Starwood 32--Review by Oberon Zell
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Article ID: 15196
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Author: Oberon Zell-Ravenheart
Posted: September 23rd. 2012
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I’ve attended nearly every Starwood festival for the last 28 years, as a presenter, and I have to say, as I find myself doing each year, this year’s was my all-time favorite!
For more than two decades, Starwood had been held at Brushwood in upstate New York, but three years ago it moved to Wisteria in southern Ohio, where the Pagan Spirit Gatherings had been held for many years. Wisteria comprises 620 lovely acres of forests and fields in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, and has a very different ambience than Brushwood. It just feels more intimate somehow, and the lower numbers in these early years at a new site allow personal connections to be made with nearly everyone attending. The Brushwood Starwoods had sometimes been as large as 1, 500 attendees, so widely spread out that there were entire camping areas I never managed to get to. But this third year at Wisteria saw only around 600 revelers, which brought it all down to a delightfully personal scale.
If you’ve never attended Starwood, you’ve been missing one of the great Pagan experiences of our time! Starwood has been put on for 32 years now by the Cleveland-based Association for Consciousness Exploration (ACE) , founded in 1983 by members of the Chameleon Club.
It’s impossible to convey in a few words the richly intense Pagan experience that one finds oneself immersed in. The Wisteria site was once a major strip-mine, now long-since reclaimed by lush forests of maple and honeysuckle, with winding trails, meandering streams, rocky outcroppings, a Fairy Forest, and even caves. The entire site is in a kind of crater surrounded by cliffs, into which you descend down a steep road. It’s a secret valley outside of the Mundane world!
The festival area is laid out along a winding roadway, with vendors along both sides in the central area with the offices, café, and first aid station. Further away from the center in either direction are campsites, workshop spots, ritual areas, outdoor showers, and a large main stage. Far down the road in one direction is a little pond for swimming, and equally far in the other direction is the broad field where the enormous bonfire is being assembled. But you don’t have to do all that much walking to get around; a fleet of golf carts are constantly going back-and-forth along this road, picking up and dropping off hitchhikers along the way.
Starwood this year was held from July 10-16. But I had a TV shoot in Los Angeles on the 10th, for a pilot for an offbeat Reality/Paranormal show called “Ghost Girls.” It features a real-life trio of gorgeous psychic babes with supernatural abilities. These “divas of the paranormal” conduct séances, talk to spirits, resolve issues with the dead, investigate haunted places, psychic phenomenon, vampires, werewolves, and other mysteries. Thus they are known as the “Ghost Girls:” Janet Spitzer, Crystle Lightning, and Tawnya Holland.
The series will dramatize their work and investigations, with adventures into the supernatural, where they will investigate spooky mysteries and encounter real-life weirdos. They decided that they wanted to kick off the pilot with my appearance—as myself, the Wizard “Uncle Oberon, ” in full Wizardly regalia. I gave them each a personal blessing, and a charged magickal amulet I designed and hung around their necks. And we all hit it off just great! (See their FaceBook page: http://www.facebook.com/ghostgirlstv)
The production company is American Mutascope and Biograph—the only film company in the world (founded in 1905) , once presided over by the legendary D.W. Griffith. The current Director is Thomas R. Bond II, whose father was “Butch” of “The Little Rascals.”
The company flew me into LAX early in the morning, after only a few hours sleep; Frank Marks, Pproducer/Production Manager picked me up. We had a leisurely brunch, and then went off to the LA Museum of Natural History to view the new dino exhibit (my perk) . Afterwards, they checked me into a hotel, and I had a nice dinner before getting dressed for the 8:00 shoot at Pioneer Cemetery, which the Girls had helped restore (and have their names on a brick) . Thomas told me it’d be about a two-hour shoot, and then I could go back to my hotel and get some sleep before catching my 7:00am flight back to SFO.
Yeah, right! Each shot had to be taken over and over, from different angles, trying different blocking, lighting, etc. By the time it was in the can the sky was already turning light. There was barely time to rush me back to the hotel to changer and repack, and then a mad dash to the airport. But I made the flight. Wynter picked me up and took me home to her place in South San Francisco, where I crashed the rest of the day. After a lovely dinner, great conversation with her and Morgan, and a good night’s sleep, she drove me back to the airport the next morning for my flight to Columbus, and Starwood. I arrived late Wednesday night, July 11, after a long flight and a long drive from Columbus to Wisteria (thanks Xyaida!) .
I dragged myself out of bed Thursday morning, got coffee and breakfast at Caffeina’s Cosmic Café, and set up my tables for selling Mythic Images (www.MythicImages.com) statues, jewelry, and books in the ACE bookstore right across from the café, where I had a front-row seat for concerts by some of my favorite Pagan musicians—including Kenny Klein, Ian and Sue Corrigan, and others. I also enjoyed the delightful kid’s costume parade led by James Barnes and his “Waking Dream” troupe with giant puppets, which came right down the main street. I am very grateful, as always, to Sabina, who staffed my booth when I had to be elsewhere.
Ariel Monserrat and Tom Donohue, the current Editrix and Designer of Green Egg online (www.GreenEggZine.com) attended again this year, and we spent a lot of time together. Ariel and I co-host a weekly blogtalk radio show every Wednesday on Pagans Tonight, called “Over to Oberon and Ariel.” Pagans Tonight is run by Ed Hubbard of WitchSchool, and he also attended Starwood this year in his “Grand Tour” of Pagan festivals to connect with the greater Pagan community. We are old friends, and we’re talking about doing some significant work together…
There were more than 80 speakers presenting 220 workshops at 15 different sites simultaneously! On Friday afternoon I hosted a discussion on “The 3rd Phoenix Resurrection of the Church of All Worlds.” Starwood has played a significant role in the history of CAW, with many key figures participating over the years.
On Saturday morning I did a hands-on workshop called “Create Your Own Goddess, ” demonstrating proportions and techniques for sculpting an original Paleolithic Matrika in the authentic style of the famous so-called Stone Age “Venuses.” Participants of all ages each came away with a wonderful votive figurine for their own altars.
And Saturday afternoon I did a Power-Point presentation on “2012: Year of the Awakening.” My friend Miguel Sobaoko Koromo Saque, a Taino Shaman from Cuba, joined me on-stage at the end to emphasize the congruity of my presentation with the Mayan calendar prophecies concerning the conclusion of the 5th World Age this coming Winter Solstice—when the rising sun aligns with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, and we finally move into the long-awaited Age of Aquarius. As a follow-up to this, Ariel and I had Miguel on our radio show on Aug. 22, and Harvey Wasserman commissioned me to write and illustrate a major piece for an e-book to come out in October.
I received several invitations for dinner, so after I closed up the booth each night, I spent some time at different campsites. It’s my custom at festivals to spend my evenings roaming from campfire to campfire. I’m always invited to have a seat, and passed a drinking horn, chalice, bottle, jug, and/or pipe. We sit around and share stories, jokes, songs, and good company, and then I move on to the next fire. This is my favorite part of the festival, and with Starwood at a smaller scale, I can make it to just about every camp.
A major highlight for me this year was the resurrection of the Church of All Worlds’ “CAWmunity” camping area, which had been a major scene at Starwood Brushwood throughout the ‘90s, and is now being revived at Wisteria, including the traditional Thursday evening potluck and Bardic. Jacque Omi, Rick Amandan and Larry Cornett were the key instigators.
One of the best places to hang out was the G Spot, hosted by the Spacerangers—a terrific group of next-generation 20-somethings who’d grown up at Starwood over the years, and many of whom I’ve known since they were kids. Norm keeps everyone fed with his famous soup.
Another fabulous nightspot was the Palace—a huge pavilion with several rooms, including a pool hall and a hookah lounge. It is created and hosted by Pete and Leo, along with Morning Star and James. The Palace Guard is Joe Frost.
A vast array of snacks and beverages filled the long central table, overhung by candle-lit crystal chandeliers. I sampled various meads and absinthes before moving into the hookah lounge where, among other pleasures, I got a reading from Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. I have to say, this was my favorite hangout place of all, and Ariel and I ended up spending much of our evenings there.
And then there was the Puffer Dome—a huge inflated balloon dome upon the interior of which were projected strange artsy animated films and light show effects. “Rising like Gaia's glowing nipple, the Pufferdome is Starwood’s own inflatable hemispheric pleasure palace!” I enjoyed several obscure animated films there, and a concert with Phat Man Dee.
But probably the favorite spot for serious revelers was the Paw-Paw Grove, down in a hollow, with all-night drumming and dancing around the fire. To me, this is the quintessential Pagan experience—something I’ve fantasized all my life, and have joined in for nearly 50 years! Two years ago year I was initiated into the Guild of the Torchmakers, creating the special torches for lighting the huge bonfire on Saturday night. This year I also crafted a torch for the ceremony, carving and embellishing it with the rest of the crew. Each torch was imbued with a magickal intention, and mine, appropriately, was for “Wisdom.”
The great Saturday night bonfire has always the centerpiece of Starwood. All week long the Spacerangers and others had been building it with enormous logs. It was a multi-story log-cabin affair, as big as a house, and festooned with all kinds of pyrotechnics. And at midnight Saturday, the eight Torchbearers, carrying the torches we’d created during the week, solemnly processed in a choreographed dance to the Lighting of the Fire. Flames rose 100 feet into the sky (Jeff told me that it could be seen from the Space Station!) , fireworks went off, drums pounded, dancers danced (some in costumes, others naked, and many body-painted) . It was, as always, an incredible rush!
See you next year—at Starwood!
Location: Santa Cruz, California
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