Greetings Fellow Heathens!
(Pictures are forthcoming. I’ll update this post when I get them ready.)
I’ve been back from the Florida Pagan Gathering for a couple of days, and I’m only now finding the strength to write this post. ;) My hands are devastated (and my legs bruised) from hours of pounding my drum back to tribal days, and the sun sapped every ounce of water and nutrients from my body. But, my friends, this was a deeply magickal experience from start to finish – and I am honored to have been a part of it.
The magick really started before we left for the festival. After my recent invocations of Samael and his martial angels, I wanted to balance things out with some (long overdue) invocations to our household patron Iophiel, Intelligence of Jupiter. Since we were about to leave for a Pagan festival at which we hoped to sell some things and turn a profit, it seemed like a good idea to perform the invocations before we left. We were even leaving on a Thursday – the day sacred to Jupiter – so dawn of that very day was prime for the work.
So with the altar to Iophiel up and running nicely, we set off for Ocala National Forest. We needed to pick up a few things on the way, and stopped at the bank to deposit my most recent royalty check. There, we had our first surprise: The Angelical Language, Vol II (the Lexicon) is being translated into French! That made my check significantly larger than I had expected, and was a great omen that Iophiel had answered our call.
Even the trip to Ocala was a mystical journey. It was a two-and-a-half hour road trip that took us through several locations associated with both my and my wife’s childhoods, as well as old places significant to our mystical paths. It was literally like taking a trip back in time as we made our way to the campsite.
Once we arrived, we found ourselves thrust even further between the worlds. The festival headliners were assigned cabins, and we arrived to find gifts and amenities waiting with my name on them. We were given a radio that would call assistance or even a taxi to take us anywhere in the park we requested. (For the record, we only used it once.) And we only had to walk to the cabin next door for three meals a day or snacking anytime – along with good company and conversation for what I’m sure was 24 hours a day. It was quite the rock-star treatment – and what we required didn’t even scratch the surface of the resources these folks had available…
Even outside of the realm of the headliners, FPG is the most sophisticated operation I’ve witnessed among Pagan festivals. (I’m sure there are others, I just haven’t been to them.) They had a trolley service – separate from the taxi – running at all times, so you never had to walk if you didn’t want to (or couldn’t). There were misting tents and well-distributed facilities, not to mention shade tents over every vendor booth. The security force was something to behold: strong, friendly people strolling the grounds with bright red arm-bands (glowing versions for nighttime) and large staves in hand. They were well trained, well organized and served as both security and medics. Plus, they and the entire staff were connected by radio at all times, and no one on staff was ever out of the loop.
So both headliners and guests were free to forget about the world and lose themselves in the magick of the place. I had to give my first lecture soon after arriving, and was pleasantly surprised to discover Mrs. Phaedra Bonewits attending! (Her workshop immediately followed mine, so I got to attend hers as well. It was both fun and informative.) As it turned out, she was also sharing a cabin with us – and that wasn’t the only surprise. Also sharing our cabin were Kirk Thomas (the current Archdruid of Ár nDríaocht Féin), and Patrick McCollum (Neopagan Elder, world-class jeweler, presidential adviser and fighter for your religious freedom). It is perhaps needless to say we spent some time this weekend learning some incredible things and making wonderful new friends. :)
Outside of the cabins, we were invited to all of the “in” spots and even several private rituals. (Special thanks to Lia Fail Coven and the Dirty Foot Tribe, you folks are exceptional!) We never wanted for food or drink, let me tell you! But, then, no one did – guest or headliner – it was just that kind of atmosphere.
The public rituals were yet another shock and surprise. They were hosted by a local ADF proto-grove (Osprey Suncoast), and both Kirk and Phaedra had flown in to participate. This was my first opportunity to witness how the ADF does their magick. I had heard from Ian Corrigan that they use methods strikingly similar to what you read in my Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires. What I witnessed that weekend confirmed it – these guys may be Neopagans, but they’re using the Old Magick. They don’t call quarters and cast circles, they make invocations and pour offerings into the fire. Even the ancestral spirits were invoked: during the main Beltaine Rite, this was done with a proper white-table covered with offerings, and the invocations were read by Phaedra herself. Let me tell you, Isaac was there, without a doubt! Not every eye in the circle was dry after that…
And what a Beltaine rite! To get to it, we had to leave the ritual site entirely, and enter through a portal flanked by Faery casting incense, blessings and purifications upon us. (Carrie tells me she first noticed Isaac’s spirit here, greeting those who entered.)
Once we were in, we were treated to several performances centered on Beltaine and the themes of spring and renewal. A short morality play about different tribes working together despite their differences. A beautiful vocal solo during which every child in attendance was free to dash into the middle of the circle to play and chase a pretty fairy who danced clockwise with a large beach ball. The mixture of the song with the laughter of the children and those watching them play was very moving.
Then came the invocations and offerings to the spirits, the ancestors, Mother Earth (invoked via a litany song involving everyone present), the gatekeeper between the realms and the Gods associated with the Rite. Of course there was a sacred fire in the center of the circle – and everyone present had the opportunity to pass directly by it thanks to a complex Spiral Dance involving perhaps 200 people or more!
Witnessing the ADF’s rituals over the weekend was deeply moving for my wife. When she and I met, she was interested in Celtic Neopaganism and was actively searching for an ADF grove. By the time she found one (hours away from where we lived), it had disbanded. So, she ended up going other directions in her path. Finally getting to see the ADF in action, and getting to meet both Phaedra and Kirk, was truly coming full circle for her.
Over our four day stay, I gave three lectures and sold signed copies of my books. Carrie also sold henna tattoos at the same booth. Iophiel be praised, I sold out of Secrets… entirely and even dipped into a few copies of The Angelical Language. We were able to take home a worthwhile profit even after hemorrhaging some of it back into the festival for gifts and trinkets for ourselves. :)
My three lectures, by the way, went wonderfully! Well, at least two of them did. The first one was located outside in a nice little pavilion. But, a local forest fire had a helicopter in the air, taking water from a nearby lake. Much of my lecture was drowned out by the noise, so I didn’t have the kind of audience participation I would enjoy during the second two lectures.
The following two lectures took place inside (air conditioning, but no air traffic!) and were just a thrill to host. They were well attended, and I was told later they were among the most well-received presentations of the event! (That’s saying something, since I was at a major Pagan festival, talking about Biblical magick!) Kirk attended my lecture on invocations, and was so impressed he immediately purchased a copy of Secrets… (I just can’t describe what an honor that was!)
Carrie nearly got the honor of putting a henna tattoo on Phaedra, but the days were busy and we never got the spare time to get it done. So, we are using that as an official excuse to drag her back here at some point. ;)
From the moment we left our home to the moment we reluctantly (yet, at the same time, eagerly) returned to it, we were truly transported to another world. It was a mixture of our own past and return to where we started with new experiences and wonderful new friends. We will return in Samhain as guests – plus we will rent a vendor booth and Carrie is already set to give a henna workshop. And if we are invited as headliners again, we won’t hesitate to be there!