Monday, July 22, 2013

Sirius Rising ends

The Sirius Rising Bonfire, with the Dragon burning at the top of the Pyre.........
 What began as an idea Roy had 20 years ago turned into another major Festival, Sirius Rising, held at Brushwood Folklore Center in July of each year.  This year had a magnificent bonfire, and a beautiful sculpture of the Dragon that eats his own tail, the Ouroboros, atop the pyre, bearing prayers and intents off to be actualized in its transformation amid the flames.  Thanks once again to Jason and Leslie and their Fire Tribe for a beautiful ending to the festival.  I shall miss so many people, and will just have find a way to return again next year.
Fairies in the Fairy Corner.......

Shrine for the ancestral Lighters

Artist Leslie working on the Dragon scupture that flies from the bonfire at the end of the festival

I do have to say that I was disappointed with  the "Spirit - Labyrinth" ritual this year.  It was a beautiful ritual that took place at twilight at a labyrinth illuminated with candles in previous years.
Sirius Rising developed the tradition of having 5 rituals, each devoted to a different element, which occur each day of the festival.  The Festival concludes with the bonfire and the burning of a Totem much the same spirit as Burning Man.   In the past my favorite ritual was the  Labyrinth beautifully created  by a group from Chicago.  In fact, I  have a personal investment – Frank Barney and I  dowsed the places where the labyrinth and the "Ancestor mound" are placed, finding ley crossings there,  atop a hill with a magnificent view.  The land itself is specially suited to raise energy, and as people climbed the hill at twilight they were  afforded a  panorama of sky and field.  They passed through an entrance, and prepared to make a journey led in silence into the labyrinth, with lovely background music affording ambient  backdrop.  It was magical as the skies darkened and people moved among the candles  awed by the sense of being "between the worlds".  You  walked out to see yourself participating in a spiritual journey shared by everyone else, a universal pilgrimage into the center of our lives, and out again renewed. 

But not this time.  There was neither silence, nor even a specific entry point.  No one led us into the labyrinth, with the result that people passed each other in confusion, many not even sure how to get into or out of the center.  People talked,  laughed, the music was barely heard above the babble.  And the so called “ritual” – someone portraying a  "circus ringleader" announced loudly, with a microphone, that we should "come and see the show!”  informing people that they could go “left or right” to get in or out.  Before people even began to enter, confused, from all 4 sides of the labyrinth, this same "facilitator" announced that they could “stay if you like, or come on over to the fire circle"........and promptly left, with a confusion of people wandering around field behind him.  And before that, where in the past people were invited to experience  a meditative entry into a sacred labyrinth.....between the “ringmaster” blabbing away (I wondered when he was going to announce the dancing girls and the beer), we also had a group in the middle,  giggling, and making an inept attempt at improv while they vaguely talked about the importance of "spirit".   Whatever energy  might have been there they drained away in no time at all, leaving behind them confusion and disappointment.  

Trying to walk the labyrinth, and bumping in to people who were actually going the wrong way because they were confused,  I felt very saddened.  I felt like I was having an "anti-ritual" - is this the sad truth of how we are as a civilization now?  Not knowing the difference between a true ceremony and a "show" complete with loud ringmasters and giggling in the Center where reverence and reflection ought to be. 

Perhaps I shouldn't write about this here, because there are so many people affiliated with this festival I both love and admire.  But there's something happened here that needs to be said - something we all need to think about.


Valerianna said...

Oh, I have experienced this waaaay too often. Folks thinking that ritual IS a performance and not knowing a thing about working with energy or leadership in general. This sounds REALLY deplorable, however... yikes!!!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

This all sounds fantastic! You can just feel the energy radiating from these pictures.

Catherine Dalton said...

I guess you were unaware that the folks who have always led the Spirit Ritual WERE the ones who again,worked VERY hard and did a fabulous job again THIS year....The Spirit tribe, led by Ciaran, have always doen a fabulous job; each year moving the Community closer to having a bigger and more important role in the night of Spirit. 2 years ago, we (the Community) did the job of lighting the candles that illuminate the Labrynth...last year, we Stewards (my husband and I are the Stewards of the Water Shrine)held the elements so that folks could touch and receive blessings from each element.....
I am sorry for whatever confusion you may have experienced---the directions seemed really clear to me ( and no===for Spirit, we Stewards do not know any more than the "crowd" does. Having access to any and all points of the Labrynth gave us all a much more challenging walk.....
btw... ALL the "tribes" do their very best to provide a meaningful and spiritual experience for all--- I have actually been criticized for doing "real magic" in public....frankly---that is all I do---if I am not gonna do the real stuff, I am NOT gonna get my butt out of my chair, put down my Guinness, and move to a ritual area! It would not be worth it for the Community. Sorry for your disappointment, but my Mom always taught me that you will only get out of an experience what you are willing to put into it---maybe you should volunteer to help.
Cate Dalton, Water Steward, Brushwood Folklore Center.

Catherine Dalton said...

oh, and btw... my gods/goddesses LOVE laughter... I thought we were supposed to be joyful in our spirituality......I am surprised that laughter would bother anyone....perhaps you were not at the Water ritual we did that wound up being about play, and included squirty frogs and fishes, water balloons and water pistols! If ya can't have fun with your Deities, who the hell can ya have fun with? ;-)

Lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauren said...

Thanks for your comments. I have had great appreciation for everything I participated in at the Festival in the past, and have documented a number of them in this blog. And I do appreciate the hard work people like yourself have put in. However, the spirit ritual did not work this year, and I left feeling as I wrote above. If those who created it, regardless of how much work they put into it, are unable to be discerning and accept criticism, then they will be unable to make it better and more meaningful in the future.

ancientwell said...

Lauren, I should correct you on one important point about Sirius Rising. The original idea for the festival was Frank Barney's. I was part of the group that worked out the rough design of the event and took the lead on organizing it for the first eight seasons.

You can be forgiven for thinking it was "my festival" because I was doing most of the organizing pretty much single-handed but for the first few years, Sirius Rising was small enough that one person could do most of the work of producing the event unaided. By 2002, however, it was clear that Sirius Rising had grown to the point that my way of running things was no longer adequate. Also, I had an opportunity to go to grad school which meant I wouldn't have time to look after the festival properly. It was time for new leadership so I handed over everything I'd done to the Barneys so they could carry it forward.

I deliberately stayed away from the festival for several years because I didn't want the fact that it had become so strongly identified with me to be an obstacle for whoever would be managing things after me. I came back during Sirius week in 2007 and have, since then, helped the family look after the campground during the festival; what Frank used to refer to as "general administration."

Catherine Dalton said...

The Spirit folks are excellent at taking constructive suggestions and working to make things better. The Stewards appreciate your comments, too. Be aware, however, that while the ritual may not have worked for YOU, it did for many others… you can speak for yourself, but others who attended all the rituals might have a different viewpoint.
However, there are some errors I feel need addressing---no one has ever “led” anyone in or out of the Labyrinth---the entrance has always been in the West, where Frank and I have stood for 10 years—trust me, I can tell you, there has never been a “leader” in or out of it, as the point is for folks to enter and leave as they will---be that right after the ritual, or come back later, as it is lit all night, for those who prefer a more solitary progression. The fact that I or Frank and I are sometimes the first in has more to do with us standing right there than that anyone leads anyone anywhere----this kind of implies the Community has a difficult time taking action on their own, which I have never found to be the case! ;-)
The porta-johns are nowhere near the Labyrinth itself, as they are across the road from the path that leads either to the Ancestor mound or the circle which encloses the Labyrinth….to be here you imply they sit, would put them in the middle of the area where the Mickeys play!
This was Frank’s vision—Roy only facilitated it, and it was my understanding that Dave Guzman actually was the one who chose the site for the Labyrinth….
Change is not always easy…it requires work on the part of those who engineer the change and on the part of those the change is presented to. The rituals that were done as a series---a week-long “passion play”. If you missed most of them and then attended the last, it would not have made sense--- I was not aware you attended all of the rituals.
(Part 2 to follow)

Catherine Dalton said...

It is time for the Community to do more “work” at these rituals---personal work, working at understanding, and grasping the ideas presented—and not just spectate….the real satisfaction is that MOST of the Community come prepared to work and improve and grow spiritually. THAT is why we do these, and each year we have required a little more of that from those who attend….hence the concept of finding one’s own wisdom and way, without spoon feeding…it’s time for folks to THINK…..I am a BIG believer in that---frankly, I think that is one of the most satisfying things about Paganism---thinking. That was one of the lessons the Spirit ritual was teaching for those who chose to see. The Labyrinth was a two-way “street” this year…folks going in and out at the same time….to me it represented that while we may all be on the Path to Wisdom, we are all going at our own pace, in our own way, and some have completed some of their training, while some are obviously just beginning….it is a beautiful thing.
I truly believe that the laughter and joy on the faces of those who traversed the Labyrinth was a most beautiful and transcendent vision…..laughter is one of the best ways to build Community---who can help but respond to a smile with a smile? And again, my Deities delight in laughter at ritual---not that there is not a time for solemnity, but I always thought Paganism (using the most inclusive label), was a spirituality of joy and happiness---if I wanted all seriousness, all the time, I would be a Catholic…;-) It is somewhat disheartening to learn that there are still some who think we need to be so serious and solemn….I dearly love to laugh! ;-) (with apologies to Jane Austen).
Sorry if you were confused by the Spirit ritual—though I am not sure why—the instructions were clear to me, even though I heard them for the first time on that Friday night, along with everyone else—they keep the Spirit event pretty secret, even from those of us who plan…but I stood at the West entrance, as did Gretchen Schorck (as she always does), and we repeated the instructions to those entering….”Candles on your right to go in, on your left to go out”.
Doing a singular, stand-alone ritual is easy---telling a week-long story with a point and a lesson or two for those who choose to attend all the rituals, is not easy; but for those of us who plan all year long, and spend much of our vacations and odd weekends off working to provide the best experience for all, it is well worth the effort. We are well aware not everyone will ever be satisfied, every year. Most people got it. As usual, we will all work harder to convey the message more effectively next year. Those who attend, need to promise to try to do the work…that is what Community is all about.
Thanks for your attention.

Lauren said...

Thanks for your comments, and sorry indeed that it's taken me a while to see that there were pending comments. I see that I've misunderstood some of the history of Sirius Rising (thanks Roy), and am glad for the commentary which adds to the dialogue. Even if I've offended some people with my response to the Spirit Rising ritual, I'm glad that it's sparked a bit of controversy, because I believe controversy is what is often useful to provoke creativity.

Best wishes to all.

Ailim Hazel said...

My friends and I left instead of walking the labyrinth. Too many people in a small space. Instead I went the next morning at dawn and had a quiet walk by myself. Some of the candles were still lit and it was misty and peaceful.
I will also add that over the past eight years I've had more than ten deaths in my family and became quite spiritually and emotionally numb for it all. This festival, the rituals and workshops helped me unblock that energy. I had a wonderful experience this year.