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Okanagan Valley Pagan Pride Review

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Review: Sirius Rising

Author: Don Waterhawk [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 8th. 2010
Times Viewed: 11,220
Sponsored by: Brushwood Folklore Center- Sanctuary for the Open Mind
Location: Sherman New York
Event Date(s): July 12th thru the 18th 2010
Attendance: 1200

Well we did it! Daniella and I made the 1500 mile, 2 ½ day journey to Sherman, New York, to Brushwood Folklore Center where we had been invited as guests for the “Sirius Rising 2010” pagan festival. As we turned on Bailey Hill Road, Daniella started to get butterflies in her stomach. We both were anxious, as this was the first time in 5 years that we had attended this festival. (My arm injury prevented me from driving any distance. But surgery fixed my arm enough to do the drive with Daniella’s help.) It had been a long time since we had seen so many of our special friends who we consider true family.

As we turned off of the road onto the property of the Barney’s, the butterflies in my stomach took over. Daniella and I looked at each other, and without saying a word, we thought, “Home at last!” We were greeted with the yells, “Hey, it’s the WaterHawks!” and we knew that family was truly here.

Frank and Darlene’s daughter Teresa with her husband Dave are at the helm of the campground and they gave us welcome hugs and shuffled us into the house to see Frank and Darlene. It was good to see the man who I thought of as father, brother, friend, along with his never aging wife, Darlene. We then registered, filled out the appropriate paperwork, got our wristbands and back into the truck and went down the hill to the festival grounds.

We got down to the field and were stopped so many times by people saying hi and wanting hugs, we thought we might not get set up until nightfall. We found a place right across from the Didge Dome alongside our neighbor and good friend Bruce. We set up the pavilion, our tent, and blew up our all-important air mattress. Ahhhh, we were home and settled. The rest of the day and most of the night, we were pressed with hugs and plied with hello’s. After all, this is what Brushwood is famous for: being accepted into a large and wonderful family.

Sirius Rising, this year was all about creation of the energies that were gathered from the previous five years at Brushwood during Sirius Rising Festivals. Elemental rituals were presented each night at each one of the Elemental Shrines, Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Spirit. Each person, at each ritual, was given a “gem” which represented each person’s contribution to the community. On Friday evening’s Spirit Ritual, gems were gathered and in the future will be placed into cement pavers. These pavers will then go into the Labyrinth. These were inclusive rituals that encompassed the community and each participant put into their gem visions of a creative future for the Brushwood community.

Brushwood’s incredible Labyrinth is set up in the field. In the center is the Shrine for Spirit. It took us approximately 35 minutes to start and end the Labyrinth. It is a good time to give thoughts as to what one is thinking for the purpose of this Spiritual walk. We were unable to get a good picture of the Labyrinth, so I trust that someone will one day get a good aerial shot of this magnificent ritual ground.

There were 191 workshops throughout the week at Sirius Rising. 191…! A mixture of well-known teachers/sharers, and new teachers/sharers. The workshops’ attendance were relatively small, around 35-40 and less, because of the number of the workshops, and because Brushwood offers so many other things to do on the land. They were for the most part, well put on, and interesting.

(Daniella) The workshops were based upon various themes from many different paths. This is what makes them so special. People can learn about various paths and maybe even incorporate them into their own. From belly dance to working on healthy relationships to the historical record of the fall of the Goddess, to learning how to create ritual, the panels were kind of like a college catalog on advanced subjects.

(Peg here, thanks to Don and Daniella for asking me to chime in! I actually had time to attend several workshops, in addition to presenting a couple, and really enjoyed myself. One high point for me was Hanowah’s workshop on Grandmother Twyla’s teachings. Hanowah is Waterhawk’s Wolf Clan sister and the author of Mr. Picky and Me, .html -- I purchased a copy of from her after having read wonderful excerpts from it online. I also went to Skip Clark’s interesting talk on astrology and medicine. I was sad when Evan Pritchard’s workshops were canceled as I had enjoyed his talks in previous years. There were so many workshops, it was hard to choose; I would love to see the schedule not quite so jam-packed. This was also true at night. It seemed like there was too much to do: rituals, concerts, the Roundhouse, the Didge Dome, and, of course, parties and rituals that were not on the schedule. Plus the allure of just hanging with friends around the campfire…)

The drumming at the roundhouse started off slowly, but soon gathered energy as the drummers melded together to form one circle. The new sand placed around the fire circle was a bit hard to dance on at first, but slowly got pounded into the earth by the wonderful and beautiful dancers of Sirius. [ (Don) One suggestion for the all night drummers, when the sun comes up, it’s time to stop drumming. There were a small few that just kept on drumming, and badly I might add, who got very angry energy from those who were trying to still get some sleep. Have some consideration, morning drummers…]

The Fire Tribe did a remarkable job throughout the week. It seemed they never stopped working on both the Roundhouse fire, and building the main Ritual Fire for the Saturday night bonfire. I give a great amount of Respect, Honor, and Gratitude for these young men and women who gave so much of their time for the people. Personally, I do not believe that the community gives them enough credit for all the work that they do. And that’s a bit unfair.

This is not exclusive just at Brushwood, but at festivals around the country. If it were not for the Fire Clans, there would simply not be festivals. So people of the community, the Fire Tribes help you, maybe some help from you to them might be in order, even if it’s nothing more that a hug or a sincere ‘thanks’ for a job well done. So to you, Jason and Leslie, and the rest of the Fire Tribe, thanks you so much for bringing the light into our hearts and being. And if you take a look at the picture posted of the Dragon, one can just imagine what it was like to see it go up in flames. I was a bit dismayed when after the initial fire of the Dragon went up, the drummers and dancers went back to the roundhouse. After all the effort and work that the Fire Tribe put into building that fire…well…. maybe that’s just me.

The weather was warm to say the least. Although its something that Daniella and I are used to, it was warmer in New York then it was in South West Florida where we came from. But Brushwood takes care of that with its great showers in two separate areas, a wonderful swimming pool, and its hot tubs. (Wait, hot tubs…. in hot weather? Well, northerners are a bit weird in that way) . Brushwood even has a truck that sprays water onto the roadway several times a day to keep the dust down. Now where have you seen that at a festival? (Peg sez: thanks to Kevin for watering the roads!) It did not rain until the Sunday night after the festival was over, and just enough to quench the earth and cool things down a bit. No mud was present at Sirius Rising…

Brushwood is family-friendly to a high degree (and I mean “family not just with children, but singles and couples, too) . There is the swimming pool (which is indoors, thus shaded from the Sun. There are many workshops geared for our future generation. The play area is second-to-none for the children. The adults who watch over the children there are truly into caring and playing with the young ones. There were workshops for kids & teens: everything from Reiki for teens, bench building, bat house building and, of course, the magic tournament. And the children work all week to get geared up for the Saturday “Kids Parade”, which brings smiles to all as they parade throughout the field. Thank you, young ones, for teaching us what we have forgotten!

We were fortunate enough to be camped across the road from the Didge Dome, therefore we got to experience the wonderful energy of the multiple sounds of the didges and other softer instruments. And I got to experience something for the first time in my life. Since having my ears damaged in Vietnam with very loud noises, I received from the V.A. this year hearing aids that I wore at times during the festival. And for the first time, I got to truly hear the didges and their COMPLETE sounds. Oh my Goddess, what a wonderful time I had that night!! Many thanks to Jason and Owl for providing the space and time for people to play their wonderful music.

Weird and strange good things happen all of the time at Brushwood. But the oddest thing this year was at Peg and Todd’s place. They had a “NASCAR Party”, wherein we poked fun at the lifestyle of the NASCAR people… complete with country music, redneck dress and attitude. “Genius” beer, hot dogs and beans on the tailgate grill, (Peg adds: and a trashcan turkey!) and, of course, the ever present single pregnant redneck mother with a black eye and blow job lipstick smears, constantly running up to every man that came by and asking, “Are you my baby daddy?” She scared the hell out of a lot of people. Then, a new addition to Brushwood: At the Babylon camp is a permanent, deep in the ground Stripper Pole… that’s right, I said stripper pole. And at the opening night of the stripper pole… Oh my goddess…was it used to the full extent. Dollar bills were flying and were placed in strategic places. The bodies of both sexes and all shapes and sizes tried their best on the stripper pole. That pole will never be the same.

And speaking of odd things at Brushwood, years ago, yours truly, started a strange ritual that ended up being known as the “Our Lady of the Sacred Flick Cemetery”, a spot where we buried our lighters. These implements when used, showed us the light when we needed it, gave us the beginning of warmth when it was warranted, and lit our sacred smoke of all kinds when we chose to. And yet we just threw them away.

So I decided to erect some kind of sacred space. And throughout the years it got big, very big; it was a bit embarrassing at times. There are hundred of bodies of “dead lighters” that have been buried at this Cemetery. There has been a caretaker that has been taking care of the site, but it’s a big job. So a new apprentice has stepped into the picture and taken over the task. A young lady named Kyra, who painstakingly took all the bodies of the lighters, cleaned the area of debris, and placed the lighter in a sacred spiral with tombstones appropriately stated how some of the lighters died. Now we have a strict rule: before burial, one must try and strike the lighter at least three times… as we will not bury the undead. So thank you Kyra, for taking care of the Ancient ones that have shown us the light. We honor them for the work that they have done for us. . ( (Peg sez: Kyra rocks!) .

One thing that I felt was missing at Sirius Rising was the Community Meetings in the morning utilizing the Talking Stick and council procedure. I had a lot of people come up to me and ask why it was taken away. It is important to have the community give input towards the community. I don’t know why this was discontinued, but I will, next year, endeavor to have it brought back. Daniella and I have instituted it around the country. Most sponsors keep it; some discontinue it because of a group or personal power play (They don’t like the idea of the ‘community’ having any power) . I do not believe that that is the case at Brushwood, so... The people want it…. the people shall get it!

Oh…. and thank you to all the people that did the trash runs twice a day. You people rocked big time. You even came into the campsites and retrieved the trash when we forgot to put it out by the road. Just so cool. And to see you all laughing and smiling when working the nasty job of trash pickup… well… thank you so much. I hardly saw a single fly within my campsite because of you. Thank you! And to all of the other volunteers that helped with cleaning the bathrooms, tubs and pool. And to those that stayed at the gate and registration and missed large portions of the festival. Thank you all, for without you, things couldn’t have run as smoothly as they did.

Now Brushwood has a few things that no other Festival grounds can offer: Large camping spaces in the open field and in the woods. Swimming pools and hot tubs, multiple showers, water sources every 100ft., a coffee house (Java Junction, and by the way, why do you people close so early?) a fully stocked and manned first-aid building open 24 hours with golf cart ambulances (Thank you, Todd and crew, for your untiring work that you do for the people!) . Here is another Clan that does not get the praise that they deserve. (Wait till next festival, Safety Crew, we’re gonna get ya!) , Plenty of wood for the individual fires which are sacred sites that would take you a week to visit all. And of course, how could one do a festival without the world famous Phil’s Gril, which brings gourmet food for your camping pleasure? Seasonal camping, which by the way, when you visit Brushwood in the future, please visit the seasonal areas, they have been decorated by their owners with such creativity that it’s just…. well…amazing!

Brushwood also offers the Mad Dog radio station that keeps you up to date on all of the things happening at the festival. (Peg sez: Actually, the radio station during Sirius Rising is called “Dogstar Radio” snd “Mad Dog Radio”, previously the “pirate station during Starwood, was during Summerfest.) The port-o-johns were always clean and emptied each day, and there was no smell, even in the hot weather, and there were enough of them spread out through the field.

(Peg here: I want to add that a number of great musical performances happened at Sirius, too. Kudos to Brushwood for investing in some new lighting equipment that made all the performers look lovely and magical! Along with recently-purchased upgrades to the sound system, the stage set-up has gotten really professional, and Roofy and Todd are to be thanked for their hard work running the sound at shows (mostly Roofy who did this every night!) I was not able to attend every show, but enjoyed a number of fine performers. Some of the high points included hearing Kelianna, a singer and chant artist from Massachusetts. Barely Lace, an all female group, sang some lovely harmony, and also did a midnight set later that night at the Didge Dome (which was meant to only be an hour but which went on into the wee hours; maybe a bit too long?) . Coyote Grace was meant to perform, but Joe had to be at home for a family emergency; nonetheless, the lovely Ingrid graced the stage for the Open Mic on Tuesday night! The Open Mic had some terrific acts, including an amazing electric violin player named Dixon who was immediately asked to apply to play the Main Stage next year. The next night, Kenny Klein pleased the crowd with his funny and magical original songs. I did not get to hear Telling Point on Thursday, but I heard from others they were great. I did enjoy having Kiva back at Brushwood after a long absence; they brought two new members and some terrific new songs. Maybe it was the hot weather, but I was surprised to see such a small crowd for this well-loved pagan band that has been around so long. The Dragon Ritual Drummers (who I also missed, unfortunately) were the talk of the weekend with their high energy intensity at Friday night’s concert, and they also played at the bonfire on Saturday, after the Sirius “house band” The Mickeys and their lively Celtic tunes heated things up at the Main Stage. I look forward to more great musical performances in years to come!)

But the main thing that Brushwood offers is a strong sense of true community. Not just for the festival time, but ongoing family-like ties that stretch distance and time far more then any other festival that Daniella and I have been to. Brushwood is not just a magical place for a couple of weeks for people; it’s open year-round and has festivals almost each weekend from spring to fall. Brushwood is not interested in egotistical, big named pagans that charge thousands of dollars so that they come into the festival, wave their arms, sign a few books and then scurry back to their hotel in town. Brushwood provides the community with real people and community teachers.

Now we have been to about 200-250 festivals (cumulative) all over the country. Brushwood has stood at the top, and is gaining height each year. It is the goal of the Barneys’ to provide a strong sense of true community, a family that has glued itself to the land. In these times, it is much needed, and at Brushwood, it’s not just for the time of the festival, but is there throughout the year (s) . Thank you for what you do for the people.

It was said, that Sirius would not survive due to the Starwood folks leaving. Well that’s wrong, very wrong. Sirius not only survived, but also flourished and gained in strength. 1200 people…. that means Sirius Rising is the LARGEST pagan festival in the United States in 2010. And to have another festival start right after Sirius Rising, Summerfest-Follow Your Path (We left on Thursday of that festival, so Peg Aloi will do that review) that had approximately 500 people or more… Well, that’s just unheard of. It shows that the Brushwood Folklore Center is doing something right…and it’s called giving the food to grow Community.

(Peg here: final count of Summerfest was 750 or so…nice to see so many people there!)

So what is my view as a reviewer on this festival? Well it’s the top festival in the country right now. It has more amenities that any other festival in the nation. It offers true community that is year long, not just for the week of the festival. It is a true learning and practicing place where one can go and work their “Magicine” amongst others.

Is it “perfect”? No, but then if it was it would not evolve to be better. Am I a bit biased? Well, I do love the land…the people…. the sponsors…the energies…the whole ideology of the festival. Do I have my head up someone’s ass like maybe some reviewers? No!!! I try to be fair and complete. I do not write a review as a landowner, sponsor, band member or some other suck ass that has an agenda to make money. People who know me know that I say what I see, feel, and hear, even if it pisses people off. It’s important for people to get the facts and truths of a festival, and to remember that things change constantly, and to keep that in mind.

I give this festival “Sirius Rising” a 4 ½ star rating, leaving room for improvement. Will Daniella and I be back…? Without a doubt! Would I tell others to go to this festival? Yes. I would say if I would pick one for the year, this would be the one that I would go to. And for other sponsors of other festivals, Brushwood would be a good place to learn about how to put on a good festival. Brushwood has 20 years of experience, with more festivals held on this land than I can count. But remember, we, and many others, have long-time roots on this land…. and there is good reason.

So if you have not been to Brushwood, maybe it’s time to set down some good roots with good community and experience something that maybe you have been seeking for a long time. I know…. We found it here, at Brushwood, at Sirius Rising.

So thank you Frank and Darlene, Teresa and Dave, Jessica and Airaday, and all the other hard workers that have made the experience such a wonderful time. And to “Sarge” who had crossed over, I did ceremony for you, my friend. Thank you! Wah Do!

Dream Gently,
Daniella and Don WaterHawk
Staff Photographer of The Witches Voice

(and Peg!)
Media Coordinator of The Witches’ Voice


Article Specs

Article ID: 14101

VoxAcct: 13651

Section: festivals

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 3,384

Times Read: 11,220

RSS Views: 12,570

Don Waterhawk

Location: Fort Myers, Florida

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