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Article ID: 2558
Age Group: Adult
Posted: November 7th. 1999
AutumnMeet 1999 (1)
by Peg Aloi
Hey, all; Peg here. Yes! I am visiting Florida for the first time ever. My first time south of Kentucky.
Ever been to a pagan gathering in Florida? Me, neither. I like Southern witches. So far I have attended a Witch's Ball on the beach, and one day of Autumn Meet, and have been having a great time. I even saw a giant Virgin Mary etched miraculously into the side of a glass building (well, she could just as easily be Cerridwen, if you ask me), and Grecian-style gardens full of erotic statues--Florida is cool!
Many firsts this week, in addition to my first trip to Florida.
First time I have ever spent Samhain in summery temperatures (I am from New York State and live in Massachusetts now, so that Wheel of the Year thing is very authentic to me, in terms of climate--I left apple harvest time, got on a plane, and arrived in a land of not-yet-ripe oranges and bananas...weird. Yeah, I got an interest local fruit--whaddya gonna do about it? Oops, sorry, still got some of that uptight Yankee aggression to shake off...)
First time seeing a 'gator by the side of the road. First sighting of many birds including pelicans, flamingoes, and rosetta spoonbills! The Everglades were very cool. We went to a store that just sells sea shells (try saying that seven times fast), and went to a nice restaurant by the water where a cat begged for fish scraps at our patio table. Now that is my kind of ambience ( I miss my kitties!)
First sighting of huge tropical plants growing like weeds. I really love that Spanish moss stuff hanging off the live oak trees. When I first saw all the gigantic versions of plants that normally tend to sputter, gasp and die in Massachusetts if placed outdoors, I was a bit freaked out. I mean, was I near some nuclear waste dump, what with all the mutant plants everywhere? I was reassured, no, no, that is just how everything grows down here. I wanna come back for jasmine-blooming season.
First time eating at Waffle House (but surely not the last).
Oh, and first time at Autumn Meet.
This small and intimate gathering takes place at a nudist campsite near Land 'o Lakes, Florida. A very nice spot with a pond in the middle of the sight, a firepit, your basic rustic camping facilities, and a very nice Jacuzzi and pool. I hear that hot tub is HOT! But did not go in today...maybe tomorrow. Hey, you know if I was at a Samhain week gathering in Sherman, NY or Deerfield, MA I would sure as shootin' have gone into that hot water today...and while it got a bit nippy there tonight (low 50s) it was not intolerable.
But speaking of the weather...
Can I just say, my recently-transplanted Northern friends, by whom I mean Fritz and Wren, have gotten just a little bit spoiled by the lovely weather that Florida sees year round? Well, to put it more precisely, they have become total wussies. The temperature drops below 70 and their lips turn blue. I'm like, "You lived in New England for years!" You'd think they have forgotten what it was like to have to scrape ice off their windshields and stock up on milk and cat food when an impending blizzard was on its way...They tell me their blood has thinned after a couple years here...I dunno, I think it may be too much time in the sun...(seriously, they love it here and I can see why. It is fantastic to see them and they have been treating me like royalty since I got here--even Dixie and Ruby remembered me! Be sure to email Dixie and let her know what a great job she is doing; she loves to rub that stuff in Ruby's face)
Anyway, about Autumn Meet...
A gorgeous day today. Not too full with workshops, as people were still arriving and signing in and setting up their sites. The staff is pretty darn organized (but then it is a pretty cozy festival--300 people on average). I attended a Dance of Life workshop with Don and Daniella Waterhawk. There were about 20 people there and we all had a great time. Very powerful and life-affirming. Don really knows how to share his teachings in ways that someone on any path can find great wisdom and power in it. The workshop was designed for people of eclectic traditions and paths, so they could learn the basics of a traditional indigenous American dance and adapt it to their own needs. That may sound like a tall order, but all I know is, it worked. I walked away from it very inspired to do the dance again and again in my own magical work, perhaps shifting the correspondences to align with my own path.
So far, Autumn Meet is very laid back and friendly. The southern-style pagans I have met have been super-nice: cordial and with great senses of humor. They know how to have a good time and show a good time to others. Now, lemme tell ya, after many years at gatherings, I usually do not take to people hugging me right off the bat--too New Agey touchy feely for me. Call it my Yankee cynicism if you want, or that frigid northerner thing. But when people did that here (hugging at first hello) almost without exception, it felt right. Things are just warmer here in every way. There are those stereotypes about southern Europeans from the Mediterranean areas being all mellow and sensual as compared to the ones from the cold, dark countries--I have both blood types in me so I can relate. The climate affects us, we all know that. In Florida, folks do not have their icy windows and woolly clothes to hide behind. People are very upfront, and upfront pagans are about as upfront as it gets, I guess. Lots of hugs and genuine love from new acquaintances--a very nice welcome.
I did not attend the night's main ritual, which was one of those tongue-in-cheek ceremonies similar to the Chocolate Rite or the Caffeina Ritual. It was the Redneck ritual, also known as the Bubba ritual. Sounded like fun: lots of howling at the moon. I was more in a mood to hang out in a small circle of people, after so much milling around and meeting new folks all day.
I even ran into some old friends I had not seen for years, one from as far away as Colorado, and one guy who has been travelling for weeks and came to Florida almost by chance, who turned out to be from my hometown! Which is Elmira, NY--nowhere near Florida. Not terribly close to Boston, either. Go figure. Random chance? Kismet?
Maybe this is the land of serendipity. On a clear dark blue night, under a sky glowing with stars, the sounds of laughter and song and drums echoed, rippling quietly through the campsite. We shared some great chat at the Waterhawk compound into the evening. Linda, one of the lead singers of Velvet Hammer, told some great road trip stories, and we somehow got into numerology-weirdness, specifically the whole "23" thing. Naturally, when we were driving back to Clearwater for the night (I like to camp but I did not bring my gear; and Fritz and Wren like to go home to their kitties at night!), we saw a huge sign with the number "23" on it. How about that? Serendipity. Then again, we also saw a sign that said "EGG NOG SEASON IS NOW" and did not know what hit us...what was in that raspberry mead???
I look forward to tomorrow night: Velvet Hammer in concert. Woo-hoo! And more memorable stories, laughter and songs with friends old and new.
It's great to be home.
WitchVox Live - Daily Coverage ONE - TWO - THREE
Autumn Meet, lovingly sponsored by Phoenix Enterprises, resonates with a real feeling of community-almost like a small and friendly village-that is both comforting and exhilarating at the same time. We had a wonderful time and can't wait to go back in March for Phoenix Phyre!
Maybe we'll see YOU there...
COOLNESS: Also check out Bill Kilborn's wonderful Photo Essay of Autumnmeet
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