By Kari Tauring
This is the fourth, and final, installment of my vandrestav journey this summer, 2011. The first two events, Trothmoot and Northern Folk Gathering, were specifically designed for practitioners of the spirituality of the Northern European folk tradition. The Midwest Viking Festival was a celebration of specifically Viking era traditions, attracting Scandinavians as well as the general public looking for deeper root connections.
My final event this season was Lightning Across the Plains (LATP)/Midwest Thing. The event takes place at the Camp Gaea compound in McLouth, Kansas. It draws 200 plus Heathens, (70 of whom are children) from Michigan to Texas. This year we even had visitors from the coasts, Rhode Island and Los Angeles!
Many of you readers will know of Camp Gaea already. I first visited this sacred space in 2000 and again in 2001 when I played music for the Goddess Festival, an all women’s event. I was wholly impressed by the care taken in assuring that men did not enter the camp areas (even to suck out the toilets!), respect for multiple pathways, and sense of safety spiritually and physically. It was my deep wish and prayer of mine that the Northern/Heathen tradition could be represented at this amazing site. I was simply overjoyed to hear that JBK had begun to tend a Heathen Ve (worship space) on the grounds there. Through conversations and meetings we got to know one another and they asked me to be their honored guest at the first LATP in 2009. In 2010 they added the “Midwest Thing.” A Thing is where tribes/clans/families/kindreds who live far apart to meet in person and conduct business pertaining to the region. The parliament in Iceland and Norway is called the Thing (Ting).
While Jotun’s Bane Kindred (JBK) hosts LATP, attending kindreds share in leading ceremonies, providing work shops, and food preparation which creates the sense of regional partnership, community and belonging. This event serves to bring together the Midwest regions varied Heathen kindreds, tribes, families and individuals. It fills a need for a central gathering where all Heathen-identified persons and groups can come and meet one another, share knowledge and experiences, and begin to create the bonds of community that are so important in spiritual and religious development.