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Article ID: 2410
Age Group: Adult
Posted: June 26th. 1999
Ancient Ways Gathering 99
by Gaia Ivorywitch
The week of June 10-14 I was privileged to leave my Memphis Bible Belt home and go to San Francisco where I thought I'd get a taste of what REAL pagans were like!
Ancient Ways has been held for the past 16 years at Harbin Hot Springs, a clothing optional resort 2 1/2 hours north of San Francisco in Middletown, Ca.
Harbin Hot Springs offered a delicious change to what I was used to back home. I've helped organized festivals, taught workshops and been a vendor at festivals in Tennessee and Arkansas, and I was eager to learn the secrets about how it was done out west. Harbin is a "new age community" in a 1,000 acre VERY secluded valley offering beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from it's trails high in the hills. The resort has reasonably prices rooms with bath and/or showers, or dorm space and the festival area is reached by a 1/4 mile trail through the wooded paths clinging to the nearby hillside or via a shuttle van that runs hourly. I took the path because I found myself too impatient to wait for the hourly trips!
I had the pleasure of meeting many new people and picking up some great new ideas for festival organization back home. In addition, being held at a clothing optional resort made it so free and relaxed after the nightmare of "hurry up and wait". I fly about once a year and every single time I do there is some sort of snafu. This time I wouldn't have been upset if they'd lost my luggage, but the airline cost me a day in travel time instead through overbooking and flight cancellations.
Arriving late on Friday, I decided to check out the array of merchandise. While not extensive, the array WAS impressive. Coming out on a shoe string, it was difficult to "be good" and not overspend. One of the vendors was a vocal artist by the name of Sophia. Sophia calls herself a Songhealer, and just the hint of her music trailing on the wind drew me to her table and I knew why! This woman has the voice of an angel, literally! I've been haunted by her voice ever since and took home her latest release entitled "Return". Since I very badly want to move to the SF area sometime in the future, the title seemed quite prophetic. Every song on the CD has something different to offer. I loved everything I heard. See the info and links at the end of the review and see why Dr. Jean Houston said,"Sophia sings songs of the Earth and songs of the sky and, in between, a new humanity is born." Sophia is as sweet as her voice and a loving presence to bask in.
The first event I got to witness was the end of the talent show on Friday night. It was there that I got another unforeseen pleasant surprise. Gaia Consort was performing impromptu and I got to thank Chris Bingham and Sue Tinney personally on behalf of some friends of mine for a benefit concert given for their legal fees. Gaia Consort is a pagan polyamorous duo that rallied to the aid of April and Shane Divilbiss and Chris Littrell after their appearance on MTV sparked a child custody case where April has temporarily lost custody. I didn't get to hear all of their performance, but I did hear their last number and was impressed by their clear, clean harmonies. A link to info and ordering also follows the review. It was a pleasure meeting them, even if they did help tease me unmercifully about my southern accent!
Chris and Sue camped on the festival grounds and were a bit jealous to learn our room had a shower. I was jealous they got to camp! After dinner I met a Poet/Bard named Michael Gorman who was giving a workshop on Contemporary Bardic Traditions later and shared horror stories of family reactions to paganism and alternative lifestyles. I found out that we pagans share a lot of pain. Sadly, parents seem to react the same way to these subjects no matter what part of the country you live in. After trading more stories and jokes with his partner, I got the biggest warmest bearhug imaginable. They are awesome. Goddess bless "every pea-pickin" one of ya! Look for the link for info on Michael's new book. I had already promised to attend the Sacred Erotic Dance workshop given by the lovely Francesca Gentille and Brian Burke at the same time as his so I missed his material. I'm getting the book, I can't wait to get inside this man's head.
The Dance workshop was one of the most interesting workshops I've been to. Francesca and Brian are skilled in the freeing of the mind through dance and erotic expression and had us all tingling with sparkling energy. The women danced alone first, envisioning the Divine energy of the Goddess within, then opposite the men, then the men danced alone, for themselves. The energy flowing off that group was palatable, Jennie (my hostess) and I sat watching and both noticed the hair on our arms standing on end as the men spiraled towards the apex of the power they raised. The sacred energy of the Horned One was also most definitely present! It was wonderful to see men get past the barriers society puts on them in the company of other men. As women, we forget sometimes that they aren't able to be as free and affectionate with each other as we are. It was wonderful to see some of those men break through those barriers for the first time. Francesca and Brian are offering a summer course for those in the San Francisco area, see the link at the end for more info.
Later, I took part in the Kali ritual for the dark moon. The guided meditation was powerful and worked to release us from the things which hold us back from doing our best in both the mundane world and in our spiritual practice. Having lived through my own "dark night of the soul" with a modern day Demeter/Persephone twist this past winter, this rite helped me correctly identify and place my unresolved feelings and resulting guilt in the proper perspective. Too caught up in the rite and it's aftermath, I never met the facilitators, but I am eternally grateful to them.
The next day was filled with yet more networking and I got to meet some of David and Jennie's (my host and hostess)friends from their Tantra workshops. Anith and Richard, you shine! Anith in particular shed light on a subject I was struggling with a lively conversation on the Sacred Grail Wound and how it relates to today's world. Most thought provoking!
Delicious meals were provided for the fesitval by Lorelei and Forest House Catering. Even when unseen gremlins made off with the paper plates, Lorelei kept her cool and improvised and we all got fed on schedule. Bravo! If you are in the San Francisco area and need a pagan event catered, I highly recommend these folks. Reasonable prices and eggs and omelets cooked to order! Yum! Their link and info is also at the end of the review.
Late Saturday afternoon, I attended the Polyamory workshop given by members of the Ravenheart Family of Church of All Worlds, better known as Oberon, Morning Glory, Wolf, Lisa and Wynter Rose. Lisa was not able to make the gathering, but the rest of the group managed admirably relating practical facts about the poly lifestyle and some very insightful hints for my own newly poly household. Given the sort spot on poly issues here in my Mid-South home, I was curious to know how they had coped successfully for so many years. After some sad details of some custody cases and a detail of the family breakup process as experienced by some of the participants, Wolf ended the workshop on a positive note with amusing anecdotes about all their in-laws coming to visit in rapid succession! My what a tangled web we weave! These lucky folks have managed to pretty integrate their ENTIRE families so that each one of them has literally several SETS of in-laws. A nightmare you say? Hats off to the Ravenheart family, they are actually making it work. Following were more hints on space-sharing and income percentages and work divisions. I found them warm, down to earth, and while frightfully practical and perceptive, they were also hysterically funny. Morning Glory is 95% recovered from her recent surgery and by the time you read this should have a sword in her hand once more! I was honored and just plain tickled to meet them all!
On Sunday morning after packing up and loading the car, I had the pleasure of hearing one of my favorite groups Gaia's Voice in concert. I have this group's first tape and have used their music many times at festival gatherings. Their choral harmonies reminded me of the only thing I miss about my Christian days, the music! Their rendition of Doxology, called Unorthodoxology made my day with a new verse not on the tape. The full version is on their latest release which is also available on CD and carried by Serpentine Music. The richly diverse tapestry of voices is highlighted by the scarlet thread of soprano Lauren Olsen. Give a listen!
Other members of Gaia's Voice are: Brigid Lutrasong, Richard Christopher, Donna Kay Isler, Stephen Westford, Jeff Anton, Lorrie Wood , and Deidre Tower.
After the concert, it was time for hasty goodbyes amid email address exchanges and getting on the road back to San Francisco and my return to mundane life. I wish to profusely thank David and Jennie for their hospitality and the opportunity to meet so many new friends and experience your fair city and my future home. I left behind old (and new) friends and the promise that I would, like the words of Sophia's song, "Return".
Priestess of SylverWood Circle
HPs of Coven of the Sylver Spyral
Related links and Websites for this review:
Ancient Ways Photo Credits: All photos by Christopher Bingham of Gaia Consort : Listed from Top to bottom (and left to right in Photos).
- Abby WillowRoot (Goddess 2000 creator and organizer) AND Maerian Morris (Green Egg/Caw)
- Glen Turner (owner of Ancient Ways and festival organizer)
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