Fires Rising (Artemis, PA)
June 1-5, 2005 (we got there a day early)
Our friends Dorian and Amethyst have convinced Kevin and me to go to a few events and festivals with them this year, and Fires Rising was the first. Although we'd looked at the web site's description of the event, we didn't realize (or learn) that it was a Pagan event until about a week prior.
Held in the beautiful setting that is Four Quarters Farm, and directed by Magnus (Jeff) and Spinner (Abbi) McBride, I really dug this event. Unfortunately, Kevin didn't get into it, one of the rare times our tastes haven't agreed. But he consoled himself with helping set up and decorate the mini-Den of Iniquity (with Amethyst), long hikes, some socializing and catching up on sleep.
Out of about 150 or so attendees, there were numerous folks that I've gotten to know in recent months, from both Wear What You Dare Bowling and the Rhythm Workers Union, and I made a bunch of new acquaintances (Fox, Jeff Fox, Juggling John, Billy Bardo, Anaïs, Starwind, Dana, David, Tree, … ).
In a nutshell, Fires Rising was a very well organized series of lightly ritualized (alchemical) drum and dance circles all-night, and playshops and other meetings and events during the day. There was also a small merchant's row, the Starving Artist's cafe (for those who purchased the meal plan), a skinny-dipping hole and outdoor hot showers.
I missed the fire circle Thursday night, choosing instead to snuggle with Kevin in our tent. But Friday I danced all night and through the dawn in white scarves (one gatekeeper called me the goddess incarnate!). Upon hearing it was my first pagan event, Magnus remarked that I fit right in, and I felt I did; these were my people. Sadly I missed most of Saturday's circle, snoozing fitfully in our tent until I awoke and joined in at dawn.
How can you not have fun chanting and dancing to that? Sometimes things got silly that way, and it was great. I've never encountered anything (much less a "religion") that was so focused on empowering people to reach their creative potentials and to respect the earth and natural existence. Repeatedly throughout the weekend the messages shared were very empowering, urging us to self-actualize. It was an unexpectedly very positive experience for me. I've always looked a little sideways at Paganism as another (more-benign) religion, but if this group's take on it (not to mention amazing presentation of ideas) is anything like what the movement generally means, I might have found a new tool in becoming more myself.
I felt like I was among a band of roving gypsies and minstrels and entertainers. The community was even better than Burning Man, in the sense of how "tight" it was (not surprising given the size difference alone).
The playshops I mentioned took the form of affinity groups, which met daily. Once you selected your group you were to stay with it all weekend. Groups included the topics of alchemy, healing, visual arts, movement and dance, and drumming/music. I joined Carl Bridge who was running the visual arts group (I'd previously seen him drumming at the first Saturday circles I've attended), and our path was to design a mandala for the fire circle, bringing intention into our work. I participated the first day, then half-attended the second (Magnus pulled Jeff and I away to draw the planetary symbol design for that night's circle), and completely missed the third day (out hiking).
And speaking of hiking, we did a fair amount, and there are lots of photos below to show for it. But no photos of the fire circle in action, we were asked not to (and I wouldn't have felt comfortable anyway).
At the end of the event, Shamanista Ametista anointed Kevin and I as Priest and Priestess of the Den of Iniquity, in reward for our labors there.
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