Concerts at the Kaleidoscope Gathering 2014

At each Kaleidoscope Gathering there are a few amplified concerts that take place on the Raven Stage to entertain and uplift Festers.  It is still early in the Fest organizing season, but we already have two concerts booked!  (As more concerts are booked Auz will be updating this page.)

Consider checking out the artists’ websites and purchase their music by following the links, both to support their musical endeavours, and so that you can sing along when they play this summer!

Caveman Techno with David Finkle, Andy Mason, Simon Handley and Friends (Wednesday, July 30, 2014)

David Finkle (AKA: ‘Fink’) is a known felon. His crime? Spreading nasty-funk across the land. Why, the three words to best describe him go as follows (and I quote): “Fink…Fank…Funk!” As a true-blue traditional native hunter, trapper, fisher and collector of medicines living off the land, Fink helps to bring about the primitive caveman aspect of Caveman Techno. A traditional drum and flute maker, Fink brings about a uniquely organic blend with sweeping ethereal flute melodies and poly-rhythmic bass hypnosis.

David "Fink" Finkle

David “Fink” Finkle

Andy Mason (AKA: ‘Andy-Tramp’) is a legend in Indian country. He is the quintessential “Genuine Indian Guru” and he is here to “Show you a BETTER way.” Able to decipher the specific key of a mouse-fart atop a mountain over 75 miles away … his perfect ear and spot-on rhythmic abilities help to provide the mortar between the bricks that are Fink and Funky-Munky to insure an awe-inspiring musicality (now currently approved by the FDA).

Andy "Andy-Tramp" Mason

Andy “Andy-Tramp” Mason

Simon Handley (AKA:  ‘Funky Munky’) helps to bring about the futuristic and state-of-the-art aspect of Caveman Techo. Utilizing wildly entertaining concoctions of his own design, Funky Munky runs the gamut from mothership moon landings to nether-worldly sine wave communications from distant alien beings. All the while providing a solidness that makes it near impossible not to shake yer’ ever-loving booty to. This High Priest of the religious sect of Soundism will be sure to absolve you from your non-rhythmic sins. 

Simon "Funky Munky" Handley

Simon “Funky Munky” Handley

Fiddlehead Soup (Thursday, July 31, 2014)

This Eastern Ontario trio transports listeners to Scandinavia, southern Europe, South America and beyond with a wonderful collection of folk songs sprinkled with a garnish of Scottish and Irish tunes and original music. Featuring veteran musician Douglas Hendry on cittern and 12-string guitar, and mother-and-daughter team Glenna Hunter and Ursa Meyer on fiddles (and other instruments that come to hand), this delightfully earthy trio provides a most pleasing potage of international folk.

Doug Hendry

Doug Hendry

Glenna Hunter

Glenna Hunter

Ursa Meyer

Ursa Meyer

 

 

 

 

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Kaleidoscope Gathering 2014: Field and Forest

The theme for this year’s gathering is “Field and Forest.” Since the early Middle Ages “field and forest” has been used as a poetic phrase that evokes the spirit and bounty of the natural world. In the modern age, we invoke these spirits and their bounty into our lives to celebrate High Summer and the Lammas-tide, to glory in our connection to the boundless circle of life. The fields and forests are where our ancestors’ herds fed on fallen acorns, where the hart fell to the arrow, where the furrows were plowed, where the corn swayed in the breeze.

Some sort of reconciliation with nature must accompany any higher work of the mind. – Nathaniel Shaler

 Workshops at the gathering are all put on by volunteers; where our motto is “everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to share.” Let the theme this year guide prospective presenters in the development of their workshop ideas (even though any Pagan topic is good, really).

Lore and spirituality involving Gods and Goddess of field and forest

The sylvan and pastoral Gods and Goddesses, and supernatural entities of the field and forest have been humanities’ companions from time immemorial; from Silvanus, to Inanna, to Diana, to Freyr and Gerðr, to heroes like Gilgamesh and Enkidu, to the elves and the fey folk, to the Green Man and the Moonlit Lady.

Personal stories of earth-positive experiences or being a naturalist

Visiting natural places – camping, hiking, cycling, romping, hunting, gardening – can provide uniquely comforting and healthful experiences.  How have you felt engaging in pursuits in the field and forest?  Why do you undertake these activities, and what do you get out of them?  We also have stories of the flora and fauna we meet amongst the fields and in the forests.  Perhaps, you are a naturalist who can share information regarding the habits of animals or the uses of plants?

Discussions on eco-friendly lifestyles, permaculture, and natural living

Whether it comes from a place of deep ecology, pantheism, earth-based spirituality, worship of the Mother Earth, a polytheistic relationship with a goddess or spirit resident in nature, or from a reasoning mind, many of us have come to the conclusion that human lifestyles need to change to be more respectful and work more in harmony with the natural world.  Feel free to share your skills and insights with others; be it permaculture or silvaculture, eco-friendly lifestyles or natural living skills.

Stories of myths and legends of forest or woodland creatures

Crow and cow, rabbit and raven, tortoise and toad, wolf or owl or fox  … Whether spirits, totems, archetypes, or just characters, these creatures charm and cajole, teach and entertain us.  From stories, dreams and visions, they are with us.  Is there some companion or story that you wish to share?

Explorations of traditional witchcraft and reconstructionist polytheism

When Europe was converted to the new faith of Christ, it happened first in urban areas, from the thrones of power.  Thus, those who kept to the old ways were labelled as paganus – the country-dwellers – or haiþi – the dwellers on the heath.  But it was there, in the fields and forests, the countryside and wild places, where the old ways stayed strongest, where independent minds remained true.  And, it is these places where the wisdom and spirituality of the ancients may be recovered.

Foods of field and forest, or the Lammas-tide

There are ancient methods of cooking when away from home in the woodlands, from gypsy recipes steamed over the yag, to pit-baking in leaves, to paste-wrapped foods in the coals.  There are also fruits of forest and field to be had as sacred meals, from Lammas bread to acorn pottage.  Try out and share the lore of traditional and heritage food production.  (We expect to have the earth oven operational this Summer!)

Concepts of the liminal in Pagan theologies

Field and forest can stand for “where the wild things are;” were we can encounter the wild and untamed within our own souls.  There are also boundaries within field and forest, between the dappled light of quiet leaves and the flowing sunshine of the meadow, between thickets of undergrowth and pastures of meadowsweet.  It is by passing these boundaries, through the contrast that is felt and new states that are experienced, that wisdom and insight are gained.  It is also by understanding how the natural world is divided that worldviews can be explored.  How have you known a spiritual tradition to work with liminality and boundary passing to gain wisdom?  Has it been done in the context of spirits or metaphor drawn from the natural world?

Costuming like folkloric fertility rites

Where are the wild men today? They still exist, in the fields and forests, and in ourselves.  All we need to do is search for them, call them forth, and make them manifest.  (A few woodwose have indeed alredy been sighted skulking around the Mirkwood at Raven’s Knoll.)  Or, maybe, some of you have always wanted to be Morris Dancers or Horn Dancers?  Well, make it so!

Music on the theme of the joy of Mother Nature

The heartbeat of the drum, the folk song, the traditional tune, the soulful singer-songwriter all have composed and performed on the theme of the natural world, as object, subject or metaphor.

To learn more about the Kaleidoscope Gathering you can visit the Facebook group or event for the gathering. Please note that we are pleased to start receiving workshop submissions in May on the Kaleidoscope Gathering web page for programming.

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Men’s Cairn

This Quork post is brought to you by Ethan Kincaid, a longtime Fester and Canadian author.

An unobtrusive path leads northward from the archery field of Raven’s Knoll. This suits the purpose of the sacred site beyond. Quiet, and out of the way, sits the Men’s Cairn; the ever-growing pile of stones lies surrounded by tall grass and, to the south, birch and poplar trees. The adornments on it are simple: necklaces and other mementos of men who have gone on before us, passed out of this world.

Cairn 1

But what is the cairn? How did it come to be? And what manner of things occur at this site? How does it serve the men of our community?

What is a cairn?

A cairn, simply put, is a pile of stones. Cairns have been erected throughout human history in many parts of the world and serve as navigational devices, graves, memorials, and as sites of spiritual power. The Men’s Cairn of Raven’s Knoll is a combination of the latter two.

How did the Men’s Cairn come to be?

It was the Ferryman, Doug Thew, who happened upon the idea while talking with the other men of the community about the lack of a sacred space for men to commune with each other and contemplate their spiritual needs in the same manner that many women’s spaces provide. He proposed the structure and was met with enthusiastic approval. Soon, a place was selected upon which to build it. A place that was private and peaceful.

To imbue the site with a powerful masculine energy, the Ferryman decided to select some small branches from a tree at the Knoll that had been struck by lightning. Such wood is said to be god-touched and is held as sacred in many cultures. Among the foundation stones of the cairn, the wood was placed and burned to evoke the blessing of the Sky God so that the place would be hallowed and filled with the energy of the sacred Male. After that, all that remained was to build.

In the summer of 2010, several men attending Kaleidoscope Gathering assembled for the annual Men’s Ritual. There were around twenty participants, each with a stone brought from home. The men walked in silence to better contemplate their individual journeys to manhood.

When they reached the cairn, each man took some time to consider what blessing he wished to give to the structure along with his stone. As they placed the rocks, building the mound together, they gifted it with things like “strength,” “dignity,” “compassion,” and “wisdom,” until all the stones had been set. A horn of ale was passed around and tobacco was shared as the first Men’s Ritual was held at the new cairn. The experience of a loving and accepting community of men was moving, and one that none of the attendees will soon forget.

Cairn 2

What kinds of events occur at the Men’s Cairn?

There are three events that are set at the Men’s Cairn at Raven’s Knoll: The Choosing of the Stag King, The Cairn Walk, and sometimes the annual Men’s Ritual.

Each year at Kaleidoscope Gathering, after the Stag King Competition concludes, the participants rest around the Men’s Cairn while the judges decide on which is to be crowned the Stag King for the year. It is from the Cairn that the procession to the river begins.

In some years, the Cairn Walk and the Men’s Ritual are combined into one event. This depends on whether or not the organizers of the Men’s Ritual wish to allow people who do not identify as male to participate in the Men’s Ritual. When the Men’s Ritual is open to all genders at a masculine energy ritual and not only a ritual for men, it is not held at the Cairn but rather another location on the Knoll.  (This is because it is taboo for people who do not identify as men to be upon the surrounding bedrock upon which sits the Cairn, just as it is taboo for people who do not identify as women to be within the stones that form the Red Spiral.)  The Men’s Ritual is different each year, depending on what the organizers wish to explore in the realm of masculine mysteries and male energy.

The Cairn Walk is a tradition that began in 2012 when the Men’s and Women’s Ritual organizers, David Rolfe and Pamela Fletcher, decided to open up the ritual to participants of all genders. As the combined ritual involved the building of a structure to shelter an earthen oven, it would be a very busy event and there would be no time of quiet contemplation and communion in which the men of KG could catch up with each other, share their joys and sorrows, mourn the brothers they had lost since the previous year, and receive the acceptance and support of their fellow men. As these experiences had become a very important part of KG for at least one man, Ethan Kincaid, and he brought his concerns to the other men of his community.

These concerns were met with agreement from several of his peers and Fraser Sinclair stepped forward to lead the first annual Cairn Walk. The event is a simple, yet powerful one. Participants meet at the Stage where they greet each other and share a horn of mead, beer, or other alcohol, before proceeding in silence to the Cairn. Each man brings a stone to add to the mound. Some bring tokens from men who have passed on since the last Walk.  Some men carry their shoes, going barefoot to remind themselves of their own difficult journey to manhood.

Once at the Cairn, a short ceremony is held to place the stones and the tokens, and to say farewell to those men who are no longer among the living. Libations and offerings are given to the departed. Men who have newly completed their rite of passage are welcomed into the community. Men speak of their triumphs and hardships, births, deaths, marriages, their hopes and fears. It is a time for men to look each other in the eye without unease or aggression, to drop their facades, and to reaffirm their identities as men. It is also at this time that the drinking horn—the same one used in the inaugural ritual at the Cairn—is passed into the care of another man of the community to look after for the next year. Each man adds something to the horn, be it an engraving, a carrying strap, or other decoration.

What purpose does the Men’s Cairn serve in our community?

The Cairn is a meeting place, a memorial, and a sacred space for contemplating the nature of masculine energies and what it means to be a man. It is a place to share tears, laughter, and a drink with our brothers, both those still among us, and those who have gone on before.

Cairn 3

As a final note, the Cairn is guarded by the totem of the Fire Ant. If you wish to meditate, look before you sit.

 

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LebowskiCampFest

presented by Jackie Treehorn, the Achievers, the Lost Dominion Screening Collective, and Rev. Auz of the Church of the Latter Day Dude

Brothers and sisters! We have heard the Word, and it is “Abide.” The Raven’s Knoll congregation of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude are holding a tent revival to learn from, and apply, the teachings of the Dude. This fest is a camp out where we commune with the wisdom of the movie the Big Lebowski on the weekend of August 9 and 10, 2014.

The weekend will include:

Suitcase Toss

Adventures begin in the simplest ways. Ours, like that of our Prophet, start with a simple tossing of a suitcase filled with undergarments.

Eurotrash Nihilist Bowling and/or Cowboy Bowling

Even if there are no lanes, a Dude can still bowl. Never quit the tournament. It is by struggle with our foes and interactions with our inner narrator that we learn what is truly possible. Tournament regulations will be enforced by Jesus, Rev. Døøð, and Rev. Doug.

Time to Abide

There is only abide.

Costume Contest

Get dressed up like a character or concept from the movie. The person with the best costume will receive two prizes: the acclaim of the Achievers AND a saintly bottle from whence the sacred draught may be mixed. (This event sponsored courtesy of Rev. Dood B. Here.)

Woodland Rug Arranging

A place is a home when you have a rug to really tie things together. Priests of Lebowski, Rev. Døøð and Rev. Brynn, will take Achievers into the woods to arrange rugs, to come to an understanding that all of the world can be the home of a dude. (Take some photos for the insurance company, that you forget to pay premiums to.)

Green Pedicures

Toe nails should be green. Hedonism demands it. Join Rev. Dood B. Here and Rev. Brynn to get prettied up like Bunny. Preparations to feed the monkey, that go nowhere … so Dude.

Contemplation of Whale Songs and the Dude De Ching

There is no sweeter sound in all existence than the song of whales. Where there is abiding, there is Dude; but Walter only exists because of Dude, and Dude only exists because of Walter. Whales are the the opposite of the Eagles, man. Join Rev. Auz to listen to the songs of the humpbacked whale while meditating on readings from the second sacred text of Dudeism, The Dude De Ching.

Sacramental White Russian Mixology & Tasting

Praise the mixing of the opposites – opaque and clear, hot coffee and cold ice, white and black, stimulant and depressant. The White Russian is the sacramental drink of Dudeism. Priests of the Church of the Latter Day Dude, Rev. Dood B. Here and Rev. Doug, will hold service to demonstrate how to make coffee liqueur from scratch and how to mix the perfect White Russian or closely related beverage. (Bring your own ingredients.)

Concert of Dude Music

There will be a musical presentation by a live band. Rev. Wolfsong and Rev. Earthsong of the Church of the Latter Day Dudes will be playing Creedence Clearwater Revival covers and some other tunes that inspired the first draft of the Port Huron Statement. There will definitely be no Eagles played (or Lynard Skynard).

Screening of the movie “The Big Lebowski”

The secrets reside within. The layers of meaning go as deep as your understanding in this movie. Only through abiding at the screening will it be revealed. Thank you to Jackie Treehorn and the Lost Dominion Screening Collective for arranging to show the movie.

Beach Bonfire

There are dunes of sand, dude. There will be a bonfire. Feel free to amble by for the party.

Blanket Toss

What is unbridled joy? Being flung into the heavens on a blanket held by your brothers and sisters.

Nihilist Stargazing

The stars are harsh teachers. Seemingly happy and twinkling they are actually light that comes from exploding collections of matter that died billions of years before our world was even created. You are just a tiny speck in all that existence, that existence that ends without hearing your thoughts or recognizing your efforts. Join Rev. Zau the Nihilist for a reading of existentialist philosophy while contemplating futility and nothingness in the vastness of the starry sky.

Scattering of the Cremains

At the end of the adventure, there is being with friends and remembering the good times. Our closing ceremony, as taught by the example of our Prophet, will end with memories shared around the scattering of cremains.

In honour of the Big Lebowski, the Raven’s Knoll food truck, the YAG, will feature a special menu, including: Lingonberry waffles; Nihilist waffles; In-und-Aus burger; Pig in the blanket; Ralph’s coffee; and Roasted peanuts.

The cost of the weekend will be regular Raven’s Knoll camping rates, as well as a likely request for a $15 donation (depending on how many people attend) to cover expenses.

The Little Lebowski Urban Achievers request people bring non-perishable food donations for the Eganville Food Bank.

LebowskiCampFest

[End Note: Fest: A gathering for celebration; a spiritual meeting. – Camp: Ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; living for a bit in the woods. – Lebowski: The lead character of the most important movie ever made; a dude, who abides.]

Please feel free to use the following images to ‘poster’ regarding the event. Spread the word, Dudes!

LebowskiCampFest

LebowskiCampFest

LebowskiCampFest

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A Völva’s Viewpoint on Hail and Horn Gathering 2013

This blog occasionally cross-posts the accounts of other bloggers who have contributed or experienced Raven’s Knoll.  The following post is written by Juniper Jeni about her experience leading the esoteric ritual at last year’s  Hail and Horn Gathering as a völva.  Juniper is an Ottawa witch with a wonderful blog called Walking the Hedge and is an organizer of The Witches’ Sabbat gathering.

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As we huffed and puffed our way up the soggy path to the Vé carrying bags, boxes and a large wicker chair, Grey and I joked about how this is exactly the sort of thing they don’t tell you in Pagan 101 books. The behind the scenes work you never think of when attending a ritual. Carrying a massive, heavy chair over swampy ground while being eaten alive by all manner of bugs.

After Grey left me alone in Vé, I set about setting up. Laying out the altar, lighting candles, all that stuff. I must have exited and then entered the Vé a dozen times during my preparations. At first I properly curtsied and said “Hail!” each time. Then after about the 4th rendition, I switched to my old standard, how I greet the spirits that reside with my own craft room “Hey guys!” or “Back again” or “Knock knock”. But finally I simply gave it up entirely. They were watching, those gods in the poles. They knew what I was up to. I chatted at them the entire time, telling them every silly little random thought that entered my mind as I worked until there was nothing more to tell Them. With my preparations complete, now began the wait.

It’s a rather uncomfortable thing, to realize you have to pee while in the woods, outside a sacred site, with no restroom nearby. I moved into the bushes as far away from the Vé as I dared to go, and found myself wondering how many völvas and the like throughout history had snuck off to empty their bladders before the folk arrived for a mind-blowing ritual? I glanced sideways at the god poles standing tall, barely seen over the weeds I squatted in. I grinned up at Frigg’s pole. “All of them, at some point, I bet!” More things they don’t tell you about, or they simply don’t think about.

The sun set and the mosquitoes came out. Birds sang and the small creatures of the forest skittered about in the tree limbs. I pondered the stuff they don’t tell you as I stood outside the Vé, leaning against the weapon rack, smoking a cigarette.

My black princess satin robe with black eyelet over-robe had bell sleeves that had been hemmed short to avoid catching fire – one of the things they DO tell you. But the hem of the robe’s skirting was rather long. Perfect for prancing about in a temple room, wearing shoes (the better if heels) but barefoot or sandalded in an outdoor Vé? Not so much. Ah well, I would just have to watch my footing and hold the skirting up a bit. Nothing to do about it now. Not with the folk soon to be on their way, and me squeezed into a fancy robe that is so snug it takes a coven to get me in and out of it.

One thing they don’t tell you about is the wait. Ritual space has been prepared. Candles have been lit. Incense burning. The witch has been carefully squeezed into her elaborate robe. Now, the wait.The wait can ruin you if you let it. Butterflies begin to form in your belly. The what-ifs reach insidious tendrils into your mind, spreading fear and doubt.

The wind will blow out the candles. The bugs will be so ferocious that it will ruin the mood. You’ll trip over that stupid robe. They are all going to laugh at you. Frigg will refuse to ride you, refuse to answer questions, refuse the offerings. The high seat, which is really just a wicker chair, doesn’t look like a high seat, it looks like a wicker chair.

The wait will ruin you, if you let it.

So I didn’t focus on the wait. I focused on the coming storm. I could feel it there, gathering at the edge of Vé, gathering around her newly raised god pole. I could feel it gathering at the edge of my own mind. The storm that I was to call, to invite, to invoke, to summon, to funnel into my own head and unleash within.

I finished my cigarette and stepped back into the Vé. With careful steps I approached Frigg’s god pole. I wrapped my arms around the pole and rested my head against it. I repeated each step of the ritual out loud, three times.

I knew she was listening. The storm was gathering. I whispered words to her that I would repeat later during the ritual: Frigg I ask you to do this thing, not for my own ego. Not so I can impress my friends. I ask you to do this for the folk. These folk who honour you. Who study and research and read the lore to learn about you. These folk who talk about you and share your stories. These folk who sing your praises and give offerings to you. These folk who have gathered here this weekend, who have carved this pole and raised it. Do it for these folk who seek your wisdom and guidance. They deserve it. Please.

The gathering storm is even stronger now. I can feel her within the god pole I lean against. Waiting, watching. I hear steps coming down the path to the Vé. Deliberately loud so as not to surprise me. “That’ll be Auz” I whisper.

Amusement and mischief run down and through the god pole. I find myself grinning. “Shall we make him wait then, Lady?” I ask.

Yes. She seems to be a playful mood. So we ignore the steps and wait until he politely clears his throat. With a final pat, I step away from the god pole. It’s time to take our places, the folk will be coming soon. The ritual to begin.

I am clumsy and awkward throughout the first part of the ritual. The storm is building and it takes away my ability to focus on the here and now. Grey acts as my handmaiden and without her I would have been lost. My concentration is on the coming storm. I drop something once and another time find myself accidentally reaching into the thrunble, my fingers touching the red-hot incense coals, my fingers come out black and sooty, yet they feel no heat. No burns, though there should have been. Her storm is building and she is protecting me.

I step up to the altar and make my offerings, promising more at the end of the ritual if all goes well. I entreat her. I speak the words I had so carefully practiced before. Now I am in the calm before the storm. My ability to sense energy and the unseen has become deaf-blind. All I feel is a nearly painful anticipation.  As Gandlaf would say: the deep breath before the plunge. I am told later by the folk that they felt the energy in the Vé pulse outwards with each sentence as I entreated her and begged her participation. I sense nothing. I feel nothing. If she has acquiesced to my request, I do not know.

I step up to the god pole anyway. I rest my hands upon it and lean my forehead against the smooth wood. Touching it with my third eye. I breathe. Grey teaches the folk my power song, to help me enter into trance. They begin to sing.

I find the storm again, gathering around and within the god pole. Adjusting my stance, holding up the hem of my damnable robe with one hand, I begin to circle the god pole, wrapping my hand and arm around it for balance and connection. After the first couple of slow and careful rotations I begin to worry. I’m totally going to trip. Earlier Grey had warned me to be careful as I spun around the pole, the last thing we needed was for me to fall and brain myself on Odin’s pole standing right beside Frigg’s.  I’m uncoordinated in trance. One reason why I generally don’t do trance-dancing around the fire, I simply dance. Ah but walking, and this spinning around a pole or tree, this works for me, so long as I don’t trip. I bite my lip in concern.

Just then I feel a hand cover my mine, clasping me gently to the pole. Steadying me. Guiding me. She wasn’t about to let me fall. Trustingly I spin. I spin and I spin around the pole widdershins. Gradually taking faster and firmer steps.  I close my eyes and focus on the storm within.

I have no sense as to whether my steps take on a rhythm. I do not think they matched the odd beat of the song the folk sang to me. The words of the chant are difficult to wrap your mouth around. The chant doesn’t rhyme, the meter doesn’t quite match up. But it has certain words that can be triggers for me and a certain urgency needed for the occasion. An odd and awkward song for an odd and awkward witch.

I breathe deeply. My feet pound the earth. I spin around the pole. Chaos rages in my mind, a swirling mess of a thing. Unfettered and unhinged. Thoughts cannot fully form before they are swept away in the storm. Ring-a-ring a-widdershins, whirlin skirlin widdershin. The storm inside builds momentum, matching the quickening pace of my feet. I spin at a pace that feels dangerous. I am held fast by that spectral hand. A greater storm, a hurricane, rages above and within the god pole itself. My insignificant little human mind does it’s best to match, a tempest in a tea-cup. Here we go round the mulberry bush, so early in the morning. I am stretched thin, pulled by the spiraling forces outwards. My consciousness swirls at the edge of myself, expanding outwards. I spin even faster, the chanting is louder. I throw my head back, then down. Ring-a-round the rosie, pocket full of posie. The sound of the folks chanting has become a distant thing, overshadowed by the rushing in my ears. My little storm slips just beyond the confines of mind and body, swirling at the threshold, neither without nor within. It brushes against the hurricane that is Frigg. Electric. Wild. Not as force of nature, but a force of the multiverse. I can comprehend her as well and an ant can understand my foot. I could just let go completely, surrender. My little storm would be swept away into the maelstrom like a crow feather in a hurricane. Ashes ashes we all fall down.

Enough. I’m not sure which one of us decides. But it is enough. I halt, bringing my other arm around the pole, facing it again. Returning to my original position.

I am not dizzy.

I have reached the calm after the storm. After the rain has washed away the detritus, the wind has blown away the debris. Now the smell of freshness after the rain. the brilliant quality of sunlight after the clouds move on. The clean crisp feeling in the air after a summer thunder-storm has passed by.

Perfect, painful clarity of mind. A spreading out and in of consciousness. With my now heightened senses I am aware of everything within the Vé. Sharp as a tack, clear as a new day.

This is what lies beyond ecstasy. When one has not strayed from their body.

I am a clean vessel. A hollow bone.

Grey moves towards me silently and gently takes my arm. I disengage from the god pole and allow her to lead me to the high seat. I land in it pretty hard. Such an uncoordinated witch. Ah, well.

Grey teaches the folk the next song. The chant to call Frigg within. For a moment I lean my head back and open my eyes to gaze at the stars. Thier beauty is to grounding, to real, so I close my eyes again and turn my focus inward once more.

As the folk take up the chant, Grey begins to dress me. A shawl, draperies, a dish in my lap, spindle in hand, distaff in the other, and a veil over my head. I am only dimly aware of this happening. Instead, I am reaching for the door.

Somewhere, deep inside, where the mind, the soul and the body meet there is a door. A quiet little backdoor. I do not know if everyone has this door. I do not know if anyone can find it. I do not know if everyone could open it. I do not know if anyone could close it back up again. I do know it wouldn’t be safe for most people to try.

I can’t tell you where to find it. I was shown the backdoor by a very different god than the one who I was about to invite in.

Reaching back, I find the door and cautiously open it. Standing on the threshold, I call out an invitation. This way, this way, here I am. Come in and be welcome.

Grey ties a cord of red linen (that I have spun with my drop spindle) around my neck, runs it the length between the high seat and the god pole and then ties the other end around the pole. An umbilical. A pathway. A noose. I hang from the god pole and wait.

Are you there Frigg? It’s me Juniper.

I step aside from the backdoor and press myself against the very wall of myself. Making room for her. I wait. I am unsure if she is coming. I have never invited this god in before, never been her horse, her hollow bone. With others, there was a rush. An entitled barging in, helping themselves. Pushing me aside so that I have nearly no control, no awareness, little say in the proceedings.

Frigg was so gentle, so delicate that I wasn’t sure she had come at all…until she laughed, using my voice. A raw, rough cackle of a laugh escaped my lips. It startled me and I think it startled Grey who was standing beside the high seat, reciting words the entice the goddess.

I felt here there, filling me. She didn’t shove me down to some half oblivion. She didn’t put blinders over her horse’s eyes. She let me stay aware and awake. Pressed up against the wall of myself, out of way but welcome.

Grey steps away from the high seat and assumes her position between the seat and the side altar. She says something, but I can’t recall what it was. I was preoccupied with the hurricane. Getting used to her in me, as she was getting used to being in me.

My mouth worked silently a few times. My tongue rolled around in my mouth. It’s a strange thing, to stand back and witness another get accustomed to using your face. It was only a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity.

“We should say something, to get the ball rolling.” I suggested.

I could feel her consider what to say.

“What do you WANT?” tore from my throat. Still rough, still getting used to using my voice.

I think Grey was taken aback. I think Frigg found this incredibly amusing. My face contorted into a rictus grin. I was glad the for the veil.

Grey asked Frigg something. Asking permission to go ahead with the questioning.

I think it took a few moments to get a response, as at that time she decided she wanted use of my hands. Since she was being such a gracious guest and had actually asked politely to have use of my upper body, I agreed that would be fine.

She waved one hand around, inexpertly. “Very well”

So it began.

My memory of the actual questioning is spotty. Dream like. I remember some parts very clearly and others not at all. For example, at some point someone gave an apple as an offering. I have no memory of this at all. I only know an apple was given because after the ritual was done, I found bits of apple stuck in my teeth. I asked Grey and she confirmed; someone had indeed given an apple.

Some offerings I remember and others I do not. In some cases I remember who gave what, but mostly I’m unsure which person gave which offering. I know that she liked mead more than ale or beer (but she still really enjoyed the ale and beer). Frigg was very interested in hand/home-made items, she seemed to approve of them quite a bit. One person gave a very personal and valued object, a true sacrifice, and she was deeply touched.

I also learned that Frigg loves plums. One of the folk gave a plum (along with something else). She approved of the gifts, answered the question and then as the person was going back to their seat, Frigg suddenly wanted more plums. She was about to open my mouth and demand more plums. In an instant I had to go from polite host leaning against the back wall, idly watching the proceedings, to stern little Hedgewitch. “No. Not right now. People are waiting to ask their questions. I’ll let the whole world know you like plums, there will be more plums in the future.”

Can you tell a god “NO”? Do you have the strength of will to tell a god, who is currently inside of you “no”?

Can you tell a god “NO”? Do you have the strength of will to tell a god, who is currently inside of you, that they can’t have something they want? Knowing that if you pissed them off enough, that god could tear your mind, your soul, to pieces in an instant?

This is where is gets really, truly dangerous. Bloody, stupidly dangerous. I’ve heard about it, read about it, seen it with my own eyes. While it is something that may be spoken of and written about, it seem that it is one of those things they don’t often tell you about. Or maybe it is one of those things that people tell you about, but many folks just don’t listen.

People acting as a horse for a god who demands more and more alcohol, leaving the horse with alcohol poising by the end of it.

People who let a god in and awaken the next morning sticky, naked and laying beside someone who they never would have consented to have sex with. Wondering if a condom had been used, wondering what had happened, and if that was the only person.

Gods who once in, refuses to leave until a certain offering is made to them, causing the people in attendance to scramble around, possibly having to rush to a store or other person’s house to find it.

Gods who once inside and approached by someone they dislike, by someone who disbelieves in that god, or by someone who lies to their horse’s face, and are then kicked or hit. Much to the horror of the attendees and the horse.

The gods are dangerous. They can destroy you in an instant. Inside of me, brushing up against my mind and spirit, Frig could have dealt me serious damage with a single lashing.

The gods are powerful. I met a god once who upon seeing me torn asunder in the underworld, put me back together again with the ease of a well practised father reattaching a doll’s head to it’s body. And then demanded a price for his services.

I know of someone who once cut down a tree sacred to the gods, by mistake. Shortly afterwards he died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. His spouse was driven insane with grief.

I know of someone who lied under oath to his elders, swearing by Odin as he did so. And was shortly after  hit by a truck, his body broken. While he laid in traction, his wife left him. Being in the USA, the hospital bills caused him to loose what the wife did not take with her. Later, he confessed his lie to his elders and over the next while, found love again, found a good job and rebuilt his life.

I know someone who once promised Freya that she would sacrifice a rabbit to her. A difficult gift for a vegan. She put it off, and put it off. Until she started dreaming of rabbits. She poured an expensive wine into a beautiful wooden bowl, asking Freya to accept this offering instead. The next morning the bowl had been split in half, where it lay, the wine ruining the altar cloth, as flies buzzed around it.

More than once, I have been penniless, jobless and living under another’s roof and hospitality. Exhausted, depressed and feeling hopeless. Walking on blistered feet, desperately searching for a job in a strange city. A homeless man with one black eye swollen shut, a long grey beard and a cane asked me for spare change. I gave him half of my last dollars. And shortly after found a job, a home and my way in a new city.

It’s one of those things people don’t like to talk about. How the gods are bigger than us. So much MORE than us. How dangerous and difficult and capricious and troublesome they can be. We want the gods to be our friends. Many people i know want to feel as if they are on equal footing as the gods. They refuse to consider having something in universe bigger and stronger than they are.

We want an all-knowing, all-loving, omnipresent super goddess who changes everything she touches and everything she touches changes. Who never, ever, gets angry with us, because she is beyond anger, or hate or spite.

Never mind what the lore tells us. Gods who rape. Gods who kill. Gods who lie, cheat and steal. Gods who lash out in jealously. Gods who betray their kin. Gods who impulsively give up their sword for a nice piece of ass, and thus must fight the battle at the end of all things with an antler in hand.

Those are just myths, of course. They don’t mean anything. Except when they do.

I try to talk to people about how the gods are so powerful, so awesome and greater-than. How terrifying they can be. I’m usually just misunderstood. Perhaps I do not articulate it well enough. Perhaps people just don’t want to think about it.

Perhaps most people never experience these things, because most of us never move beyond the basics. Most of us will never invite the hurricane in our heads. Most of us will never be torn apart by nice little birdies in the underworld and need to make a deal with the Master to get put back together again.

Do you have the balls to tell Frigg She can’t have any more plums? Do you have any idea how much balls and sass it takes to do just that? Do you have any idea how stupidly dangerous it can be?

But …

I’ve seen it before, read about it and heard about it. One of those things they do tell you about, sometimes. If during such a rite, you just start giving the god anything they demand, they will keep demanding. Rituals derailed as everyone scrambles to find more plums, and then have to sit there for an hour as they watch Frigg eat a bag of plums. Holding a horse’s hair away from her face while she pukes up a belly full of plums. You can ask them to take away the drunkenness, or make sure the horse doesn’t get sick from eating a pound of plums. Sometimes they will do just that.

It’s a risk you have to be willing to take when you do this kind of work. The chance you might find yourself with battered and bruised feet, a sick stomach full of plums, a wicked hang over, a STD because the god riding you decided to screw someone. You also have to be willing and able to say no, if you can. Maybe they won’t listen, maybe they will get pissed off and lash out, maybe they will just leave, maybe you’ll ruin your relationship with them for good. Maybe you’ll wind up a poet, a witch, a madman or dead.

You have to be able to calculate the risks. If you aren’t willing to accept the risks, don’t do this kind of work. It’s okay to decide it’s not for you.

So I told Frigg no more plums. Thankfully she was okay with that. Such a nice goddess. The next person came up to ask their question and she was back on task, the plums forgotten. Thank goodness gods are often easily distracted. No more mead for you…here have a shiny thing!

Sometimes she was more present than others and sometimes I was more present than others. Hence the spotty memory, I suppose. I remember some of the questions and not others. Like the offerings, in many cases I remember a question but not which person asked it. Or I remember a person coming up to the high seat, but not the question they asked.

Once a person had asked their question, they chose a few pieces from my casting collection and placed them in the bowl in our lap. Together we read the augry. I know my set well enough to recognize the pieces by feel, even the polished stones. A very interesting thing, that I will ponder and utilise, is that she had a slightly different take on the meanings/symbolism of a few of the pieces. Her impressions of them were similar but not quite the same.

There were cases where only one piece really mattered, others where each piece chosen mattered. Cases where the pieces only reinforced what she already was going to say. Cases where she read the pieces and then added something else as well.

Watching Frigg use my set was very educational and I’m glad I chose to go that route. Typically, you don’t use a divinatory device during such a rite, the god simply answers the questions. They already know the answer. However, my set is very important to me, and a major part of my practice. I figured that if she wasn’t interested in it, she would ignore it. Her willingness to use it, her approval of it, and her showing me different interpretations of some of the pieces was very rewarding!

A lot of folks had a hard time finding the bowl in our lap. It was very dark. I’m told that the darkness surrounding the high seat grew even deeper whenever Frig was strongest in me. A few people struggled to find the bowl, a couple missed it entirely, but she was patient. At one point she picked up the bowl and waved it around a bit, I think to help the questioner find it.

One piece from the set kept being chosen, over and over again. Thorn. The little stick of hawthorn, shaped like a stang. Sometimes she ignored the piece and sometimes she read it. I began to worry the bag wasn’t be shaken well enough, so in response, she pointed one imperious finger at Grey and commanded her to shake the bag. Still, Thorn kept coming up. A message for me? A message for the group? Both? A strange coincidence? I do not know. More to meditate on. In my set Thorn is used to symbolise witchcraft, magick, the cunning arts and so forth. Though amongst a bunch of Heathens, Thorn could take on a slightly different meaning.

Eventually, everyone who dared to had come before the high seat. Grey asked Frigg if she was done? In response, she knocked my stang/distaff over. Grey and I had agreed that if at any point, I needed the ritual to end, I would knock down the distaff. If I could, if I had enough control to do so. I don’t recall explaining this to Frig, but being in my head, she knew.

So they thanked Frigg and hailed her. Then chant asking her to leave me was sung. Grey cut the cord and began to remove my draperies. I lost all thought and consciousness as she left me. She went as gently as she came and it almost felt like dozing off on a lazy summer afternoon.

I heard my friends calling my name. Calling me back. I struggled toward the sound of their voices, slowing spreading myself back within myself. Filling my own vessel once again. Suddenly, Grey pulled off the veil I wore. It was like when your mother rips the blankets off the bed, to wake you, on a cold morning. I must have made a very unhappy face! It was less than pleasant and suddenly very cold. Mental note for next time: always tell you handmaiden to SLOWLY remove the veil! However it did the trick, and with a few groans and stretches I was back properly in my body, my mind fairly settled. I was back amongst the folk.

“Hey Juni” Grey said tenderly, as she bent over me.

“Hey” I said back and leaned forward for a hug.

Then I said; “I have to pee.”

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Work Weekends 2014

Volunteers are what Raven’s Knoll able to serve the wider community. On work weekends we do tasks around the Knoll, from landscaping maintenance, to cleaning, to repairs, to construction, whatever needs to be done. Any level of skill or ability is welcome. We are a community and there are always tasks for people who are less abled than others. We socialize Friday night and work most of the day Saturday, and most of Sunday. Each weekend there is a special ritual or activity planned. There is a food program you can buy into each weekend (that volunteers run). Hail the volunteers!

Beltaine Work Weekend – May 2 to 4, 2014
The first work weekend at Raven’s Knoll features a May Pole Dance and Beltaine ritual, as well as a Walpurgisnacht ritual and bonfire … as well as sweat and work to open the campground.

Prepare for Raiding Work Weekend – May 9 to 11, 2014
This work weekend we do jobs to get the Knoll ready for the first gathering, the Midgard Festival. To get in the viking spirit, in the evening, we will play a viking-themed movie or TV program and have hnefatafl boards will be available for play.

Midsummer Work Weekend – June 20 to 22, 2014
At this work weekend we prepare for the Hail and Horn Gathering and get some fixing of stuff done. We also celebrate Midsummer with a bonfire ritual. (Let’s burn some of those sticks we collected!)

Unicorn Loves You Work Weekend – July 11 to 13, 2014
This weekend we prepare for the Kaleidoscope Gathering and generally tend the Knoll. Unicorn masks will be available for photo-shoots when the day is done.

Green Times Work Weekend – August 15 to 17, 2014
This weekend we finalize the clean-up from Canada’s largest Pagan festival, like the good stewards of the Earth that we are. A short Compost Ritual will be held.

Wicker Man Work Weekend – September 12 to 14, 2014
On this weekend we build the Wicker Man that is sacrificed at the KornuKopia Gathering. Since KKG is on Talk Like a Pirate Day, to practice we will play a pirate themed movie or TV show and have Pirate Fluxx available to play.

Closing Work Weekend – October 3 to 5, 2014
This is the last work weekend of the year, where we put Raven’s Knoll to bed. We will hold a memory sumbel ritual where we share our memories for the year.

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2014 Events

There are many gatherings and events that take place at Raven’s Knoll. Before each event there will be posts talking about the activities that are planned and afterwards we will try to post descriptions of some people’s experiences.

Beltaine Work Weekend – May 2 to 4, 2014
The first work weekend at Raven’s Knoll features a May Pole Dance and Beltaine ritual, as well as a Walpurgisnacht ritual and bonfire … as well as sweat and work to open the campground. (No cost!)

Siling Labuyo Arnis Proficiency Seminar (SLAPS) – May 2 to 4, 2014
Come to experience this amazing Filipino martial arts, taught by Badger Jones and friends. Hands on instruction will be provided covering single stick, knife, staff and spear, as well as empty hands techniques. There will be test cutting with live blades, and the ever-popular dirty tricks workshop. Attendees will be able to buy into the work weekend food program. (There may be another date added in the Fall.)

Midgard Festival – May 16 to 19, 2014

Everyone is kin and kith at this gathering. This is a Norse-based fest, which also includes many other paths. Highlights include a Bardic competition, a Grand Feast, and ritual procession to honour Nerthus.

Firemonger’s Workshop Weekend – May 23 to 25, 2014
This is a hands-on weekend for people interested in the art and skill of managing Pagan festival fires. This is a workshop for people who seriously want to burn things.

Witches’ Sabbat – May 30 to June 2, 2014
The Sabbat is a gathering of witches who practice, teach and share the experience of the traditional Craft. This year the theme is “Ancestors” and the herb is bog myrtle.

Three Rivers Festival – June 6 to 8, 2014
This festival is the annual gathering of the Eastern Ontario members of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. This year will be hosted by Dancing Lights Grove.

Feast of Sekhmet: Keeper of the Light – June 13 to 15, 2014
This is an annual Kemetic gathering to honour the goddess Sekhmet. This year she is honoured as Keeper of the Light, along with Ra, God of the Black Land.

Pagans Unplugged – June 27 to July 1, 2014
This is a simple camping excursion for Pagans, without being plugged in to phones, computers, and worries. There is no programming, just hanging out with friends doing regular stuff at the Knoll … swimming, bonfires, stars, hammocks, archery, wandering … Stay for as long or as little as you like. (It is not a music event, but do free to make music.)

Hail and Horn Gathering – June 27 to June 29, 2014
This is the third year for this Heathen and Ásatrú spiritual event. This year will see a blót to the god Freyr and the raising of a god-pole in his honour, a húsel feast of traditional foods, and a formal high sumbel, as well as workshops and games.

Baronial Muster – July 04 to July 06, 2014
This is a camping event for the Barony of Skraeling Althing, a barony in the Kingdom of Ealdormere. The barony is part of the international medieval society, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The society celebrates the best parts of the medieval world through dancing, courtly arts, chivalry and armoured combat, music and storytelling, and of course, feasting and having fun. The objective is to learn as much as possible, as accurately as possible, about life in the Middle Ages.

AnticiFest – July 25 to July 29, 2014
Can’t wait for Fest? No one can. That is why scads of people arrive early to holiday before the wondrous event that is the Kaleidoscope Gathering. Good times are anticipated. Regular camping rates apply. But … your stay may be anything but regular.

Kaleidoscope Gathering – July 30 to August 4, 2014
The Kaleidoscope Gathering is Canada’s largest Pagan festival, which has been going for 25 years. The theme this year is “Field and Forest.” Since the early Middle Ages “field and forest” has been used as a poetic phrase that evokes the spirit and bounty of the natural world. In the modern age, we invoke these spirits and their bounty into our lives to celebrate High Summer and the Lammas-tide, to glory in our connection to the boundless circle of life. The gathering is both madcap fun and spiritual vastness; with concerts, rituals, performance art, vendors and a vast plethora of workshops on a bewildering array of fantastically interesting and fortuitously enlightening Pagan, Heathen, Magickal and esoteric spiritual paths and traditions! (Only attendees of the festival may camp at Raven’s Knoll at this time.)

LebowskiCampFest – August 9 and 10, 2014
We have heard the Word, and it is “Abide.” The Raven’s Knoll congregation of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude and the Lost Dominion Screening Collective are holding a tent revival to learn from, and apply, the teachings of the Dude. This fest is a camp out where we commune with the wisdom of the movie the Big Lebowski.

Red Spiral Women’s Retreat – Date To Be Announced
This retreat is a short but effective weekend breather from the day-to-day grind, crammed with activities and time to re-connect with your own spirit, with nature and with other women of like mind. (Women only, 16 and up. Only attendees of the retreat may camp at Raven’s Knoll at this time.)

KornuKopia Gathering – September 19 to 21, 2014
This gathering is for Pagans, Heathens and their friends to celebrate the last bounty of the Summer and the Turning of the Wheel of the Year into Fall, honouring the Gods in mirth and reverence. The festival features the burning of the Wicker Man in sacrifice to the Goddess on behalf of the folk, workshops by community members, chanting and singing around the campfire, and a communal Fall Fruits Feast.

There are other possible events coming or being planned for 2014, from private coven activities, to LARPs, to SCA events, so stay tuned. The campground is open for regular camping or to hold your event, from the start of May until the end of September, unless otherwise noted.

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Gypsy at the KornuKopia Gathering 2013

From time-to-time this blog invites guests to present their experiences of past events. This is a guest post written by Gypsy Birch about his experience at the KornuKopia gathering this year.  

This is the telling of my personal experiences at the KornuKopia Gathering of 2013, held at Raven’s Knoll in Eganville, Ontario.

The KornuKopia Gathering was a celebration of the Wheel of the Year’s turning into fall, but it was, as I expected, so much more than that. It was a joyous gathering of community to be thankful for all the good things that we have in our lives. It was a festival where we expressed our joy for the world, our thanks for the gifts we receive from it, and especially our thanks for our friends and companions.

I arrived during the day on Friday, anxious as always to leave behind the mundane and get to Raven’s Knoll. The KornuKopia Gathering, or KKG, officially started that evening with much in the way of merrymaking around the Hearth Fire, the flames burning high and warm under the watchful care of the fire keepers. Into the night the attendees, travelers from near and far, enjoyed catching up with old friends, making new connections, and discussing the coming events planned for the weekend. As the evening drew on, I joined in as a few of the folks, the ones willing to pull themselves from the warmth of the Hearth, strode off into the evening and attended the opening ritual at the Standing Stone. The night air was cool, but our collective visible breath wafting into the air was like that of the fire’s smoke, reminding everyone of the strength of the circle and the comfort that was drawn from each others’ presence. We stood together as the KornuKopia Gathering was formally opened with a simple but compelling ritual under the guidance of Auz, one of the Hosts of the festival.

The following day (depending on the wake-up time of each individual) a variety of workshops and events were held on the land. Some of the workshops went in deep spiritual directions with discussions on history and personal understanding, and others were casual and relaxing, such as anytime-fishing and a euchre tournament. There was much freedom to be had in terms of workshop attendance; that is, there were many people happy to attend the events and many just as happy to pass their day wandering, spending time with each other and enjoying the land. I spent most of my own day on the pier by the river, dividing my time between fishing and teaching others to fish. The luck was minimal, but with a few catches, something fresh and immediately local was ready to add to Sunday’s feast.

As the day moved forward, many of the fest-goers made their way to the main fire pit to see the grand creation of the year: the great Wicker Man. He was constructed of brush and branches from around Raven’s Knoll land, and seated in a great wooden chair. Built by Raven’s Knoll volunteers, the effigy was created to represent the sacrifices that are made to ensure a good harvest for the year. Little notes, gifts, and personal offerings were made to the man, laid upon and around his body. These things were tokens of thanks for those things we had reaped this past year, and asking for a bountiful harvest in the year to come.

Gypsy Birch helping to build the Wicker Man.

Gypsy Birch helping to build the Wicker Man.

The Wicker Man at KKG 2013.

The Wicker Man at KKG 2013.

Ending my fishing for day, I decided to join Auz as he took a few of the attendees to visit the , the Norse shrine area at the north end of the land. I provided my assistance to him as he initiated new guests to the Vé by way of an oath, one which I had taken at the first Hail and Horn Gathering. As always, it was a powerful experience visiting the God Poles of Odin and Frigg. I know of at least one person who, that very weekend, found a very deep and personal connection with the Vé. This is the sort of thing that happens at the Knoll when we open ourselves to that which lives in and around us.

Shortly after leaving the Vé, I made my own way to the main fire pit to prep the firebowl braziers, set up the torches, and help set up for the main ritual. While I did this, I could hear and feel as the energy of the community, already raised high by the anticipation of the coming evening’s event, was raised even higher by a concert performed by IO at the Raven Stage. Passionate voices and powerful drumbeats prepared everybody’s spirits, and at the conclusion of the performance the festival attendees made their way to the Birch Grove.

IO in concert on the Raven Stage.

IO in concert on the Raven Stage.

We all met together at the Grove as the sun finished setting, the community ready to take part in the main ritual. Circled around the edge of the clearing, we bordered in the space between the torchlight and the dark shadows of the trees. Auz led us through this ritual with the aid of Juniper Jeni and Angela Grey, two of the community’s well-known witches. As always, the ritual was powerful, creating a great compass to draw together the energies of the land and the elements, reminding us of what we have, and all that we have to be thankful for.

I had the fortune of being the herald for the event, helping the two witches as they led the people of the community to the Drumming Pit. I did my best to blow on the provided horn to announce our arrival; suffice it to say I wish I had practiced with the horn a little bit more.

But, despite the possibly hilarious noises I elicited from the horn, the vigour of the people was still high as we entered the Drumming Pit. We all stood and faced the great man, and watched as Maryanne Pearce, Austin’s wife and fellow host of KKG, represented the Great Mother and spoke to the man as if he was her child, then as her partner, and then as her elder. The man’s voice echoed back through the night in sadness, in passion, and in resignation, for he is all of these things to us and while we lost him in sacrifice this season, we did not lament his loss, for we know we will be reborn to us.

At the conclusion of the ritual, the man was set aflame, and the smoke roiled up into the night. There was something about the wooden man, and how he burned, that let us know that he wasn’t upset about his sacrifice, but rather he was actively joyous. Some of the more energetic among us began to dance about the circle, and happy conversation and socializing became the order of the evening, continuing on late into the night.

The image of the Goddess formed in the flames leaping from the body of the Wicker Man.

The image of the Goddess formed in the flames leaping from the body of the Wicker Man.

Witches guide the ritual, holding stangs on high, representing the spirits of the flora and fauna of our harvests.

Witches guide the ritual, holding stangs on high, representing the spirits of the flora and fauna of our harvests.

The Sunday morning (once again, some getting up much later than others) started for me much like the Saturday: fishing. I was asked by some of the festival attendees if I was bored from spending so much time at the pier. They saw me constantly teaching people how to fish, sometimes being there alone, all of it with little luck actually catching anything. My response was always the same:it’s not always about catching fish, but spending time connecting with nature and being thankful for it, very much like we were doing as a community at KKG as a whole.

My only fishing interruption was running Archery and Axe Throwing, a consistently well-attended staple workshop of Raven’s Knoll festivals. It was a great time, and the archers had especially great fun aiming at their target: a large foam mattress with a spray-painted representation of Odin taunting his foes with runes saying “Hit Me” (although it has been questioned if the runes say “Hit Me” or “Hit Ma”; it may be a spelling mistake, or Odin may have an accent of some sort, but that is for the scholars to debate).

After all was said and done in the archery field, I made one last run at fishing before beginning to prepare for the feast. A total of four appropriately edible fish were caught over the weekend by my fellow fisherman, and it was time to clean them. Unfortunately, as my own skill set is focused on a catch-and-release style of fishing, I went to David Rolfe, a previous organizer of Kaleidoscope Gathering, for help in cleaning our contribution to the feast. It was a definite honour to have one of the elders of the community teaching me in such a way, and it’s part of what made my own KKG even more memorable.

When the time came for the Feast, I’d grilled some of the fish and deep fried the rest, adding it to the already impressive lineup of food set out upon the tables. Slow cookers, pots, baskets and plates, all heaped with a vast variety of food to accommodate the many tastes present, were eyed hungrily by those attending. Auz led us in giving thanks for the feast, for each other, and for the year. And soon, patiently waiting to take our turn, we all took part and filled our bellies to our heart’s content. Fortunately I had sampled some of the fish while cooking it, because it was quickly cleared up by the hungry community.

Our plates emptied, it came time to pack up and leave Raven’s Knoll and the KornuKopia Gathering behind, but just as we spent our weekend celebrating the turning of the wheel into fall, we knew in our hearts that we were not coming to an end of something; rather, we were moving forward towards a new beginning. There was a sense of quiet, that this was a time to rest as we prepare ourselves for the coming winter and, beyond that, the next year.  There was not a sense of loss of the time behind us, but an excitement of what is yet to come.

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Maryanne “MA” Pearce

Maryanne Pearce

Maryanne, sometimes known as “MA,” is one of the Stewards of Raven’s Knoll. Maryanne has a Master’s degree in Anthropology, and a background in Women’s Studies, as well as a Doctorate in Law. She has a full time career, as well as running Raven’s Knoll and the Kaleidoscope Gathering with her husband, Austin Lawrence. Maryanne is of Mohawk and Celtic ancestry, whose spirituality is grounded in the Mother Earth. Maryanne is an active volunteer who is involved with Great Pyrenees rescue, does the taxes for all of the women’s shelters in Ottawa, and is on the board of Minwaashin Lodge.

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Christina Graham

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Christina has been part of the Pagan community in the Ottawa area for close to 5 years.  She first discovered her path as a curious teenager with a thirst for understanding; then later breaking through her shyness to meet folks in the community.

The first festival she attended was the Kaleidoscope Gathering in 2010 at Raven’s Knoll, where an instant connection was made to the land.  Later she volunteered at the Rabbit Hole in 2011 KG and at various work weekends through the years.

She was raised in a family that camped, hiked, canoed, gardened and appreciated the outdoors.  Avid in recycling and composting has developed an appreciation for our delicate environment.  Since 2009 she has been writing articles for her blog called “Small steps to help the environment.”

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