It is said that there is witch blood running in our veins and that at an auspicious moment in our lives it rises to the surface and begins to call us home.
Many years ago, I went to my first gathering of earth-centered, earth-mindful folk and I felt immediately a kinship that nourished me like nothing else in my life did.
I believe that gatherings feed our soul and deepen our witch blood. It is at pagan festivals that I encounter the expansive power of divine synchronicity. Magick flows, eddies and swirls, sweeping me along in its transformative tide.
With my car packed with camping gear, I ventured off to Templefest, a gem of a weekend put together by the wonderful folks of the Temple of Witchcraft (TOW).
The first leg of the journey was getting there. While the drive was certainly shorter than my trek to the Canadian Conjuration Campout (you can read about that adventure here), I had to navigate the dreaded Route 495, in eastern Massachuesetts.
Rt 495 is an extremely congested highway with commuters rushing home and weekend warriors looking to escape to the ocean and mountains. Your brief drive can easily turn into a nightmarish journey of hours. But finally, I arrived.
A theme quickly emerged as the weekend unfolded.
Spiritual continuity nurtures community connection.
Templefest is held on a privately owned farm located on a hilltop with 360 degree views.
In a word, STUNNING.
The weekend opened with the TOW leadership invoking sacred space by calling the Quarters, the Land Spirits, The Unseen Host, The Ancestors and the Goddess and God. A protective circle was cast and extended out. We were directed by the Temple ministry to breathe through our heart, our feet and our heads; connecting us to each other, to the Earth and to the Cosmos. I soon noticed that every ceremony and ritual, even certain workshops, was started with this mindfulness trinity. This provided a subtle, but powerful spiritual continuity to the gathering.
Blue Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Harfest
Friday night brought a magnificent full moon rising over the land and you could see moonlight reflecting off the distant ocean. It was a Blue Moon. It was the Sturgeon Moon in Native American Traditions. It was Lammastide, or Harfest as it is known in the tradition I walk (Ash, Birch & Willow). This is the known as the first harvest in the Pagan wheel of the year.
beneath that radiant moon,
with kindred souls
as above, so below
Saturday morning dawned hot and bright, evicting me from my tent fairly early (or risk laying there feeling a like a cake in an easy-bake-oven).
I have noticed that each festival emotes a spiritual theme. While at the same time, Mother Earth offers up Her own initiation of the elements. During Canadian Conjuration Campout, we were washed in torrential rains; water. Templefest we were sizzling in blazing sun and heat; fire.
On top of that, I was camped at the bottom of a rather long, steep hill. The hill, sun and I became well acquainted as I trudged up and down it throughout the weekend. I feel these elemental immersions, and the tests they bring, help to hammer out inner strengths and hone character, and enhances the transformative time at a festival.
Tarot, Orisha, Labyrinths & The Mighty Dead
Saturday begun with a keynote lecture by Christopher Penczak on Witchcraft, The Holy Grail and the Age of Aquarius. Later on in morning, I had the pleasure of teaching my tarot workshop, Tarot From The Crossroads of Knowledge, Intuition and Spirit, to a large group of seasoned, tarot enthusiasts. It was great to work with the passionate and engaging community at Templefest.
After lunch, I took a fabulous workshop on the concept and practice of offerings and sacrifice within your spiritual practice taught by Chris Giroux. Chris broke down many limiting beliefs teaching that sacrifice can include actions like giving your time (sacrifice) to community service by volunteering. He also addressed misconceptions and shared many valuable bits of wisdom about “big energy” offerings and daily practices in regards to the Orishas and Ifa.
Labyrinth and Lammas: Healing Ritual
In the evening, after I watched the panel discussion on Witch Blood, I participated in Silver Lyon’s ritual. I loved how grounded, clear and heart-centered Silver’s ritual was.
Tapping into the harvest energy of Lammastide (first of the three harvest sabbats in the Wheel of the Year) and using the indoor labyrinth, she directed us to find one thing that we needed to let go of in order to create space to receive new bounty into our lives.
We breathed the energy of “what no longer served us” onto paper that we carried with us to the center of the labyrinth in silence. Labyrinth work combined with ritual is always a deep and reflective experience. Afterwards we released them into the sacred fire at the heart of Templefest.
A coin pays the way to dance with the Mighty Dead
Before I arrived at Templefest, I learned that there would be a midnight ritual to dance with the Mighty Dead (the Ancestors) and to bring a chalice. This ritual was open to a limited number of participants which would be drawn by lottery. If you name was pulled, you received a coin. The coin was to pay the Gatekeeper which allowed you to walk alone on the candlelit path through the woods to the Witches Sabbat.
I really, really wanted to be part of this. I prayed to the Ancestors and Spirit, if it was their will, to open the way. I also had an intuitive hit that it was very unlikely my name would be called. Perhaps, it wasn’t meant to be, I told myself, but in my heart of hearts, I knew I would be bummed to miss it.
A coin for a coin
In the center of the market place, was an altar to La Fortuna and Ganesha. I felt a strong connection to this altar when I saw it being set up. On my way to hear the results of the lottery for the midnight ritual, I stopped at the abundance altar and paid my coins to both La Fortuna and Ganesha. I paused and then to Ganesha, I petitioned him with a small request; a simple prayer.
Ganesha, if it is in alignment with my highest good and with harm to none, could you please arrange it so I might have a coin to go to the Witches Sabbat.
My name was not called at the lottery.
I kept reminding myself that if it was not meant to be, that there was a reason for that, whether I understood it or not. But still, I was disappointed. I continued to quietly petition Ganesha. If there is any way to open the door…please (with harm to none) open the way and I spoke with my Ancestors.
Saturday was drawing to a close and the hours til the ritual were passing. After spending some time at the fire circle listening to stories, I resigned myself to the reality that I was not going to the ritual and retired to my campsite.
Ganesha, The Ancestors and Divine Synchronicity
I had been back at my campsite only a minute or two, when I heard my name being called.
It was Tina. She was one of the few attendees that I knew somewhat since this was my first Templefest. She and Wren (one of the TOW Ministry and organizers of the event) were running down the hill, in the dark, calling for me.
She hurriedly explained how Orion Foxwood had finally arrived, after being delayed in his travel, and had been standing next to her at the fire circle. (apparently I had left the circle minutes before he arrived)
He had a coin to the midnight ritual but would not be using it. He turned to Tina who was standing next to him and offered it to her. Tina had not felt called to the ritual and told him that.
When Orion asked her if she knew of someone who wanted to go she told him, “I know someone who really wants to go. Her name is Winifred”.
Upon hearing that, Orion said, “Winifred must have my coin!” But, I was no longer at the fire circle and the folks for the ritual were leaving in minutes. That’s when Tina and Wren sprang into action to find me.
Dancing with the Mighty Dead
We walked in silence.
We stood in moonlight.
When the Gatekeeper called me forward, I paid my coin.
She handed me a candle and I stepped into the dark woods.
The way was unlit and uneven, the candle throwing a little shadowy light. I was grateful for years of hiking and dance to steady my feet as I felt my way across the earth. I walked alone, but was not alone.
I emerged from the woods into an expansive field on a hillside. Ahead, I could see the silhouettes of others, illuminated by the moon.
I could hear the drums.
And when the time was right, we were summoned to enter the ring of torches and the circle was cast by Christopher along with other robed witches.
We drank from our chalices, we danced with the Mighty Dead and our blood deepened.
(Please note: No photos were taken at any time during the Mighty Dead Ritual)
Sine Waves and Singing Bowls on Sunday
Sunday morning found me in the Himalayan and Crystal Singing Bowl with Plant Essences healing workshop led by Priscilla Gale and Dan Lupacchino (both Priscilla and Dan are wise, skillful healers). I have experienced the effect of multiple singing bowls in a healing session before, but not the profound transformation of a room full of many bowls combined with plant spirits.
Priscilla, a musical shaman, deftly transformed the room with sound, while Dan came around anointing our hands with specific plant essences for healing: copal, rosewood and green cardamon.
I traveled in and out of deep state of trance, surfacing like a dreamer only to dive deep again. I found my entire being resonating, clearing and re-aligning with the vibration of sine waves and plant spirit medicine. Afterwards, I felt a deep peace and restoration of wholeness.
(Crystal singing bowls produce sine waves, which our physical bodies respond to by “re-tuning” us on very deep healing levels through vibration.)
Witch blood, Witch Flame and Witch Knowing
Templefest came full circle at the end with Orion Foxwood teachings on Witch Blood, how it awakens and emerges. The Witch Flame that illuminates and lights the way and Witch Knowing gives us the power to recognize. There was a harp sitting beside Orion during his talk and the wind sang a haunting, fae song lending approval and emphasis to his points. We stood together as Orion taught us the Song of the Faery Seer.
We are a people of the earth
We are a people of the sky
We are a people of the heart
We are remembering, we are remembering
(Song of the Faeryseer by Orion Foxwood)
Templefest wrapped up with a closing ceremony in which the web that had been woven at the beginning was taken down and brought to the fire. At the beginning we had been given colorful cards upon which to write our community prayers. As the fire transformed the web, the smoke carried our prayers to Spirit.
As I broke down my camp and packed up my car, I reflected on much I felt welcomed and included at Templefest even though it was my first time attending this festival.
There was a distinct spiritual congruency and unity to the entire weekend created by the heart-centered and conscientious leadership of the Temple of Witchcraft. This was further nourished by the volunteers, presenters, vendors and community co-creating sacred, inclusive space. A notable sense of safety and protective force infused in the dynamic energy of Templefest; whether in ritual or at the marketplace, in a workshop or during a meal. Even when people did not share the same opinions or traditions, there was still a sense of mutual respect, openness and tribal connected-ness. Love, Will and Wisdom indeed.