Florida Pagan Gathering Beltaine 2014: Back to Our Roots was held April 30
– May 4 in Lake Wales, Florida. This year, I had the opportunity to meet
headliner Orion Foxwood. Orion graciously hosted three workshops, ‘The
Witch and the Faery: Alliance of the Unseen’, ‘The Candle and the
Crossroads: Doctoring the Root (Spirit) in American Southern Conjure and
Root-Work’ and ‘Boats of Flesh on a River of Blood: The Roles of Ancestral
Spirits’. During the workshops, he mentioned he was working on a new book
to be published in February 2015 by Weiser Books. “It’s based on my
original teachings and old style witchery”, Orion stated. I was also
interested in how festival headliners decided the workshops they would

present. Orion replied, “I simply asked the spirits. I wanted to give vitality to the theme and tune into the spirit of the gathering”. Orion Foxwood can be heard regularly on the podcasts Conjure Crossroads and Old Style Conjure and for further information on Orion and his publications please visit http://www.orionfoxwood.com/.

The event headliners also included Janet Farrar, Gavin Bone, Aaron Leitch,
Dr. Todd Berntson, Grey Ghosthawk and Fred Wood. The time and travel
involved in coming to share is greatly appreciated and so many people are
wiser and more confident now, thanks to these dedicated teachers. Musical
guests Murphy’s Midnight Rounders provided entertainment with two concerts
and the Shiny Happy People Drum Tribe hosted not just an amazing nightly
drum circle but held multiple workshops. 31 additional workshop presenters were on hand to fill 3 days with diverse lessons, demonstrations and hands-on learning. The traditional maypole event was elevated to the spectacular with Father Skylodge and Sisterhood of the Shield’s performance of the Haka war dance, including 3 young adults who spent the weekend completing a coming of age rite of passage that concluded with a Celebration of the Victorious, where they were presented to the community  as new adults at Saturday evening’s fire circle. Main ritual was presented by Circle of the Sublime Elm of Orlando and Druid Ancient Earth Grove of Eustis, honoring Aine, the Celtic Queen Under the Mound and Aengus mac Og, the Celtic God of Love.
On Friday, a Round Table discussion was held and all in attendance were
invited to speak to recent issues surrounding Florida Pagan Gathering.
Attendees were invited to speak to problems encountered at the festival and
most importantly, a division in the community regarding the presentation of
workshops by Gavin and Yvonne Frost. In response to privacy concerns of
participants, recording of any kind at the event was forbidden. For many,
it was the first opportunity to put a face and voice to the wide array of
comments on social and news media. FPG staff, guests, headliners and organizers (past and present) shared not just their words but their emotions in the 2 hours that followed. Organizers encouraged communicating respectfully and finding clarity in the midst of so many visceral emotions, fear and heartbreak. By coming together to share so deeply with people who for the most part may be strangers, the community has shown a level of caring and a commitment to change that other communities may never experience. A great deal of pride and respect should be taken and given.

Events such as Florida Pagan Gathering are for many the only opportunity they have to network with other pagans and pagan resources. All magic-practicing communities, including the pagan community, have struggled for many years for equality through the legal and social justice system. We have long come together to defend the rights of pagans in the face of injustice and disrespect. The rights afforded to us in at least the last 50 years must continue to be upheld as we reclaim what was once torn down and forbidden.

Florida Pagan Gathering Samhain will be held November 5 – 9. For more
information, please visit http://www.flapagan.org/.