Bele Chere 2012: The Rule of Two

Slideshow of Coven Oldenwilde’s wristband booth and volunteers at Bele Chere 2012.

First time’s beginners’ luck; second time’s a challenge. That’s the “Rule of Two” we wrote about in The Goodly Spellbook, and our second year running a nonprofit wristband booth at Bele Chere, the Southeast’s largest street festival, bore it out on Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28, 2012. We had a smaller crew handling a bigger crowd. Gangs of screaming street preachers took over downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park, just around the corner from us (see below the letters we wrote to local media about how we successfully prevent such ilk from disrupting our public Samhain rituals). Festival organizers stocked too few wristbands, and when we sold out right at the peak of the party on the second evening, *Diuvei had to race like an artful dodger through the crowded streets to get more, while Lady Passion had to handle tactfully a pair of drunk evangelicals who took that opportunity to badger her with “questions”.
Coven Oldenwilde volunteers hard at work banding Bele Chere festivalgoers.

Coven Oldenwilde volunteers hard at work banding Bele Chere festivalgoers. (Photo by Bob.)

But we followed our own advice about the Rule of Two — “no matter what happens, remain precise and persistent throughout” — and all of us worked hard and well, keeping our spirits high by experiencing as well as encouraging the joy, freedom, and beauty people who come from every continent radiate when they visit our mountain cultural oasis here. As the first-time volunteers discovered, the exhilaration far outweighs the exhaustion when you’re representing Asheville’s Witches to the world!
Coven Oldenwilde's magical Bele Chere belled cauldron gathered donations, gave blessings.

Magical belled cauldron gathers donations, gives blessings.

Sign: Donate to benefit Coven Oldenwilde. Ring the bell & get a blessing!

Sign: Donate to benefit Coven Oldenwilde. Ring the bell & get a blessing!

Witchcraft sign advertising Samhain 2012: Love is the Law

Witchcraft sign advertising Samhain 2012: Love is the Law

We experimented this year with using a greenery-decorated cauldron to collect tips, topped with a little bell people could ring for a blessing. It worked very well, and many people told us they enjoyed hearing the bell’s clear tone float over the crowd noise every time someone got a blessing.
Lady Passion wearing her new terrarium talisman atop her Witches of Coven Oldenwilde T-shirt.

Lady Passion wearing her new terrarium talisman atop her Witches of Coven Oldenwilde T-shirt.

Closer view of terrarium talisman.

Closer view of terrarium talisman.

Local residents tend to avoid Bele Chere — they’re not big fans of Budweiser, for one thing, which still holds a controversial near-monopoly on the festival’s beer and ale sales in a city that’s become world-famous for its local breweries — but many went out of their way to find us and thank us for saving the magnolia trees and, in the doing, changing Asheville for the better (to sum up: more preservation, less corruption!). An artist, Tristan Hertz, who makes terrariums — living landscapes in glass containers — expressed his gratitude to Lady Passion by giving her the beautiful little pendant terrarium pictured here. Other folks from all over came by to tell us how much they were learning from The Goodly Spellbook, show off their pentagrams (one man had 11 pentagram tattoos and counting!), pick up Lady Passion’s card in case they need magical or psychic help, or drop in a donation. One well-dressed man who came by to do so related to us that he was a elder in a conservative church whose pastor’s son was a big fan of the Harry Potter books. One Sunday the pastor was delivering a fiery sermon on the life to come. At its climax, he demanded of all assembled, “And when you get to heaven, who do you think you’ll see?” His son piped up loudly: “Witches!”, breaking the congregation up in laughter. As the man dropped in his donation, he looked toward the sky and smilingly prayed, “Jesus forgive me!”
Bob and cauldron after a busy Saturday evening for both.

Bob and cauldron after a busy Saturday evening for both.

Last donation being left in cauldron to charge it.

Last donation being left in cauldron to charge it.

When our last shift ended Saturday night and we’d folded up our starry tablecloth, rolled up our fringed banner, and packed away everything but the heavy iron cauldron, one more person stopped by to drop a donation in it. (We’re keeping it in there for luck.) Then, we heard Dixieland music coming from the middle of a huge, dancing crowd writhing up the street past us from the stage, as Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band closed the show by marching off the stage and away through the Bele Chere crowd. At times we swore we’d never do this again … but if we can get a larger crew of volunteers in 2013, we probably will. After all, if you survive the Rule of Two: “Third time’s the charm!” Letters to the Editor: How to Beat Street Preachers To Mountain Xpress: Street preachers have been invading Bele Chere like poison ivy in a park. This year they spread their amplified hate beyond Vance Monument and took over Pritchard Park. Just around the corner by the Battery Park Stage, however, we wicked Witches of Coven Oldenwilde — whom many might assume to be a natural target for puritanical ranters — actually welcomed thousands of festivalgoers at our non-profit wristband booth unmolested. Here’s why, based on our two decades of experience in preventing the disruption of our annual public Samhain ritual by brigades of anger-addicted Bible thumpers bused in from out of town: The preachers’ sole weapon is sound — a loud megaphone drone of accusatory spew that intentionally ruins the spirit of the festival. Their tactic only works in a relative sonic vacuum — easily neutralized if the local sound-scape is filled with amplified live or recorded music, as by a stage or concerted drumming, such as a drum circle. Asheville can’t afford to lose the valuable publicity boost the Southeast’s largest street festival gives it each year. Here are two suggestions for keeping future Bele Cheres from being expensively buzz-killed by evangelical agitators: A) Asheville’s drum-circle regulars could organize and raise funds from affected merchants to pay a rotating crew of skilled drummers to keep a danceable beat going at Vance Monument and Pritchard Park throughout the festival; or, B) pre-recorded music (preferably by local bands and DJs) could be played continuously there, amplified loud enough to defeat megaphones but not interfere with the live bands nearby. # # # To Asheville Citizen-Times: Hate-spewing street preachers have been invading Bele Chere like a Christian Taliban — this year commandeering not only Vance Monument but also Pritchard Park. Just around the corner by Battery Park Stage, however, we wicked Witches of Coven Oldenwilde peacefully welcomed thousands of festivalgoers at our non-profit wristband booth without interference from the puritanical ranters. After two decades of experience in preventing the disruption of our annual public Samhain ritual by bused-in brigades of Bible thumpers, we know that their only weapon for disturbing the peace is sound. Their droning condemnations are easily neutralized if the local sound-scape is kept filled with amplified live or recorded music, such as by a stage or concerted drumming. We offer two suggestions for keeping evangelical buzz-killers from turning Bele Chere into a fest to avoid: A) Merchants adversely affected by the miasma of moralizing could hire rotating crews of recruits from Asheville’s drum circles to play an ongoing dance beat at Vance Monument and Pritchard Park; or, B) pre-recorded music (preferably by local bands and DJs) could be piped in at a volume that drowns out the megaphones of doom without interfering with the live bands on nearby stages. # # # Credited photos by Jack Hedden, Backspace Photography, backspacephotography-at-gmail-dot-com. All others by *Diuvei unless noted.
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