After a seven 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 thought it an auspicious occasion to attend and celebrate with the rest of the team.
We were delighted to receive such a warm enthusiastic welcome from the majority of attendees on our arrival Friday evening. It was obvious that many had missed Cassandra’s vibrant entertaining personality.
We had another surprise meeting with John and Kitty who had travelled from Scotland to attend the Conference. It had been 6 years since we last met.
Levannah was delighted to see Cassandra and they spent part of the evening updating one another on events and sharing a little nostalgia of previous Conferences.
On Saturday morning during the Opening Ritual, Levannah made the surprising announcement that the event would no longer be connected with the Pagan Federation and would continue independently.
The following text is taken from literature 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!
It surprised us to hear of this change along with other developments that had occurred, but we understood the reasons for their decision. All who attended seemed supportive of it as they had enjoyed this event throughout the last 20 years and were happy about its continuity.
Levannah spoke of the early years and it was delightful to hear Cassandra included in these memories. All of the organizers were asked to stand and were 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 is charismatic and confident with their personal subject. They also have excellent rapport with the audience which is wonderful to observe.
Julian Vayne never fails to entertain and 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 relating how the Craft was not taken seriously in the past. He attained his position as a Professor before he began to speak on these matters hoping his position as an academic would alter perceptions. He injects some humour into his stories too and this helps when dealing with deep, serious content.
During the lunch break Cassandra and I were approached by others, requiring an update on our lives and work. 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 various runes when sung or chanted. The audience participated by singing each note and the vibrations were 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 always remember the wonderful welcome I received from her on arrival at the 2006 Devon and Cornwall Conference after we purchased our new home in Cornwall. Immediately after her greeting she introduced me to Cassandra.
The speakers along with Damh the Bard formed a panel who were given questions from members of the audience. A memorable answer 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 in turn by each speaker of 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 this competition as Sekhmet among many other entrants.
The closing ritual was the story of a Shaman drumming by a small fire in woodland. His spirit energy 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 converse with 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 after a ten minute walk from the venue. The night air was refreshing as a full Conference event 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 Wisewomen in West Cornwall Facebook page. It was good to receive feedback on various posts 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 was recovering from a recent fall but still worked hard at the Conference. The evening provided an opportunity for her to relax and enjoy Damh’s wonderful music.
Cassandra and I were pleased we decided to attend this special event and had a fabulous time. We wish the Devon and Cornwall Conference a successful future as they forge ahead as Pagan Phoenix South West.