Reviewed by Alex Chaloner
On the morning of Wednesday 29th July I purposefully set off from my home in West Yorkshire at sunrise to mark the beginning of my journey to Somerset to celebrate the many aspects of the Sunfire Goddess, the theme for this year’s Glastonbury Goddess Conference.
Avalon was calling me this year. Responsibilities, commitments and my mental fires had begun to burn a little and I knew the conference would be welcome respite.
I attended alone this year (although you’re never truly alone at the conference). After a fleeting visit to Avebury in Wiltshire, I reached Glastonbury and pitched the tent in torrential rain wondering when the Sun Goddess would make Her appearance.
Having missed Wednesday’s daytime events my Conference started in the evening as myself and other participants gathered outside the town hall for the opening ceremony. It was raining again. A beautiful Scottish woman offered me her umbrella. We chatted about the conference and as I’d only just arrived I asked if I could join her Hearth Fire for the opening ceremony.
There were nine hearth fires, one for each of the Goddesses on the Wheel of Ana. They were safe spaces in which participants could share and support one another during the conference. The Scottish lady was in Brigit’s Hearth and I thought it couldn’t be more apt for me as it was my work in healing, writing and Priestess-facilitating (smithcraft as I like to call it) that needed re-balancing.
The opening ceremony and invocations to the Goddess caused the embers to spark and the flames were lit. When we left the town hall the moon was casting the sun’s light down upon us and the star fire of the heavens began to peep through the clouds. She had heard us.
What can one say about the presentations at the conference? They are always of such an excellent standard and this year was no exception. Thursday saw Lydia Ruyle catching the light of the Sunfire Goddesses in her banners and sharing a wealth of archeo-mythologic knowledge about the ancient Goddesses of fire and Sun.
Anique Radiant Heart enlivened us with her soulful songs and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house! Starhawk grounded us with her message of ecology, responsibility and action and many voices joined in, highlighting the strong link to practical action we Godessians hold alongside our rich, eclectic spirituality. Together we spiral danced the heat of our doing-flames back to the Earth Mother.
As I walked the streets of Glastonbury that afternoon I recognised the importance of fire in our lives. Not just the practicalities of it for hearth, home and nourishment, but that this world, this solar system, of which we are all a part, has so many different fire energies interwoven into its many planes. The soul-fire that helps us to be of service, the mind-fires that make our service practical, the electric-fires of true intellect and creative living, and the violet-fires of pure intuition.
Thursday night was filled with fun and laughter, dance and wonderful words. The poetry of Priestess Rose Flint enchanted us with word-fire. We lost Miss Smith for a while, but she was cleverly invoked and continued to bring the house down with her impromptu antics!
I was beginning to feel the sharp fires of commitment and responsibility soften and could feel my bright blue mental fires relax as I surrendered to the Lady and let her nurturing warmth enter me. I slept well that night on the earth of Avalon.
Friday’s invitation was to face the fire, culminating in an evening ritual fire walk. The day time presentations set the scene beautifully with Sandra Roman’s Hispanic invocations to the Sun Fire Goddess, Kathy Jones’ visual fire meditation and Annabel Du Boulay’s moving reflections on working with the dark-fire, Sophia, giving participants a chance to reflect on their own darkness before walking on the light. More ritual followed and much by way of un-sticking and preparing the mind, body and soul for the evening fire walk.
Some of the participants in our hearth fire were unsure as to whether they would fire-walk that evening. As we sat in circle listening to what each person wanted to leave behind in the fire, I began to see how fire and water together created the miasmas and fogs which have the power to block our true vision and hold us in limitation.
As the night progressed we gathered at Bushy Coombe and the Lammas fires were lit. There were three fires in all, Maiden-fire, Mother-fire and Crone-fire. In true form the crone fire took a little longer to get started and the rain began to fall. Billowing walls of foggy smoke started to flow away down the coombe mirroring my earlier reflections.
The lovely Scottish lady whose hearth fire I’d joined on the Wednesday turned out to be Oona McFarlane, the fire-walk instructor. I laughed to myself as I remembered casually asking her on Wednesday “can I join your hearth fire?” Little did I know!
Over the last months I had personally been struggling with authenticity both in my practice as a Priestess and therapist and in my personal life. I was walking with Maya and She was showing me my illusions, dressed up as attitudes handed down, limiting subconscious beliefs and other forgeries that it was simply time to let go of.
As the fog cleared that night the fires began to burn bright and strong. Flames licked the air sending sparks of expectancy and potential out all around. The fire serpent of Avalon snaked her way into each of us as we moved together beyond the veils to face the fires.
I was standing directly in front of the Crone fire - the fire that caught when it was ready and not before, the fire that demanded patience and persistence, the fire that helped me find these were the qualities I was lacking in myself at present.
It was a very hot fire and as I stood there entranced by the flames I began to shiver. I felt ice cold and I knew my body was releasing. It was happening all around me too, people breaking arrows, breaking through limitation and resistance getting ready to surrender and walk the hot embers releasing their fears. It was time.
As Oona guided us through the walking it all became a blur as one by one the people committed. Taking deliberate, swift and determined steps into the heat and sharpness of the Goddess fires, we shared a journey together back into authenticity, into reclaiming and re-weaving ourselves of flame and heat. Old and young, female and male and even a local dog walked the embers that night!
I’ve been to many conference rituals but for me and many others the fire walk was the most powerful. I went to bed with the smell of wood smoke in my hair and the feeling of release in my soul. What magic!
Fire My Spirit
Saturday was another day packed full of wonderful speakers and workshops and my favourite part of the day was spent chatting to women over tea and cake in the town hall coffee shop.
On Saturday night it was time to get dressed up and really let your hair down at the Goddess Gala Masque. The food was eaten; the wine drunk and we sang to one another “sweet sister of mine” as Julie Felix lifted our hearts and wove her musical web of connection and community.
Then the highlight of the evening - the maiden performance of the new Glastonbury band Divine Roots. They entertained us with a wonderful eclectic mix of deep glowing invocations, drum and base beats, disco and much more. In fact I doubt there isn’t a genre of music that the talented bunch couldn’t make the Goddess’s own. They were fabulous and they made me dance until my feet hurt!
Sunday morning was the procession through the sacred landscape of Avalon. It was on a Lammas trip to Glastonbury some 6 years or so ago that I first came across the Goddess conference. I was sitting peacefully at Chalice Well when the procession turned up banners flying, drums beating, singing Her praises. I’ve never looked back.
It’s interesting that so many of us are pulled back to the Glastonbury conference each year. The Goddess’ flame burns bright there and personally I am always grateful for the space that Kathy Jones and all involved create for us. As a Priestess myself the conference is like treasure – it’s a place I can be a participant rather than a facilitator and there’s real value in that.
The Sun Fire Goddess had certainly revealed herself to me during that week. She had provided much needed fuel for my fires and they had led me back to a place of wholeness and revealed a new authenticity. I was shining again.
The closing circle on Sunday afternoon gave us chance to ground the conference with chants and praise and the give away. I received a lovely note pad and pen and smiled to myself knowing that it was of course Goddess given.
The final fringe event of the conference was the Sunday evening Hearth fire concert with the otherworldly Carolyn Hillyer and Nigel Shaw. And as the drum and flute helped me ground, I felt my starry violet antlers grow a little closer towards the central sun-fire. I knew that all was well once again.
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