Sunday, 21 August 2016

Heeding My Own Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Artemis Gathering 2016 - Sunday - Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Artemis Gathering 2016 - Friday and Saturday

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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