Many people enjoyed the Festival and the chance meetings they encountered. Some meetings were not by chance. There were many family and local groups and associations which regularly met at the Festival, and there were more specialised Guilds and groups which arranged to meet there. These were not necessarily religious, although some liked to think that they were under spiritual or religious patronage, and maintained appropriate rites. Usually these meetings were in at inns or houses or encampments in the vicinity but not actually in the Avebury henge. Amongst these was the Guild of St. George. This was a combination of farming and military interests, under the notional patronage of the military saint who had been the patron of England since the Middle Ages, and whose cross had been it’s flag, even when subsumed into the Union Jack.This had actually begun in Yorkshire, which had inherited the main use of this symbol, but it had naturally had it’s appeal in the other kingdoms also.It’s members wore white vestments bearing the upright red cross on ceremonial occasions.The military members wore it with a small red sword in the upper right quadrant (left to an observer in front of it), which was in imitation of the emblem of the long destroyed City of London and it’s military tradition and they had taken it’s motto, Domine Dirige Nos. The agricultural members wore it with a red spade in the same place. Not surprisingly this was popular with both farmers and Thanes. Some pondered the connection between sword and spade, and the derivation of the suit of spades from ‘spada’, which had been Spanish for ‘sword’. At the lower level, many soldiers came from rural backgrounds. The Thanes who provided the officer class, and many of the civil administrators were usually also landowners. Some of the same men would also offer prayers and sacrifices to Frey and Freyja for fertility and prosperity of their farms and their families, and saw no objection to appealing to Thor or Odin as well as to St. Michael or St. George for help in battle. These people were prominent in the farming displays and competitions, and in the military demonstrations which were also popular with the public. There was strong interest in maintaining and improving farming techniques and the fertility and happiness of the crops and animals and wild creatures as well as the human inhabitants of the Land. Farmers’ groups organised talks, demonstrations and competitions, and nature druids sought to find means of obtaining the co-operation of the spirits of nature, particularly the followers of the Blessed Crombie of Findhorn, who encouraged helpful rites and practices. Devotions to Frey and Freyja were also popular for similar reasons. Brigit or St. Bride was increasingly popular in the north, where long before she had been the goddess of the Brigantes, and Bran again had devotees among the druids.
The John Barleycorns were a group with widespread affiliations. Superficially, devoted to convivial drinking, and often amongst those attending the festivals and ‘blots’ of Saxon pagan groups – where many attendees got ‘blotto’ on the beer and mead and wine that were so copiously consumed; their inner membership was devoted to the very ancient belief and rituals of the dying and rising spirit. They produced food and beverages which they blessed and endeavored to assure embodied the helpful spirit of the Land and it’s deities. These sacramental foods were thought to contribute to the physical and spiritual health of the ‘wise’ who ingested them. Naturally, they were not huckstered to the general public, but became available to those with the strongest spiritual and emotional connections to the Land. Travelers were thus able to maintain their vitality and vital connection to their land even when abroad and mainly dependent for their sustenance on the produce of other lands. Unwittingly, Dieter achieved something of a similar although weaker benefit through his consumption of the wines of his native Rhineland.
The Sons of Wayland were also amongst those groups whose members met regularly at the Festival, although their ceremonial centre was Wayland’s Smithy, further to the east. In addition to enjoying the festivities and ceremonies members took the chance to discuss technical matters amongst themselves. Some of the members were druids or shamans who were able to contact nature spirits. This year one of the most intense discussions concerned better and cheaper means of smelting and working iron. Issac Hughes, a short dour man and one of the most skilled iron-workers was at the centre of this discussion, among with John Wilkins a nature druid. The pair of them had spent years in Mauritania trying to focus the sun’s heat with lenses, to raise working temperatures and economise on coal and coke. Wilkins tried to conjure fire and air elementals and have them raise the temperature and provide a strong draft for the furnace. Hughes had learned German and gone to Germany under Dieter’s sponsorship, to study and replicate their industrial techniques, but no hint of his current concerns was permitted to reach Dieter’s ears. The Archmage and Sir Henry Tipton, a courtier close to the King, who took an interest in matters of security, had made that very clear. Hughes, Wilkins and their ilk also took a keen interest in the products of Norse and Swedish metal-crafting. These had a legendary tradition of fine workmanship and there were ancient tales and modern hints that they had bound spirits to create famous weapons. The Norse weapon-smiths and mages seldom ventured to visit the Avebury Midsummer Festival, so Hughes and Wilkins were not disappointed by their absence. They enjoyed the discussions with their fellow Sons of Wayland, considered who else might be able to help them, and planned their next experiments.