The weekend of June 13th was the third annual Shield and Bow festival. Or at least it would have been if there were not a global pandemic.
Shield and Bow is a weekend for persons who identify with womanhood. It uses the weekend explore feminine themes based in spirituality as well as practicality, blending ritual and ceremony with a laid-back weekend to relax.
Normally this event takes place on the 100 acre pagan-owned and operated Raven’s Knoll Campground. However due to the global pandemic and life-as-we-know-it on pause, the Shield and Bow Festival, has had to pivot, like many events. The organizers had to make a decision; cancel or bring the festival online.
Founder and lead-organizer Allison McCuaig (and close friend of mine) choose not to cancel and instead bring the programming online. After many months of planning, spreadsheets and creating documents. Shield and Bow was able to take place via Facebook groups and a professional Zoom account.
Shield and Bow is a weekend for us as people 16+ who identify with womanhood. It is a celebration of our chosen identity, driven by commitment to community and offered by the Sisters for their sisters! We hope you can join us online June 12th, 13th and 14th 2020.Source
Upon registering for the event each attendee was mailed out a personal card with a strip of fabric for their entry bracelets, and a tarot card. This is a Shield and Bow tradition known as your “homework”. Not only did you have to research the cards meaning, but also what your personal/inner work would be for the year.
Programming started on Friday evening, with attendees tuning in to the password protected room to join a welcoming ritual. The ritual included grounding and centering (a common practice in various pagan paths to prepare yourself for ritual space) and each participant shared a little bit about themselves as well as lighting a candle, another level of connection. Albeit through a screen you knew each woman had a candle lit in her home.
As a pre-cursor to the festival each woman was able to send photos to the “Shield Wall” posted to Facebook and Instagram. Women discussed what it being a warrior meant to them, be it in motherhood or in a gentler way.
Saturday and Sunday were filled with workshops spaced out every few hours including topics like:
- Fight Like a Girl – a self defense course
- Death and Taxes – how to guide on taxes and creating a will
- Self- Blessing Ritual
- Ancestor Rattle making
- Bardic- women shared songs, stories, jokes and poetry
Saturday evening held the feast. Usually when we are in the woods of the Knoll we come together and share dishes, decorate the halls and all sit at the same table. This virtual event invited us to bring our plates and tune into Zoom to chat and connect. During the feast Goddesses and feminine concepts are honored. Women spoke on the divine feminine, honored missing and murdered Indigenous women, and discussed goddess such as Artemis and Bridget.
While this event really differed from the norm of being out in the woods, connecting with your sisters, enjoying a feast together and dancing and laughing around a fire, there was a chance here for a genuine connection and a sharing of space. Although there were challenges, being so far apart from one another and being behind a screen. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to come together in this virtual way. It was clear that this was desperatley needed by many.
It poses the question of how will we adapt our spiritual practice? How will we come together and create shared experiences in this uncertain time? Although it’s not perfect I really believe these stolen moments; the late night zoom chats, sharing of photos and vulnerability on social media, of lighting a candle in the dark together at home, are going to sustain us and keep us through to the other side of this crisis.
Until this crisis is over, all we can do is adapt, light that candle and pray.