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Article Specs

Article ID: 15045

VoxAcct: 164010

Section: festivals

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 2,829

Times Read: 5,303

RSS Views: 84,193
Spring Mysteries Festival XXVII

Author: Janice Van Cleve
Posted: April 22nd. 2012
Times Viewed: 5,303
Sponsored by: Aquarian Tabernacle Church
Location: Ft. Flagler, Washington State
Event Date(s): April 6, 2012
Attendance: 300

For twenty-seven years the Aquarian Tabernacle Church ( has sponsored a Spring Mysteries Festival. The festival is an occasion to recreate the Eleusinian Mysteries that were conducted at Eleusis in Greece for 2000 years. The mysteries revolve around the Demeter/Kore myth and the cycle of Life, Death, and Rebirth. We “recreate” the mysteries instead of “reenact” them because we really don’t know what happened or what was revealed in those rites so long ago. The art and literature of the time give us only a few hints and initiates were sworn to secrecy. What really protects the mysteries, however, are not oaths but the plain fact that they are beyond verbal description. They must be experienced to begin to grasp their meaning.

ATC hosts the mysteries at Ft. Flagler state park, a former coastal defense fort at the entrance of Puget Sound. The views are stunning. Below the cliffs spreads Puget Sound and beyond lay the islands and mainland up to the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. The bulk of Mt. Baker volcano gleams red in the dawning sun and bright orange as it sets. Ships from around the world ply these waters along with the occasional aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine. The traffic does not seem to bother the wildlife. Eagles soar and deer graze barely noticing the 300+ Pagans who descend on this retreat center every year.

Passing The Torch At The Aquarian Tabernacle Church

Spring Mysteries Festival XXVII was extra special this year because it included the formal passing of the torch of leadership. On the resignation of Archpriestess Debbie Hudson early 2012, Archpriest and founder, Pete Pathfinder Davis set the path for the elevation of Belladonna Thompson to become the new Archpriestess of the ATC tradition of Wicca. Bella has served as the Maiden of the mother church and dean of the ATC’s Woolston-Steen Seminary (www.WiccanSeminary.EDU) for some time.

The power was passed from man to woman according to Wiccan custom, but because Pete was at that time undergoing emergency lung surgery, Bert “Blacksun” Dudley stood in for him at the ceremony. As of April 6, 2012, Belladonna became the new Archpriestess of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. She stands on the shoulders of a distinguished line. Pete hopes to eventually retire as previously announced, but for legal corporate reasons, he will continue in an active role mentoring Bella.

ATC’s first Archpriestess was Cindy Wagner-Freeman who founded the line in 1988. She did much to organize the ATC tradition and she wrote the by-laws and ordains of our church, which are the craft laws we follow today. Wende Graeber-Young became Archpriestess in 1995 and contributed much as a teacher of magic and also to the expansion of the church complex at Index. Deborah Hudson was our longest serving Archpriestess. She started as festival workshop coordinator as early as 1992 and has since served with distinction and energy in almost every administrative and leadership role in the ATC. She accepted the mantle of Archpriestess in 2002 and kept it proudly for ten very active years.

Throughout this long history, Pete Davis has remained on as founding Archpriest. He organized, trained, recruited, and built the ATC from a dream to an international and officially recognized church. He led by example as well as by teaching – everything from representing Pagan denominations at the Interfaith Council of Washington State, to nailing sheetrock and building stairways in the new church dining hall at Index. Now as age and mileage have taken their toll, Pete is hoping soon to step down as Archpriest but will continue to lend his wisdom and mentoring to Belladonna as he is able.

Belladonna Laveau Thompson is no novice to leadership. She is a Navy veteran, published author, teacher, and founder of the Covenant of the WISE in Georgia. She created the WISE seminary, and most recently she put the Woolston-Steen seminary program on line in less than a year when others had been struggling with it for ten. She comes to her latest role as Archpriestess of ATC with a dignified balance of pride and humility and a healthy dose of grace and graciousness.

The installation ceremony was a beautiful testimony to the orderly continuity of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. Almost the entire Spring Mysteries Festival population was in attendance in the Apollo Theater. Daniel Cox started it off with a recitation of the Wiccan Rede. Then Sydney Bridges, Festival Executive Ritual Director and the new ATC Maiden, along with Stacia Schmidt, Covenant of WISE Maiden, advanced down the aisle bearing swords to ward the space. ATC Affiliate representatives from Canada, Mexico, Washington and Georgia held the quarters. Church Elders – Bert “Blacksun” Dudley, Fritz Muntean, and Michele Favarger (ATC Canada Aps) - tested Belladonna with questions, which she answered positively and completely, before the whole assembly. Mysteries Spiritual Director Eric Lethe challenged her on the blade in which spirit she embarked upon this responsibility to which she replied “In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.”

In the rite it was made clear that Belladonna would lead the ATC with Pete until such time as she chose an archpriest. During the ceremony Belladonna was reminded of what leadership involves by Blacksun’s reading of several pertinent quotes that Pete had planned on using. She was cautioned to remember that the responsibilities of this job will not abate over time, and that a good leader does not ask of others that which she is unwilling to do herself. Throughout the entire ritual Belladonna was moved to tears as were many of those onstage and in the audience. The actual passing of the energy from Priest to Priestess was also felt throughout the group and was a reminder of the intensity of our sacred rites when they are done in harmony with Goddess and God.

After the rite, Sydney asked Belladonna to introduce herself to the four quarters. When she was officially presented to the congregation as the new Archpriestess, Belladonna was cheered and greeted with a standing ovation.

On Saturday, in an informal workshop on getting involved in the Mysteries, Belladonna demonstrated her practical grasp of church administration as she coached an affiliate from Canada and offered encouragement to me as a priestess from the Dianic tradition of Wicca. All in all, Belladonna moved gracefully and purposefully into her new role. More about the ATC can be found at

We welcome our new Archpriestess and pray for her continued success.

Copyright: Copyright 2012


Janice Van Cleve

Location: Seattle, Washington

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