Something that brings people back to Pagan festivals over and over, yet is hard to convey to those who haven’t attended a festival are the conversations that organically happen throughout the festival. You may be sitting at your campsite and a stranger will stop by and the next thing you know, you’ve spent an hour chatting with one another and a friendship is formed. Or a BNP (Big Name Pagan) may hear the sound of your martini shaker going and you learn more during that conversation than you have from a bookshelf of Pagan books.
I’m shameless about luring people to my campsite with booze and food. I consider it an even trade – you give some of your limited time during a festival and I will feed you. I enjoy being a host and I love guests.
One guest who wandered into my campsite was Patrick McCollum. He was tired, very hungry, and extremely friendly. The conversation ranged from early Pagan history to a very special instrument he was carrying. The instrument, a violin, had a story behind it. And like the really good stories that stick with you, this one had a lesson behind it.
Patrick McCollum at PSG 2011
Patrick was moved to make a violin. no, he told us, he had no experience in making instruments. He just felt he wanted to do this. He made it over a period of years. A bit of gifted wood from this trip, inlaying some carved willow from a sacred site, more ethically harvested wood from another place. Finally, it was ready for the lacquer. He mixed it himself, let it dry. Put the strings on, raised his bow….and it sounded like shit.
What went wrong? He sanded the lacquer off, remixed a new batch, and then let it dry. It still sounded like shit. but not as bad as before. So he put it away for about 6 months. The violin sat in the dark, away but not forgotten, until Patrick took it out once more and played it.
Detail of the inlaid willow on the violin
It sounded pretty good! What had changed? He hadn’t done anything different to it. The temperature was the same, humidity was the same. The difference was the violin had time to sit. To incubate. Time and darkness to Become. Patrick told us sometimes that’s what we need to do with our ideas – allow them to sit and develop and become.
I’m a person who jumps in and wants to DO. Plan and execute. This story from Patrick wasn’t just a neat story, but is a new modern, Pagan fable that can enter our storytelling. It shows our ethics in how he gathered the materials and didn’t just take and cause harm to the environment. Our curiosity and desire to create is shown in his drive to make an instrument himself, even though he had no experience in instrument making. When he didn’t get it perfect, he didn’t take it personally. He accepted it as a learning experience and utilized it. And finally…it is a very Pagan concept to see darkness not as an enemy, but as a positive place of possibility and incubation and magic.