods. They're healthy though, again, things I've gone through in the past or things that tinge what I am currently going through. 

As I said I feel like I am going through a bit of a spiritual shift and that shift seems to be someone telling me "no fucking bullshit". I've grown tired of a lot of the online pagan community, mostly people in groups who post more "new age" aspects which I do not feel directly link to a lot of the groups core messages. If I saw one more post of "here is a picture of a lamp I bought, can you tell me if you have any messages for me?" No. Fuck off. Go visit psychic Sally if that's what you want. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for that kind of thing if its what you want but not in a page of fucking hedge witchery. Likewise, I do not need to see photographs of the intimate practices you do with your significant other, nor do I need to know the exact details of where you sprinkle the "sacred love salt". Apparently reporting that to Facebook didn't class it as nudity...

So aside from cutting out the groups that no longer serve me, and I have to question if they ever actually did, I am moving away from a lot of stupid influences and surrounding myself with aspects of the community that are the same on the "no fucking bullshit" persuasion. I've found myself watching a lot more youtube videos and seeking out people on there who really know their shit, like Kelly-Ann Maddox and Joey Morris from Starry Eyed Supplies. I'm still keeping some of my original influences like Pagyptsian and Laura Daligan but I certainly need some oomph in my path and practices and all four of those people are certainly people who can inspire that within me. 

The other part of the shift for me, and again, this is linked intrinsically, I feel, with the "no fucking bullshit" part. I've thought of setting up a small part of daily practice which is not something I currently do. My path is mostly I'll do it when I feel like it which hast got me by pretty much most of the time. I felt like doing something through the week and it was simply sitting outside, with a candle, chatting to the Goddess. I didn't call her by name, I sat and I wittered on about all my problems and everything else when I just came out with "Goddess, Morrigan, help me." And I stopped. And I thought "what the actual fuck". 

I have recently noticed an increase of Morrigan in my life, either in the videos I've watched or the people who I have followed or art I've been drawn to. So I don't know if it's part of that but since I called on Morrigan part of me is all fuck yeah warrior energy in the parts of my life where I have needed it. It's mainly been my spirituality and where I am wanting to go with that but there are aspects where something is telling me that I am so not happy in other parts of my life and telling me to change them. I know there is going to end up being a fucktonne of introspection again there and some deep shit but I am ready. The war paint is to hand and I am so fucking ready to move past the shit that's weighing me down and go into a new phase of where I should be. 

I have no idea how long Morrigan is going to be there in my life, I know she comes and goes as she pleases and as and when she knows I need her but this is it. Dark Goddess in the Dark half of the year. 

Bring it on.


Sunday, 18 September 2016

The One Where She Tries To Sort Her Witchy Shit Out

I would love to know how people get shit done. How people seem to have full time jobs but still find the time to read loads of books, write loads of articles or chapters for books or even whole books themselves. How people manage to sign up for courses and actually complete them on schedule within the right time constraints and now still be faffing around on the first month a couple of years after they signed up. How people manage to complete projects, whether they're arty or whatever, where is the time?

I can't lie, I do not spend my time wisely. Once I get home from work the first thing I will do after dumping my bag down is turning on my laptop, or just lifting the lid as 99.9% of the time I don't even turn my laptop off properly. And I will sit there for a little while, perhaps until Husband comes home where we will exchange plesantries, dinner is cooked, an hour and a half after that we watch a couple of episodes of whatever series we're watching or watch a movie if that's where things are going that day. Then whatever time I have left I am either sat on my laptop staring at Imgur or starting at conversations in Whatsapp that I am generally not in the slightest bit interested in. Before I know it it's time for bed and the cycle starts again. Weekends aren't much better and I often find myself staring at YouTube videos of my favourite YT pagans wishing that my life was like that before sighing and watching an hour worth of vines from the same fucking guy.

Something has to change.

I can't completely cut out my laptop, I use it for the very occasional blogs I do or the articles I vaguely write and planning I roughly do. If there are things I want to watch on TV, like the Great British Bake Off and Ripper Street that are given up for no one) then I usually have to watch them on my laptop if the TV is taken over by Husband and games. But there is an addiction there and I can't shake it.

But it's not just my laptop, it's my phone too. I'm always on Facebook or Imgur or something which is just wasting my time when I could be doing more important things.

"but Jenny, what does this have to do with sorting your witchy shit which is clearly the title of your blog?" I'm getting there.

As you know I did a talk this year at Artemis Gathering and it was about falling by the wayside and how to get back onto your path. It was all from personal experiences and I can tell you that 99.9% of the reasons that I have fallen off my path is because of the time I spend on the internet or I spend staring at my phone. Either it eats my time or I become so bogged down in whatever is going "out there" or I'm put in a mood by meaningless shit that people try to convince me is exciting news that I don't want to do anything else.

I am happy when I am reading and I am happy when I am practicing my path and the fact that I am not putting the time in to do things is upsetting me and I know I only have myself to blame. So it's time to sort my witchy shit out - also my mundane shit but we won't go into that in this blog.

So what am I going to do? I am going to have dedicated Internet Free nights - that means everything, Facebook, Imgur, Whatsapp everything is getting turned off and my phone is going in a drawer. Those nights I am either going to be reading or I am going to be spending my time writing or even crazily practicing my path. Art might come into it, I love doing art and it's another thing that makes me happy or other crafting based hobbies. I am aware it is going to drive me completely insane but if I can find a connection to doing things without stopping ever 2 minutes to check my Facebook notifications or some drivel someone is trying to message me then I might actually get shit done.

I made a database of all the Witchy books I have on my shelf and marked the ones I haven't read. It was deeply depressing and not a list I am going to show my husband or he'll probably tell me to get rid f some. Some of these books have been on my shelves for years and it's largely because of the internet thing that I haven't read them. When I've not been feeling witchy the last thing I have wanted to do is to pick up a witchy book and read it. And I have all sorts on there, full year course books, small books, massive large in depth ones I've just not touched. So I need to read them or if I know that I am not going to read them for whatever reason then they need to be gone.

There are courses that I signed up for a while ago and haven't competed, free ones mind you so not wasted money or anything but some I signed up to years ago and I've not got very far or barely started. Part of it has been life getting in the way but as ever it's 99.9% due to wasting my own personal time with shit. I will need to sort out some time a week where all I am doing is looking at one of those course then possibly two if I'm feeling radical enough to get there.

Journalling is something else that falls by the wayside, it's something I banged on about in my talk but I am also very aware of my own shortcomings when it comes to journaling. I have got a book of shadows and I barely touch it. I started writing in the one I have at the moment in 2013 and there is very little in there in terms of personal growth. It's something I am going to have to get into the habit of and just fucking do.

So that's my plan, less online time and more time sorting my witchy shit out. And maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to reach some kind of places where I can be sorted and start working on some of the bigger project ideas I have whirling around in my head. It'll never work otherwise.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Heeding My Own Advice

So it's been a week since I did my talk at Artemis Gathering and I kinda feel like everything is beginning to sink in a bit. Not just the various talks and workshops I attended over the weekend but the talk I presented myself.

I gave the talk based on my own experiences, based on advice I would give anyone who is on their path and feeling lost. I have practical tips on where to go, what to do and at times just let people know that they are not alone. "Not all those who wander are lost", I said, it's something that has stuck with me for a while.

Now we can all be our own worst critic, so it might not surprise you to learn that my feelings about myself and my self worth on terms of the craft are pretty low. I don't know where these thoughts come from, whether it's due to not feeling like I belong in groups or because I don't feel that i have had enough education or learning. I'm sure these are feelings we've all had somewhere along our paths, feeling that we're not good enough. I'm pretty sure these feelings plagued me while I was doing my talk.

Part of my talk was saying about how I felt like a fraud and how I felt like one presenting the talk and giving advice. I don't follow my own advice. I had so many people coming up to me after the talk saying how much it's helped them or how much they connected with it. People were taking things away from what I said, but it's all things that I should be telling myself, things that I should be following myself. And I think that a little bit of it has begun to sink in.

For the first time tonight I truly felt comfortable on my path. I know that I don't do what other people do, I know that I do not work in the same ways and that at times my celebrations can be a bit, lacking. But for me it's perfect. There's nothing to stop me going on and developing it later (again, advice from my own talk), and I will, I know I will. 

I had an important lesson come to me at the end of my talk in the form of one of the people who attended. It was to simply trust. It is something I know I do not do. I was told that I "have the knowledge" and if I just learn to trust then great things will come. But perhaps, perhaps the fact that I am feeling more comfortable with my path I am beginning to trust. It's a long road, it's a part of my path that I think I knew deep down I would need to face eventually, to trust and to believe. 

The lesson came to me again at Barbara's workshop on Walking with the Ancestors, I had to say a blessing on an ancestral plate, I said what I thought I should have said before uttering the words "I don't know what else to say." Barbara told me to close my eyes, not to think and to speak purely from the heart. And I did. What came out I do not remember but I recall that it was more emotional and far more honest than what I had said before. I had to trust that I had the words in there, I still have to trust that the words are in there, that the magic is inside of me,that the advice I give others also applies to me, that I am worthy and capable and that I am not a fraud. 

So I am comfortable with where I am and I trust that I will remain this way, I trust that all the things I have whirling around my head right now are going to come to fruition, that the knowledge I have can be imparted on others and that I can achieve what I want to achieve. I trust in my path, I trust in the God and Goddess that they are doing what is right for me, I trust that they have their own lessons to teach me when the time is right and that I will follow them. 

There was a chant in Barbara's work shop "I am a wise woman, I am a strong woman", I'm beginning to believe that. I just have to trust.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Artemis Gathering 2016 - Sunday - Monday

Sunday
I woke up Sunday morning feeling nervous. It wouldn’t be that long until I gave my first ever talk on Paganism. I decided not to dwell on it, but with everyone asking me every two minutes how it was it was really hard not to think about it.

After the usual get up, breakfast, waking up Sam, routine, we headed to the first talk of Sunday which was a woodland walk with Elm Cloud. It started with a gentleman who had made a moth trap and some of the moths were stunning. My favourite was a Black Arches moth because it was fluffy and just so darn cute! The rest of it Elm went through trees and plants and what their properties were, elements of folklore and other things. It was a lovely gentle start to the day and Elm was as informative as ever, I do like his talks.

At 11 it was to be a talk that ended up cancelled so I had some down time to panic the crap out of myself, look at some stalls and very very slowly make myself to the Taurus lodge where I would be giving my talk.

By the time I had stopped at the tree for the next talk my nerves had tripled. People started turning up and asking if I was there for the talk where I informed them that I was the talk. When the previous talk finally finished I was really beginning to shake. Especially when most of the people from the previous talk stayed! I have no idea of the exact numbers that turned up but I’d say 30 maybe, it was certainly far better attended that I could have hoped for. Some shakes aside, and referring to my paper far more than I had wished to, I made it through relatively unscathed. People laughed at the jokes and I saw a lot of people nodding with what was being said. There was only one question, which was about my deities and it’s something I am going to have to go on and explore myself because it was an interesting notion. People took handouts I had made with book recommendations and tips, there was quite a rush when I said I had a limited number. Some people stopped to tell me that they had connected with what I had said and it made them feel like they weren’t alone. I had others coming up to me throughout the rest of the day telling me the same and even a messages since I’ve got home which was the final straw that made me weep. I’ve had one where someone who attended informed me that they have been inspired by it and taking steps back along their path which for me is amazing. I didn’t think my talk would have had that degree of inspiration or understanding with people. So if anyone is reading this who came to my talk, thank you, once again for coming!

Next was a break to dance with Inkubus Sukkubus who I enjoyed, as ever.  Singing highlights for me were Wytches and The Corn King. Candia also threw me the ivy circlet she was wearing which made my friend Nisha incredibly jealous. It remained a feature for the rest of the weekend and I left it as an offering of thanks to the spirit of the place before I left on Monday. Unfortunately I missed the talk on Finnish Spellcrafting by my friend Tatja as Inkkies ran on a bit but I probably needed the time to chill after anyway. Will have to make sure I make it to her talks next time! I did manage to introduce myself and give her a quick hug as we’ve chatted online quite a bit but never in person so it was lovely to meet her.

Flavia Kate Peters was next with a talk on the Wheel of Fortune. I’ve not gone to any of Flavia’s talks in the past as they seem to focus a lot on faeries which I don’t know how I feel about yet so I’ve always avoided them. This one, I really enjoyed. It echoed a lot of thoughts I’ve had on the Wheel of Fortune and Wheel of the Year already and it’s something I hope to write an article about. We did a guided meditation with drum where we travelled through the wheel of the year spun in random at Fortuna’s hand. It was interesting, the different points of being up and down on the wheel. My thoughts were all over the place and Flavia later told me that she could pick up on my energies and that there was a lot to work through. It gave me a lot of things to think about and work towards as did the final talk on my schedule.

Barbara Meiklejohn-Free is someone I have seen speak before although it was a few years ago now, and last time I was at Artemis Gathering I heard great things from her workshop so I decided, bit spur of the moment, that I was going to go to Walking with the Ancestors. So we trekked into the woods (where I am pretty sure most of my bites came from…) and we started doing a ritual and meditation to the Ancestors. I won’t go into details as to what exactly happened for me but it was a deep connection and there was an important lesson for me at the beginning about speaking from my heart and not thinking which is something someone else had told me earlier. But it was deep and moving and I am not ashamed to say through throughout the connecting with the ancestors I just wept. I couldn’t stop and I have no idea why. But I thanked her and we chatted a little afterwards too. I know I have a lot to work through and a lot of what came from this workshop is what I will be working on or towards.

After the closing ritual, a quick plate of the nicest Tarka Dahl I’ve had, and losing miserably at the raffle, Nish and I made our way to the extremely packed Firewalking Workshop. I have done the Firewalk before but I don’t think that I wanted the outcome deep down. This year I was determined. I did the arrow breaking ceremony that I had done before, but this time I could feel that I was ready to do it. In 2013 I could feel a degree of resistance to do so but this year I went straight into it. I have plans with my arrow to turn it into something else, at least half of it and the other half I am going to put with my current arrow.

With this firewalk workshop we really get to know our fire, we light it with what we’re wanting to get rid of, putting the energies into a candle and placing it in and giving it fuel. We then sprinkle incense to put in what we would want others to get out of it. When we go back later, after learning a bit more about firewalking and the arrow breaking. I made it across the flames three times, each time as determined as the first. I had intentions in what I wanted to walk towards when I arrived on Friday but over the course of the weekend that changed. I have a lot of work to do to get where I want to be but following the workshop I am ready to face anything that comes my way.
There were ghost stories in the marquee afterwards and after shivering though it all Nisha and I decided to head to bed.

Monday

Monday morning is never a joyous occasion when it comes to Artemis Gathering because it means packing up and leaving. After a relaxed breakfast, where friends told me people had been talking highly about my talk, Nisha and I plodded back reluctantly to put everything away. Then it was a quick round of goodbyes before Sam and I headed for the station with full hearts and lighter purses.
In reflection I think I sell myself a bit short. The weekend was amazing and to think that I was part of the people giving talks was spellbinding. I am capable of speaking in front of people, especially when it’s something I am passionate about and can relate to. Knowing that others can relate to it too and take things away makes it all the more powerful.

So to the future, where I will end up doing yet another blog on my thoughts of that but I am going to be so very busy. I’ve already asked if I can go back next year and I’m hoping I’ll be on the schedule, possibly going down a slightly heavier route but we’ll see how it goes.

So here’s to Artemis Gathering 2016, if you attended, I hope you learned as much as I did, if you didn’t, there’s always Witchfest!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Artemis Gathering 2016 - Friday and Saturday

It's the Monday after the weekend before, and this has been, quite frankly, the best weekend of my year so far.  Having missed a year, I returned to my beloved Artemis Gathering. This year was a bit of a special one for me this year - I was giving my first ever talk. But we'll get to that in a bit.

Friday

So Friday I set out, gaining a friend, Sam, on the way, and we made it to camp for about quarter past 4. Loads had already arrived and were beginning to set up so we got started. After a few false starts with Sam's Tent, we were soon joined by my mate Nisha and before we knew it we had our own little camp. After we were set up we headed off for food, meeting many friends enroute. That evening we had Cliff Carr, Bard to the Dolmen Grove, who I hadn't heard before and the inevitable main event, Damh the Bard. I have seen Damh a few times now and it never gets old, the music is just as enjoyable the first time or the nth time you've seen it. So, high on the music that he played, we headed out after to watch fire performers (whom I always envy). Afterward Sam and I lost Nisha along the way and headed to the Goth Club in the Scout Hut on site. I had popped in briefly on my last visit but didn't enjoy it then, this year however, seemed to be a different matter. I think we must have danced for about 2 and a half hours with the night eventually ending at 1am with both of us outside, Sam dancing to Magic Dance from Labyrinth with me sat on a table with a happy tabby cat curled up in my lap, it was oddly surreal.

Saturday

I woke and headed off pretty quickly to breakfast. I adore the food at Artemis, their Cafe is pretty top notch for festival food, and extremely reasonably priced. You always get your moneys worth! Soon after breakfast, after popping by a stall for my first purchase which I have just discovered is quite the bargain, we went to Ania's workshop on "Living the Tarot". It was about looking at the imagery and creating our own card based on that imagery that would appeal to our own lives. I started doing one on the Cernunnos Card from the Druidcraft deck but my drawing skills are somewhat lacking. Nisha did a beautiful version of The Star though, and I think she's now going to consider doing her own deck.

After Ania, we nipped over to catch Kevin Groves and his talk on Labyrinths. I have walked one of his Labyrinths before and I was extremely keen to do it again, so I did, twice. There is something about walking a Labyrinth, and as Kevin said in his talk, it cannot be explained. Simply experienced. As we shared our experiences coming out, we all experienced different but not totally different things. I found the whole thing very interesting and it's something I would love to look into further myself.

Next was the opening ritual, which turned out to be my second Artemis Gathering Handfasting, this time for Andi and Kelly, the bar staff and friends of mine. I am not ashamed to admit I wept a little, I'm a bit sap when it comes to weddings of any form so my inner romantic was fairly happy! After a congratulation hug we headed for food and a spot of Meet the Witches and probably shopping. It's extremely hard to keep track of when I actually bought things.

Two o'clock brought Creative Visualisation with Kevin again. I have already been to his creative visualisation talks online before but it was nice to make it in person. I think the only difficulty was my back was hurting which probably made me look disinterested (sorry Kevin). But as ever, there were things that he mentioned that echoed a lot of thoughts I'd already been having. So lots to think about, as always, and it tied nicely into some other bits and pieces I later in the weekend (mainly meditations and visualisations where I just ended up totally giving in to it).

I next when to a talk on Anglo Saxon Runes. Which was interesting, I own a set of Eldar Futhark myself but I've struggled with them. While the talk was interesting, I still didn't feel my connection to runes deepening, so I don't know if it's something I'll still continue with or not. I have to confess I seemed a little rude because I stood up and walked away before the talk finished because it was running on and I really wanted to get to the next one!

Next was chanting with Pia. I have to say I do enjoy a bit of chanting and singing so I found this really nice and relaxing. After quite a few in depth talks, something that didn't require as much thinking was wonderful. So we learnt some new chants and sang some old. I also spotted someone with the drum I've been eyeing up so I got a play on that which was great fun.

Next up was another singing workshop, this time with Susan Marie Paramor called "Inner Voice - God and Goddess worship". We were taken through several singing and chanting exercises, and it was basically to teach us not to be afraid with singing, It was lovely and I did feel myself opening up a bit more. It ended with a sort of sound bath used with singing. I came out of that feeling so chilled, it was amazing. 

That was the last workshop of the day so we headed to the marquee once again to have some food while we watched a slightly shortened Daughters of Gaia set which was still enjoyable, then, via a highly amusing auction, it was onto the Dolmen. I have only seen the Dolmen twice but I can tell you that this time I did not stop dancing from the first song to the last. It was absolutely incredible. Even the moments where there were just drumming were amazing, I've developed quite the connection to drums this weekend but that's for another blog. In the end I got a hug and a quick snog from Taloch (be still my heart). I also bought their Kayleigh album which is an album of songs featuring Kayleigh, their bassist and vocalist, as the main singer. There are some instrumentals I am going to have to figure out what they are though, and more Dolmen will be bought at Witchfest!

At Artemis they always have a fire sculpture. Previous years have seen a Phoenix and Dragon but this year we had a good old Wicker man. I managed to grab a picture of it in the morning before. (see below) - As always, there were fire performers and the Wicker Man was filled with magnesium and sparked as he went up in flames. It was a great ending to the day and, utterly worn out by the Dolmen, I made my way to bed pretty soon after.



The rest of the weekend is going to come in a separate blog. Sunday was quite a big day for me, not just from the experiences I had in different workshops but because I gave my first ever talk! I will get that one put up as soon as I can.