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Article ID: 11935
Age Group: Adult
Posted: July 29th. 2007
Sirius Rising 2007: Making Connections
by Peg Aloi
The Sirius Rising festival held at the Brushwood Folklore Center continues to grow and evolve into a joyful, magical and dynamic event. Held on one of the most beautiful parcels of land in western New York State, nestled amid dairy farms, apple and cherry orchards, and several fine wineries, not to mention its proximity to the renowned Chautauqua Institute, the pilgrimage to Brushwood each year is a welcome respite for us city folk. Founded over a decade ago by Frank and Darlene Barney (Brushwood owners) and their friend Roy Jones, and scheduled to coincide with the rising of the Sirius the Dogstar in the summer sky, the festival has grown from a fun long weekend of arts and crafts workshops attended by fewer than a hundred attendees to a full week of workshops, concerts and rituals culminating in a bonfire celebration attended by over a thousand people.
This year's theme was "Making the Connection" and the effigy made for the top of the bonfire was a pair of salmon entwined: an animal whose symbolism is linked with wisdom, knowledge, instinct, persistence and determination in Celtic and Native American mythology. The yearly themes are intended to help the community focus on magical transformation while they are here, and to carry it with them when they leave. During the week, each day's workshops and nightly rituals are focused on a different element. Participants made talismans in daily elemental workshops (this year's craft projects were a compass rose for water, windchimes for air, rattles for fire, wells of wisdom for earth, and finger labyrinths for spirit) to take home or add to the elemental shrines, and everyone wrote wishes and goals associated with the elements on balsa wood cut in the shape of salmon, to be burned in the Saturday bonfire and help manifest the week's magical work The magical energy is also seen in the bright elemental colors worn by nearly everyone who attends nightly rituals; some of us pagan fashion mavens don appropriately colored "day wear" for warm temperatures or working around our camps, then change into our colorful finery for the rituals!
I helped out with the Air ritual workshop, and we helped everyone make windchimes from small bells and natural objects found at Brushwood, including small apples from the many trees, twigs, stones, dried thistle heads and colorful leaves. I think the highlight for me of the ritual week was the Labyrinth ritual, focused on the spirit element. The group that organizes this magical space, led by Ciaran from Chicago, works hard to prepare the Labyrinth with luminaria (bags with candles) lining the walkway and a beautiful central altar, and the opening ritual is solemn and simple, with a group of runners dressed in white lighting the way for everyone to walk the maze. Acoustic instrumental music played by Ohio-based band The Mickeys lent a wonderful, magical ambience with Celtic-flavored tunes. This ritual was powerful, elegant, and somehow both formal and free-form, since walking the Labyrinth is a unique and personal experience for everyone. Many of us walked the Labyrinth as the sun was setting, but the lights were there all night for people to come and go as they wished.
Another major event during the festival was the American Body Arts Festival, run by Livingbrush Bodypainting founders Scott Fray and Madelyn Greco. Last year, they helped organize a major bodypainting event designed to break the Guinness Book of World Records' entry for most people body painted at one time. We more then broke the record, but some sort of problem with the documentation prevented Guinness from recognizing it. But we gave it another go this year and broke the previous record a second time! Participants were given a base paint coat of an elemental color, and then given finishing details with painting volunteers. I love helping do the detail work, turning people into fairies, greenmen and Celtic warriors! I had the privilege this year and last year of painting the details on both of the record breakers: last year was Dave G., husband of Teresa B. and one of the co-owners of Brushwood; this year, it was none other than nine-year old Chiron B., son of Michael and Pearl, and youngest brother of Jake, Maple, Jackson and River. This musical family from Iowa have been coming to Brushwood for many years and their antics (including annual whiffle ball tournaments and impromptu café performances) are pretty much legendary around here.
In addition to the daily elemental workshops and rituals, there were workshops on subjects like herbalism, the history of witchcraft, yoga, making beaded mandalas, woad painting, hand drumming and even ballroom dancing. Performances included concerts by Scott Helland and the Travelling Band of Gypsy Nomads, Peter Janson, Cardona, and the Mickeys doing their now-annual pre-bonfire show with rollicking Irish songs and dances. Wednesday night was the PolyGlamoury Cabaret, with some naughty and colorful burlesque acts, culminating in a super-cool black-light body painting performance. Our Bardic Circle got rained out, but we're hoping to revive it in a weather-proof site next year, along with the notorious Cosmic Cotillion (which was on hiatus this year). Another consistent presence for entertainment and information was Dogstar Radio, the on-site radio broadcast run by Roofy and his pals. We all got a daily dose of "Alice's Restaurant" every day at 4:20 pm, and music of all eras and styles, including some awesome live interviews and performances by Coyote Grace, Casey and others.
Aside from a desperately-needed bit of rain, we had wonderful mild weather all week, which certainly helps keep everyone in a happy mood. Gorgeous night skies let us all stare in awe and wonder at the Milky Way, the Pleiades (appearing nightly aaround 3 am just over the treeline!) and other summer constellations. Every night saw great drumming and dancing in the Roundhouse, with gorgeous fires built and tended by our own Brushwood Firetribe. Many thanks go out to all the staff and volunteers who keep things safe and comfortable for everyone. Here's to many more years of a festival that grows more magical and synchronized with every passing year.
As I write this, two things come to mind before I conclude: first, the 27th annual Starwood Festival has begun. Last night's opening night concert began with a white-hot show by Leo Starwind and the Raft. Their eclectic blend of funk, folk, rock, and poetry slam-style theatrics whipped the audience into an attentive but ecstatic frenzy. Starwind and I have a special connection, having both been enlightened by the same wonderful high school music teacher. (Kimber, if you're out web-trawling yourself and have landed here and managed to read this far, we love you!) The Raft was followed by Boston-based trance rockers Incus, who perform a hypnotic and mystical show with dancers, drumming, exotic instruments and haunting vocals. Stay tuned for a fuller review next week!
Second , today is the birthday of Frank Barney, artist, teacher, husband to the hard-working and delightful Darlene, and owner of the Brushwood Folklore Center. Thanks for everything you have done all these years, Frank. Many of us cannot imagine our lives with the Brushwood experience we look forward to every year. Your hard work, vision and Frankness are an inspiration to us all.
Until next year,
Photo Credits (top to bottom)
- The Salmon effigy alight atop the Sirius bonfire. (Photo by J. Dalton)
- Spider. (photo by Eric Vazquez)
- Madeline and Scott interview. (photo by Eric Vazquez)
- Labyrinth Altar. (photo by Eric Vazquez)
- Chillin' at the front gate with Carin and Coyote Joe. (Photo by J. Dalton)
- Madelyn, aka "Foxy Moxy", co-coordinator of the American Body Arts Festival and organizer of the PolyGlamoury Jazz, Burlesque and Body Paint Cabaret at Sirius Rising. (photo by Eric Vazquez)
- Frank Barney, owner of Brushwood Folklore Center. (Photo by J. Dalton)
- Kwan Yin Roadhouse. (photo by Eric Vazquez)
- Firetribe crewmember Freedom helps prepare the Sirius Rising bonfire by attaching the Salmon effigy and elemental markers. (photo by Eric Vazquez)
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