Many people start their exploration of the various neopagan beliefs by looking online or reading books. This may well open up our minds to new ideas and outlooks, but I would advise visiting some Mind, Body and Spirit events to get to know people in the various pagan movements
One of the things I have come to love most about the Pagan movement, is the sense of community
that exists, despite a huge divergence in beliefs and cultures. In the last five years I have met and befriended many amazing and wonderful people. Tina and I have been to many events. Sometimes as participants and sometimes as visitors. The atmosphere is usually amazing, and we have had free readings and advice from so many people in so many different places, that it is impossible to claim that these people are money orientated in any real sense. Some of the larger events may seem more commercial because of the financial pressure of high fees for the use of the larger venues,, and the resultant higher stall fees. I would recommend finding local events at smaller venues to really get a taste of the variety and integrity of those who follow the various pagan paths. I have mentioned Cabourne Parva in the past. I have been to many of the larger events there, but the lovely Kirke family, who run the events, often donate the use of their facilities to smaller groups who could not afford to pay a commercial fee for the use of the venue. Because there are no pagan churches as such, these many events are an important way for pagans to share their knowledge and and get together to celebrate nature.
I have a story to tell about one such event, which starts about three years ago. It was my second time to attend the Lin Dhu Festival at Cabourne Parva. The opening ceremony was conducted by a local druid, and a lovely gentleman, called Kevin Guy,- who was aided by a local pagan group called Abus Coritani. Tina and I were there as stall holders, and we did tarot and Spirit readings. Mainly, we chilled out and enjoyed the marvellous atmosphere.
There was live music all weekend, and I even got to do a couple of songs on stage myself,-due to a cancellation. Tina performed her first ever public demonstration and astounded me by manifesting her guide, Nicholas Black Elk. Just to show the diversity amongst pagans, Tina also lead an Angel meditation. One lady, kept the many children entertained making wands and it was a delight to see them running around in a safe friendly environment, despite an attendance of around five hundred people. It was there that I was introduced to the idea of being a member of the “Unsupportable Supposition”, by a friend, Ian. I have found it to be a very useful term for dealing with people who need labels. Some of us congregated around the fire-pit and drummed all night and I met many people who were to become friends.
It was there that I met a lovely lady, now sadly passed over, by the name of Anna Salter. She had a stall nearby and was doing “mini-readings” for charity. At the time, I was writing a book about the Faeries, and she told me of her plans for an event which was to be called “Spirit of the Marsh”.
She was looking for story-tellers, and I found myself agreeing to do a story-telling session, although I did not actually have anything suitable at that time. She assured me that I would do fine! And I walked away, bemused at my agreement, but determined to write some short tales to use by the following year. The winter passed and I had all but forgotten my promise, though I had written some short stories.
I learned the sad news that Anna had passed, but two lovely ladies, Julie Sheppard and Sarah Goodley, had decided to continue with Spirit of the Marsh in her memory.
They contacted me, and I readily agreed to keep faith with my commitment. It was a bitter-sweet weekend. There was a beautiful ritual by a Wiccan priestess and priest and Anna’s ashes were scattered. The weather was lovely. Although the event was not well attended,- it was nevertheless a perfect weekend in many ways. Financial success is seldom at the top of the list of requirements for events like this, although often the proceeds are earmarked for various charities, and failure to meet costs would, in time, have a serious impact on the whole pagan movement.
I have to move forward in time to this years event of the Spirit of the Marsh,- renamed as the Beltane Camp and Gathering. The event was well organised and advertised in advance and we all looked forward to a great weekend. Tina and I went as Spirit of the Drum. We gave drumming workshops and shamanic healing with the drum. I again did a story-telling session, although not originally booked to do one. As we drove our van into the field I was surprised to see a huge circus tent in the centre of the camping area. Tina recognised it immediately as one of the huge tents used at Cabourne Parva. I wondered why it was there, as there were three hospitality tents set up in the entertainments area near the stalls. Also there was another tent in the area near the entrance for workshops. We set up in a really sheltered area and went off to enjoy the opening ritual by Pan’s Grove and the rest of the evening. Despite the unsettled weather, we enjoyed the weekend, but, almost total, disaster struck in the early hours of Sunday morning. A bad storm struck and ripped the entertainment tents from their moorings. Tina and I slept through the commotion, because we were asleep in our van at the far side of the camping field. One of the hospitality tents was totally destroyed and the furnishings and electrical equipment were exposed to the torrential rain as a handful of volunteers rushed to move everything into the circus tent.
Tina and I awoke to find that everything had been moved to the circus tent donated by the lovely people from Cabourne Parva. People had set up, as best as was possible, to continue with the days advertised events. One lovely lady had set up two camping stoves and was handing out mugs of tea and coffee. The atmosphere was warm and friendly as everyone adapted to the circumstances and did their best to support Sarah and Julie in keeping the event on track. The bar, which was an inflatable, building was moved into the large circus tent, and the day began with a display of morris dancing inside the huge tent. The day went well, with many events going to plan despite the lack of electricity and sound equipment. That evening, all of the musical performers carried on with great professionalism, using acoustic equipment and candle light. I spoke to Gary, the stage manager , who confirmed that the tent had been donated by Jayne and Peter Kirke. He told me that Jayne had insisted on them having the tent, “just in case”. He had been slightly reluctant to accept, due to the size of the tent and the skilled manpower needed to erect it, but Jayne had insisted.
Along with a group of entertainers called the Misfits, Jayne, Peter and their sons had delivered and erected the tent at their own expense.
This generosity has a much deeper significance than one might first realise. It was based on a premonition by Jayne that the weather would be much worse than expected, and that the tent would be very much needed.
To put this into perspective,- It needed about ten skilled people to erect the tent safely. It had to be delivered and erected,- then dismantled and collected. That is a lot of confidence in one ladies intuition. The size of the gift is truly admirable, but on a smaller scale I have seen hundreds of examples of similar behaviour over the past five years. I have witnessed many situations where another’s needs and well-being were seen as much more important than either profit or convenience.
In this new community in which I have found myself, which I call “Pagan” but which is really comprised of a much wider circle of beliefs and spirituality, I have found a group of people who are truly seeking to make the world a better place, in whatever small way that they can.
The Spirit of the Marsh
The Spirit of the Marsh was gentle,
like the soft white, wispy clouds that scudded by on clear blue skies.
The spirit of the Marsh was warm and welcome
as the smiling sun, that greeted us each morning as we rose with bleary eyes.
The Spirit of the marsh,- A timeless weekend spent adrift,
For many of us,- such a perfect and a timely gift.
A gentle spirit touched our hearts and minds,
As we all shared the dream she left behind.
The Spirit of the Marsh lives on,
As we remember those who loved us and have gone ahead.
A weekend spent away from worldly cares,
A time to drift away and dream beneath the stars.
For Anna Salter
Patrick W Kavanagh.