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.