PSG 2015: The Year of Community

The Green, lovingly renamed Labyrinth Loch ~ © 2015 photo by Chris Eldridge

The Green, lovingly renamed Labyrinth Loch
~ © 2015 photo by Chris Eldridge

Pagan Spirit Gathering 2015

I don’t really even know where to start telling you about Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) 2015.  We had such high hopes for a beautiful week, filled with love, friendship, and community.  The theme, after all, was “Celebrating Community”.  What we didn’t know was how true that theme was going to become.

Three Rivers Pagans had a contingency of six, three that were 1 year veterans, and three virgins.  The veterans had told the virgins what to expect, what might happen, and what they would see that was vastly different than our conservative town has to offer.  For some, it could be quite the culture shock.  There’s no judgement at PSG, from how you want to dress to how you practice your faith.  There’s no “you’re doing it wrong”.  People actually ask how you are doing and they mean it.  They also pitch in to help when something happens.  That was totally evident when disaster struck at Stonehouse Farm, the venue for PSG.

Disaster Strikes

Rains had plagued the area leading up to the week of PSG, June 14-21, 2015.  The ground was wet, mud was plentiful, but everyone was in high spirits.  We set up our camps on Sunday in the rain, but a little rain doesn’t dissuade us from much.  Monday brought more downpours and a lot of mud.  As a Tribe, we became mud people, trudging everywhere through it, our feet covered to our ankles.  Shortly after 5 pm on Monday, the word came through: we were going to flood and we had to move quickly.  Guardians, people that take on the responsibility for keeping everyone safe during the festival, were assembled, along with anyone that could help.  Cars and tents were in the floodplain and it wasn’t going to be long before they were underwater.  A dam upstream was going to be opened to let water out of Shabbona Lake and we were in the path of that water.  It was time to move.

Teams fanned out, calling out to people to move their cars if they were in the lower parking lot.  Some of them were stuck, but people volunteered to push, pull, and drag them out of the mud and rising waters.  People stood at the top of the hill, urging drivers to slow down and reassuring them that they were on high ground, safe, and that nothing would hurt them.  Hours later, a mere 8 cars were left, their owners unknown.  Many of them were totalled, having taken on water and mud when the waters rose.
People who were camped on the lower end of the campground around the pond and Grandmother Willow were helped to high ground.  Many had to leave their belongings behind, watching as the water rose and engulfed everything they brought with them, leaving a sludge of mud coating most everything.  I helped direct traffic for a while, holding up safety tape to allow management vehicles to pass.  I watched as people lugged up their tents and whatever they could carry, a look of shock on all of their faces.  The displaced found lodging in other camps where they were welcomed with open arms.  New friends were made, families were forged through the trial of water.

On High Ground

At the TRP camp, we were floored early on when we were told that although we were on very high ground, some 10 feet or more above the floodplains, we were being evacuated.  We were on the edge of the flood zone and we needed to get to safety.  Fifteen minutes.  We had a mere fifteen minutes to grab what we could and find our way to higher ground.  It was hard, I’m not going to lie.  I set our virgins on a path that I knew would take them away from the flooding, but I stayed behind.  Two members of our camp had gone to move cars and I didn’t know where they were.  When one of them returned, we ran, praying to the Goddess that the last missing member was safe with guardians.  When she met up with us later, she had been helping push out cars from the mud, but she was safe.  The hardest thing I’ve ever done was take three people who did not know the terrain and send them to safety, not knowing where they were when I made the trek myself.

Monday night we were able to return to camp.  We were very waterlogged, muddy, and a mess, but everything was ok.  We were alive, together, and could support each other.

Festival Ends Early

Tuesday morning, our traditional morning meeting was mandatory.  It was announced that we all had to leave.  PSG 2015 was over.  It was time to go home.  Days early.  I looked around as the realization hit everyone.  In its 35th year, PSG was going to end early for the first time.  The land could not support us in its waterlogged state.  The shower house was overrun with water as was the septic system.  It was no longer safe for us to stay.  I spent the day organizing camp slowly, not aware of my own feelings yet.  I was shell shocked.  TRP members spread out through the camps, helping others less fortunate than we were, getting them packed up and out of the venue safely.  I’ve never been prouder of a group of people.

One Final Hurrah

Tuesday night, we grieved.  We partied.  We drank.  And we listened to some of the best music ever played.  Bardapalooza happened in the pavilion and it was glorious.  SJ Tucker, Celia Ferran, Mama Gina, Spiral Rhythm, and a host of others all lent voices and talent to keep us entertained and brighten our spirits.  We were blessed to hear a beautiful story from Janet Farrar.  Firespinners went all out on the only night they were going to get to spin.  And of course, there was drumming and dancing around the Sacred Fire.

Wednesday brought our leave.  We were helped by wonderful people to get our gear down to the parking lot, far from where we camped.  We loaded up and headed to showers at a truck stop.  They were glorious.  We hadn’t showered since Sunday, and it was much needed.


Now that we are home, we are working on healing the deep cuts to our psyche from seeing such devastation.  No matter how much you helped out, it never seemed enough.  No matter how many people you fed or pulled out of the floodzone, there were still more.  But as a community, we came together.  We got things done faster and more efficiently than any government agency could ever think to do.  Together, we celebrated community in the best way possible: by becoming that which we celebrated.

What’s in a Name?

~by Pandora Silverfin

Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate Beltane.  It is one of eight solar Sabbats.  This holiday incorporates traditions from the Gaelic word Bealtaine, such as the bonfire, but it bears more relation to the Germanic May Day festival, both in its significance (focusing on fertility) and its rituals (such as May pole dancing).  Some traditions celebrate this holiday on May 1 or May day, or on April 30th.

Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals.  The name means fire of Bel; Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate.  In the Irish Gaelic language, the month of May is known as Mí Bhealtaine or Bealtaine, and the festival as Lá Bealtaine (‘day of Bealtaine’ or, ‘May Day’).  In the Scottish Gaelic language, the month is known as either (An) Cèitean or a’ Mhàigh, and the festival is known as Latha Bealltainn or simply Bealltainn.  The feast was also known as Céad Shamhain or Cétshamhainin from which the word Céitean derives.  Beltane was formerly spelt Bealtuinn in the Scottish Gaelic language; in Manx it is spelled Boaltinn or Boaldyn.  In Modern Irish, Oíche Bhealtaine is May Eve, and Lá Bealtaine is May Day.

Beltane was an ancient Gaelic festival celebrated in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.  It marked the beginning of summer and was linked to similar festivals held elsewhere in Europe, such as the Welsh Calan Mai and the Germanic Walpurgis Night.  Beltane and Samhain were the leading terminal dates of the civil year in medieval Ireland, though the latter festival was the more important.  It is a cross-quarter day, marking the midpoint in the Sun’s progress between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.  The astronomical date for this midpoint is nearer to 5 May or 7 May, but this can vary from year to year.  In modern Scottish Gaelic, Latha Buidhe Bealltainn or Là Buidhe Bealltainn (‘the yellow day of Bealltain’) is used to describe the first day of May.  This term Lá Buidhe Bealtaine is also used in Irish and is translated as ‘Bright May Day’.

According to Nora Chadwick, in Celtic Ireland “Beltine (or Beltaine) was celebrated on 1 May, a spring-time festival of optimism.  Fertility ritual again was important, in part perhaps connecting with the waxing power of the sun, symbolized by the lighting of fires through which livestock were driven, and around which the people danced in a sunwise direction.”  In the old Celtic times, young people would spend the entire night in the woods “A-Maying,” and then dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning.  Older married couples were allowed to remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night.  May morning is a magickal time for wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health.

In Irish mythology, the beginning of the summer season for the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians started at Bealtaine.  Great bonfires would mark a time of purification and transition, heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, and were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits, such as the Aos Sí.  Like the festival of Samhain, opposite Beltane on 31 October, Beltane was also a time when the Otherworld was seen as particularly close at hand.  Excavations at Uisnech in the 20th century provided evidence of large fires taking place.

Beltane and Beltane-based festivals are held by some Neopagans.  As Neopaganism can vary largely from tradition to tradition, representations can vary greatly despite the shared name.  Some celebrate in a way as near as possible to how the ancient Gaels did, while others observe the holiday with rituals taken from sundry unrelated sources, Gaelic culture being only one of the sources used.

Neopagans usually celebrate Beltane on 30 April–1 May in the Northern Hemisphere and 31 October–1 November in the Southern Hemisphere.  Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice (or the full moon nearest this point).  In the Northern Hemisphere, this midpoint is when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 45 degrees. In 2014, this is on 5 May.



Beltane Incense

Beltane Incense

Beltane is the perfect time to make a special incense, even if you’ve never made one before.  They are simple to make, especially when you are making loose incenses to be burned over charcoal tablets.  Simply put, these types of incenses are herbs and other botanicals are placed in a container, covered, and shaken to mix.  It’s that easy.

This incense is perfect not only for Beltane, but any fertility, love, or growth workings.  Use it in your spellwork to bring power to your words.  Following each ingredient is what it brings to the mix, metaphysically.

Beltane Incense Ingredients

Basil ~ fertility, prosperity, strengthens love

Cinnamon ~ lust, love, protection, raising spiritual vibrations

Dragon’s Blood ~ love, protection, potency

Hawthorn ~ fertility, happiness

Lavender ~ love, protection

Mugwort ~ protection

Patchouli ~ fertility, lust

Rose Petals ~ love, protection

Mix equal amounts, crushing any larger pieces, such as the Dragon’s Blood or hawthorn berries.  (I use a coffee grinder specifically set aside for my herbals.)

Place in a labeled jar, complete with ingredients.