Monday, 1 September 2014

Happy Place: Castlefest!

So I have been a bit silent lately. I have done and seen so much that I want to write about! My first post will be about Castlefest, the best festival of the year!
Castlefest is my absolute favorite time of the year. This year was the tenth edition, and also the tenth anniversary for me. Yes, the first time I went there I was 13.

Castlefest is a fantasy event with a strong focus on paganism, folk music and re-enactment. Through Castlefest is how I first got introduced to paganism, even though it took me years to finally realize it was something for me. What makes Castlefest so different from other fantasy events like Elfia or comic cons is that it's really more of a festival than an event. There's a camping and the ambiance is the best I've ever experienced. 

What also makes it different from other fantasy events is that the focus on costume is way less strong. On most other events people usually strut around in their costumes, buy stuff or take pictures of other people in costume. While this is the case on Castlefest as well (I've seen some gorgeous costumes that weekend), the focus is more on lifestyle and paganism. 

People usually dress up in outfits inspired by nature, if they dress up at all or just want to be their pagan, hippie self.

The scenery at the castle's gardens is beautiful as well. I took this picture of a dancing woman (she is actually the lovely lady behind LunaDea) during a pagan drum circle and used a landscape picture that I took on the terrain to place her in. I think this picture shows the ambiance of Castlefest best - an ambiance of freedom, strength, happiness and being close to nature. When I'm there, I feel at home.

Technically spoken, Castlefest is held during the Pagan celebration Lughnasadh, which is an ancient harvest celebration. Altars like this one were all around and during the festival, lots of smaller get-togethers were planned to celebrate the season of plenty and the harvest god Lugh.

I didn't take pictures of the grand celebration on Saturday Night and I'm very sorry I didn't do so, but here's a video from YouTube that shows the Wickerman ritual. It is a tradition at Castlefest (and an ancient one), that every time, a large statue is built made of willow twigs, where everyone on the festival (or, whoever feels like it), can put a sacrifice in. I have done the same one for years. Since I paint, I always save up an old, used paintbrush and put it in, as a symbol for all the paintings I've made the past year and for all the paintings I will make. This year it was an extra special symbol for me as I finally took the step to abandon my art academy plans so I could go on and draw what I truly want, instead of having to listen to people who have vastly different opinions and don't understand what I want to convey with my artworks: I don't want to make art but I want to create beautiful things.
Anyway, on Saturday night the Wickerman is ritually lit on fire, which is a beautiful ceremony and often very emotional for me, as it is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. This year was especially intense as this year is such a turnaround time for me, getting better from my depression and achieving so many small and great personal victories. Re-watching this video even brought me to tears. I am so thankful for everything I've achieved and I hope the rest of my life will be full of light and happiness now I'm discovering who I really am and stepping out of the darkness and entrapment that I've felt for so many years.

Of course, when it's your tenth anniversary at Castlefest, you meet a lot of friends as well! This is a picture I took of a friend of mine and his baby girl. The background was also taken at the castle grounds. I tried to portray them as I saw them at the festival, happy and full of light.

And here a pic of me and my best friend the only time (a few hours) that I was in full costume, dressed as Esmeralda from the Hunchback of the Notre Dame.

It was, again, a festival that I will never forget.
I want to thank the organisation and every wonderful person that I've met, hung out with and celebrated with. I miss you all dearly and I can't wait for next year!

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