per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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all praise to the moon
I was zombified yesterday (yes, that's the technical term), but today I feel moderately more alive then dead, so I'll at least get a start on recording my impressions on Free Spirit Gathering XVIII. I don't expect that I will do it justice, but I have to start somewhere.

This was my third year on staff- I'm "Radio Boy", i.e. I hand out, track, and troubleshoot radios; because of the nature of my job I'm kind of on call all the time when I'm awake, helping facilitate communications and assisting where needed. It went pretty well from my end- we had enough radios this year, and they all came back more-or-less intact. Working staff for FSG has so far been a positive experience for me- I feel like I'm giving something significant to the community. Since essentially the same group of people will be running it next year, I'm assuming I'll be asked back… and I'll be glad to be on staff again.

The weather was better than the last several years (which ironically were like the weather we've been having this spring); it wasn't dry, but we had torrential thunderstorms rather than steady rain. One of them had some bad winds, and wrecked a bit of Merchant's Row, and they didn't do anything to help the already sodden and torn-up condition of the campground. On the other hand, one of them had an awe-inspiringly beautiful array of lightning, and it stayed warm enough to keep the nekkididity at a high level… something I always appreciate. Alas, the Moon was clouded over during much of the festival, but she showed her face most brightly on Friday night, peering in through an opalescent window in the clouds.

Since I was on staff, I didn't get to go to many workshops. I read a poem at the Bardic Circle, and attended an open Sumbol ritual, but the rest of the workshops I attended were those given by the Vodou presenters. They were top-notch- good material, well presented, zero BS and lots of humor. The one on "Marrying a Lwa" was my favorite- this is a spiritual marriage with one of the lwa (or "loa"), in order to gain benefits without going through the more rigorous initiation process. One of the presenters had actually been through this ceremony, and the other was preparing for it, so it was both immediate and fascinating. One of them is working on a book called "Vodou for the Solitary Practicioner"; this is something that RavenRose and I both are interested in- Vodou is part of our magickal paths, but not enough to justify becoming full-time members of a Vodou House. We're going to try to stay in touch with these people, definitely…

My tattoo went very well. I was a little worried that it wouldn't happen- we kept losing power (something which has never happened at an FSG in my memory). Abraham, the artist, wraps a ritual around every piece he does- in my case, he had me state my intent, then lit an incense stick and had me hold it until the flame went out and it started smoking. Then he did an invocation before settling in to work. He was fast and very assured, and enhanced the design without any input from me (I knew what was going on and decided to trust him, and it was the right decision). And after it was done, he did a closing invocation. Alas, most of my friends were busy on staff, so only RavenRose and the Vortex got to witness it.

Friday night I stayed up way too late at the Alchemical Fire Circle (a more ritualized version of the usual freewheeling dance-and-drumfest sort of Fire Circle) because RavenRose and others were doing a "bell dance". They were pierced on their chests and backs, had cords threaded through, and bells were hung off of the cords. It was very cool, and far less offputting than I thought it would be. But it meant that I crawled into bed around dawn, and I don't sleep late at FSG under the best circumstances…

Saturday, I took part in the main ritual, which was an invocation of the transforming fire of the Moon. I took on the role of Yesod, the Sphere of the Moon from the Cabala. The ritual was beautiful and well-designed (the main part was put on by the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, who do amazingly well-thought out and powerful work. It rained, but that didn't stop us… I found out that if you aspect hard enough, you just don't notice things like that. ;-) There were a few hitches, but all and all it went well.

Right after that, I went to be door-guard for a private ritual in which many of my friends were taking part. I didn't participate (not part of my path), but it was a powerful and moving experience nonetheless. It seems that the role of Guardian is where the Warrior archetype fits into me... and that knowledge came to me as a result of guarding the ritual. Also, many of the folks involved with the ritual had borne the brunt of the troubles that had bedeviled FSA and FSG for the past months; it felt good to make a stand. If that wasn't enough, many of my friends and loved ones, members of my "tribe of choice", had been attacked by others in the community- their spiritual path maligned, their very morality called into question. Attacking me is one thing- I will respond or shrug it off. But attack my tribe… that's when the sword comes out. To stand guard over these people, to feel I was helping them and keeping them safe… it was healing.

This FSG was a vindication and a rededication for me, and one of the most personally spiritually intense pagan events in my memory. I have hope that we can build on this, and keep the community vibrant, inclusive, tolerant, and free of blind dogma and uninformed opinion.

Sure, there were some down points. I could have used less rain and mud. BadKitty and the Bald One couldn't make it, and I missed them both. BadKitty in particular has been having an awful time at work recently, and I really wanted her to get some peace and healing. I'm trying not to feel guilty about having a good time... maybe I can transmit some of the peace and healing I gained to her. I think I broke my right little toe, and the Vortex got sunburned as well as her usual allergic reactions to sunscreen contact; she also had to spend some time in the A/C room recovering from heat prostration. A number of the staff had similar experiences, and a few had to go to the hospital (one was a life-threatening emergency). But it still was one of the best festivals that I can remember.

Now it's over for another year. It feels very odd to be at work, odder still to wear shoes and socks. Although I'm still tired out and a bit melancholy, I can look back on it as a job well done.

Can't wait 'til next year!

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Next year, lad, you need to let me know well in advance when this event is taking place, so that I can sock away some schekels and schedule some vacay. THis event has been touted by you and others for enough years that I feel a distinct need to attend, if only to bail some of the near-bottomless pool of angry muck out of the depths of my self.
(And of course, there's always the nekkididity!)

I'll add you to the list of "folks to keep posted about such things"... for now, mark Father's Day Weekend 2004 (and the W-F before it) on yer calendar.

MsMocha is likely running it next year, so you might check with her if you want to be on staff. So many of the Cool Kids were this year, and it's likely to be even moreso next year. Staff is work, but fun and very satisfying.

*sniff* I saw parts of the tattoo process... Couldn't stay for the whole thing, tho'. Damn Deputy Sheriff badge... :P

Don't you dare start feeling guilty, dammit!!! *g* You absolutely deserved to have a transcendent time, and I'm very glad you did. Why on earth should anyone else have to suffer because I got shafted, you big silly man? I would much rather you savored the good time you had for *both* of us.

Pardon me for dropping in on your Journal, but I was in attendance at the private ritual you mentioned.

I just wanted to say ~Thank You~ for being a Guardian that night. It was an amazing feeling to look back and see the Guardians at the gate. You kept us Safe.


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