For the third time in as many years, Mouse and I traveled east to the green hills of western Ohio for Elysium, the autumn festival sponsored by AODA's Three Roads Community Grove. This year's Elysium added an additional day and ran from the afternoon of Thursday, September 15 to lunchtime on Sunday, September 18. Camp Clifton, an old 4-H camp not far from Yellow Springs, OH, was once again the venue, and plenty of familiar faces from Three Roads and the wider Pagan and occult communities made the festival feel like a homecoming for us.
The keynote of this year's festival, though, was diversity. From drumming and dancing to scholarly papers, from Celtic soul retrieval to Chinese qigong and martial arts, from the spiritual implications of meteorology to recipes for cooking with mead, and much more, the festival schedule was crowded with a wildly diverse mix of perspectives and practices. The opening and closing rituals followed the traditional AODA grove ritual format, and the main ritual on Saturday also drew on AODA ritual formulae, but other ceremonies at the festival ranged from traditional Roman offerings to Pomona and Minerva on Saturday morning to a Shiva and Durga Puja performed by Snakes Rising on Saturday night.
The offerings spilled over the conventional boundaries separating Pagan traditions from other branches of the alternative spiritual scene as well. It's not every Druid festival that features the consecration of an independent Catholic bishop, but those who were awake early Sunday morning got to watch the traditional ceremony as Father Jason Spadafore was consecrated by Bishops John Plummer and David Kling. Jason, a rising star in the field of Christian occultism, commented several times about how welcome the other attendees made him feel; he plans on returning next year and teaching a workshop. Other workshops breaking barriers this year included two by special guest John Plummer, on Christo-Paganism as a sacramental synthesis and on initiation on the Tree of Life; a survey of Sophian Gnosticism; and a class on JeWitchery, a tradition fusing Wicca and Judaism.
Bright memories from this year's festival include the spectacular candlelight labyrinth on the gaming field on Saturday night, like a galaxy of light on the moonlit grass; firespinning by the Clan of Pyros; birds appearing on cue to bless the inauguration of Q. Caecilius Metellus as a pontifex in Nova Roma, a Roman Reconstructionist tradition; and, as always, the warmth and enthusiasm of grove members and attendees alike.
Plan on being there for next year's Elysium. I certainly will.