Cassandra and I were Celebrants for a Handfasting three days after the Spring Equinox. This occasion was particularly unusual, as the couple had discussed having a ceremony for some time and then the bride decided to arrange the ceremony as a surprise for the groom. This meant the preparations were not as straightforward as the ceremonies we were accustomed to.
The venue chosen was the ATV Centre in Blackwater near Truro. There is an area of woodland next to the race track where we were able to perform the ceremony. We arrived to set up the space during early evening while there was light and soon after that darkness fell.
To conduct a Handfasting ceremony in woodland on a dark evening can be quite a challenge, although lights were hung within the trees and one of the guests offered to turn on his car headlights.
The ceremony however went well and our excellent professional photographer John Isaac managed to capture some wonderful images in somewhat challenging circumstances.
We wish the lovely couple every happiness for the future.
“Hi guys it was amazing and a huge huge thank you for a wonderful evening and for recommending john he is such a great guy. All of my friends commented on what an amazing ceremony it was. Thank you so much for being so understanding and being so professional and carrying on with the ceremony despite the difficulties. As for the honey moon drink……
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 thought it right to attend 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. It was obvious that many had missed Cassandra’s vibrant entertaining personality.
We had another surprise seeing John and Kitty who had travelled down 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. He attained his position as a Professor before he began to speak on these matters hoping his position as an academic would alter their 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 the purchase of my new home. Immediately after that she took me to Cassandra and introduced us.
The speakers along with Damh the Bard formed a panel who were given questions written by 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 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 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 10 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 that we attended 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.
Our guise team Boekka had a wonderful time at our yearly visit to Chepstow meeting the fabulous Mari Lwyds and friends once again. This year the temperature was a little warmer without the frost of 2017.
We arrived on Friday and spent the evening in the atmospheric bar of the historic Greenman Backpackers Hostel. A warm welcome awaits and the staff made a concerted effort to ensure their customers were comfortable and content.
Mike who owns the hostel is also a member of the energetic Widders Morris and organizer of the Wassail event. This is an extremely busy weekend for him.
The programme for the day began earlier this year as the Maris met outside the Greenman Backpackers Hostel before processing to the castle. They performed their usual banter and song to gain entry to the hostel and participated in traditional song as their voices echoed with the marvelous acoustics in the basement of the ancient building.
My ‘Oss Morvargh’s debut was at this event, receiving a copious amount of attention and admiration. Our good friend Phil Larcher, rider of the Mari Lwyd complimented me on Morvargh’s decoration which is praise indeed from one who has a strong connection with the spirit of the Mari, her primitive energy and history.
The procession through the town was downhill, but with the weight of an ‘Oss, a slow and steady pace is needed for the riders when walking through the wet cobbled streets.
After the procession we gathered for the Wassail by the ancient castle. We had a little time for preparation to bring out the Lands End ‘Oss Penkevyll. Her rider this year was an extremely fit and muscular Welshman and his family were delighted to see this. He was a tall man, so Penkevyll had the best view of the event above the crowd.
We enjoyed performances by Widders Morris and Styx of Stroud. Morvargh danced to the music and I had a wonderful ‘work out’!
During the Wassail at Chepstow castle, Penkevyll remained on higher ground as the ground was extremely muddy due to a copious amount of rain in the days leading up to the event.
After the Wassail we made our way to the Chepstow Castle Inn where a Beauty Pageant had been arranged for the Maris. Penkevyll could not join us for this as she was too tall to enter the building.
Morvargh received a huge cheer from the audience on appearing and many journalists required information about her and how the ‘Oss connects with Cornish tradition. We informed them that owning an ‘Oss or a ‘beast’ has become a trend in recent years as many new ones have appeared in Cornwall. Penkevyll however was one of the first in West Cornwall after Penglaz in Penzance.
There were 21 Maris and ‘Osses in attendance this year, 10 more than last year. Even though the Beauty Pageant was arranged and each Mari or ‘Oss received a rosette they are so uniquely beautiful it would be too difficult to choose a winner. All of them were winners that day and a credit to their owners with the obvious hard work that had gone into their creation.
It was time for the meeting of the Welsh and English on the Old Wye Bridge by early evening. A projector screen was erected this year so that those who could not join us on the bridge were able to watch the ceremony. Boekka decided not to take our ‘Osses to the bridge as we took time out to enjoy this part without distraction. My apprentice Teazer had done a fabulous job assisting with Penkevyll and Morvargh during the day so we had earned the freedom to enjoy the atmosphere.
Scarlet certainly has the wild mischievous energy required for being a Teazer.
Our good friend Jason Semmens held our Cornish flag and did an impressive job of displaying it beside the Welsh and English flags.
After the bridge ceremony we arrived at Chepstow Museum for the Maris to once again sing their traditional Pwmco and gain entry. The handler of Mari Pontypwyl offered my apprentice Teazer the opportunity to guide her Mari into the Museum and I followed on as a guide. Earlier in the day Scarlet also had the opportunity to ride one of David Pitts smaller ‘Osses so it was an event full of new and delightful experiences for her.
The Chepstow Wassail event is a long and active day, but we enjoyed every minute. Team Boekka worked well together and I would like to thank Cassandra, Scarlet, our rider and John Isaac (who captured some fantastic images) for all their hard work.
I have felt a close connection with Zennor from the first occasion Cassandra took me to visit Zennor Hill in 2009. We were there for the specific reason of my spiritual connection with the land. Whilst exploring the hill I was drawn energetically to the village of Zennor that was visible below the hill.
I then learnt about the legend of the Mermaid of Zennor and have already written about on this site. See Mermaid of Zennor
It was a delight to see the mermaid carving upon the side of the pew within St Senara’s church in Zennor.
The worn pew is tucked away in a side-aisle and shows the scars of over 500 years constant use.
The curious carving of the mermaid has many interpretations from its medieval worshipers. Mermaids were a symbol of Aphrodite Goddess of love and the sea who held a love apple in one hand and a comb in the other. the quince (love apple) was later changed to a mirror which is a symbol of heartlessness and vanity. Medieval Christians viewed her as a symbol of the ‘sins of the flesh’. She was used to illustrate the two natures of Christ in the seafaring community as she was half fish and half human symbolizing that the Christ could be both divine and human. This resonated with the inhabitants of the region as their lives were intertwined with and dependent on the sea.
Recently I visited The Healing Star in Penzance where they displayed a plaster cast of the Mermaid of Zennor by Rory Te Tigo. He left it in the shop hoping they could sell it for him. Each time I visited I was entranced by it, especially as there is little memorabilia of this particular mermaid. When I eventually decided to purchase it, Rory had collected the mermaid as he planned to display her at an event. I contacted him and he kindly offered to make another for me over a period of three weeks.
Rory had the marvelous idea of producing a casting of the mermaid carving displayed in the Tinner’s Arms at Zennor and creates replicas of it using this method.
I am now the proud owner of a Mermaid of Zennor which is about the same size as the one in the church. Rory described in great detail how he created her, as you can see by John Isaac’s wonderful photographs Rory works with precision and achieves wonderful results. Her powerful presence graces our home and brings with her the blessings of the sea.
To see more of Rory Te Tigo’s work visit his website
The summer of 2017 provided us with hot weather during the month of June. July and August were surprisingly cooler with a considerable amount of rain. The corn we gathered for the construction of dolls had a different texture from the previous year as some of the local farmers harvested early because of the moist weather.
We had a busy summer work-wise and spent time contemplating the harvest resulting from the year’s projects.
Our group met during the evening of Lammas to constructed new dolls and Brigid crosses.
We ventured out into the local fields of St Buryan to build a fire and burn our old corn dolls and crosses. It was a beautiful moonlit night with hardly a breeze. As each member of the group placed their corn in the fire we had time to reflect on the year that had passed, sacrifices we made and the lessons or rewards reaped as a result.
The flames and embers from a fire are hypnotic. This provides an ideal setting for scrying as many moving shapes are formed by the flames and smoke.
Conjuring and drawing energies from the fire and earth below, the moon and sky above, aware of the elementals surrounding and observing us along with the ancient ones creates a powerful potency to work with.
There was no better way on a moonlit night to celebrate the harvest of our creativity throughout the spring and summer of 2017.