It’s looking like a good day; maybe a good year, even. The 23rd annual Hekatee’s Sickle Festival is over, and by now, both the attendees and the presenters have all had time to “decompress.” This morning, the sun was out in Washington state, for a few minutes at least. The elections have generally gone well in both Washingtons.
The Free World is safe once again. Congress may now actually get something done; local gay folks are celebrating the marriage vote, the recreational pot smokers are grinning at being able to buy their stash from the state liquor stores and the tea bags are back in hot water where they belong.
The Goddess and the Gods are happy, and so am I.
The HSF festival was amazing. This year, we returned to a different format than recent past years, to the way we did SMF when we started back in the 80s. Yes, HSF had paths to tread in the dark to lead us to the Celtic, Greek, and (this year) Egyptian Gods, who each spoke their wisdoms to us. But this time the paths were not in the scruffy underbrush of a wooded hillside where we could twist our ankles or worse, but more sensibly on a very large 5 acre open, flat grassy lawn. Each path was in the shape of a labyrinth, marked out by hundreds and hundreds of luminaria – it was an amazing and immensely beautiful sight just to behold!
For many years I have felt that handing the cast a written script of the words the Gods were to speak has been much too close to an act of hubris on our part. Who are we to put words in the mouths of Gods? We draw down their inspiration on occasions like these and ask them to speak through us. We should not affront them with what WE think their message ought to be! For HSF 2012, Bella and I agreed to use a more respectful approach, the way the early SMF was done. Instead of a script, the priests and priestesses were given an outline of the general thrust of the ritual and asked to allow the Gods to speak through them. It didn’t require hours and hours of mindless memorization, ego-stroking and an awful lot of rehearsal time, and because we let the Gods speak for themselves, it was predictably so much more effective and successful. There was amazingly more spiritual content and value than if we had tried to write the words for the Gods. They really knocked everyone’s socks off! So much so, we are going back to this older festival format and let the Gods do the talking, the way we did in the 1980s. I for one don’t want to be so presumptuous as to tell my Gods what they ought to be saying to us, when they seem quite ready to do it themselves.
A high point was a workshop on “the Principles of Ma’at” presented in the dining hall by Sonya Hill-Miller, the visiting HPS of Temple of the Sacred Gift-ATC and Egyptian path priestess. While she and Brian, her priest, are from Tennessee, it is Memphis, TN after all! I have never studied much Egyptian mythology or philosophy, but Sonya has, and was a philosophy major in college as well. It was very interesting, especially since the “Principle of Ma’at” is precisely the basis of Wiccan philosophy, as it turned out.
Where Western Judeo-Christian philosophy and beliefs are focused on behaving ourselves because of our fear of retribution and punishment for having violated the rules of an angry paternalistic godlike figure, the Principles of Ma’at are not about fear, but rather about our honoring our relationships with folks right here on earth. In a nutshell, the philosophy is relationship-based and not fear-based, and about honesty, ethics and integrity. Isn’t that what we have all been taught is the basis of Wiccan beliefs – “An ye harm none”? Two thousand years before the beginning of the common era and the ascention of the Judeo-Christian system to world dominance, the ancient Egyptian philosophy already had it right.
Festivals rise or fall on their food service. We are blessed to have Jake and Claire, our kitchen professionals of many prior years’ service, back and cooking up a storm. The food and so many smiles show it. The meals were great, (only late once by just a few minutes), and were sumptuous and plentiful. In fact, the roasted chicken was so tasty, moist and tender I had to go into the kitchen to see if he had my Mom cooking in there.
The atmosphere throughout the entire festival was like a huge family reunion. No grumbling or grousing, no ego problems or personality frictions, and lots of smiles and hugs all around. That’s not easily done in a group of almost 100 people. Come to think about it, it really was better than a family reunion (no crazy Uncle Walter to deal with). The merchants all seemed happy, everything flowed smoothly, the camp was cleaned and ready for Ranger check-out before noon, and everyone seemed really hesitant to get in their cars and go back home.
The festival staff and cast, from top to bottom, including our guests from Memphis (Tennessee, of course!) did a most remarkable job. We’ll try to be more specific and name everyone elsewhere, but I hasten to point out the success was a tribute to our new Archpriestess Bella’s inspiration, direction and leadership with the help of Sydney, our ATC Maiden (and festival director). For anyone who may have had any reservations about making changes, Bella has more than proven her skill set this Sickle. The “original” ATC tradition, written in the 1980s came from my own training in English Traditional Wicca, and it is the same training Bella came from, so what would change, besides the return of the traditional magical classes everyone has been wanting?
The most radical changes have been just a few small tweaks here and there. Simple things like changing from icky, knot-proof festival wrist ribbons to clean, durable silicone wrist bands you can save to commemorate all of your ritual initiatory festival experiences. Like using outlines instead of telling the Gods what to say. Having auditions in Canada for the Canadians’ convenience is another. Most changes are so small and gradual you probably may not even notice. Evolution is a very slow-moving process of improvements, and from time to time, our Goddess Hekatee likes to get our attention.
I can hardly wait for Spring Mysteries to roll around. Auditions are beginning soon. They will actually start by being held in B.C. by Bella when she visits there this month, for the convenience of our northern friends, and will begin here in Washington at Imbolg. Everyone, the seasoned as well as the first-timers, is always welcome. Watch our website or come to our Index, WA events and gatherings to learn more.
Blessed Be, y’all. – Pete Pathfinder Davis