Faerieworlds festival, USA 2009

Review/Feature (abridged/revamped from Spheres magazine), on Faerieworlds festival, USA 2009, in which I performed daily on the main stage solo or with Woodland.

From Summer green to fallen leaves,

Oh light the sylvan pyre,

For the day is red and ripe upon the branch

Imagine thousands of guests in costume, sharing myths, recipes and wares, weaving a beribboned pentacle, uniting in a Spiral Dance. Aromatic scents waft between tents: from Casbah teahouse to the Kava bar, your nostrils are assailed by vegan sushi, eggplant marsala, pineapple, Castle Kettle Corn, Turkish coffee, homemade chocolate with local berries. Sensibility is flung, in eddies of enchantment, into Narnia, Earthsea, Middlearth, Elysium, Camelot, Wonderland, Woodstock; Knauf’s Carnivàle; or in Myth Maker fire rituals that cult classic The Wicker Man (minus sacrifice – but a band called The Wicker Men is playing). Strangers shake hands, embrace with mutual recognition that some explain by past lives, others by collective vibe. Welcome to Faerieworlds. We are at Buford Park Range by Mount Pisgah in Eugene, Oregon, for the world’s largest fairy festival. As Eugene’s media says, Faerieworlds is “where goths dance with hippies”. More scenes grace the fair: folk, darkwave, mod-primitive, psychedelic punk, ambient, medieval; environmentalists, vegans, folklorists, fantasy writers, pagans, native healers… in a sweeping glance you see coloured hair, studs, boots or tattoos of dragons, beside flower children in garlands, dads with pixie ears, gramps with wizard staffs, Pre-Raphaelites, wise-women in flowing skirts, stiltwalking fauns, beach babes in starfish bikinis, teen centaurs, magicians in top hats, greenmen:

The summer’s gift, the fire in the wood

A breeze rolled down the mountain through forests of fir and pine to relieve searing heat, lifting tent flaps, flags, banners. We felt it during the Opening Ceremony: an invisible kiss from sylphs of the air, or summoned from Ceridwen’s cauldron and music of Woodland, while visitors, vendors and performers raised their arms to the sky. The forest bestowed its blessing.

And the circle grows each time around / for all within are spiral bound

Guests of Honour were Brian and Wendy Froud. Since childhood I’ve loved Brian’s book Faeries, now in its 25th Anniversary edition. Co-illustrator, Alan Lee went on to design sets for The Lord of the Rings. Froud joined Jim Henson on pre-digital film classic The Dark Crystal, falling in love with puppeteer Wendy Froud. She handed her craft on to their son Toby. Froudian books include The Runes of Elfland, Good Faeries/Bad Faeries, Goblins of Labyrinth and Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairies. My first meeting with them was at Trolls et Legendes festival in Belgium where, as at Faerieworlds, we presented a video created by Brian & Toby for my music. Their imagery illuminates lightshows by Woodland, founders of Faerieworlds:

For there is a summer in each life,

‘Til the shadows ride the samhain wind

To a twilight celebration

Woodland’s hometown Eugene is no stranger to folk festivals. The Grateful Dead’s Oregon Country Fair, a sort of Woodstock attracting 40,000 attendees in various states of consciousness or undress, dating to 1960’s, is an icon. Faerieworlds leapt to national attention when Fox News reported the outbreak of a “hippy virus”. (The notion of fairies urgently squatting in bushes amused O’Reilly’s gang, but was greeted with the quip “we took our wings off”.) As Faerieworlds hosts braced for an onslaught, membership soared; apparently for liberal Americans, what Fox attacks is worth exploring. Since inception eight years ago under stewardship of Woodland musicians Emilio and Kelly Miller-Lopez, the festival expanded from 1,000 attendees to 15,000 by 2009 & still growing. Together with Robert Gould (Imaginosis) they employ over 400 people. Whilst marketing is based on the internet, its community is in tune with ancient skills and organic material (e.g. in woodturning, sculpture, puppetry, storytelling). For a soft carbon footprint, there was scarcely any litter: proof that a crowd may “harm none”. As hosts advised, “look and listen… you will see soaring hawks, ravens, owls and flights of geese, you may even hear the howl of a coyote. And as you dance under the stars and rising moon, remember… the wonder of nature that is the true essence of faerie. This is why we come together to dance and celebrate the turning of the seasons and the enchantment imbued in wildness.” Never shall I forget leafy faces glimpsed high in windblown trees, or flights of birds as we sang of them. Mysteries of fairy fields…

She seeds dreams within her herbs,

And ancient grains of wisdom in her wine

Verses quoted in my feature are from Woodland songs; lyrics by Kelly Miller Lopez, co-founder of Faerieworlds & Woodland, singer, harpist, dancer.