The Upward Spiral: A Beltane Memoir (part 2)

Photo by Huw Thomas

Earth Point called to me in 2006 and again I brought another friend in who is still part of BFS and has led Fire Point as well as being in other groups with me. It was at times a deeply frustrating experience, working with another GO whose methods were totally contrary to my own. Everything ended up being decided by consensus but since not everyone turned up all the time we spent about 6 weeks going nowhere.

One of the most hilarious scenes on the Hill at a walkthrough was with the “tree costumes” we had made with willow, PVA and paper. Some were painted a rather unfortunate rust red whilst others were still white. I felt compelled to dub it The Dance of the Giant Tampons and as the wind picked up the masses could hear me shouting that some of our tampons were rolling of the Hill.

In 2007 I joined Water Point, met someone in that group who would become one of my best friends, housemates and mother to my fairy goddaughter. I also recruited my new lover at the time and spent much of the preparations acting like a teenager (whilst in my early 30s). One valuable lesson learned was when you are going to be in the head of a giant dragon puppet that moves round in a circle of performers and fire, make sure you can see out of it!

2008 and a return to Earth Point was the most harrowing year of relationships, recriminations and revolts. Many bitter lessons were learned. I still cannot watch the footage from that year. There were some wonderful moments too but they were sadly eclipsed by other events. The primary lesson learned was that when you think the rules don’t apply to you and you can get round them – you are wrong. I swore never to GO again.

As a totally new challenge I joined White Women in 2009. This was a leap for me, bearing in mind that previously a performance role terrified me. Within Whites I found healing, inner strength and acceptance as well as some very surprising friendships. As the oldest member of the group I assumed a Granny role and could be counted upon to deliver up the sensible point of view when needed.

There was a very empowering gender bending aspect on the night as well, being a bearded White Woman. I was strong, focussed and aligned with Order – until I reached the Bower, got Mead down my gullet and cavorted with abandon until my white skirt was multicoloured with the body paint of my victims. Overall it was hard work but enormously rewarding (the rehearsals, drills and preparation, not the cavorting).

For 2010 I teamed up with one of the Whites from the previous year to re-imagine what Air Point could be. If Air is the element of the mind, what happens as it darkens? So we explored madness and the concept of the Maenads. That Beltane was 2 months of laughter, ritual, cooperation and a weekend not-away that meant 14 of us staying in my one-bed flat. I learned that I am not good in a getting-ready space, I tend to stress. This was highlighted by one member of the team holding me back from killing another after they announced they had forgotten their poi for the performance over an hour after we started.

Bower called to me 2011 and I learned how to bake cakes. Lots and lots of cakes. That was pretty much my time. I was blessed to be able to invite some Radical Faerie friends to come and join us and the experience of hosting the space for the May Queen and Green Man’s Court was very special. Having another new member of my Beltane family manifest that year in my group was a great blessing.

Returning to that same spot in 2012 was a different affair. We went quite dark and horny. The main lesson learned was to not attempt to cater for almost 300 people myself with a single oven and not enough support on the night. My main point of pride was serving hot sausages in buns for Bower. That rocked.

Overall I feel most proud of the times when I have helped inspire others to lead groups and they then inspire others in their groups, who then help that energy spiral out and reach out to the new GOs and performers for years yet to come.

So what am I planning to do for 2013? What challenges do I take on?

I’m looking forward to being involved in some capacity with Contact Point hopefully, ensuring we engage with our audience and nurture the pool of potential volunteers we have there. Of keeping our Facebook page going, of busting through our 3,000 likes target soon and maintaining it as somewhere our members and audience want to visit and participate in.

The other new role I am taking on is that of Chair for the Society. Helping to keep our focus on being accessible and fair to all our participants and volunteers will be core to my job, alongside ensuring we are operating in ways that are in keeping with our responsibilities as a charitable organisation.

Quite a journey for a terrified Torchie all those years ago – and it’s far from over, hopefully.

Zander is a habitual Group Organiser for BFS, a Radical Faerie and committed Pride volunteer, among other things we really can’t talk about here. Over the past 18 months he has been a Trustee, half a Secretary and now most of a Chair for the Society.

Happy Bunny

Photo at the top by Huw Thomas.
Photo at the bottom trawled from distant personal archives.

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