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| Article Specs|
Article ID: 3495
Age Group: Adult
Posted: June 2nd. 2001
Heartland Festival 2001
by Don Waterhawk
Daniella and I left for the Heartland Pagan Festival early on Monday. We knew that this would be another long drive, having just come back from the Texas CMA Festival a few weeks before. Being Merchants, we wanted to time our arrival so that we would be able to set up the booth early in the day. (Setting up at night is NOT a lot of fun!) The drive itself wasn't bad; it was dealing with the stuck thermostat on the car. Translation: We had to drive with the heat on all the way there. But it was a skyclad drive and all in all, it went well. We were relieved to enter the land site, Gaea Retreat Center, and stop at the entranceway to look at the beauty unfold in front of us as we entered the site. This is truly beautiful property, and it is a joy to see such land so well taken care of. Heartland Pagan Festival is held on the land lovingly owned by Earth Rising and the festival itself is put on by 'Heartland Spiritual Alliance'. We drove up the "mountain", (remember that Daniella and I are from South Florida...driving over overpasses gives us nose-bleeds!), and were warmly greeted by Aislinn FireHawk, who is in charge of the merchant area. We set up...or rather we hugged and set up...and hugged and set up... and this went on for some time. But we finally got settled in and started grounding for the festival to come. The first night was indeed wonderful... lying there and listening to the different drumsets throughout the camp during the night... I love that!
Thursday was a flurry of activities. The registration booth was busy. Merchants were still setting up. The workshops were already beginning and already the people were starting to come together as the close knit community that Heartland has been famous for. Then at noon the Opening Ritual took place. My many thanks to Aislinn Awatake FireHawk and her clan for creating a wonderful Opening Ritual It was one of the best I have seen traveling around the country. I love to see Rituals that have the community actually interacting rather than just standing around and watching. This was true Community Magik! And it was done well. One could feel the spirits smile as the Sacred songs were sung by hundreds of people and goosebumps were definitely manifested in this one.
Then Thursday night, the drumming began. The main Fire Circle at Heartland had been "redone" so to speak. It was still in the stages of 'making' when the festival began and will continue, I am told, to become better. I would say that this was the best fire circle that I've seen so far in the community. The inner ring was surrounded by stones- a large outer ring of stones about 25 feet from the center ring- then new wooden benches surrounded the outer stone ring. Outside of that were 4 posts with butt cans placed in the 4 directions. The drummers area had a large secured pavilion (in case of inclement weather), and a drummers' fire in the back of that and there were benches for some of the drummers to sit upon. The Fire Clan of Heartland is to be highly commended for making this space so Magikal this year. I give thanks to Aislinn and Ash, and the rest of the Aries Rising Fire Clan. You people have done a wonderful job and have made this Fire Circle the best and the most Sacred that I have seen in the Pagan community. This praise was heard from many people and so is not just my personal statement.
Friday was a day of workshops and all seem to be well attended. The Speakers involved were well picked and provided a very eclectic learning experience to the people. I do love to see people learn and evolve. Friday night kicked off with a great performance by 'Sona'. Many thanks to Beltana, Joe Sr., Joe Jr., for their energy and for the smiles that they provided that night. Its always a joy to hear you play. Then 'DreamTrybe' came on... or I should say they floated on stage. Linda, Ginger and Tabor... whoah! What an incredible performance this was. Now, I have seen DreamTrybe play at 6 festivals so far... and yes they are friends... and yes, I did play with the "Band" at one festival for one song... but still ...laying aside all of that... they are exhilaratingly fantastic. (Makes these old bones of mine rock way too much.) Tabor, Linda's son, has an energy with the drums unlike any that I have ever seen. To watch this "Drum Warrior" go through his inner circle on stage and journey into the sounds of drums like he did... Well, I trust one day that you will be able to witness it as I did. Thank you, DreamTrybe, for taking us there!
Saturday was another day of fine workshops and get-togethers throughout the festival. Seemed to be the busiest day for the Merchants. Heartland's Merchant area is great. A large horseshoe shaped space- with the open end leading out to the Fire Circle and the stage with four rows of merchants in the middle- and a large fire circle in the center. This is the Merchants Circle... So very cool!! The Merchants were treated well at this festival. Ice and water were even brought each day to your booth if you so wanted and the trash and recycleables picked up right at your booth. It's great to see Merchants respected like that. Merchants put back into the festival so much that is not seen. It is great to belong to a community that notices and respects that- and gives back again in kind. Thank you again, Aislinn, for doing such a wonderful job with the Merchants Circle for both the Community and the Merchants. I trust that others will call upon you with questions on how to do a great job with the Vendors' and Artists' area.
Then came Saturday night... and everyone was buzzing with the feeling that something wonderful was going to happen during the main Ritual... and the people got just that! There seemed to be about 400-500 people at the main Ritual and it was again a community interactive Ritual. People came dressed in their Ritual clothes, but most importantly, came with sacred hearts and thoughts. This you saw on their faces and felt from their beings. I walked around the circle 15 times while the ritual was going on. I listened; I saw; I felt... the people. I am trusting that all of the wonderful comments made by the people will get back to JD's and Aislinn's ears. It will be good for them and for the staff of Heartland to hear what the people felt. "WE" all loved it.
But something happened during the Ritual that has never, to my knowledge, happened before at any Pagan Festival. Something that- while it may seem small to some folks right now- will be placed into our history in the Future. When I was directly opposite from the drummers on the outside of the circle of people, I began to hear sounds of a Sacred Council drum beating out a strong Native beat... Then singing started: In the Lakota language, a singing of the sacred Sun Dance song! At first, I thought that someone had turned on a really good boom box with a cassette playing. That is until I came up to where the drummers' area was. And there I saw a group of Lakotas beating the drum and singing their hearts. I couldn't believe my eyes or my ears... For this wondrous thing... this is what I had trusted would happen in the years to come: The coming of the Blending of Learning and Healing. And it was happening right here at Heartland!
The community responded to these Brothers and Sisters of the Lakota Nation with Honor, Respect and Gratitude. They had come to Heartland to share the Mysteries and Medicines of Life and Earth with the people of the Pagan Community. They came to walk the way of Spirit with the intent for the "Good of All". I later sat several times with Reed "Red Kettle" and his wife Anita, both who are of the Oglala Sioux. It was Red Kettle's first experience with the Pagan Community. I asked him what he thought. His first words were about how- with such a large community present- clean the ground was. And then of how everyone here showed much respect for the earth and for each other. And that he felt much growth and healing going on here. Those words felt so wonderful next to my heart! My thanks to Reed "Red Kettle", his Wife Anita, his family, and to the Spirits that came onto the Land during their walk. This experience I will tell to my Grandchildren so that they may tell their Grandchildren. Nyeh Weh! The Dancing and Drumming then lasted well into the night... into a very good Night!
Sunday came way too early for my blood and brain... stayed up way too late... went to the Air Shuttles (portapotties) and was greeted by someone saying "'bout time you got up!" I muttered back a spiritual "Bite Me" and thought how nice it would be to have coffee machines installed in the port-a-potties. Back to camp, made coffee and figured that the showers should be empty by now. (No... I don't know what time it was). But now is a good time to talk about 'Heartland's Fitness Center'. All who come may partake. I believe that Heartland has installed the best Cardio-Vascular Stimulator that I have ever seen: It is the "new stairs" down to the shower facilities. Safe, secure and wonderfully built, this exercise down to, and up from, is guaranteed to help you lose weight and pump you up. I don't know how many steps there are... I don't want to know how many steps there are... I'm just happy that someone had placed benches on the landings. My first "Climb" was a memorable one. Remember, we are from South Florida. This was at a height of soaring Eagles for us. But, yes, the showers were worth it. They had been built during the year and some finishing touches were all that were needed when the fest began. I love good showers... and hot water. Thanks, Heartland and Earth Rising!
The workshops ruled the day, and it was the last night of concerts. I had only the time to see one and that was Alchemy VII which is a kick ass Mystical band that rocked the house with their music and magik. This is one band to watch for in the future. Many thanks to them for their sounds and journey. Then it was off to the drum circle where drumming and dancing once again ruled the night.
Monday came, with that knowledge that the festival is over... Wahhhhhh! The closing Ritual was wonderful and (even though there were not as many people) the same love and respect as the opening ritual was evident. And then it was time for the act of passing on the Heartland Athame from outgoing president J.D. to the new and current president of Heartland, Aislinn Awatake FireHawk. During the previous night, someone had painted with charcoal around the circle two figures about 14 feet in length: a Woman now reclined on one side of the Circle and a Man on the other. No one knows who drew that Magikal sight. But thank you... so much... for your art.
I want to thank JD, the president of Heartland, for the incredibly wonderful job that he has done this year. The only time that I saw this man NOT working was when he was being held down on the ground with a staff wielded by Nybor during the Coming of Elder Rites. Friend JD, the people welcome you into the Circle of Elders. And no, JD, it will not get easier... But it should make you happier to see what you have planted, cultivated and grown for the Children of the next Seven Generations. My thanks to you: For your sweat, for your tears, and for the work that you have done for the people. May we never forget!
Gratitude is important in my Circle. I do not remember all of the names of all of the people who gave so much to make this festival happen. But I have seen what you have done and that warms my heart. Know this... that even if the people did not come up to each and every one of you to say thanks... They had it in their hearts and they spoke it to Spirit. Thank you, Land... Animals... Earth Rising and Heartland Spiritual Alliance... and thank you to the community for making this Festival one of the most memorable in my life. These words are just repeated from many other people. And for those people who have never been to Heartland, I say that this festival is not one to miss. In the words of the great St. Arnie: "I'aull be back!"
And so as we drove away and down the hill, we passed a grove of trees and listened to the sound of the Sacred Drum and to the singing of the Sacred songs of the Oglala Sioux and to the voices of Red Kettle and his family as they soothed the journey for all of us...
As we arrived back in our state of Florida, a Bald Eagle, carrying a large snake, flew right in front of our car and then swooped away. It was a Medicine welcome... And it was saying that good work was done... And much more to be done also... And thanks for the Honor, Respect and Gratitude that the people have given to the Mother.
(Staff - Witches' Voice)
June 4th, 2001
The Heartland Spirital Alliance HOME page: Click HERE.
Heatland is held at Camp Gaea:
The site itself has had an interesting history. Now under the loving hands of Earth Rising, Inc., this powerful magical land has been everything from a Native American site to a nudist gathering place to a Baptist summer camp. The hilly terrain-while quite a challenge to the merchants camped on the summit and we "old folks" who thanked the Goddess for the bench provided halfway up!-was an initiation in itself as one climbed the newly formed stairway to the sky embraced ritual area and flower garden meditation site. (Our warm thanks go out to Clarity for sharing the history of the site with us and to Jo-Michael for his heartfelt and beautiful story of Flora and the birth of the garden.) Information and pictures are available at the Gaea Retreat Center website at: http://www.campgaea.org/. If you have the chance to visit this magickal place, you won't be disappointed.
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