Thursday, July 31, 2014

Starwood 34

Starwood comes, and Starwood goes. The most wonderful event of my summer, every summer, has ticked by thirty-four times marking my life through my thirties, forties and fifties. Pardon me – I don’t mean to pick up that earlier post’s themes, but Starwood is a real part of my own process of living and aging.

This is our fifth Starwood at our new home, Wisteria Campground in SE Ohio, and things felt well re-rooted from the move. The staff (i.e. us) knows how to approach the grounds, our plans are arranged, our execution adequate for a gang of volunteers that really only goes to work once yearly. I must make a special mention of the Wisteria staff. The hippy-hearted combine that has kept that scene running for nearly 20 years now has had plenty of its own interpersonal drama, but when showtime comes they smile and roll it out. They have been a pleasure to work with in every way.

One bit of good news for me this year is representative of a larger trend of good news for the event. After most of a decade of managing either set-up, take-down or (shudder…) both I was officially off duty for those physically taxing jobs. Both were handled by younger folks, part of our new wave of volunteers and organizing associates.

In the past several years our central crew has recruited as many as 20 new folks, and many of those have stepped right up. Set-up, take-down, on-site registration and a couple of new departments were handled by newer organizers. I don’t mean to be technical, but organizers reading this know how much work is in those three departments alone.

The event was plainly filled with younger faces this year. At opening circle I asked how many folks present were younger than Starwood’s 34 years, and over half the folks raised hands. This is a trend that we’re so very happy to see – it will be young folks who keep the fire burning into this century.

Nellie, Gnorm, Liafal, me, Vickie, Oberon
Having relieved myself of some manual labor, this year I did considerably more program. A high point for me was the Pete Seeger Singalong. Several people came prepared, including our beloved Uncle Gnorm with lyric-sheets, and we spent an hour in music-nostalgia-land. More than that, there were a lot of kids at the show, and passing along such classics as “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” seems part of a bard’s duty. I surely learned that song at Camp Christian, where I spent a week for most of my childhood summers. This decade, dozens of kids, maybe hundreds across the country have their ‘Summer camp’ experience at places like Starwood or Pagan Spirit Gathering. My by-word on the topic: “Church camp is different for some kids…”

L. and I did a set as well, accompanied by AJ Gooch on didge and drum, and by his son Madoc on drum. Madoc will turn 18 next year, and has become one of the crew, as well as a competent drummer - more multi-generation fun. My voice was crushed early this year – my allergies combined with party-roaring and outdoor living, but I can usually sell a song in whatever condition I find myself, and the set was good, especially with help.

For some reason I committed myself to a lot of teaching this year. I planned to teach the Nineteen Working, and knew I’d be managing the ADF ritual. Doing the latter meant that we ought to do an ADF info workshop and pre-ritual briefing, so I signed myself up to do that. That meant I had program duties three days out of four, on top of singing and organizing. So, a busy year, even though I ditched the physical labor. Next year I must get ADF to send a team to do the org program…

My teaching was moderately attended, and my voice was badly wracked at the outset, but it generated some deep responses in some attendees, and produced good comments. I think I’ll be doing that work more often as a public teaching. The ADF ritual went well, thanks almost entirely to the reliable skill of our ritualists. Druids from three or five Groves came together and produced a strong rite of blessing for the land and the folk. What we can manage when we don’t even know what we’re doing is pretty cool – next year, a plan!

Personally I loved this year’s music. Starwood delivers one of the most unique and diverse line-ups on any Pagan festival stage, and this year was a wonderful combination of psychedelic world-music with modern rock. One of the big surprises to many was the metal set performed by Deadiron a Viking Metal band fronted by Starwood kid-village alumnus Alex Van Ness (who happens to be an active Troth member). The machine-tight riffs, vocal range and positive message of Deadiron’s music made them a hit among the tie-die-and-sorcery crowd. Telesma are another band that began their life through Starwood, and their blend of world-music and electronica turned the house at right angles to itself… or was that just me? We were very pleased to welcome Tuatha Dea to their first Starwood. They are a travelling family of musicians, and they brought a merchant booth and several workshops. A lot of bands are tightly scheduled – they arrive, play their set and depart. Tuatha Dea made themselves a part of the festival, (just as Telesma has always done) and this we like.

It was my personal pleasure to have Jeff “Magnus” MacBride back at Starwood after a decade’s absence. Magnus is one of the world’s great stage magicians, from his home-base in Las Vegas to the White House, China and various world capitals. He’s also been a Pagan festival attendee since the early 80s, when I met him at a Rites of Spring in New England. Magnus brings occult and magical concepts to his stage act, and the skills of a stage performer to his ritual work. His love for the drum-and-fire circle has led him to devise the Alchemical Fire, an all-night rhythm and trance experience that has been transformative for many folks. My organizer duties sent me to bed early the night he held his Fire at Starwood, but I’m told it was beautiful and powerful.

In general the atmosphere at this year’s event was sweet and cool, a rainbow ice-cream despite some summery heat. Artistic expression, naked frolicking and focused ritual all were up this year. On the latter I’ll mention the sweat-lodge prep and work, the Labyrinth Walk, the full Druidic sacrifice and blessing, and the O.T.O.’s Gnostic Mass. A full card of women’s spirituality program and ritual was also presented at the Red Tent. Next year we’re hoping to actually get traditional Wicca back in the mix somewhere.

I came out of this year’s event refreshed and optimistic. Starwood abides. Make your plans for next summer now! If you haven’t been yet, or haven’t been in a while, this is a great time to get on the bus.

1 comment:

Donna Donovan said...

The common theme through most of what I have read and/or spoke with people who attended this year was how young, fresh and vibrant the "air" seemed. It was as if everyone had a renewed sense of being. Quite nice. This was only my 3rd Starwood, and without a doubt, my favorite yet.