Thursday, August 02, 2007

Goddess Conference Day 1

Registration at the Conference is a time to meet old friends, decorate the central Goddess and light a candle at the altar. It is also a time to take in all the wonderful work that has been put in to decorate the sacred space. Lydia Ruyle's banners always hang from the ceiling and this year the hall was bedecked with a myriad of crone banners representing the sheer breadth and depth of the human imagination of the crone. Lydia, herself began the afternoon with a visual journey through the crones on her banners. She reminded us all that, "Crones don't whine, they do!" They use their wisdom and their power to work for justice and peace. They make sure that women are heard and honoured.

As Lydia spoke I thought of Lindis Percy who has refused to accept the presence of US military bases, or indeed any military bases on the land of her grandmothers. Well into her sixties she has been detained over 150 times. During the conflict in Iraq, she was arrested after she breached security at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire and spent two hours underneath a US B-52 bomber being prepared for deployment to the Gulf. She was jailed for nine months for trespassing on on the US Spy Base at Menwith Hill and served nine days of a 14-day sentence for climbing over a perimeter fence and trespassing at RAF Alconbury. Just think how different our world might be if there were more crones like Lindis. A timely reminder to those in power from another crone at the Conference, "Remember you really get on the wrong side of the crone if you try and pull rank - she really really doesn't like that!"

Lydia was followed by another great crone, Julie Felix, a truly professional and inspiring singer who has been singing protest songs since the 1960's. She always receives a warm welcome at the Conference and gets us all on our feet dancing in the aisles.

The evening is given over to the Opening Ceremony. This year the nine clans of the Conference called in the nine grandmothers with powerful song to the accompaniment of drums and the rhythmic clacking of dozens of crone stones. The priestesses enacted a scared drama acting as oracles for the grandmothers' messages. Then there was lots and lots of dance and song and humour; poetry that moved to tears and finally a dance evoking the Descent of Innana into the underworld. It is always impossible to even begin to speak of the power and vigour of these special ceremonies.

Speaking of dance it was a delight to once again dance at the Conference with the amazing Alessandra Belloni the leading exponent of the erotic trance dance known as the Tarantella :

"The wild ecstatic dance known as the Tarantella was originally performed on both the summer and winter solstice. Dancers dressed as witches and devils gathered around the famous tree known as Benevento to celebrate the darkest night with a musical exorcism to expell the evil spirits and welcome the rebirth of the bright light for the new coming year.

This form of ecstatic dance originated in ancient Greece as a rite of devotion to the god Dionysus (god of ecstasy and wine). The participating women were called Baccanti, and later, in Italy, Tarantati, and they danced in a wild frenzy to free themselves of repressed sexual desires. By jumping like spiders, lying on their backs, spinning and stomping their feet to a fast 12/8 beat, the dancers symbolically expelled the poison from the imaginary spider bite and release themselves from their fears and repression."

The Goddess truly liberates, breaking all the chains of convention that bind us. She lifts us above our sense of self-doubt. She frees us to truly be, to do, to make things happen. She changes everything she touches.

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