This past weekend, Gomer and I had the privilege to attend the HearthFire festival at the beautiful Mythwood campgrounds. We've attended other festivals before but there was something about attending this festival, this year, that called to us. Could it be that the new theme of Land Spirits called to our souls? Could it be spending time in nature with other like-minded friends and individuals? I'd say it was a bit of both.
Mythwood is a 61 acre campground about an hour and half north of Toronto, Ontario. Intrigued by the medieval buildings, castle stage and other natural artistic elements throughout the grounds, it peaked our curiosity. Besides, where else can you journey to Stonehenge-inspired circles, Brigid's fires, and Buddha meditation grounds without ever leaving Ontario? Not to mention land that has been respectfully and sacred nurtured. We were extremely excited to check it all out.
We arrived on a Friday and immediately felt a connection, not only to the land but to the community of revelers. With a program set to explore our relationship with the Land Spirits, we couldn't wait to get involved. Now, before I go on about the events and rituals, I have to say that I've never been the biggest fan of rituals. In fact, there's just something that tells me no or feels extremely uncomfortable or not quite me. I'm a deeply spiritual person with a strong connection to the spirits of the earth, I just don't seem to resonate with collective ritual. Not so with the Tribal Hearth community at HearthFire.
From the opening ritual of Crossing the Threshold (I made sure I was third in line), to the final closing ritual around the fire, I participated. I not only participated, I was excited to join in. It resonated. It felt comfortable. I felt like I could be completely myself and open with those around me. My spiritual path met with others walking a similar journey. I felt safe and respected. For someone (actually both of us) with a strong introverted, sensitive tendency, we felt at Home.
The ritual on Friday night in the Stone Circle was one of the highlights of our weekend. Proceeding in a reverential line from the campground to the circle, we were transformed into another reality under a canopy of stars. We walked three times around the inner circle, then laid down on our backs facing the central stone table. The pure, elemental feeling of sharing sacred space, in a stone circle, was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. We were guided to connect with the Land Spirits and our own personal animal totem. It was a powerful ritual and took both Gomer and I to a whole new level in our spiritual connection to the earth and it's spirits. While Crow figured prominently in his, it was a surprise for me to connect with Snow Leopard. My journey took me to a heightened level of relationship with the Spirit of the Land as well. I went beyond the tree and rock spirits to a new understanding of the Beings who share the land with us, who look after us and all who inhabit the Earth . Let me just say, I was honoured to be able to witness them.
Saturday brought the sight of two herons flying over Triskellion Lake, exploring the beautiful grounds, a community feast complete with a stew cooked in a massive cauldron, a roast to one of the elders and the Celtic music of a band called Pagan's Folly. This is just how we spent our time. There were many other workshops and rituals that we could participate but we felt compelled to wander in nature and help peel potatoes and carrots for the feast.
The meals that could be purchased for the weekend were delicious and locally sourced. As You Wish Catering did a fantastic job and the couple who run it live as close to the land as the can. Every morning we ate on a picnic table and talked with new friends. In fact, the whole weekend outside in nature was a balm to the soul.
Sunday brought more ritual that was both thought-provoking and also community-oriented. The first one we participated in was the building of a cairn. The idea was for people to bring rocks or stones from sacred sites or places that were sacred to them. We stood in a circle and everyone took turns placing their offering and sharing where they came from. After the stones were places, a few of us offered Holy water. Gomer and I brought the water we had collected from the Brigid's Wells in Ireland and others shared holy well water from Chalice Well in Glastonbury. The energy that could be felt after the ritual was beautiful.
That afternoon, we joined in one of the workshops which culminated in the community gathering in a sacred ritual in the Stone Circle. Again, it felt comfortable and right. Sunday night was all about fun as the Goblin Market was held in the central space. Hand-made carnival games, vendors, and entertainment filled the evening. There was a strong-man act, a woman who ate insects, jumped on glass, and sword-swallowed as well as a pie-eating contest and mead contest.
Monday morning started pretty quiet as the community was resting after the night's revelry. Gomer and I offered a workshop on Sacred Travel and then, after another discussion, it was time for the closing ritual. The community crossed back over the threshold and joined in a circle around the fire. The outpouring of gratitude for the weekend, for friendships made, for the organizers and for the land, made us all kin and eager to return next year.
Gomer and I still can't stop talking about our time at Mythwood and participating in HearthFire. We found a community. We found like-minded friends. We found sacred land that we didn't have to cross an ocean to find. For those who are looking for these, I strongly encourage you to explore the Tribal Hearth Community, Hearthfire and Northern Lights Gathering festivals and Mythwood Campground. I think you'll find something special.
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