Merry Meet Pawb
So here it is: the quiet after the storm. After months of preparation and hard work finally the week-end of the South Wales Summer Camp 2011 had arrived. We had one of the most perfect spots in Wales, we had excellent speakers, we had fantastic workshops, a big fire, lovely fellow Pagans; the only thing letting us down was the weather. Now, we in Wales are used to a bit of 'weather' aka rain and after a hearty chant to call the sun on Saturday, led by Siany, we did indeed manage the impossible: the sun appeared for the day. It was the wind though. The payment for the gorgeous views was the wind.
When we arrived on Wednesday, it was pretty dire. So we decided to do all the other jobs and leave the marquee for the next day, when there would be more hands available to help. In the night the wind was so bad that our tent nearly took off and our brand new gazebo folded like it was made from match sticks. This did not bode well for the raising of the marquee. Now, thankfully we had David and Karen from Hereford with us, very experienced festival visitors, who had helped put up a marquee or ten in their time. We were all set to lift the top onto the legs when disaster struck: a huge blast of wind and the marquee roof tumbled down the site like a child’s umbrella. Everyone leapt into action and together we finally caught up with it. What an adventure! In the end we managed to put two marquees up, a welcome area for our intrepid visitors as the weather was bad Friday and Sunday.
Regardless of these little issues, we all had an absolutely wonderful time. The excellent advertising by Lizzie brought in the punters from as far as LLoegr: Bristol, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire – and obviously Wales. We had not expected anyone from North Wales but Steve and Moya made the effort and the long trip to be with us. It was lovely to meet many new friends, some of whom had never been to a Pagan Federation Summer Camp before and to see again our usual suspects like Sheila and Alan from Newcastle, Pat and Nicholas from Staffordshire, Lee and Lou all the way from Basingstoke.
We danced the night away to the sounds of DJ Psyborg, seeing two Heathens doing the Prince Charming dance was a sight to behold! The home made Blackberry brandy flowed and greased old bones, some of us reverted to their misspent youth and I think we had the better of the young-uns but I could be biased.
There was a lot of witchy cackling around the fire, many a naughty song was sung and dirty joke told, in between Pat French told us stories and played the flute as did our host Sid, both beautiful and haunting.
One of the highlights of the camp out for me was our panel debate: a concept blatantly stolen from the Witchfest gatherings by me but nevertheless, I could not let the opportunity slip by when I had so many eminent pagans in our midst. For many months now I have been worried about the backbiting and bitchcraft that is making itself felt in the Pagan community in the UK. Wherever I come across a forum, a facebook site, visit a moot, speak to individuals etc. there are often quite bitter exchanges about the right and wrong path, which leads to diversity when others are working hard to establish a closely connected community.
So the question was: What is Paganism? Kicked off by our own esteemed ex-DM, Steve Ludford, who has been a Crafter for over thirty years, the question was discussed by Ros Briagha, James Denning, Cyt Warwick, Pat French, Siany and members of the audience with myself as referee. The result was astounding: we are not defined by our similarities to each other but our difference from other faiths: we have no dogma and there is no right way to be Pagan. Tolerance is the keyword that connects us all. A lesson we should all take to heart, including myself. Be good to each other, until next time -
A 'short' report of the Barry Conference for those of you who couldn't be there with us.
Kit and I arrived on Saturday in glorious sunshine at the Barry Sports and Social Club, in one piece and good time due to Kit's outstanding navigation. People have often told me that Barry Island was a dump, there could be nothing further from the truth, it is charming little town with pretty Victorian architecture that in places rivals Bath.
We met with old friends and made new, as always the pagan community is friendly and welcoming, it was no different this time. The Barry Sports and Social club is brilliant with good facilities and very friendly staff, they could not do enough for us. Refreshments were plenty and for once there were tea and coffee for those that have to drive. They also had lovely sandwiches and rolls, baked potatoes with a variety of fillings and some meat for those of us that like it. That meant we did not have to miss anything whilst going in search of food. It was amazing how accepting the local people we met were, they didn't blink an eye when they saw us and when we spoke to them were polite and courteous (some of them quite handsome).
The start and finishing rituals were held by the ShadowLight Coven and were perfect. I can't say enough about these three young pagans, they brought everyone together and set the mood for the day with reverence and humour. The priestess was later kind enough to write down the chant for me that we used, it was lovely and very uplifting. I especially liked that the words were spoken in both English and Welsh, Welsh is a language that lends itself so well to magic and ritual, as if it was born to it. We all tried our best to say 'bendigedig' which is Welsh for blessed be.
I had never been to the conference before and the idea of sitting in a room for hours listening to other people speak was a little daunting, especially on such a lovely day. But never fear, the speakers were so interesting with such a great variety of topics that there was not ime for boredom. Susan Raven started us off on Rudolf Steiner, a name I had not come across before, so I learnt something new straight away.
Kim Huggens was brilliant, given two talks on topics I am very interested in: Egyptian love magic and the court cards of tarot. Certainly one phrase will stick with me for a long time to come (sorry Kim),'oxdung and horsedung on the penis to relieve impotence'. It made one think, and not about pleasant things, yuk! I wish you good luck with your PHD.
Pete Nash was also a real enlightenment on spell work, especially the ethics of certain spells, he answered some pertinent questions after the talk and later took the time to give me some advice on a personal matter that had worried me for a long time. I came away from his talk with a lot to think about.
For me, the highlight of this conference was the fact that the people giving the talks were longtime practitioners that really know their subject well and are incredibly enthusiastic in disseminating their knowledge. Thank you all so much for your time.
We had the whole room surrounded by stalls with goodies from leatherwork to staffs and a huge book stall to my delight. I was impressed that it wasn't the usual tat that we get at other events. The original leatherwork and the incredible artwork on the staffs was awesome to behold. I know practitioners say we should make our own tools, but I am sorry to say I experienced both greed and envy when I saw some of the beautifully, carefully handcrafted items that were for sale. I was very lucky and purchased a painting of the goddess for --- wait for it---- £10. Incredible, I am so glad that some people don't always think about the maximum profit they can make but the pleasure they bring to people's life. I had to promise the stall holder that I would look after and love the painting as much as he had. It now has pride of place in my study and I am looking at it whilst I am writing this.
A big thanks goes out to Steve Ludford, the organizer and his lovely daughter, with whom I had several conversations. They and the rest of the team worked incredibly hard all day to make everything run smoothly (and it did) and make our experience of the conference a good one. Without people like Steve we would not have such brilliant events. Steve, if you read this, if you ever need any help with anything, I am your girl!!
The star of the evening entertainment was without any doubt Susan Raven. I had not heard her sing before but had won her latest CD in the raffle, for which all the stall holders had donated wonderful prizes (thanks). The audience was spell bound (literally) from the first note she played. Her voice is a gift from the goddess, I have never heard anything so beautiful and she and her partner are true masters of their instruments. I can't wait to play the CD.
In conclusion I would like to offer this piece of advice to those of you who missed the conference this year: try your very best to come to next year's conference, you will not regret it. It was the one sad note in the whole day that there were not more of us. Selfishly I have to say that obviously it meant we were given more opportunities to chat to the speakers but it would have been nice to meet more new people and raise funds for the PF.
I have been to many pagan events all over the UK, most of which were so much more expensive and so much less enjoyable, this event is excellent fun, and great value for money. Especially as membership to the PF was at the bargain price of £10 for the year.
The summer camp is coming up in September in Cardigan and I for one cannot wait to go. We are very blessed to have a body of people to represent us and to organize such wonderful days and week-ends out for us. I think it would be wonderful if there were more pagans joining the federation and meet up with all of us.
The Pagan Federation Mid-West and Wales held their Summer Camp down Llanmadoc in July 2008. The organisers of the event had picked a great location for this year's event as the Gower Peninsula possesses some of finest Pagan sites and monuments in the country. Contained within its small borders are Arthur's Stone, the Sweyne Howes, Giant's Grave, nine Standing Stones and numerous prehistoric cairns. Historians and archaeologists have now also identified the 29,000-year-old remains of Gower's infamously misnamed "Red Lady of Paviland" - the oldest known ceremonial burial in Western Europe - as belonging to an important Shaman of the time.
Tucked beneath Llanmadoc Hill, with its mighty Iron Age Earth Fort, and with the commanding views over the beautiful expanse of the Whiteford Sands, those attending this year's camp really could not have asked for a better location on which to enjoy the weekend's varied line-up of music, dance, workshops, rituals, lectures and general socialising. Despite heavy rain and intense winds taking a toll on the numbers attending the event, the camp was a great success with the worst Summer weather I have known in a long time failing to dampen many of the attendees spirits.
Arriving early on Friday evening, it proved a real battle erecting our family tent against the blustering wind. But the other campers were some of the friendliest people I have ever met and with their kind help we soon had our tent up and were ready to enjoy the festivities ahead.
A colourful, enthusiastic belly dancing display opened the first night of entertainment. This energetic dance was followed by more calming and wistful melodies provided by a variety of singers/guitarists who set a welcoming charm to the night, despite the ever present wind and rain.
The weather on the first morning of the Summer Camp was fine but gusty. The torrential rain of the night before had stopped and the sun shone bright and wonderfully upon Llanmadoc and the beach below the camp. It really was a beautiful scene - a fitting welcome to what must have been the first large-scale Pagan ceremony to be held on this landscape for countless years.
As the ritual opening of the Summer Camp commenced, I could not help but raise my eyes from the ceremony itself to gaze upon the immense hill which dominated the landscape to the south of us. Upon this hill, in the Iron Age earth-fort known as the Bulwark, ancient ritual monuments still remind visitors of the Pagan ceremonies our Gower ancestors once practised. It was a moving moment to connect that morning's ceremony to those undertaken by the people of Llanmadoc all those years ago. I found the opening of the ceremony - the visualising of roots growing from our feet and into the earth, from which we then drew the earth's energies into our bodies and minds - particularly evocative. The drawing of and farewell to the Gods of the North, the South, the East and the West was also very charged as was the passing of food and drink around the circle of people, the sweetest of greetings, and the wishes that those eating and drinking at the camp would never suffer hunger or thirst. When the Opening Ceremony came to its conclusion, I could not help but feel happy, even though the rain had now begun to fall once more.
Elaine Mein gave a very interesting talk on the history and power of Runes later that afternoon. Elaine also ran a stall on the site, selling Runes, charms and other interesting items. I had a fascinating chat with Elaine after her talk and learned a little of the pros and cons of selling wares around the various camps and festivals around the country.
Another fascinating speaker was Karl-James Langford. I had been particularly interested in hearing his lecture, which examined what archaeologists and historians can learn from folk stories about prehistoric sites. His talk included descriptions of the legends associated with the Welsh prehistoric sites of Penre Ifan and Tinkinswood - as well as some funny and very personal anecdotes about his visits to these monuments. A very amusing speaker, with an infectious love for his subject matter, his talk was not only illuminating but very entertaining also. The guy was a real star of the Summer Camp. I had a nice long chat with Karl later that afternoon and have continued to keep in touch with him after the camp.
I only managed to catch one of the bands that played that evening as a huge camp fire had been built on the edge of the camp, overlooking Whiteford Sands, and I just could not resist the allure of its warming flames. 'Telling the Bees' (pictured right) played a great selection of folk songs and I enjoyed them so much that they kept my bottom glued to my seat until their gig had finished. As soon as they had completed their act though, I headed straight off to the fire, just in time to catch a truly magnificent Gower sunset.
I was up bright and early on the last day of the Summer Camp to catch Tipi Rob's talk on Crystal Healing. Tipi Rob's lecture was hugely enjoyable and really opened my mind to the subject of crystals and their various uses.
The following talk, entitled 'What Happened to Pagan Science?' was so captivating that I could have listened to the warm-hearted chat about Plato, Belief and Reality for the rest of the day. The speaker had a real presence to him and is someone else I would truly love to hear speak again.
The Programme of Events for the weekend closed with a ritual from Sorita'd Este. As the ceremony proceeded, the skies above North Gower began to open, heralding another magnificent evening sunset to enthral those campers who had remained for the Summer Camp's fading last hours of reflection.
For many years now, I have been very disappointed with the Welsh Tourist Board and Swansea Council’s failure to promote the Gower Peninsula's rich Pagan history. Sign-posting to many of its monuments are minimal and there are no information leaflets published on the area's evocative folklore and legends. Most of Gower's Standing Stones are next to invisible, having been swamped by hedges. There is far more to Gower than its beaches and the Pagan Federation's visit to the peninsula helped advertise the fact that this peninsula of ours is richer in history than far too many people seem to realise.
The Pagan Federation North Wales ‘Myddle Earth’ Summer Camp 2010 took place from the 2nd to the 4th of July, in a sunny field with a fantastic view just west of Caergwrle.
Friday was arrival day, and we easily found the site thanks to good directions sent from the organisers and some well placed temporary sign posts in closest village. The afternoon consisted of an afternoon watching everyone arrive, merrily drinking cider and then an evening of brilliant live music.
Saturday kicked off with a suitably lively and laid back opening ritual. The day had a relaxed feel despite a jam pack schedule of work shops and talks. We kicked the day off with flute making with the ever entertaining Pat French. The day continued with everything from ‘How to put together a Ritual’ to ‘Working with Spirits’. Andy Harrop-Smith kept everyone enthralled with ‘The Mabinogion’, which also seemed to kick start the lively and very friendly banter that punctuated most of the work shops over the weekend. The day was again rounded of round the campfire, with far too much mead, and some more excellent music.
Sunday morning dawned and we decided it was time to investigate the stalls that were at the event. The first stop saw me stocking up on candles and incense form ‘The Simmering Cauldron’. The next thing we did was visit ‘Purple Sapphire Aura Photography’ where Lorna Start - (who also did a colour therapy workshop) - provided a very accurate interpretation of our aura’s. If you’re in the area I would really recommend paying them a visit because as well as being very accurate, it was really good fun seeing your aura in print.
Despite the weather turning somewhat blustery, Sunday was another day of fascinating talks. As well as Lorna’s afore mention colour therapy talk. Neil Geddes-Ward presented the opportunity to see some of the original oil versions of the painting that have graced so many magazine and book covers. He also let everyone in on the stories behind the paintings, and some covert methods he uses to sign paintings.
The weekend was great fun, and there genuinely was never a dull minute. The talks and workshops were quick paced and a really good length for this kind of event, giving entertaining, 1 hour chunks of information. Full information of what went on and details of future events can be found on the Myddle Earth website. The North Wales Summer Camp is definitely one worth marking on your Summer events list.
Reproduced with kind permission from Lily Oak: www.hedge-witchery.com