Spring Conference 2020

A celebration of Pagan ways to aid us through the chaos of modern life.

Before: on Friday evening the usual meet and greet was held in the bar at 8pm for local Pagans and those staying for the weekend at Penstowe. This year the infamous Friday Night Fiendish Quiz was hosted by Damh & Ceri, followed by a jam session in the bar; all Musicians were warmly welcomed.

After: for more than twenty years, the Museum at Boscastle has been part of the local Pagan Conference experience here in the southwest of Britain.  Sadly this year the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic was closed for major refurbishment and was not ready to receive visitors.

Nevertheless, local Pagan Simon Carroll offered a free visit and talk to St Petrock’s Well on Sunday for people attending the conference.  This was an independent event but a lovely opportunity.  Archaeological excavation uncovered the ‘well’ and found a plunge pool measuring three meters across, whose sides were ‘studded’ with quartz stones.  For information, please visit the research section http://www.berrycastlehuntshaw.com

Conference Saturday

As soon as the doors opened we warmly welcomed people with an emphasis on care with the then new Coronavirus uncertainty.  We checked tickets, and gave out programmes.  We also had a limited supply of new Phoenix badges specially made for conference 2020.

Badges and logo at front desk 2020

Judith as Master of Ceremony welcomed everyone to the Pagan Phoenix Southwest Spring Conference 2020.  She led us in the opening magickal attunement with the ‘Isis Prayer of Awakening’ by deTraci Regula. This prayer has become a well-received tradition for our local conference.

First talk – Gary Lachman – “Aleister Crowley: Magician, Monster, God?”

Gary is a talented speaker; he gave a very engaging talk on an infamous person whose name is of great renown in the Occult community.  He explained how Crowley was brought up in a repressive religion; he then ‘swapped sides’ and pushed boundaries.  Crowley pursued his ‘true will’ but often his own ego got in the way, which Gary described as an ‘autistic drive’.  Gary’s presentation was incredibly enlightening regarding this undoubted monster of a man.  Crowley totally revelled in the name of ‘The Great Beast’ purportedly given to him by his mother.  During the search for his ‘true will’ Crowley caused countless upsets, broke many codes of moral conduct, and transgressed the ideals of the common good and social responsibility.  Yet in all this, despite his best intentions, Crowley managed to help others along their own paths to seek their own ‘true will’.  We would have loved to hear more!

Gary on stage

Gary Lachman is the author of twenty-one books on topics ranging from the evolution of consciousness to literary suicides, popular culture and the history of the occult.  He has written a rock and roll memoir of the 1970s, biographies of Aleister Crowley, Rudolf Steiner, C. G. Jung, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Emanuel Swedenborg, P.D. Ouspensky, and Colin Wilson, histories of Hermeticism and the Western Inner Tradition, studies in existentialism and the philosophy of consciousness, and about the influence of esotericism on politics and society.  https://garylachman.co.uk/

Second talk – Pete Jennings – “History of Pathworking”

         ‘A pathworking is a guided meditation using creative visualisation, but it can be used practically in so many ways as well as developing a person’s spiritual path.  Healing, relaxing, practising life skills, or simply enjoying yourself are just a few of the benefits.’  Pete Jennings

Pete’s pioneering volume on Pathworking was a real trailblazer.  This significant work has helped many people from different communities free their minds and explore the internal worlds, especially those who are confined due to ill health.  These techniques were also used by Prison Visitors during the rehabilitation of inmates who said, ‘They can’t go outside but they can in their mind’s eye’.  
Pete is a very entertaining speaker. He is funny and down to earth with his humour.  He took all the conference attendees on a short Pathworking to discover beneath a great tree a foundation stone of ourselves.  We encountered some unexpected and shy beings who could answer just one question, and found a source of magical water to quench our spiritual thirst and bring healing energy to our being.  As many Pagan folk say, Pete is a legend.

Pete jesticulating

Heathen Pete Jennings recently updated his original 1992 Pathworking book and has written over twenty more on Paganism, Heathenry, Ghosts and Folklore as well as three novels. He was born in 1953 and originates from Ipswich, Suffolk. He recently retired as a registered social worker but is also a qualified psychotherapist. Outside of work he was a President of the Pagan Federation, singer with rock and folk bands, radio presenter and actor. He continues to be an Anglo Saxon re-enactor and would really wish to be remembered for his pioneering work on the Speed of Dark.  http://www.gippeswic.org/

Lunch: an extended lunchtime this year gave everyone a chance to catch up with friends and to shop Pagan style.  As ever our stallholders put on a good show of creative and crafty talents, faery dolls, glass art, handmade garments, music, amber jewellery, cards, prints, dreadlock hairpieces, pyrography, incense, statues, books, and much, much more. 

Our speakers had books, cards, tarot, art prints, and CDs on offer In addition the 5th Elephant sold pre-loved Pagan items donated by the conference goers for this year’s charity.

Third talk – Karen and Colin Cater – “Spirit of the Hare”

Karen, accompanied by her husband Colin, spoke about the narrative of the magical hare through history, folklore, and mythology.  She also spoke about the uses of the hare in folk magic and spell-work, and the uses of hare and rabbits feet in safeguarding the family and for luck.  The Tradition of the Hare has greatly driven Karen’s artistic endeavours, both pictorially and in song.  They treated us to several songs of the hare encouraging the audience to participate throughout.  Great fun!

Karen and Colin on stage

Karen and Colin Cater are Hedingham Fair. You will almost certainly know Karen’s Yule card and T-shirt designs, they are quintessentially English, but standing at the crossroads where folklore and historical culture intertwine with mysticism and the Old Religion. In the background of Karen’s work there has always been the land, its creatures and the passage of the seasons, also reflecting her love of home and countryside. Karen is the artist, Colin the historian; both are folklorists, writers, singers and musicians.  http://www.hedinghamfair.co.uk/about_us.htm

Final talk – Kristoffer Hughes –“Cerridwen – Witch, Muse, Goddess?”

Kris always comes over as such a euphoric person and a great laugh: no doubt a fantastic counterbalance for his profession life as an Autopsy Technologist and Bereavement Officer.  He will say something outrageous to make you chuckle then he will stop and fix you with a serious look and pass on a nugget of wisdom born from a deep love of scholarship.  Kris schooled the conference goers in the ‘Awen’ chant, the Holy Breath.  His definition of Cerridwen is of a ‘holy woman who bends magic’.  He led us on a journey of discovery concerning the when and why Cerridwen became a goddess of inspiration and magic to Pagan folk.  She has been part of the Welsh Bardic traditions for at least 1,500 years, the people rejoiced in songs of her tales.  Later bards were employed by lords in their courts for poetry and story and so Cerridwen became a caricature of twisted old crone. 

Kris laughs with us

Kristoffer Hughes is the founder and head of the Anglesey Druid Order in North Wales. He is an award winning author and a frequent speaker and workshop leader throughout the United Kingdom and abroad. He works professionally for Her Majesty’s Coroner. He has studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and is its 13th Mount Haemus Scholar. He is a native Welsh speaker, born to a Welsh family in the mountains of Snowdonia. He currently writes for Llewellyn Worldwide specialising in Celtic studies and also death and bereavement.  He lives on the Isle of Anglesey, the last stronghold of the ancient British Druids. http://www.angleseydruidorder.co.uk

Closing ritual

This year folk made paper boats in celebration of Isisdis Navigium or Festival of Isis of the Ships.  This joyous festival was celebrated between 5th and 8th March throughout the late Roman empire. The festival marked the beginning of the sailing season and ships sailed under the protection of the Goddess Isis. 

Pots, soil and sunflower seeds were distributed as part of the ritual blessing. Many Pagans later boasted about the height of their Sunflowers!

Traditional Spiral Dance

Merv Davy, former Grand Bard of Cornwall and Cornish Piper, and Alison (his Drummer), led everyone with the sound of pipe and drum to help to bring the energy of Spring into our hearts and add to the spirit of Penstowe. http://www.an-daras.com/W_Pyba2010/index.htm

Cornish piper

Evening music – Damh the Bard

Damh performed the evening music, giving folk the chance for dancing. 

Damh the Bard

Damh the Bard is a modern-day Bard whose spirituality and love of folk tradition is expressed through his music, storytelling and poetry. Along with his musical concerts, Damh has also given talks, run workshops, and participated in panel discussions at conferences and camps in the UK, Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA.  https://www.paganmusic.co.uk/  

Raffle in aid of The Woodland Trust

The conference raised £480 from the raffle and proceeds of the 5th Elephant stall in support of Ausewell Wood near Ashburton.  https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/support-us/give/appeals/ausewell-wood/

Woodland Trust stall with badger.