Category Archives: Events

My First Sumbel

Things have really opened up for me in just the last week. Not when it comes to employment, but rather in the path that I have chosen to walk as a Heathen. Ironically, it seems that the use of a cosmic hint brick on my wife was what opened the doors that I had been unable to even find, much less try to open myself.

You see, ever since I made the choice to walk the path of a Heathen, and to worship the gods of my ancestors, I have been trying to find other heathens to associate with. For years, while I might make contact with local heathens, those contacts never got anywhere after the initial introduction. I have gone so far as to consider moving back to the mid-west just to find a Heathen community to associate with, and have received offers of open arms from some that I know through online contact. But this has not been the preferred choice for me for several reasons, not least of which is that it would mean moving us and the kids away from all of our family.

Last week Sarah struck up a conversation with a heathen in a comment thread on Facebook, and things started to happen. One thing led to another, and suddenly she was communicating with a local heathen that I had tried to reach out to before without success, and we were invited over for coffee and socialization. This was Friday (9/3/10), and we spent several hours just talking about tons of topics, and finding out just how much we had in common. Talk led to meeting with other heathens, and later that night an informal get together for Monday (9/6/10) was put together where we could get a chance to meet other heathens in a less formal environment.

Monday rolled around faster than I had thought possible, but started as less than auspicious. Sarah woke up with a pinched nerve in her neck making it virtually impossible for her to use one of her arms or to turn her head. Even so, she managed to make hamburger buns and tortillas for the BBQ. The kids were obnoxious monsters all morning so we decided that it was best if we made sure they got a nap before we headed over, even if that meant showing up to the event later than we had wanted. The nap helped, but they were still…difficult, but we finally got on the road by late afternoon.

The entire drive over I was nervous and frustrated. I hate being late to something, especially if I am meeting somebody for the first time, and while we had not specified a time for everyone to get together I had hoped to be there by early afternoon, so in my own mind I was running late. The greeting we received made all of that vanish though, as from the dark depths of the house arms were waved in welcome as we came in the door. Once the children cleared the doorway, and the enthusiastic greetings from the other children led them away to play, we were able to make our way back to where the adults were gathered. There I was finally able to meet heathens that I had only encountered online, some only for a couple of days, others for several months. Greetings and introductions were made, and we were quickly drawn into the conversation of the others. Mike Burke and I gravitated to the coffee pot, and spent time just chatting about gatherings and such over coffee in the kitchen. Bert had noticed Sarah’s pain and had begun to work on her to try to relieve some of the pain. Before long progress Bert discovered the buns that Sarah had baked, and from there the cooking began.

The adults went out in the back yard to continue to socialize, eventually coming back with plates loaded with food. Throughout all of this we were drawn into conversation, and were made to feel welcome by all present. I can’t tell you all that was talked about as the details are not all that sharp this morning, but I can tell you that I felt like I was part of something, and was accepted by the folk who were present.

Eventually Bert broke out a bottle of mead, and a horn was filled. She asked if anyone was opposed to having an informal sumbel. Nobody was opposed to the idea, and I was very glad that I had sought out advice from Rod earlier in the morning on proper etiquette should this happen as I had hoped that it might. You see, while I have been walking this path for a few years now, I have not had the pleasure of participating in any religious rites with other heathens, so this was a first for me. Bert started out by giving us a little instruction as this was our first time being part of a sumbel, even going so far as to provide us with instruction on how to use the horn so that we didn’t get drowned by it as it was a monster. Apparently she only does this for people that she likes, otherwise letting people do what they want and enjoying the result when they get a face full of mead or ale. Here’s for making a good impression and getting a lesson in how to avoid being doused in mead!

Violet, Jeff’s daughter was the valkyrie for the event, something that I think is a new honor for her. I was nervous when the horn came to me, lessened in no part by the fact that I was the first to receive it after Bert. I followed Rod’s advice and played it safe by simply hailing the gods on that first round. The second round I was feeling more comfortable, and I hailed my ancestors who had passed along their values through the generations. The final round I hailed the hosts for welcoming us in so warmly.

What was special for me during all of this was that the kids were welcomed into the circle. At one point, when Caulla first came into the circle, Bert blessed her with a rune of mead stroked onto her forehead while Bert uttered a blessing over her. I don’t think Bert caught the look that I saw, but Caulla got something special from this. She looked over to me with a look of wonder, joy, and minor puzzlement. She wasn’t puzzled over what had happened, and I think that she really understood what was happening. I think that the puzzlement was something deeper, and I know that she felt touched by something very special in that moment. Something touched her on a spirit level. I can’t really explain how I know this, only that I felt it through the bond that the two of us share. I don’t know what the blessing was as I was unable to make it out when Bert was speaking, but it was a powerful moment for Caulla. Bert did the same for Tiernan when he finally joined us later, but he just kind of shrugged and went on with the business of being a boy.

Eventually we went inside for a group photo shoot, in part because it had gotten dark. Conversation went to photos, and galleries were pulled up on the computers, leading to more talk about this or that. The hours flew by, and before we knew it the kids were going into their tired windup, so we knew that it was time for us to hit the road and take them home to bed.

The day was a very special day, and I can’t begin to describe how welcomed I felt during the whole gathering. That missing element in my life was momentarily filled, and I hope that the bonds that started to grow yesterday continue to grow for years to come. This was a great group of folk that gathered, and I see some real potential in befriending them and hopefully being welcomed into their kinship. Perhaps we have found a spiritual home. Time alone will answer that hope, but things seem to be pointed toward our being part of this fine group of folk.

As to the results of that cosmic hint brick for Sarah that I mentioned early on…well, that is her tale to tell, not mine.



Filed under Ancestors, Events, Family, Heathenry, Holidays, Religion

Faerieworlds 2010 Synopsis

All in all this was a most enjoyable trip with the family. The tent was dead simple to set up, and with Sarah and I working together we had it up within 15-20 minutes. It has a ton of room in it, and with both queen sized air mattresses in there, one at each end, we had a good 3-4 foot path down the middle. We had chosen a tent with a high peak expressly so that I could change clothing easily without having to stoop, and we learned that it was high enough throughout that I could stand upright anywhere in the tent.

The kids absolutely loved the camping experience, which was something that we were concerned with as this was the first time we had taken them camping. They were real troopers, and had a blast with the whole thing. Sure, we got cranky behavior when they didn’t get enough of a nap, or when we were close to naptime, but they really were well behaved. They had fun just running around chasing balls and bugs. There were tons of dragonflies in the area as well as a few butterflies. We even had a few grasshoppers which completely fascinated Caulla when she discovered one.

We had some really nice neighbors as well. Stacy, a lady who came up from Crescent City, CA for the event with her granddaughter was a real treasure. She was a veteran of the event and shared a wealth of info about it, what things to hit up, and so forth. A fantastic neighbor.

Other neighbors, while nice, were a touch…dodgie. There was a young man camping with a young lady, and he was doing the whole spiritually enlightened thing with her, including meditation, energy exchange, the whole thing. But something about him felt…off, and I really felt like he was taking her on a “spiritual journey” as more of a con, probably for the sex, than any kind of real spiritual enlightenment. I have learned to trust my gut on these things, and I think that it really proved to be true this time. When I talked to Sarah about him on the drive home she indicated that she felt like he was attacking her psychically the whole time he was there, and that she felt a bit uneasy around him as well. Even so, he was a courteous neighbor, and didn’t cause problems.

The neighbors on the other side though…they appeared to be dispensers of marijuana for many others, and the crowd showing up at their site on Sunday was the final straw that caused us to pack up and head home.

Another of those deciding factors was the large group a few sites over who appeared to be performers of some sort. They were traveling as a group, and had quite the site set up. Body modesty was also not an issue among this crowd as we saw on more than one occasion. Not really a problem as we are a bit prone to not worrying about it ourselves, and it did make for nice entertainment while in camp. Then again, the event had a lot of exhibition taking place, so it really wasn’t out of place.

They were traveling with a large dog, significantly larger than any of the dogs that Sarah’s folks keep, and it came wandering over to visit on Friday. It really seemed taken with me, and laid down and put its head on my foot for much of the time it was in our site. What was really amazing was that Tiernan came up and petted this dog without any sign of fear or any prodding from us. Tiernan has shown some definite signs of fear of the dogs out at the farm, so his approaching a larger dog on his own and without fear was really surprising to us.

We heard some good music, discovered a couple of bands that we want to track down now that we are home, and saw some interesting merchants, including one leathercrafter from down in Ashland that we definitely want to track down. We didn’t have any spare funds for this trip so all we did was collect business cards in the hopes that we could do business with them once we had some funds to spend.

All in all, this was a good trip. The event was not quite what we expected. The thing was far more commercial than we had expected, and many of the merchants were selling variations on the same commercial junk that you can find anywhere. There were a lot of clothing and jewelry vendors, but while they may have had clothes for men, it was clearly targetting the women in the crowd over the men.

Do we regret going? No, not really. Will we do it again? Probably not, at least not as a camping trip, though perhaps as a day trip. Who knows though, we just might give camping at the event a try again in the future. Time will tell, and the next couple of years have different priorities for us.

There was a Heathen gathering the same weekend that I would have loved to have attended, but as we had already purchased tickets to Faerieworlds we decided to go to Faerieworlds instead. Given a choice, I think we would do that or a trip up to Gig Harbor, WA for the rennaissance fair that goes on up there instead as that one seems to be more our style. SCA events are also a possibility, though we have garb to contend with there, and we really don’t feel like investing the time and energy into really getting into the SCA as active participants.

Depending upon how finances and jobs work out we are hoping to take a few weeks next summer to travel across the country to visit my mother, and then from there journey down to Kansas for the Lightning Across The Plains event so that I can meet some of the heathens that have come to mean so much to me over the last few years.

One thing that we really learned from this is that we really do enjoy camping as a family. We had not done that until this point, and it was an unknown for us. Both Sarah and I knew that we liked camping, but we just were not sure how well the kids would do with it. We have come out of this trip with a renewed conviction that we need to get out camping more often now that we know how well the kids do with it. We hope to get in another trip or two this summer and fall if possibly, likely out to Beverly Beach or someplace similar.

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Filed under Children, Events, Faerieworlds, Family, Fatherhood, Goals, Heathenry, Oregon Coast, Religion

Faerieworlds 2010 – Day 3

We did NOT sleep well last night. The large group a few sites over came back from the concert and decided to party it up all night long. The kids slept, but their sleep was fitful at best. Sarah and I slept in short stretches between the yelling and other party noises. I remember hearing one of the gals, presumably responding to somebody asking them to quiet down, that they were going to party all night, and nobody was going to sleep. This set up massive cheering from the others. Ugh. Talk about inconsiderate! This was supposed to be quiet camp, with the partying taking place in the Inner Grove site which was directly adjacent to the event site. Only later did we learn that apparently the Outer Grove (i.e. Quiet Camp) was unofficially divided up into three camps: Family Camp, Quiet Camp, and Party Camp. Apparently we had placed ourselves in Party Camp, thinking that the entire thing was Quiet Camp as was advertised when we purchased our tickets.

So, we got a slow start this morning, and pretty much let the kids run wild, screaming and shouting as much as they wanted. My thought at the time was that if they were trying to sleep, too damned bad. They didn’t let me sleep well so why should I let them? (referring to the party animals) As I was coming back from the Honey Buckets I overheard another parent from a campsite on the other side of the party talking to his party about somebody approaching him and asking him if he could quiet his kids. He responded that they were not his kids, and even if they were he was not inclined to quiet them down. Huzzah!

So, tired and cranky, we spent the morning in camp trying to decide what to do. The day started out with a medium to heavy mist, so that rather dampened our spirits. Fortunately we noticed the heavy dew already collecting when we came back from the concert the night before and we went ahead and put the rain fly on the tent before we went to bed. If we had decided to not worry about it we would have woken up rather wet, which would have really made things a lot worse.

While Sarah was gone to the Honey Buckets we had another large party come and unload to visit the site behind us. In watching them I saw the pot pipes come out, and the clouds of marijuana smoke came rolling our way. That was the final straw for me, and as Sarah had already been making noise about wanting to go home I was all prepared to go ahead and pack up camp, and told Sarah as much when she got back.

Packing up camp as the day is approaching the heat of the day is not exactly fun. The morning mist had burned off and moved on while Rowan was napping, leaving us in the full sun. Yes, it helped in drying out the tent for us so that we didn’t have to worry about that, but cleaning out the tent and breaking it down in the heat of the sun is not exactly something I call fun. Still, faced with the potential of the same experience as the prior night, and no real desire to go back to the event site even if it was Family Day, we buckled down and got the job done.

We decided to try a different packing approach for the trip back, primarily because this trip was the first time we had used the overhead storage bin for the car, so we wanted to try a different approach to see if it would work better. For future reference, the first approach was the better one. Getting the bag up on the car once we had it loaded was back-breaking work, and in the end we had less room in the car to stow stuff than we had on the trip down. Lessons learned, eh?

We ran into heavy traffic about 25 miles south of Salem, and it continued for a good 10 miles or more. We had clear roads again until we started running into stop-and-go traffic again around Woodburn, so we jumped off of I-5 and took the back roads route home, stopping in Newburg to pick up some food for dinner. While there we decided to go ahead and change dipes, which proved to be a painful experience for Caulla who decided to play with the bathroom door while Sarah was changing Rowan, and managed to get her finger caught. She didn’t break it, but we were not sure about that for awhile. This morning she woke up and the swelling was all gone and she is using it as normal. It seems a bit tender, but she forgets about it when playing.

We got into town around 7:30, and after unpacking the storage bag before pulling it down, Sarah went in to start working on dinner while I finished unloading the car and hauling everything in. We got it all done, and it was nice to get home. Yeah, we had some cranky kids, and Sarah and I were dragging our rumps because of how tired we were from lack of sleep and then packing up camp, but we were happy to be home.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures on this final day, but the gallery of those photos can be found at the following link: Faerieworlds 2010 – Day 3 Gallery

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Faerieworlds 2010 – Day 2

Day 2 (07/31/10)

The second day started slowly for us, and only the need to visit the bathroom drove us out of the comfort of our bed. After making the trek to the Honey Buckets we poured some coffee (having made up some iced coffee for the trip) and settled in to slowly wake up and watch the kids play. That was one great thing about where we were located. The kids could run and play to their hearts content, and we didn’t have to do much to keep them happy, thus allowing us to sit back and enjoy ourselves.

We stayed in camp long enough that Rowan got his morning nap, and everyone got lunch before we packed up and headed out. The twins were acting pretty tired though, and had not had a nap of their own yet, so we decided to go exploring and see if they would nap while we walked. We found ourselves over on the far side of the RV parking area and followed a badly maintained road out to the main gates. After working our way through the gate at the end of the road we crossed over into the small parking lot at the gates to drop off our camp trash in the bin there, and then proceeded to wander out a trail that we though would lead us to the event site.

This trail proved to NOT be trailer friendly, and it did not lead us to the event site. However, it did lead us to the river, which lead to a most enjoyable afternoon. We treked our way along the trail, lifting the trailer over some obstacles, before eventually getting to a point where it simply wasn’t possible to take the trailer further. There was a short trail down the embankment to the river, and a couple was swimming there so we took a look. Turns out they were skinny dipping, but they said that we could join them if we wished, so we came on down. The kids were all interested in getting into the water, but we had neglected to bring swimwear for any of us. No big problem really, so we skinned the kids down to skin, and Sarah and I stayed a touch more dressed. Turns out this particular location was not the best as the rocks were rather slimy, and there really was no good place for the kids to play. Great place for swimming, but not so good for the kids. We got everyone back onto the trail and worked our way back to an earlier spot down to the river that we had passed up, primarily because there really was no way to get the trailer down the embankment. However, since there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic out on the trail we decided that it was ok to go ahead and leave the trailer on the side of the trail while we went exploring.

What we found was a nice, rocky bar that jutted out into the river, and after some exploring we found a nice shallow place where the kids could play with very minor current. We wound up spending the afternoon here, listening to the bands in the distance, and enjoying the water, the sun, and the opportunity to just relax.

Mind you, this exploration was not without physical hazards. The path down the embankment was quite steep, and I lost my footing at one point and scratched myself pretty good on the brambles. Sarah says I have something like 15 individual scratches all intersecting on the underside of my upper arm. All I know is that it feels grarly and painful, but at least there are no thorns stuck in it and no sign of infection. At another point Tiernan was walking back into the thickets growing on the bar, and was coming back to us when a very enthusiastic young dog (of good size) broke free from where it was tied and came to say hello to Tiernan. It was an enthusiastic licker, but it really frightened Tiernan and caused him to lose his footing on the rocks, resulting in him taking a header into the rocks, giving him a small cut on a toe and a mashed nose. He was rather traumatized from this experience, but got over it soon enough.

We decided that it was time to leave when we noticed that it was closing in on 6:00 pm, and Caulla was shivering so hard that she was setting up a ripple pattern in the water. For a child who did NOT want to get into the water earlier, this child would not come out of the water now. Eventually we got everyone dressed again and got back onto the trail. We still needed to refill our water jugs, so we headed to the event site. Tiernan crashed before we got there, and Caulla was leading the way. We wandered around for a bit, with Caulla directing where we went, and eventually we headed over to the refill station to top off our water jugs and head back to camp.

After dinner we bundled everyone back up, with the kids in PJ’s again, and headed back to the event site to listen to the evening bands. We found a nice place where we had a good view of the stage and laid out the blankets. We had a nice time with the first band, and the boys ran and ran and ran around us. Finally the big ticket band (Faun) came on stage. They had a great sound, but shortly after they took stage we started getting inundated with clouds of pot smoke. I don’t mind somebody taking an occasional hit, but this was turning into a real cloud. Turns out that there were three groups around us that were sharing the wealth, and it got so bad that we felt we needed to leave the concert. Sarah was getting a headache, the kids were all either asleep or falling asleep, and it just wasn’t worth dealing with that to listen to the performance.

Oh, and to add to it, the event was supposed to be a smoke-free event, with smoking limited to the road. The reason for this was that the event was taking place on a mowed hay field, and it was quite prone to easy ignition, so they asked everyone to not light up if there was grass under their feet. In theory this extended to the camp areas as well. At no point did I EVER see this policy being enforced, though it was mentioned from time to time by the MC from the main stage. Another policy that I never saw enforced was the one regarding photography. They had prohibited taking pictures of the bands or performers, and had asked everyone to not take pictures of the people in costume without their express permission. Some people followed this policy, and it certainly limited how many pictures that I took, but I never saw the policy being enforced.

The entire photo gallery from this day can be accessed by clicking on any of the pictures in the post, which will take you directly to the picture shown, or by clicking on the following link: Faerieworlds 2010 – Day 2 Gallery

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Faerieworlds 2010 (Day 1)

Our goal was to be on the road by 6:00 am so that we could be there as close to gates open as possible. We did a tremendous amount of prep work on Thursday, and worked late into the night to pack the car as much as possible. In the end we didn’t quite make it out as early as we wanted, and got down to Eugene at around 10:00 am instead of the desired 8:00 am. Even so, the selection of camping sites was pretty good. The sites close to the gate and back in the trees were all gone, but we weren’t wanting a site like that anyway. We got a good site a distance away from other campers in a place where we thought we would get minimal afternoon sun.

Once we got set up we decided to go on over to the event and see what we could see. Many of the merchants were still setting up their booths, but a band was already on stage performing. We wandered around a bit, enjoying the feel of the place, and getting an idea of where everything was located. Basically we did a lot of wandering, and while we sat under a shade awning that was set up for folks wanting to get out of the direct sunshine to listen to the concerts, we didn’t do that for long due to the heat. The music was entertaining, though not necessarily groundbreaking. It made for a good backdrop for the setting though, and helped set the mood during our wanderings. A nice bonus that we discovered when we went back to camp for dinner was that due to how things were laid out we were actually relatively close to the main stage, so we could hear the music pretty well from our camp site. We were isolated from it by a massive berry and bramble thicket though, so that helped keep from getting many wanderers.

A real bummer point for me was in discovering that one of my favorite performers, Alexander James Adams (formerly known as Heather Alexander) was part of a new group that came on stage while we were eating. I recognized one of the songs, dug out the event booklet, and took a close look. Yep, Alexander was on stage and performing. Dang! So, we missed a performance that I would have really loved to have seen. Ironically, they were on the playbill for an earlier timeslot, but due to flight delays for one of the performers the band was not able to be on stage until later so a swap with another band was arranged. We were sitting down watching that band, The Gypsy Nomads, play earlier in the day, and had Tricky Pixie (the band delayed) been there on time we would have seen the performance. Oh well, such is life.

We did make it back over later in the evening, and the kids had a good time, but we were both pretty tired from a long day with a lot of heavy lifting so we did not stay long once the final act started up around 10:00 pm. We got everyone settled into bed, and discovered that Sarah’s idea of pushing the two queen air mattresses together into one massive bed was a great idea. Everyone gently drifted off to sleep to the sounds of Woodland playing on the main stage.

Pictures from this first day can be found by clicking on the picture above, or clicking this link: Faerieworlds 2010 – Day 1 Gallery

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