Monday, 28 November 2016

Witchfest 2016


I think that's all I really need to say. I've had a phenomenal weekend, I've had new ideas and new avenues to explore, new writers to investigate and new shiny things to play with. But lets go back to the beginning before I start gushing about the many things I bought from the market.

I headed to London on Friday morning, on a slightly packed train but I made it largely unscathed. A quick flirt with the underground and I was soon on a train from Victoria to Brighton, I was ridiculously excited. So excited I didn't read any of the books I had brought with me on either train. I met up with my friends Nisha and Chris. We had a lovely lunch at a Vegetarian placed called Iydea and then headed to the flat (after extracting Nisha from many shops along the way). We made our way to our Air BNB, which was small but all we really needed. After a spot of shopping (and more extracting of Nisha) we headed to the Brighton Centre (via a chip shop).

I don't think I was quite prepared for the size of the Auditorium in the Brighton Centre. It was HUGE. We managed to nab seats at the front which was both a blessing and a curse, largely because once people got up to dance it was difficult to see! But we persevered and very much enjoyed Spriggan Mist, Crow Dancers and Inkubus Sukkubus. I personally can't wait for the Crow Dancers album and pestered KT at least twice over the weekend about it! But the bands sounded fantastic, the sound was brilliant and it was the best I've heard Inkubus Sukkubus ever be!

We all got kicked out at 5 to 11 and we headed to bed, via a kebab shop because, food. It was so noisy when we got back to the flat though, the neighbours were playing very loud music when we got in but fortunately had turned it down just before I tried to sleep. But it was Friday night in Kemptown and it was busy, that's life I guess!

The next day we were up early, passed through a Costa for breakfast (gingerbread muffins naturally), and headed for a day of learning and fun. There was a bit of a delayed start due to the fact so many people were still trying to get in. I suspect this might have had something to do with the revolving doors making it slow for people to get in, or it might just have been because so many fricking people were there! I have no idea what the final numbers were but it was fantastic to see so many people turn out. The opening blessing was given by Kate West, and I was a little bit excited about that because this year was my first year hearing Kate West speak, but more on that later.

We, unfortunately, decided to skip Rufus Harrington's talk because we were worried we weren't going to get any shopping time, We were going to be in talks or events from 12 until about half 5 so it was near enough going to be our only shopping time. I ended up coming away with a awl for scratching symbols on candles, a Morrigan Bust, my first two Ember Vincent Pieces, a copy of Magical Times and some oils from Dominae Lunae Apothecary. (I think that's it).

Our first talk of the day was Witchcraft into the Wilds by Rachel Patterson. It took some finding, it was in the Syndicate wing of the Brighton Centre and was a bit difficult to find. But, we got there and as most of the talks we wanted to go to were in that wing we didn't have to move very far for the rest! I have to say I liked Rachel immensely, she very much draws from nature instead of buying things, because it's not really needed (don't tell my husband that). She herself is a self proclaimed "Lazy Witch" which is always something I call myself so I resonated a lot with what she said. She even gave advice to a question which echos things I said in my talk at Artemis Gathering, so much more exploring is required here. Looking forward to venturing down that avenue more!

Second was Raegan Shanti's Talk AKA Nisha! It was on Movement Meditation, and I have to say it was lovely to see it so well attended. Her talk was well researched (far better than mine ever was) and the movement part was lovely, I never usually get to go to Nisha's talks due to things getting in the way so it was great to get to see her talk, especially in front of  group. She was very much in her element there, even if she did get a bit tongue tied at times. (Love ya, Nish!)

Next was Damh the Bard and the Mabinogion, which I learnt I have been saying wrong for years (but of course). I know little about the Mabinogion but it was interesting to finally heard Damh speak. He very much knows his stuff! This is another topic I want to explore further, next year maybe, starting with reading the Mabinogion. An interesting introduction though with ideas I hope I remember while I'm reading.

Kate West was someone I was looking forward to seeing for a long time. She stopped doing events for a while as I was just beginning to attend my first ones so I was a little upset at the time! But she's back and I was delighted. I enjoyed her talk, I enjoyed the anecdotes and advice she had to impart. She seemed very much no nonsense which is the same feeling you get come across in her books. I very much felt inspired to carry on with what I'm doing and again came up with a few more avenues to go down, not least to actually finish her books...

Last but not least, Professor Ronald Hutton discussed Western Magical Traditions and basically how they all came from the East in a way, Egypt and Assyria. A lot of what has been copied down in the past has travelled far and wide, so it's interesting know that at least some of what we practice might have some basis in ancient magic, though it's, once again, something more to read about and to research. Why is it I always come away from these things with what feels like homework!?

At 5pm there was a raffle. After complaining I never win anything I won three things, a print of the artwork from Damh the Bard's Antlered Crown and Standing Stone by Ceri Lee, a signed copy of THe Witching Path by Moira Stirland and a Witch necklace I gave to Nisha (who had no raffle luck in the slightest). I'm very pleased with my picks although I now need more wall space for the Ceri Lee print!

After another quick run around the market before it closed (where I bought the other half of Ember Vincent's stall and a couple of itty bitty crystal Venus of Willendorf's) we headed into town for dinner. We ended up in a lovely little italian place and consumed my only alcoholic beverage of the whole weekend! (I know, it's shocking). Unfortunately timing meant we missed Daughters of Gaia but we did make it back in time to see Damh the Bard.

Now, anyone who knows me, will know that Damh the Bard is my number one top Pagan Artist ever. I could listen to nothing but him for weeks, and frequently have. So I was very excited to be able to see him twice this year (although I'm hoping it will be three times next year!).  He sounded fantastic on the big stage and I think he was quite giddy about being on it himself. For the whole set I was whispering "Play Sabbat, please play Sabbat, you really want to play Sabbat." Then he started talking about playing songs that he didn't play because of huge production (Sabbat?) and how he really wanted to play this one (please be Sabbat?) and he was going to play it for the first time (Sabbat!?). It was! I swear the by the second chord I was on my feet and dancing. I was so excited I grabbed my friend Joy out of her seat and made her dance. (Seriously, Sabbat is like my favourite song at the moment, I was utterly delighted and even ignored the fact he sang the wrong verse). So now I have to spam him before Staffordshire Pagan Conference and hope to get a repeat performance! (Seriously, I was over the fricking moon!) So after buying a copy of Sabbat and got it signed followed by sweaty Bard Hug (TM) we went back in for The Dolmen.

When I saw the Dolmen back at Artemis Gathering you could not get me off of my feet. I danced for their entire set and I was fricking exhausted. While I very much enjoyed the performance of the Dolmen I didn't feel the urge to get up and dance. Maybe it was just because I had had such a full day and I was pretty tired, I don't know. I think the energies of Artemis Gathering suited them better. I also noted they're far more Tribal at Artemis than they were at Witchfest. However, I did finally learn the name of one of the songs I love so I bought the CD with that on it :)

Wearily we made our way back to the flat, that was missing the party next door Friday night had, much to our delight. after a "quick" snack of pringles and gingerbread we went to sleep, ready for our next day of adventures in Brighton.

As we weren't in a particular rush we had a lazy get up and managed to fit everything into our suitcases (although I'm not entirely sure how!) I had learnt not long before Witchfest that our flat was literally round the corner from Doreen Valiente's flat. So we checked out of the flat and made our pilgrimage. We weren't the only ones either, there were people there when we got there and people heading up with great enthusiasm when we were leaving. I had a bit of a moment there. It was weird to think that as I stood on the steps of Tyson place that Doreen had stood once. Possibly on her way to a ritual, possibly after marching up the hill with bags of groceries (I don't know how she managed that!), but there she would have stood or passed. A small tear came to my eye as I could very much still feel here there, slightly bemused at all the visitors to her little flat, but a little bit pleased all the same, that we're there, open and in so many numbers.

We found "breakfast" in town before heading to the sea for a bit. I collected a bit of sea water and found a hagstone so I was quite pleased :) I love being by the sea and wished we'd made more time to be there without having suitcases. Maybe next time!

After a quick trip via a couple of shops (I think we can guess who we had to extract...) we made our way up to Preston Manor to see the exhibition. It was small but perfectly formed. I had goosebumps the moment I went in and had a few more tears in my eyes pretty quickly. What struck me was very much the normality of it all. Gerald Gardner's book was a blank financial ledger, Doreen's was written in biro with a pencil note on how to pronounce Samhain. The items she collected from antique shops were beautiful, and again, the presence of Doreen was very very much present. I'm delighted to have had a chance to see the exhibition, and I am very much hoping that they make something bigger very soon. As it was "exit via the gift shop" I came back with more wares, a copy of Doreen Valiente's An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present which I've not had my hands on before, a couple of postcards from the Foundation, a card of art of John Belham-Payne and a Pentagram notebook, within which I might start a new Book of Shadows with one instruction to myself, "be more Doreen".

Wearily we made our way back to the station to wait for the train home. The remainder of the journey was fairly uneventful, my train was cold and I made it home earlier than I planned.

I did read a bit of ABC of Witchcraft on my way home, and it made me think of a conversation Nisha and I had had about us being the future of Witchcraft, our generation is the next to step up and will be the elders of Witchcraft one day. We sort of panicked over expectations on new ways in the craft, what can we do when everything has already been done? But Doreen says "There are many realms still to be explored, and doubtless many discoveries still to be made." That might be in a book published in 1973, but I believe it's still true. And if we're going to get there we need events like Witchfest to help spark the imagination, to bring us down new avenues of thought. To come together as a community, share ideas and inspire the next generation.

So here's to Witchfest 2017, see you on the seafront :)

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic breakdown of a huge weekend ��