Blessed Lammas! I hope you had a good time as I most certainly have. My celebration was special this year: it marked my first visit to Castlefest!
For those people unfamiliar with the festival, allow me to give an explanation of the event as I understand it. Castlefest is a three day celebration of fantasy, medieval times, craftmanship and paganism. The terrain is filled with music on stage you could classify as balfolk, Celtic, pagan or medieval and at least half of the visitors wear the most beautiful or extraordinary costumes. There is a LARP village, a kiddie field, and a steampunk place, you can do workshops with the Heathen Gang, try your hand at playing the harp, learn something new at the Academy or listen to one of the storytellers. And of course you can eat and drink and be amazed walking past all the stands with so many amazingly crafted items, intriguing books and wonderful attires and accesories.
As you can tell by my description, I had a great day. My daughter fell asleep on my back at some point, but has been really sweet and happy and amazed by people’s faces not conforming to what her nearly two-year-old brain considers normal. She kept staring at some elves, was scared to tears by a crooked-nosed witch and was offered to shoot a gun by a pirate she had been charming. She was smiling all the time, gobbled up her pancake and when we finally went to bed, she slept for 8 hours straight, which almost never happens!
Castlefest explicitly is a celebration of Lughnasadh as well and for me, that was a big reason for wanting to go. Every year the festival has a wicker, which is a large – seriously, it can be 5 meters high or even taller – statue made with willow branches. People can make offerings to the wicker, putting them in the space purposefully left open in the statue, and with lighting it on fire on Saturday all the offerings can be transformed.
The wolf constructed this year amazed me. It was huge. It struck me as both powerful and beautiful, overseeing everyone. Two priestesses from the Heathen Gang were holding the space for those walking to the wicker and making an offering. For some people I could see it was very emotional or transformative. Not so much for me. I offered a bouquet of seven daisies and a twig picked up by my daughter for happy and carefree moments every day of the week. I also made a paper butterfly in a small workshop that has been put in the wicker.
My preparation was zero, as I had no clue what to expect. Next time, I will make sure to make my offering at home already, putting my time and more importantly energy into it. Nevertheless, it was special to see this big wolf, to add my offerings to the others. It was also quite special to me to have my husband join me in watching the wicker ritual through the live stream, being part of the ritual even though we weren’t there physically. The ritual was impressive and theatrical, but the burning was amazing and was the part that actually made an impact as the flames also touched the offering I made. [As soon as the YouTube video of the ritual is placed online by the organisation, I will link it here for you]
Listening to the storytellers and seeing them perform was both entertaining and something I could learn from. Storytelling is an art I am exploring as my Bardic exploration for the AODA curriculum. And I could now see there is more to storytelling than simply telling the story. There is facial expression, use of gestures, interaction with the audience and humor. It will be great to practice this myself at some point in my exploration, when I find or create the opportunity.
With all the stands, it is no wonder I came home with more stuff than I’d brought with me, though I’ve managed to restrain myself upon seeing beautiful blank notebooks, handbound, with soft leather covers, because I still have so many notebooks at home. The jewelery at some stands was also tempting, but seeing I’m not the jewelery type woman, it was a bit easier to pass this stand by eventually.
So what exactly was my ‘Castlefest haul’? I found several small brass bells I want to put on a string in the garden. I know my daughter would love to play with them and to be honest, so would I. The stand is one I will definitely revisite next year, with bells, flutes, whistled, chimes, drums and all kinds of small instruments. Another purchase I made is white wool someone has hand-spun. My hope is to dye it green using nettles or something else. I want to collect several strands of green yarn that have meaning to me, so I can make them into a green cord eventually. I let Willemijn, my daughter, take something back form the festival as well: 4 pretty stones she hand-picked from a treasure box and that the lady from the stand put in a pretty little sachet for her. Our little one is quite happy with this! My last find is a collection of smudge sticks made from plants growing in the wild here in the Netherlands. As I like smudge sticks but do not feel comfortable using white sage that feels disconnected, growing elsewhere on earth, I was happy to find these. I now have one with mugwort, one with wild sage, ceder and lavender and one with wild sage and yarrow.
It was an amazing Lammas, despite my lack of preparation for the ritual part of the celebration. Castlefest was amazing as well, and I really hope to return to it next year, perhaps together with my husband and daughter, to make it a family celebration.