Monday, May 15, 2023

Spoutwood Says Goodbye Sometimes

 Ah, Spoutwood, Spoutwood! Home of the first and biggest fairy festival! We at “The Gods Are Bored” salute you and daub a tear from the eye.


The May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm was held at a private property (Spoutwood) until 2019. The weekend event – spiritual if you wanted spirituality, silly fun if you wanted that, music and drumming if you wanted that – outgrew its location at long last. Since 2019 it has been held at two different venues near Baltimore.


As with any community, the dedicated Spoutwood volunteers have become like family over the years. We have watched children grow up from tots to tweens to teens to twenty-somethings. We’ve developed real bonds and genuine care for one another. Anyone who says the only place you can achieve that kind of agape love is in church, well. Either Spoutwood is a church, or agape can develop among people who are like-minded and willing to show other people how to have a good time.



As far as I can count, the 2023 May Day Fairie Festival was my 18th year in attendance. And just as those tots have turned to twenty-somethings, I have moved along from Mother to Crone. The walking, the dancing, even the shouting, has become more difficult. And yes indeed, my enthusiasm has waned as I pine for dear Spoutwood Farm, even though this year’s venue was breathtaking.


For many years I built my whole spring around Spoutwood. This year, when I set out on Saturday morning to drive to the event, I realized I had forgotten my dragon, Big Red. I had forgotten the small Mountain Tribe banner hanging in my spare room. I had forgotten earrings, for crying out loud. I only brought the one costume I was wearing. And my energy level – more and more it’s non-existent in May – was almost underground.



All three of you long-timers here at “The Gods Are Bored” might recall that I have been leader of the Mountain Tribe for about 15 years. Oh my bored Gods, how I have loved doing Mountain Tribe! But time marches on. When one forgets her dragon and her earrings, it’s time for a change.


And so I decided to step down from Mountain Tribe. I had a person in mind to replace me, and when I asked him to do it, he got tears in his eyes. The beauty of this festival is that there’s a whole new generation of young people who are willing to put in the hard work to organize and run it. One of those people is now the new leader of Mountain Tribe.


And so, at the Sunday ceremony, I formally removed my Mountain Tribe insignia (which somehow I didn’t forget) and gave it to the new leader. I thought I too might cry, but I didn’t. In fact I felt quite happy to see this young man, with all his devotion, take over something I have loved for such a long time.



The new location for the May Day Fairie Festival is waterside, Chesapeake Bay views with a rocky point and a sweet, small beach. But time after time I found myself daydreaming about Spoutwood Farm, in the rolling Piedmont hills just before Appalachia, how green everything is there, that bright golden green of early spring so beloved by the poets. And I thought about the folks who were in Mountain Tribe there who live in that area and didn’t make the journey to the new location.


It’s time for this magnificent festival to continue without me. Its future is bright.


Being a part of Spoutwood has deeply enriched my life. But Spoutwood says goodbye sometimes. And I wave, and blink back tears, and move on down the line.

Friday, May 05, 2023

If It's Baneful, Can I Still Laugh?

 Hello, Witches! It's Anne at "The Gods Are Bored," chiming in with another installment of the Blog That Just Won't Quit. Today's sermon: performing hillbilly hoodoo in suburban New Jersey! Talk about a challenge.

I don't like bane work, but it's part of my culture, so I'm not afraid to do it. Bane work originated among oppressed people who had no other recourse when The Man shoved them around. Needless to say, that is still happening in the here and now.

Take my situation, for example. There is a person in my workplace who is universally despised. I don't wish that person ill, I just want them out the door, on to other horizons.

This post isn't about that person and the grievances. It's about gathering the necessary ingredients for this particular bane work. Namely, dirt from an active railroad track.

If I was out in Appalachia where I come from, this would be so easy to do: just saunter out to the track with a shovel and dig. But I'm not in Appalachia. I'm in New Jersey.

 It's not like there aren't any trains - there's an El that runs every ten minutes just six blocks from my house. But the first thing you notice about an El train is that it doesn't run across dirt. About the best dirt you could get from the El is if you either swept up the platform (a job I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy) or swept up one of the cars (even more disgusting). Nope! Can't use the El.

This leaves an Amtrak line that sort of shares the El right-of-way in places. And the first thing you should know about Amtrak is that they don't like people on their tracks. Any area worth its salt will have its Amtrak tracks well guarded by chain link fencing.

I am a lady of a certain age, unable and unwilling to scale chain link. It never stopped me when I was younger, but now I would be hard pressed, you know? To save my life, sure. But not just to dig up some dirt for a spell.

Fortune was in my favor, though. I know where the Amtrak line is, and one time when I was out walking during the quarantine, I blundered upon it unannounced at an obscure trail that's surprisingly close to my house. At the point where this mostly unmarked trail crosses the tracks, the chain link has been helpfully peeled back. I remembered this, and after trying three or four other spots, I set off for the peeled-back fence.

I suppose the last time I approached this railroad track it was high summer, dry and hot. But now it's springtime, and we just had a week of hard rain.

I couldn't remember if the rushing stream was on the east side of the tracks or the west side. I sorta kinda remembered east. But even so, when last I forded it (summer, hot, dry), it was a little dainty leap, and all done. 

Turns out the stream is on the west side. It was a torrent not to be trifled with.

Admittedly, I tried to ford the murky waterway by jumping from rock to rock. Alas, just as with the chain link, I'm no longer so spry. Inevitably I found myself up to my calves in a gushing brook. At least I had on my good Altra trail runners with decent tread. When I fell, I was nearly to the bank. Nearly.

At last, having crossed the brook like a badass mountain hillbilly, I scaled a rise (steep, used my hands and fell anyway), found the path, and proceeded to the train tracks. 

I was just in time to be shooed off by the 4:00 Express bound for Atlantic City. But the engineer didn't see me (even in my neon tie-dye, it was 60's day at school).

The AC express is the only train that uses this particular track, so I knew I was in the clear after the 4:00 sailed past. But ah, here's the next rub. Your modern train track is chock-a-block with big stones, not gravel and dirt. I had to chuck a good-sized layer of stone aside before I got even a few smaller rocks and - finally - a little bit of dirt. When I say that train track was cleaner than the platform of the El, I am absolutely not exaggerating. I felt positively elated to extract about three tablespoons of dirt from that train bed.

Back I went with my goods, down the steep rise (on my kiester) and through the rushing stream (not even trying to stay dry). I sloshed back to my car and melted into the thick rush-hour traffic, the daring hillbilly witch with her bane work ingredients.

The final piece of this spell was to actually write a script for the work. Now, your seasoned witch has a grimoire for such things, no doubt written in cursive with a feather pen and inkwell. Me, I felt like I had already achieved the primeval just by daring Amtrak to part with a tablespoon of dirt. So I used the school computer and the school printer to write the spell. It seemed fitting, somehow.

Now comes casting that puppy on Sunday night during the Dark Moon. But before I do that, there's a May Day Fairie Festival! What a good place to gather up some energy for getting big things done!

The moral of this story is, never judge New Jersey by its turnpikes. It's possible to take a real hike in a tick-and-poison-ivy-infested woods, having to ford a stream without step-stones, and still get caught in traffic afterwards. You just have to know the lay of the land.

And bane work is serious. Unless you're Anne Johnson. Then, it's serious but also humorous. Humor is energy, after all, and it's a good weapon.

I haven't talked about the solar eclipse on here yet, have I? Boy am I glad summer's coming! There's so much to say!