After a 7 year absence from the Devon and Cornwall Pagan Conference, Cassandra and I attended the event this year.
A 20th anniversary is a commendable achievement and as Cassandra was one of the organizers for the first 12 years, we wished to be there and celebrate with the rest of the team.
We were delighted to receive such a warm enthusiastic welcome from the majority on our arrival Friday evening and it was obvious that many had missed Cassandra’s vibrant entertaining personality.
We had a further surprise when we met John and Kitty after 6 years who had travelled down from Scotland to attend the Conference.
Levannah was delighted to see Cassandra again and they spent some of the evening updating one another on events and sharing nostalgic memories of Conferences past.
On Saturday morning at the Opening Ritual, Levannah made the surprising announcement that the event will no longer have a connection with the Pagan Federation but would continue independently.
The following text is taken from the flyers which were handed out at the Conference:
Welcome to Pagan Phoenix Southwest
Pagan Phoenix SW·Wednesday, 7 March 2018
We have organised the conference event for the last twenty years in this region for Pagans with the Devon and Cornwall Pagan Federation. In 2019 there will be some changes to the way the conference is organised. The conference team has decided that it is time to make the conference independent of the Pagan Federation. This will enable it to grow and develop, and continue to be an annual event in Cornwall at Penstowe, for all Pagans and magical folk of all paths, at which we can gather together to celebrate, learn and enjoy.
Pagan Phoenix SW is an independent, locally run non-profit company which has been set up by your organising team to run the conference. This is all it will do; other activities undertaken by the PF will continue to be their responsibility. We will bring you the very best Pagan and magical speakers, artists and musicians.
You should not notice many changes; only good ones. The conference will be run on a not-for-profit basis and the team who organise it will be volunteers and will not be paid. Pagan Phoenix SW will retain enough funds to run the conference. There is currently a charity raffle at the conference but in addition to this, in future, any surplus funds will be donated to charity and if you attend the conference you will be invited to vote as to which charities we should support.
There will be a concessionary ticket rate and we will continue to offer two for one tickets for people with disabilities who require a carer in order to attend. Conference attendees are very welcome to make suggestions for speakers, and performers. We will welcome stall-holders and local crafts persons just as we do now. Accommodation will continue to be organised through our good friends at Penstowe. You are welcome to contact us via the facebook page.
We have already started work on the 2019 conference. The programme will be publicised and tickets will go on sale, as usual, at Samhain.
We would like to extend a very warm welcome to you to the next conference which will be held here at Penstowe on Saturday 9th March 2019. Please put the date in your diary now; we are looking forward to seeing you again next year.
Blessings to one and all from Pagan Phoenix SW!
Cassandra was surprised to hear of this change along with other developments that had occurred, but understood the reasons for their decision. All who attended were supportive of this as they have enjoyed this event throughout the last 20 years and were happy it would continue.
Levannah spoke about the early years and it was delightful to hear Cassandra included in these memories. All the organizers stood up to be applauded by the audience for their hard work.
During the day, the talks by Julian Vayne, Marian Green, Ronald Hutton, Susanne Rance and Penny Billington (in place of Rae Beth due to ill-health) are unique and fascinating speakers. Each one has developed a character and they are so confident with their subject. The rapport they have with the audience is wonderful to observe.
Julian Vayne never fails to entertain and he has the remarkable talent of drawing you into his ‘world of the wyrd’ with his fascinating view on the Craft .
Marian Green is a ‘mine of information’ and her delivery is relaxed due to numerous years of experience and a deep connection with her subject. The same can be said of Penny Billington.
Ronald Hutton’s story of his early days within the Craft held one’s attention, especially when speaking on how the Craft was not taken seriously and he attained his position as a Professor before he began to speak about the matter hoping his position as an academic would alter their perceptions. He manages to inject some humour too which helps when listening to deep and serious subjects.
During the lunch break Cassandra and I were approached by more people requiring an update on our lives. We were never alone that day as there were so many to speak to at this well attended event.
Susanne Rance discussed the meaning of Runes and their connections with certain areas of the body. There are powerful sounds that resonate with individual runes when sung. The audience participated by singing each note and these vibrations could be distinctly felt around the venue.
Levannah also gave tribute to our dear friend Lorraine Hall who sadly passed away the previous year. She worked along with Cassandra during the early years of the Conferences and I will never forget the wonderful welcome I received from her on arriving at the 2006 Devon and Cornwall Conference after the purchase of my new home in Cornwall 12 years ago. Immediately after that she introduced me to Cassandra.
The speakers along with Damh the Bard formed a panel who were given questions written by members of the audience. One that was memorable for me came from Damh when he appealed to the Pagan community to put aside ‘sh!tty egos’ and make a concerted effort to get on with one another instead of creating divisions. He also spoke of his first meeting with Cassandra in the early days of discovering his Pagan path. Each question asked was answered by each speaker in the panel. Their individual views, interpretations and stories were inspiring to hear.
During this, the winner of the Deities competition at the 2006 Conference appeared on stage wearing his Cernunnos costume that caused much hilarity when he won that year. I had also entered as Sekhmet among many other entrants.
The closing ritual was about the Shaman drumming by a small fire in woodland where his spirit connected with various animals, a Phoenix, buzzard, fox, stoat, badger and the woodland spirit.
The narrator explained the symbolism and the gift of insight the Shaman would receive from each one. The animal masks were well made and the costume of the golden Phoenix was beautiful.
No event would be the same without an appearance from our wonderful Cornish Piper Merv Davey to lead the spiral dance. We had the opportunity to speak to him and his wife during the lunch break and he expressed an interest in performing at our All Hallows event.
We visited the London Inn for an evening meal which is only a 10 minute walk from the venue. We welcomed the night air as a venue full of people can become extremely warm. As we studied the menu near the bar a young woman approached me and expressed her appreciation and enjoyment of our Cornish Wisewomen Facebook page. It was good to receive some feedback on the various posts that I share as well as our updates on work and events.
We arrived back at Penstowe Manor in time for Damh the Bard’s performance. We sang, danced and had a wonderful time with good friends. Fiona is recovering from a recent fall in which she was badly injured but still worked hard at the Conference and the evening provided an opportunity to relax and enjoy Damh’s wonderful music.
Cassandra and I were so pleased we attended this special event as we had a fabulous time. We wish the Devon and Cornwall Conference well for the future as Pagan Phoenix South West.