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Sirius Rising 2005: Restoring the Balance

Author: Peg Aloi [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 31st. 2005
Times Viewed: 16,640
Sponsored by: Brushwood Folklore Center
Location: Sherman, NY - USA
Event Date(s): Early July - 2005
Attendance: 500

The theme for this year's Sirius Rising festival (now in its tenth year) was very magically intentional and focused. Each day of the festival had an elemental focus, with workshops and rituals designed to get attendees to fosuc on their magical intentions and personal work, as well as the celebratory aspects of each element. The elemental rites culminated in a huge bonfire celebration on Saturday where an enormous effigy of a Minotaur was burned: "The Messenger" was a visual manifestation of everyone's collective will, desire, and intention. I can honestly say this was one of the most energetically-focused and smoothly-run gatherings I have ever attended, and for a long-time festival goer like moi, that's saying a lot, I guess.

From its humble beginnings as a "hands-on" gathering held prior to Starwood, Sirius Rising has grown and changed its shape as Brushwood has. The Brushwood Folklore Center [ ] - (which, if you did not know, is a beautiful rustic campsite on 200 acres in the wilds of western New York, with luxurious amenities like a hot tub, swimming pool, and hot showers, as well as pavilions for workshop and a professional-quality sound system for musical performances) has evolved and improved steadily in the dozen years I have been going, and Sirius Rising reflects this growth. The first Sirius Rising (organized by Roy Jones, longtime friend to Brushwood) had workshops on things like circle dancing, bread baking, blacksmithing and herbalism. Nowadays the workshops tend more towards the esoteric, but there is still plenty of crafty stuff like soap-making, meditation and a special treat this year from henna artist Bunny, woad body art! I got "woaded" and it was a very cool experience. The women who have perfected this ancient art in modern form are very excited about their work so check them out at .

Before I go any further with this review I need to mention that I am not usually the Witchvox person who does these reviews, though I have tag-teamed with Don on occasion. Since Don and Danielle Waterhawk unfortunately could not attend this year's festivities, I am reviewing it in his stead. In Don's honor, and to tease him a bit for not being there (but not too cruelly since I know the two of them missed being at Brushwood terribly), I will be sure to mention all the Cool Things That Don Especially Would Have Liked. Sorry but I could not resist. I had such a great time at this festival that my review is going to be very much from the perspective of my own involvement and I hope that is cool with you, Dear Reader.

Day One on Monday was focused on Air. Gretchen, Trish and Chas organized this workshop and ritual and it started the magical week off beautifully. People showed up wearing lots of purple and yellow (I wore a lavender skirt I'd gotten from the "Six Dollar Lady" the year before and had not had a chance to wear yet, because of my rather dramatic departure from Starwood the year before in an ambulance–that's Another Story!) and everyone wrote their intentions on paper (in some cases, writing wishes on one side and obstacles on the other). The directions were called in with musical instruments. Since Chas could not make it at the last minute, I was asked to call air because rumor had it I was musical. Well, I really only sing so when I was told we were not using voices I had to punt. I grabbed one of the bamboo flutes gifted my by Frank Barney (who had made them many years before) and used that. I am not a flute player at all but heck, I am hoping the gods understood. This ritual set the stage for the rest of the week's workings. Air goals have to do with vision, clarity, beginnings, communication, travel, creativity, etc. Each elemental working corresponded to different types of work which were emphasized by the leaders of the workshops and rituals. The slips of paper were collected on Saturday from their respective altars and put into the celebratory bonfire. Each elemental ritual took place in a designated area on the campsite. Air was at the Main Pavilion/stage area in the east. Fire was at the Roundhouse, in the south, site of many drum and dance circles and ritual fires. Water was at the pond in front of the Fairy Woods, in the west. Earth was by the North Pavilion. The Spirit rite took place in a site which will eventually have a permanent labyrinth built on it.

Day Two was Fire: Silver Woods led this rite. Jason Isla (resident fire designer) gave a fascinating talk on fire and its links to myth and history and magic. Wooden spears were carved for the workshop and attendees were asked to burn their intentions in the form of a sigil into the wood with a magnifying glass and the sun (which shone very brightly the entire week. In fact the weather was amazing; almost no rain, to the point where it was extremely dry and people had to exercise care with their campfires). This was a challenging and fulfilling task–naturally I chose to do a complex spiral design not knowing how tough it would be to complete, but that just made the focus and effort even more intense. This ritual was moved to just before dark so the fire lighting would gain some added drama and magic (not that it needed it). When I arrived at the fire ritual that night (wearing a terrific thrift-shop find: a long red silk slip from Victoria's Secret–yes, Don, I know this is reading like Women's Wear Daily, aren't ya sorry ya missed it?), everyone was ready for an impassioned event. Fire-spinners danced and an effigy atop the roundhouse fire was lit, along with the wooden spears: I could see my sigil on the spear right in front of me at the entrance–good omen or what? Don Would Have Really Liked: Those fire spinners! Each one had his or her own unique style, all graceful and passionate. Dancing with fire, is there anything cooler--or should I say hotter–than that? The ritual fire was HUGE and HOT. Hard to get close to but we all were powerfully reminded of fire's ability to transform.

On Day Three, Water was the order of the day. Another hot sticky day–will we get some much-needed rain today? Throughout the day there is some thunder rumbling in the distance but no moisture except the brutal humidity. Dalton Camp was responsible for this ritual, (originally Don and Daniella were to do it) and since this was my main hangout for much of my time there I took part in the ritual, too. The Daltons have a great way of creating ritual: we were in the camp doing a hundred other things at once and somehow our conversation let us organize what we wanted to do. Once we had a basic structure the participants basically came up with their own invocations and blessings to speak at the right time, entrusted to do what was appropriate and felt right. Cate decided we should invoke different aspects of water and after some discussion we decided on mist, ocean, river and storm. I was mist, clad in different shades of grey silky stuff, and a pair of turquoise chopsticks in my hair that Cate had given us. Lilith said they kinda made me look like an anime character, but what the heck? I was MISTICA, MISTERIOUS FORCE OF THE MIST. Everyone did a great job getting the site ready, and we decorated a boat and altar with shells and various water-related items. The "water clan" all wore brilliant shades of blue, aqua, teal, green, and turquoise. Particpants filled small vials of water to pour into a communal bowl and were given a gemstone to put into the vial to solidify their intent. I may be biased but I did hear more than one person comment that Water was "the prettiest ritual" of the week. Go, West! Don and Daniella Might Have Appreciated: when blessing everyone with water I was going too slowly and it was suggested I stop where I was so we could continue. But I really wanted to bless everyone with my silver goblet, so I said rather innocently, "But I wanna do everybody!" Even more, they'd have appreciated the fact that, immediately as the ritual ended, it did indeed, for a few moments, rain!

Wednesday night also brought a great performance by dulcimer player Matthew Abelson, followed by the Cosmic Cotillion, featuring the Charity Slave Auction. Slave turnout was a bit sparse this year, and there was a mix-up with the music...but in the end, this was one of the rockingest Cotillions ever! Lost of people, almost everyone in costume (lots of silly prizes awarded), and we all had a blast dancing to eighties music. We also made a good chunk of money that will go into the materials to help prepare the Labyrinth site (thanks to Bruce for donating a big ticket item, a custom-made blade, which helped increase our take considerably. See his beautiful work at And a special thanks to everyone who helped make this fun, Craig and Bob, Roofy and Midnight, and all you gorgeous creatures who looked fabulous and danced like there was no tomorrow. Don Would Have Liked: the young woman who wore a box from a "Hose Handler" over her head, who inspired three others to don boxes and dance around wearing them!

But wait! Wednesday continued with our first ever Sirius Rising Bardic Circle! We held it at midnight in the Didge Dome (thanks Tommy and Diana, for letting us invade your living room) and was well-attended for being so late. This was an experiment in returning to "old school" performance at gatherings in the days before drumming and dancing took center stage. We had a great mix of traditional songs, poems and stories, and some terrific original songs by performers I will certainly be keeping an eye on. This circle was modeled on the excellent bardic circles held at WiccanFest in Canada, complete with their tradition of heckling! Watch for more bardic performance at Sirius Rising next year.

Thursday was Earth. I awoke tired and fuzzy-headed on yet another hot day but was determined to go to a 10 AM sound meditation with Josh and David Estafen. What a transforming and healing ritual. Josh and David used to do this rite with their mother who passed on recently and the experience was made all the more powerful with this knowledge. No words spoken, only the sounds of bells, flutes, didgeridoos, cymbals, drums, and other instruments to bring us all on a journey that lasted almost two hours but somehow seems only a few moments. Despite being very tired beforehand I left the workshop feeling energized for almost anything. The day continues to be very hot but there is a good breeze in the North Pavilion when we gather for the Earth ritual workshop. Gene of Rowan Clan reminds us not to sweep too often, because everything is dirt, and we coudl be "sweeping away our ancestors." Food for thought. When everyone shows up for the earth ritual later it is clear more people have arrived on site and people are getting into the ritual vibe. Lots of people dressed in green (I forget what I wore but it was way too warm given the air temperature and the humidity) and carrying drums. We process to the site building energy on the drums as we go. One more element to go! That night there is music from Peter Janson and longtime Brushwood faves, Einstein's Secret Orchestra. At Bruce and Susan's we hold our second annual Chocolate and Lingerie party in honor of JP, who passed two years ago. Susan hired a slave to bartend for us, River, who did a great job and helped us invent a new drink, the Sirius Rising! (Frozen version: the Dogstar Daiquiri). It contains lime juice, crushed ice, mango rum, spiced rum, orange juice, a Godiva chocolate cherry, and, if you like some Rose's sweetened lime juice. Yum! River let me know the next day that he thought serving as a "slave" was a great way to do some good for Brushwood, since all the auction proceeds go into improvements of the camp. Let's hope other potential slaves are similarly inspired next year!

Friday dawns and still no appreciable rain. Rumor has it we will need to have a fire truck on the site for tomorrow's bonfire to make sure we don't have any unwanted fires anywhere. At the labyrinth workshop Ciaran (who has built many labyrinths in the past) explains the principles of the ritual and then must dash to deal with the hundreds of candles melting in the sun! The labyrinth will be lit with luminaria (candles placed in bags of sand) and the set-up is very demanding. The remaining participants discuss labyrinth lore and history. At the rite, a man dressed as Theseus runs the labyrinth and symbolically slays the Minotaur; quite a feat to run it in such a short length of time! We are all invited to walk the labyrinth at our own pace, and some walk it then and there while others return to the candlelit maze throughout the night. A very profound and magical experience for everyone. Later that night is a concert by Revel Moon, and of course the usual red hot dancing and drumming at the Roundhouse. Don Would Have Liked: the entire week of great drumming! Whether there was a large or small groups of drummers, every night it was tight and varied and energetic, all through the night into morning. Don Also Would Have Liked: the site of a lovely young woman dancing around the fire cradling a pineapple in her arms as if it was a baby...he is not usually awake for third shift which is when this happened, but if he's seen it I know he'd have smiled.

Saturday comes: still no rain but it is in the forecast. We are very fortunate and get just enough rain to call off the fire truck. It rains off and on all day, through the great concert by Brushwood favorites The Mickeys, and up to the time the ritual procession begins. Earlier in the day the decision was made to cut the rite short, because of concerns about the weather. But in the end all was well and the eastern sky gifted us with enormous, beautifully-timed waves of lightning, and Mother Nature shut off the waterworks so we could all enjoy plenty of dancing around the fire for hours. The Messenger effigy looked amazing while it burned, and everyone who had participated in any of the elemental rituals that week felt connected to the many messages, hopes and dreams burning and sending their wishes into the sky. Don Would Have Liked: the moment when the fire burning the effigy's head made it look like it was smoking a cigar!

Sunday was a relaxing day with very little scheduled, apart from a woad workshop with Bunny and a terrific concert by Kiva in the afternoon. At 4 pm there was a ritual held at the new ancestor shrine, which has been set up in the field near the labyrinth. A barrow was constructed, a mound of earth covered with stones. It was dedicated with a memorial to Madonna Moonhawk, our beloved sister and friend who passed last October very suddenly. Everyone was invited to share memories of her, and to place their tokens of remembrance for her or for others who had passed upon the shrine. Don Would Have Liked: the unbelievable shift in weather which occurred during this rite. We arrived on the field walking slowly, as the temperature suddenly shot up and the humidity rose to such an extent it was like a sauna in the hot sun. Several of us looked around and realized there were a number of people in long sleeves, and that no one had brought any water. Oh no, were we going to have people fainting from heatstroke? But after a few minutes into the rite, the temperature started to dip slowly...then a cooling breeze arose...then the clouds covered the sun...and a light rain began to fall. Were the spirits joining us? Yes, I think so.

So, was The Balance Restored? All I can say is, I saw a lot of people having one of the most relaxed and enjoyable weeks of their lives. The energy of the site after Sirius Rising, as we made the transition into Starwood, was very calm and mellow and believe it or not, it continued for another week! Good weather and all. I offer my heartfelt thanks to all who worked and played and gave their energy to this festival. And also to those who could not attend this year, especially my dear friends Don and Daniella, whose absence made us even more conscious of how precious this time together is.

Photo Details (top to bottom):
David Estefan & Baby
Water Shrine
Cate & Frank Dalton
Jason 2
Jason Isla
Preparing effigy

Article Specs

Article ID: 10010

VoxAcct: 3

Section: festivals

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 5,296

Times Read: 16,640

RSS Views: 44,837

Peg Aloi

Location: Jamaica Plain, Florida


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