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Article Specs

VxAcct: 3

Article ID: 11122

Section: festivals

Age Group: Adult

Posted: September 10th. 2006

Views: 9560

Sirius Rising 2006

by Peg Aloi

[WVox Sponsor]

This year’s Sirius Rising was a very special one, as attendees (some who were both brand new and some seasoned veterans) marked the second year of Sirius’ magical transformation, from a small gathering with plenty of “hands-on” crafty workshops, to one with hundreds of participants and some major performances, rituals and workshops. This gathering is fast becoming one of the most well-loved events that happens at the Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, NY, and one of the fastest-growing, too.

On some level it was sad, too, as we noted the passing of one member of the community. Mark, known to his close friends as “Mother”, passed away suddenly last August, leaving his wife and young son and many grieving loved ones. A benefit CD was made in his honor containing some great music and drumming, and this was offered for sale with proceeds going to the college fund of Mark’s son Skylar. Mark was one of the wonderful folks who lived in the camping area known as “Arches” where some wonderful drumming and fellowship can be heard and found among folks who mostly hail from the Chicago region.

These folks also create the Labyrinth for the Sirius Rising Celebration, which has become a powerful feature of this gathering the last couple of years, as the event continues to evolve and change from its humble beginnings. An aerial photo of the Labyrinth is shown here, with the smaller circle marking the Ancestor Shrine. The week of Sirius Rising for the past two years has been structured as a magical working, with each day dedicated to exploring and expressing one of the five elements, which culminate with a Saturday night ritual and bonfire. The Labyrinth working happens the night before the bonfire, and for me has been the most powerful of the elemental workings these last two years. A great deal of work goes into setting up the Labyrinth with luminaria (those candles set in bags of sand) and a central area for introspection (this year’s had a beautiful gazing pool). The ritual itself is simple, and the main component is not watching a performance, but entering the maze and walking through it. Some people walk it once, some return many times during the week. It is an especially potent experience at night.

But I am getting ahead of myself! This year’s elemental days began with fire (air started us off last year). Oddly enough, it rained all day on the fire day! But that did not dampen that night’s fire in the Roundhouse. Water day followed, and it stayed dry all day until the ritual. We all arrived dry as a bone, but the clouds were approaching and that scent of water was in the air. I had the fortune of being the final spokesperson in the ritual as I was going to lead the final chant. Well, I was doing my usual extemporaneous spoken word thing about how water is an element we frequently hear before we see it...and wouldn’t you know it, the sound of rolling thunder and rain came up very suddenly and at one point as I raised my arms, a few drops fell and then the sky opened up and POURED on us. The ritual had not completed yet, and you could see people trying to decide whether to run for cover or stay on. Things just kind of devolved into chaos from there but by the time we were through everyone was thoroughly soaked; I was wearing a vintage Chinese pajama/kimono outfit and the blue dye clung to my skin for two days afterwards! But I have never seen so much laughter and hugging after a large ritual. The rain cleansed our spirits and we all felt great for making the decision to stand there and let the sky dump buckets of rain on us. Next came air, and at the preparatory workshop for the ritual we made god’s eyes to tie to the new air altar piece: a giant kite-shaped standing sculpture made of wood and wicker. At the earth ritual, drumming and chant marked a day where earlier some had attended a workshop and made small stone “henges” to bring home with them.

On the next day, Friday, we had a major event: This year the gathering hosted a huge body painting extravaganza! Scott and Madelyn of Living Brush (see their website at http://www.livingbrush.com for some beautiful photos and more info on the event, too) organized the event after they decided to try and break the world’s record for most people body painted. the Guinness Book of World Records was on hand to witness the breaking of the world record. This was a lot of fun as practically everyone got in on the festivities. The plan was to paint everyone with one of five elemental colors (red, yellow, green, blue and white) and form “living mandalas” of color for aerial photographs. After getting painted myself, as well as getting photographed by the context officials, I decided to lend a hand with “detailing” on top of the elemental colors with smaller brushes. I painted green men, geometric symbols, and all sorts of other designs, which was really fun despite it being a very hot day. The record was easily broken as we had hundreds of willing bodies, go figure! And the painted body who broke the tie was none other than Brushwood’s own Dave G. (who I am proud to say I did the detailing on, although he looked a little frightened as his wife Teresa brought him over to me)! This event was very well run and the two artists did some amazing work. DVDs and t-shirts are available that commemorate the record breaking, so check out their website. I worked with Scott many years ago on Obsidian magazine and it has been a pleasure to continue to run into him at festivals over the years, and to finally meet his partner Madelyn. They tell me a weekend gathering focused on body painting is in the works!

That night, after everyone’s body paint was washed off (long line at the poolhouse but everyone seemed to enjoy that part, too), the Labyrinth/spirit working was well attended, as by then many more attendees had arrived (some folks come for the weekend, and then stay on for Starwood which starts the Tuesday after Sirius Rising). That night one of the favorite “house bands” of Sirius played some wonderful music to energize us, both at a pre-ritual concert and then at the Labyrinth site itself: The Mickeys, from Akron, offered some great Celtic tunes and had us by turns dancing jigs and thoughtfully musing on life’s deep stuff. Funny how Irish tunes will do that to ya...

By Saturday we were ready for a big ritual celebration and bonfire. As with last year, a big effigy was crafted out of papier-mache and placed atop the bonfire; last year’s was a minotaur; this year it was a phoenix. An altar-ego for these “messengers” is also present during the week, making mischief as they drive by on golf carts making announcements; last year’s minotaur had a cow companion, and this year’s phoenix had a chicken! The effigy went up quickly as everyone thought on the intentions and magical work they’d done all week in preparation for this night (the theme this year was “Letting Go and Moving Beyond”), and the bonfire burned brightly all night, although for some reason, despite good weather and lots of people, the energy of the bonfire was very mellow and low-key: a nice end to a wonderful week. The week’s activities were rounded out with some great workshops and concerts, and plenty of lazy times sitting around campfires, sharing meals and laughter with friends old and new. Sirius Rising continues to grow and change, and its organizers over the years (beginning with Roy Jones and now including Frank, Darlene and Teresa Barney and Dave Guzman) should be commended, as well as the Brushwood Visioning Team which works on this event and other projects. I really recommend this gathering for those who like an event that is full of magical intent and awareness, has a family-friendly atmosphere, and takes place on a beautiful site set into one of the most picturesque areas of New York State. Of course, I may be biased because I have been attending this event since its inception and watched it grow and adapt to its changing shape, and have been a part of that process as an attendee, a workshop presenter, a performer, and a ritual planner. But even though being involved has been very rewarding for me, really the most important part of this for me over the years has been being privileged to be an observer of Sirius Rising during its growing pains and dramatic shifts. I’ve watched as it has morphed from an intimate gathering of campers into one of the biggest outdoor Pagan fests in the Northeast, and I look forward to many more years to come.

Peg Aloi





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Peg Aloi


Location: Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

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