This past weekend I attended a small Pagan festival with a group from my Tradition. About forty of us went camping in Virginia with about eighty other Pagans (that we did not know before). It was raining and sunny, warm and cold, quiet and noisy. There was learning and teaching, rituals and cooking (and dish duty for those of us that do not cook), eating, drinking and not enough sleeping. There was laughter and singing, grumbling and bitching, making new friends and visiting with community. It was both wonderful and exhausting.
I spent a good deal of time just sitting by the fire. Not the “Big Balefire” but the small campfire in the quiet space at the edge of our encampment. This was the most profound experience that I engaged in this weekend. Each time that I had to leave the fire, to go to bed or take a shower, to eat or wash dishes, to attend a class, or a ritual, or to pack up and travel home, I was at least a little reluctant to do so.
From my place beside the fire, I shared in community. I witnessed family and long-time lovers, two young people making a new connection, and a very wet mother and her two small children warming themselves beside the fire of new friends. I heard the alarm when the smallest went missing and the joy of her being found wandering unharmed down the road the way little ones will do. I heard funny songs and told the story of a zombie war and the cauldron at the center of it.
I sang a chant of my own making and sought to gain answers from the embers. I asked questions and learned about things from others with knowledge I do not yet possess. I shared tears with a coven-mate whose heart is amazingly open and full of love. And, alone for a brief while, I practiced tending the fire (successfully to my great satisfaction).