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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wellspring 2014

 I returned home yesterday from my first national festival, Wellspring, an event put on by ADF.  This is ADF's 30th year, and although I've been a member since 2001 I've never attended an ADF gathering before. This year though I was asked if I'd be interested in doing a few workshops at Wellspring and after discussing the logistics with my Kindred sister, decided that it would be fun to go and bring the kids. I put in proposals for a selection of workshops and was set to do three: honoring the Other Crowd as a modern pagan, living Celtic Reconstructionism, and the Hidden Folk in Norse and Irish culture.
Thor shrine in the Runestead

   There was some point then were putting 5 children ages 10 through 1 in a car together for close to 9 hours was a good idea. In retrospect I don't know when that point was, but we did it, and after an epic drive through the night to avoid holiday traffic we arrived at Brushwood. We chose a campsite located strategically close to the bathrooms (5 small children, remember?) and also on the fringe where crying baby at 6 am was less likely to bother people.
  There were a couple downsides to the weekend. We had been warned to be prepared for cold weather; we failed to anticipate it getting down to the mid-40's (Fahrenheit) at night and so did not have enough blankets. The kids were okay, of course, but the adults did not sleep well - and teaching workshops on little sleep makes for interesting times. I may have done an impression of Fonzie from Happy Days in one workshop. We also forgot to pack our bottled water so its safe to say dehydration was an issue.
  That aside I can honestly say Wellspring was an amazing experience. Brushwood itself is a wonderful place with a permanent nemeton and runestead where people can go to worship. I attended a moving Morrigu devotional at the nemeton the first day; during a portion of the ceremony where personal omens were being taken the temperature suddenly plunged so that our breath was a visible plume in the air and then just as suddenly warmed again. Every morning we would walk to these sacred places with the children to do our devotional prayers, which was powerful not only for my friend and I but also for the children.
My oldest daughter especially found the experience to be profound, as there was a small shrine to Brighid she went and prayed at every morning. She feels a strong connection to Brighid, which was made stronger by this devotional practice. I suspect she's trying to think of how to make something like this at home now.
Brighid's shrine
 Speaking of children - Wellspring had a great kids program with lots of fun activities. We'd been a little worried about keeping the kids occupied and happy, but they all enjoyed themselves - enough that they are asking to go back.
   There was a potluck dinner the second night we were there and I have to say I have never had so much fun at a potluck before, even if I was wrestling tired kids most of the time. The food was great, the company was great - Stone Creed Grove kindly invited our rolling circus to sit with them - and the atmosphere overall was convivial. And after dinner the Dragon Ritual Drummers performed, which was amazing to listen to - even from a quarter mile away, in a tent, with a sleeping infant.
  I saw an old friend and was able to spend a little bit of time with her, met several people in real life that I had previously only known online, and made several new friends over the course of the weekend. I think my workshops went well, and I enjoyed the ritual I was able to attend. I certainly wish I'd had more time to spend talking with people but overall I think Wellspring was a successful experience for us, and I came home feeling physically tired but spiritually revived.