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Festival Reviews

Desert Magic 2005


Desert Magic was a weekend I wished would never end.

Yes, that sounds familiar. People talk about festivals like that all the time. It's common and I've read it in many people's journals. But this is the first time I have ever realized less than half-way through a festival that I didn't want it to end.

You see, to me, festivals end That's what they do. It doesn't really bother me for the most part. But on Friday night, as I lay down to sleep, I realized that I really didn't want this weekend to end. I wanted to hang out for a long time with Kirk, Linda, Jenni, and everyone else there. I just wanted to nap in the sun and talk to Meredith and Ian and Skip and Jessie and Erien. I wanted to sit alone in the Stone Circle and just be there with the spirits of the place.

But festivals end. We don't want them to, but they do.

Day 1

Tina took me to the airport on Thursday morning, bright and early (and she deserves a lot of thanks for that). In Port Columbus, I boarded a plane to Las Vegas, and my adventures began.

I sat down next to a largish gentleman. He was watching the classic movie Wild Things, and didn't at all seem perturbed that several kids were also watching it over his shoulder. His philosophy, he explained to me, was that "if parent's aren't watching their kids close enough to see that they're seeing this, then they're bad parents."

I declined his offer of an earbud to watch it with him, and pulled my fedora down over my eyes.

I deplaned in Las Vegas, and I caught sight of something that looked very out of place: Kori.

I jogged up behind her, and placed my hands over her eyes. This resulted in a reaction I had somehow forgotten about: an elbow to my ribs. She turned and started to apologize, but when she saw who I was, she just laughed. "C'mon, we're going to the Strip!"

And I was dragged out into the desert while my baggage was being loaded onto the other plane.

I keep thinking that it was two hours out there, but the whole layover was only one hour and forty minutes. I probably only spent a half hour on the strip before headed back so I could get through security.

She was in Vegas to gamble away some extra cash. I haven't heard yet how well she did, but knowing her, she's probably married to some rich guy and swilling champaign while she waits for him to die. Crazy girl.

We didn't get to any casinos, but I can say I saw the Strip from the ground. Yay.

Anyway, back onto the plane I went after a minor argument with security about my empty water bottle, and off to Tucson it was.

I sat next to another large gentleman this time. He was an Arizona or Arizona State fan (I don't remember which, but I think ASU?), and we talked football, basketball, and other things that exist in my Great Storehouse of Knowledge that I Shouldn't Keep Around But Do.

I landed in Tucson having no idea what was about to happen. Kirk had never told me that there would be a person there. I didn't have his number or his address. I simply figured I'd do my best, and started walking out.

I came down the ramp and was very happy to see both Kirk and Skip waiting for me! It was like I'd been met by a delegation of important people: you know, the kind only important people get? Heck, that's the Archdruid and incoming Vice Archdruid picking up little ol' unimportant me. Talk about making a guy feel special.

We stopped at a Target and did some shopping for the Jimmy Buffett ritual. It was amusing, three grown men of various ages and various sexual orientations looking for dashboard hula girls and flamingo cups. We grabbed some things for the rite, and then went to get liquor for the rite and for the weekend (because Ian needs his beer, you know).

Anyway, I got in, gave some hugs around and met some new people, claimed a room in the guest house (giving Jenni the four-poster bed, as I didn't think I'd need to tie anyone up that weekend). Then I got a tour of the beautiful house Kirk and Steve have, and walked out to look at the pool, where I'd be doing my rite, and Jenni would be doing hers.

Up at the pool, there was a cluster of people hanging out in the shade. I sat down with them and started talking. I re-met a few of them, and met a couple for the first time. Among those people were Erien, Jessie, Nora, Dennis, Kirk, Skip, Toad, and lots of people who just went in and out all day.

I took everything in, relaxing in the shade, out of the sun. Erien and Nora and a few other people decorated the temple, getting it ready for Jenni's Roman ritual. I got to know the people around me over the course of the next few hours, and some of them would be constantly with me through the next few days. (Erien especially. I was shocked that, by the end of the first night, I realized that I was going to miss her at the end of the weekend. I've never met anyone at a festival before and realized so quickly that I'd be missing them as soon as they left.)

We sat out for a while, hanging out in the shade until the sun got too close. I missed the first workshop while hanging out in the shade. It was just too much effort to move. I did get up for dinner, though, which was delicious. This was followed by the opening ritual, a wonderful and excellent rite in which the gates were opened for the weekend. Erien and I walked down together. It was great watching Jenni's face as she saw the circle revealed to her.

The sun went down after this, and we went up to the pool. There, we cracked open some beer and whisky, and got into the pool and/or the hottub. I actually didn't get into any of the hottubs, but rather stayed in the pool this year. Steve likes to keep the pool at the main house at a steady 90 degrees. It was plenty warm for us.

I relaxed with about 10 other people in the pool, all of us naked, no lights on. Well, all of us naked except Erien, who eventually took off her suit when she realized that a) no one cared, and b) no one could see anything anyway.

That lasted about three hours, as people continued to trickle in, including Ian and Liafal. It was amusing to see someone come in that you knew, and call out to them: it was so dark that no one could see into the pool, but we could see everyone who came in because they were closer to the lights.

Around midnight, I walked Erien back to the guest house, and then went back to my room and passed out pretty darn quickly.

Day 2

The next morning, I slept through the dawn ritual on purpose. I knew I'd be too jet-lagged if I didn't. I got up for breakfast, and began practicing my part for the Roman ritual. Jenni led the rite, and it was a lot of fun, and very impressive. There was some serious question about the omen-taking, where we asked if the Kindred had accepted our offering, and we used a coin. It seems that most of the people on the West Coast don't like dead certainty of failure as a possibility in their rites. There was quite an edge of fear in the air.

And I managed not to mess up that outdwellers' invocation. For the most part. I mean, it was in Latin (which is kinda like Spanish, but not).

Following that, Mark and Julian led a workshop on creating a magical journal, which was the first real workshop (read: non-ritual) I attended. I sat on the couch with Jessie, Toad, and Erien, and they presented an excellent workshop. This was followed by an excellent lunch, and Ian's workshop on Beginning Practical Magic, which covered the basics of what I would talk about the next morning.

After that, we had a somewhat effective DP Mentors Roundtable. Erien had run off with my notebook (I'd let her borrow it for the previous workshop), so I was out my notes for the class, but it still went pretty well. During this, Erien and Liafal were creating the space for the Buffett Rite with no direction from me, and I can't begin to thank them enough for that. They did an amazing job!

Following that, Skip presented on the Divine Liver, which was an interesting method of divination. I had to get ready for my rite, though, and I was feeling the crunch of fear and stagefright that is usual for me before a rite.

Finally, we got up to the pool to start the Buffett Rite.

I'm, honestly, unhappy with my performance. I did get a chance to explain the songs, but it was dark, I was feeling rushed and uncomfortable, and I sang very, very poorly. I mean, it was bad.

I really think I only got one invocation right, and that was the Gatekeeper. I had everyone stop singing along, and I know I nailed it as best as a guy with no vocal training can do. That helped a lot.

Our omens were very good, even though I only got 4 praise offerings out of the 30-some people in attendance. The Waters of life messed up some (Erien and Jessie were kind enough to go running for them), but the margaritas were all gone by the end of the night.

The bardic circle afterwards was amazing, though: I got to hang out with a small crowd as Ian and Liafal sang (though it was a terrible lead-in to their concert), talk, laugh, and drink. I lounged in a chair with Erien and Jessie for a while, until Carmilla came up and Jessie moved over to another chair with her to lounge. It was good to get to talk to them and get to know them well. I really like to just sit and talk.

The evening ended with talk of things spiritual and things not so spiritual, and I trundled off to bed.

Day 3

The next morning, I got up and prepared for my Chaos Magic workshop. This, of course, involved my favourite pants and preparing my handouts (which are available in .pdf format for those of you who didn't get them). Linda was going to help me out with a bit of it, but she got held up by a late massage and so got there just a tad late to help.

The presentation went great, though. I started on time, I had fun, and I ended almost exactly on the 1.5 hour mark, which was excellent.

Following this workshop, I headed back to my room to pass out because I was still tired from the night before. A few other people came back to my room as well, including Erien, Jessie, and Toad, and we all slept for a couple hours, more or less piled on the bed. In doing so, we missed the Sensory Depravation workshop. I believe my comment was, "If they wrap me in cellophane and put a blindfold on me, I'm going to pass out and fall asleep." I think everyone in my room felt the same way.

Most of us got up for lunch, and then went to see Meredith give her presentation on omen-taking in ritual. It was remarkably informative, and I learned a whole lot from it. I think this was probably the most informative workshop all weekend, and I really had fun at the workshop.

Following this, Ian and Liafal did part one of the Gate Working, a very hands-on workshop, where we got to apply some of the sigil working we'd learned in workshops all weekend. The point was to create a place between the worlds by taking a tine and painting stuff on it.

My own tine ended up as an homage to Discordia. I couldn't think of what else to do, so I just did what came natural. Erien and Toad made really nifty-looking ones.

Following that final workshop, we had dinner, which was a delicious leg of lamb. After that was the ADF Unity Rite.

Gannd had come up to me before the rite and asked me what part I wanted. I saw that the Outdwellers' portion was not taken yet, and I jumped on that chance. Here's the invocation I wrote:

Eris, Baby, Redhead Hottie,
Drinkin' chai and sippin' latte:
Take your children back to Night
And dance until the morning light.

Process from here, or maybe loiter
Or party here outside the border.
Drink and dance and have some fun
And argue who's the Prettiest One.

I think I'm the first person to ever use the word "hottie" in an ADF ritual context. I might be the first person to ever use the word in any religious context. . .

The rite went well (with some minor amusing mistakes), and the Gods were well worshiped.

After the rite, Erien and I hung out for a while, digging some mangos out and cutting them up. There was an attempt made to drink all the alcohol that had been purchased for the weekend, but I must admit to failure in this endeavor. Linda and Nora had their birthdays celebrated. There was a great and rousing game of alliteration (which Toad and Mark were expert at). I look forward to trying that game again at Wellspring, though I've been told I'm not allowed to practice.

The night was late, and eventually we started to drift off toward our beds. A good evening, all in all, even if I didn't manage to make it to the hot tubs or pool. The evening ended in some amusing back-lighting and shadow-puppetry and soft singing that probably started some great rumours.

Day 4

The next morning, we woke up and jumped in the cars to go out to Saguaro National Monument. We took a short walk out in the sun to see some of the local flora and fauna, and caught sight of the prints of a big cat with paws the size of my fist. We saw a huge saguaro cactus that looked almost like a tree at its base. It was quite impressive.

We got herded back into the cars, and taken part-way up a mountain, where we stopped and looked out over a small valley. I fought the urge to simply go walking. The crest of the mountain stood out, visibly stunning against the clear blue morning sky, and the valley before me was simply amazing. I didn't want to leave. Erien and I sat down on the rocks and just looked out until Kirk pulled me back to show me something down the path.

After that, it was back into the cars and around to our last stop, where there were rocks to climb! (I imagined Anna shaking her fist at me as I ran up the path to the rocks.)

I reached the rock first, my mind racing: hiking boots aren't good for climbing; it didn't look hard from the bottom, but it might be hard toward the top; it was about 40 feet up, I supposed, and I really wanted to be on top of it. So I started climbing.

Erien followed me up. I admit to a slight worry of sticking my hands into a rattlesnake den or catching a scorpion by surprise, but I went on with it anyway. I crested the top and looked out over the whole park. It was like standing on top of the world.

I reached back to help Erien (who had gotten slightly stuck) up to the top, and then offered to help Mark, who was doing just fine. The three of us stood atop the rock and looked out, as Jenni and Kirk stood on the ground and talked about how bad I was (and how much I apparently needed a spanking).

We eventually climbed down the other side, and went back to the house. I could have spent all day on those rocks, and perhaps next year I will.

We arrived for the second part of the Gate Working with Ian and Liafal, and the ritual was nice, though I was still on high from my climb. I handed off Toad's tine to Jessie, who took care of blessing it for him, as he was not well.

Following that, Gannd gave a workshop on making mead and cordials. I was falling asleep, though, so I asked Erien to come wake me up when lunch was ready and headed back to my room.

Lunch was good (leftover lamb and some excellent fruits), and I ate with Erien and Jessie. We talked for a long time, eventually missing the final workshop. I helped Erien pack and then saw her off. I found that my initial impulse was right: I did miss her immediately.

We closed the gates in the closing ritual, and many more goodbyes were said. I love this part of the festival, actually, because it's all about hanging out and talking and no one wanting to go home. It shows just how strong the bonds that are formed really are.

We got the Buffett Rite taken down and packed away. I put it all in boxes for Kirk to send it back to me, and then I went looking for something to do.

I ended up hanging out by the pool with Jenni, Nora, Dennis, and . . . crap, I can't remember his name, but he was referred to at one point as "bad pun guy", and that will have to suffice. I didn't get into the water, but just talked for a while.

Finally, I went to bed early, knowing I needed my sleep for the flight home.

Day 5

Kirk took Jenni and I back to the airport the next morning, and we said our goodbyes there. I watched the sunrise over Tucson from the terminal, and it was really beautiful. I smiled to myself and watched it rise until it blinded me.

Then it was onto a plane and off to Chicago-Midway. We talked about calling Narabali and Duke, but realized that for us to step outside of security and get back in within 1.5 hours was pushing it. Instead, we called Judi and left her an amusing message while we were in Chicago.

In Chicago, though, we found some eye-candy for Jenni. We discussed his merits and the likelyhood that he was gay and how much Judi would really like him. I made sure that Jenni got to watch him walk by us while he got onto the plane. After all, one cannot let eye-candy go by without eyes following it, right?

In Columbus, we had to walk behind him after picking up our baggage.

We caught a shuttle back to City Center, and Jenni dropped me off at home, and that was the end of our travels. I called Kirk and told him I had gotten in just fine.

All in all, it was the second best festival ever (Walking With Fire is still first, but this year's DMF is really, really close to first).

Pictures from this festival include these:

SSG's stone Cernunnos altar | Chronarchy takes down time!

I perform the Hottie Invocation | Hugging a hottie after main rite!

Jenni and me, pre-Roman Rite! | Jenni and I share a good laugh

The After-Buffett cool-down | Jenni briefs the non-Romans

Erien and me!

Pre-ritual briefing | Invoking the Earth

Fins up to ward against Outdwellers! | Oops! The Ancestors offering drops!

Invoking Fire | Erien, a hottie

Erien on a big rock | I got on top first!

Julian Green calls to the Fire | Relaxing before packing up

I make my final Praises at the closing rite


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