Children of Artemis – a Wiccan (witchcraft) group created the now popular event `Witchfest’ back in November 2002. Clever move really…and clever name..not to mention a brave one! For that I must applaud the genius of `Merlyn’ – founder/organiser of these events. (I first met `Merlyn’ at Vivianne & Chris Crowley’s home, in London, where a number of Wiccans were meeting to plan and deliver a batch of `Wicca Study Group’ in central London. So Merlyn & I were introduced under very trusting circumstances by trusted Elders of the Craft. It was only after that, that I started attending Children of Artemis Events).
Back in those days, we had lots of TV shows like `Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and `Charmed’ – where we could regularly see major Characters using Witchcraft! And the world took it with a growing appetite for such magical, Witchy adventures lived by ordinary (?) people in the modern world. It’s possible that this growing features of the occult, Wicca and Witchcraft contributed to many a young people either becoming aware of or gaining a pop-culture-style interest in Wicca & Witchcraft. This in turn helped propel organisations such as Children of Artemis who focused openly on the subject matter (in comparison to others such as The Pagan Federation – who gave focus to many a pagan paths such as Druidry, Shamanism, Northern traditions..in a more campaign sort of way).
There I must make further distinctions. People look up campaigning bodies or organisations – mostly when they are in sudden desperate need for such help. But people will look up groups and other organisations for the purpose of entertainment, lifestyle and social networking.. anytime and every day! And as Children of Artemis began to cater for this `lifestyle’ side of Wicca & Witchcraft, I believe it also started to gain popularity. Add to this the factor of CoA owning the domain name http://www.Witchcraft.org (which is bound to come up every time someone searched for that topic), and the addition of a members interactive forum ..where so many debates in so many `rooms’ were going on – it’s hard not to see why CoA grew so quickly. (The also provided a number of other services & campaign helps..).
CoA has had its critics – the other pagan organisations who liked to consider themselves as `serious’ and `Children of Artemis’ as light and a fad. I should know.. I was part of those other organisations such as The Pagan Federation. I myself was – to start with – an active member of the CoA! It is where I started making my earliest pagan friends in local pub moots (Croydon), and I also made many an online friends in those discussion forums (not to mention contributing). I was already an initiated Witch /Wiccan so I had that in common with others. I had contributed an article in the Children of Artemis Magazine `Wicca & Witchcraft magazine’ ( my article `Magical Empowerment in a Godless Universe’ appeared in issue#8 Samhain/Imbolc 2003/2004). And I have given talks at 2-3 of the CoA Pub moots (Croydon & Rochester, Kent). And of course a number of workshops at Witchfest Events…on subjects such as Quantum Magic, Elements, Dragon Magic.
I think my biggest contribution (most prominent perhaps is a better word) came when I put together a ritual team, out of strangers I had enlisted on the CoA forum, planned details by e-mails with them, and met only at the `Medieval Witches Ball’ in February 2004 at Fairfield Hall, Croydon.. to do a closing Ceremony! Some of the people I met in that ritual are still my friends – 8 years on! What precipitated from that was a regular outdoor ritual group – the first 2 – at Spring & Beltane of 2004 were billed as `official’ CoA outdoor rituals, and the organiser Merlyn himself attended – in Lloyd Park, Croydon, along with 20-30 people! (This group later became named by me as `Hern’s Tribe’ at Samhain of that Year, and still works rituals outdoors in London). Our ritual group also was asked to and did one other major ritual.. the Beltane Closing Ceremony at Witchfest England in May 2004. Shortly afterwards, my magical partnership with a fellow Wiccan ended and the ritual group changed.
Sadly, the gremlins came to work- and some of my frank discussions online in CoA Forums came under scrutiny by certain moderators. My posts (in the `Male Mysteries’ forum) were deleted, which began a spiral down path of me & CoA eventually parting company. At about the time I was welcomed by the `Pagan Federation London’. From November 2004, my focus shifted to Pagan Federation London- and for the next 7+ years (till Spring of this year 2012) – where I began to develop (over time) the `PF London Events Team’ (originally just made up of my own friends and keen supporters in Hern’s Tribe). There we have created so many features, events, brought back many an old events and made them regular features (Conventions, Balls, Picnics..) What the current `Pagan Federation London’ Officers take for granted, own and even have become rather possessive & protective about (against me of all people) are mine and my friends’ creations!
That is quite funny really (one of them recently accused me of trying to sabotage an open ritual…which dare I say I planned and booked some 6-8 months prior!). It’s all rather silly. But I appreciate that people have to find their on feet…and those less experienced tend to feel so insecure – that rather than ease into it, try and shoot their predecessors like me, as if that somehow will fix their own hidden issues? perhaps I am too much of a radical and a moral compass that they just can not face.. This process could also be a bit like children – who when hey reach adolescent have to exercise their growing adult-powers…by challenging their parents and teachers first! It’s just human nature, I guess.
Last year, at the Pagan Federation 40th Anniversary Conference, I bumped into Merlyn (creator / organiser of Witchfest). It wasn’t the first time, as I had bumped into him few years ago in a pub and shook hands. But last year, I spoke of me attending the Witchfest. He even handed me a flyer for the event in November 2011. But then the Pagan Fed wanted to have a Stall and I volunteered along with another officer (the new District Manager of Pagan Fed London now!). So I manned the stall in shifts, and attended a few talks.
I must say, looking back over the years, others have had their share of stirring or even egging me on in to certain states…possibly because my clashes have provided endless gossip and entertainment for the pagan communities in London. It’s a bit like a pagan/ witchy version of `EastEnders’ perhaps? In any case, I now stand neutral – within my own sphere, and it probably disappoints those who seek entertainment at my expense! People have shut me up for too long with excuses of `for the good of community’ – and I think it’s time that a balance is struck, and my own withheld truths – such as these I have written above- (and more) are revealed!
And today – it is Witchfest International Event.. their 10th anniversary, and my Wife and a few friends are already going. And me- I am planning to attend – not as a member of CoA, not as a Rep of the Pagan Federation ..not as Speaker, Ritualist…but just as me.. Mani.. a paying customer .. looking for a day out with my wife and friends, some fun, some workshops, and some dancing when the bands start in the evening.
Guess what.. Tomorrow is already here!! 🙂
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