The conference was, as ever, a wonderful day. There was a variety of fascinating speakers during the day, and in the evening musical entertainment from the very talented Damh the Bard and the Dolmen.
After last year I have to admit I was not looking forward to another talk about Grimoires, but Christina Oakley-Harrington made this potentially dry subject really interesting, regaling us with some colourful tales of the experiences people had had with Grimoire spells, and what was required to be a magician. She also related the subject to modern pagans in a lovely way. Grimoires were generally illegal and always controversial, so the magicians who used them copied out their own copy of their mentor’s grimoire by hand, then returned the original. This meant that they only ever had a book in their own handwriting, implicating no-one if they were caught. As a book-lover myself it was easy for me to relate to Christina’s description of the sensuous and meditative activity of hand-copying, as modern witches often do with their Book of Shadows. Copying a book in this way, be it grimoire, book of shadows or other much-loved work, makes you a link in the chain of the history of that work. Sitting in your room, copying, you are a window on the soul of your priest(ess) as (s)he copied the book you are now copying.
I am not personally convinced by the argument that this alone makes grimoires worthy of a lot of study today. There is a lot more wisdom, to my mind, in what we can see all around us in nature than in a bunch of spell recipes and treasure maps from a few hundred years ago, but Christina went a long way towards changing my mind on that! The next speaker, Nathaniel J. Harris gave some very useful meditation exercises as part of his talk, but there was a lot there I didn’t agree with, too. It was very good for me, I think, to be provoked into questioning my beliefs and ideas. Very stimulating.
I had been looking forward to Pete Jennings, former PF President, talking about the Northern Tradition. He managed to wake us all up even though it was the notorious after-lunch slot. The non-pagan in the group I was with, who had only come to accompany his pagan partner, is now seriously interested in learning more about the Northern path! Unfortunately Jasper Lee & the Jal Folk Theatre were not able to make the conference and due to a mix-up with email addresses we did not receive their apologies. Adrian did an amazing job of lining us up with two top speakers to fill their slot at 1/2 hour’s notice! Special thanks, then, to Levannah Morgan and Damh the Bard for filling in.
Levannah gave a truly amazing talk on Qabbalah, describing the meanings and equivalences of the entire tree without the visual aids she would normally have been able to use. I was totally blown away by how well she knows the Qabbalah and by the vibrance and relevance of the system itself. It is not an area I have looked into in depth before and Levannah has certainly whetted my appetite to find out more.
As a long-time fan of Damh the Bard’s music and a member of OBOD, I was quite familiar with the content of his talk, which was an all round introduction to druidry and the work of the three strands of druidry, Bards, Ovates and Druids, but even so he had some new and fascinating ideas to share.
The raffle made £159.65 and was split between the Hare Preservation Trust (www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk) and Vodou Aid. We received a lovely thank you letter from the Hare Trust, and they were also kind enough to let us use their picture for this quarter’s Standing Stone cover.
Damh came back and played us some music to start the Masked Ball. I think the masks and costumes were even more gorgeous than last year, with a greater proportion of people dressing up. Left is a picture of some revellers, L-R Suzi, Katharine, Sam (Wiltshire RC) and Catherine (me). Thanks to Richard for the photo.
The Dolmen provided a lively climax to a very enjoyable day, with their pagan folk to get the whole room up and jigging!