Back in the day, whenever I blogged about Witchfest, it was usually a day or two afterwards. Nowadays, it’s over a week later. I am shattered, no other word for it.
However, my health – or lack of it – apart, it really was a splendid Witchfest. I think it must have been one of the busiest I’ve ever attended, wherever I looked there were loads of people, and the programme showed that there seemed to be more talks, workshops and displays than ever before, too. I don’t know how Merlyn and Cathbodva manage it every year, but they do. It’s just incredible.
It was a busy day for me. Although it would be easy to just turn up and do one or two talks, I like to see as many people as possible during the day. That meant I had just an hour free between turning up for the opening blessing and my final event, a book signing with The Wolfenhowle Press’ own Kevin Groves which was great fun. (A big thank you by the way to all those who bought Wolfenhowle Press books!)
Now in writing about Witchfest, I’m well aware that in some ways, my experience will be a bit different from most people’s simply because I’m always talking. So, what’s new? I hear you ask. Well, yes, it’s true, I am always talking, I know, but giving a talk is a bit different and, truth to tell, it can be hard on the voice, too.
Of course, one of the more frustrating aspects of being so busy is that I miss loads of talks I would really like to attend. Can’t be helped, I know, but it’s frustrating all the same. I’m going to work on my bi-location skills again, but a witch has to be careful. No point bi-locating if half of me is in Witchfest and the other half back in Wales!
It was great to catch up with old friends and to make new ones too. The hugs and blessings are absolutely priceless to me. I love my audiences, I really do, and I always say that I learn far more from them than they ever do from me. It always amazes me when people turn up to hear my talks, it’s such a compliment and really very much appreciated.
I’ve read a few other blogs about Witchfest this year, but I feel when we talk about the speakers we’re missing the point a bit (though it’s always flattering to get a mention!) The thing is, Witchfest really belongs to the audience and the people behind the scenes. The people who give us multi-coloured armbands, the kind audience members who volunteer to help with my free raffle, the people who man the stalls in the main foyer, the people who very kindly point me in the right direction when I’m hopelessly lost. Again.
One thing that struck me about this year’s Witchfest was that there was a great deal of kindness about. People went out of their way to be helpful. Of course, there was a sense of disbelief about the previous night’s events in Paris too, and when I did the opening blessing we had a moment or two’s silence for the victims. It was very touching when someone in the audience thanked me in French. It gave us all a sense of solidarity, I think.
We were a bit late getting started – people were still apparently queuing to get into Fairfield Halls at 11am. I tried to make sure my own talks started and finished on time, though this year I had to make it to various rooms and that was very hard going. There were times when I really thought I was about to crumple. By the end it was a painkiller-fest for me, as well as a Witchfest!
There was a comment on one blog that there ought to be a brief resumé of the content of the talk on the programme. Actually, there was a note on the talks and their content on the Children of Artemis website (well, there was for my talks, anyway) but looking at the sheer volume of talks on the programme, I don’t think there’s any way to include that extra information there, not unless CoA start charging for the programmes, and nobody wants to do that. I might try a quick sentence or two at the start of my talks, but to be honest, I usually choose titles that are pretty clear. Most of the time, anyway.
If you’ve ever attended any of my talks you’ll probably remember that I do a free raffle. It’s something that goes back to when my children were small and if we went to any events we never had anything to spend once we’d paid our entry fee (we’d sometimes get lucky if someone left their refunded change in a telephone kiosk, but as a fundraiser it isn’t really to be recommended).
Anyway, at these various fayres etc., I used to think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone gave something away?’ And thus, when I started doing talks at events, I made a point of giving away something in a free raffle – usually it’s a painting, once I think it was a book, and on memorable occasion it was wands. It’s always lovely to see people win.
One aspect of being a solitary of course is that I will also be a solitary, no matter where I go. And there was a very interesting question raised at the Meet the Witches Panel. People wanted to create their own coven, but had been made to feel that since they had never been initiated (and their frustration was also driven by the fact they were unable to find a coven to train and initiate them anyway) they could not call themselves a coven.
As a solitary, this isn’t something I’ve ever had to deal with, although the question itself was perfectly understandable. I can also understand why people who have undergone training and initiation into a specific path would not want other groups claiming to be something they clearly aren’t.
But that was not the problem here. The problem – as I understood it anyway – was that people who wanted to form a group of their own had been told they could not call themselves a coven. Madness. I thought about it long and hard even after I got home.
So here is my advice. Forget the coven. Form a Witches’ Co-operative. Instead of the traditional Co-op symbol of one hand shaking another, you could have crossed broomsticks or something. Or a Red Pentagram. The more I think about it, it could be fun!
As for Mr Penry… what did he get up to? Not a lot this year. My first phone call home on Saturday rang and rang, to be finally answered by a groan and a muffled, ‘Aagh?’
Bless him. He’d fallen out of bed.