From July 28 through August 4, I had the pleasure of attending the 4th triennial International Asatrú Summer Camp (IASC). This year it was held in Gerolstein, Germany. Getting there was a small adventure. I took Amtrak from home to NYC, then Subway/air trail to JFK followed by a flight to Frankfurt. This all went smoothly, and about as good as I could expect. Landing in Frankfurt, I had to get a rental car as I was planning other driving after the trip. Got upgraded to a SUV which was useful, but more expensive due to costs if fuel.
After getting a night's rest in Frankfurt, I drive off to the event. Let me just say driving io the main roads was not any different than here in the us, just different signs. Driving in the small towns though.... The roads are so narrow, and parking is either on street or on sidewalk making things even narrower. It was something I was not used to and made driving a bit more of a challenge. This was only in the small towns though, not cities which tended to have reasonably sized roads. After figuring out that the road I was on was being detoured because of some kind of construction, I finally made it to Gerolstein and the hostel.
Before I went over, I really only knew a handful of people that were going to be at the event. On the largest day there was over 100 people, so I of course had a bit of nerves going because I would be meeting new people, most who speak English as a second language, and are from different cultures than mine. I admit that I have a little anxiety with meeting many new people at once, but adding in that I could easily do something unintentional that is fine at home but offensive here, I was a little more anxious than usual. This was unfounded in the end. The people at the event were all amazing and kind people. It felt like we all went out of our way to meet new people and get to know them. It really felt like I had arrived to a second home.
The workshops at the event were varied, and good. I didn't make all the workshops because some were scheduled opposite each other, but I made all I could. Some were academic such as the talk on the Matronae and the talk about how the neo-nazi's are misusing things that the nazis were rumored to have used or believed (with the bulk of it not having any proof that they actually did use it). This latter one gave me a look into more of the dog whistles and conspiracy theories that are being used out there by the white supremacists. There were more experiential workshops too such on one that added in some more Taoist practices into reading runes, and a week long option to do bronze casting.
We also had two excursions during the week. First, we had the Matronae excursion. Here we visited two historical sites where there were temples of some kind set up with Matronae altars and stones. These were amazing to see, and even more amazing that they are still being used to some degree as there were offerings made at both sites before we were there. Visiting these sites was well worth it. The energy and history dating back a couple thousand years (Roman times for the stones/altars) was just something you won't easily find here in the US.
The second excursion was to the city of Trier. This is the oldest city in Germany, and is the site of some Roman ruins (baths, colosseum, gate) and even a Roman bridge over the river Mosel that is still in use today, with modern cars! The old city was impressive and beautiful. Thankfully it was not destroyed by WW-II and the vast majority of the old city is actually old. This was a very hot day though hitting the low 40's C. We had an excellent tour guide for an hour or so, but overall I don't know if I would do it again. Not saying it wasn't worth the trip, but it wasn't enough time to really see the actual ruins... in those temperatures though, it was not really good weather to do anything.
There were many rituals focusing on all kinds of things. The obvious opening and closing rites were wonderful and gave me ideas for things to do in other groups. The midweek rite was fun and powerful. Flame of Frith, while at times bursting out with laughter, was fulfilling in its purpose. My rite and workshop combination was successful and gave us answers to a question we were asking for much of the week. Finally, the one that I am taking home the most from is the Seidhr ritual. This was not your Paxson based ritual that I am used to, but it originates out of Sweden. The use of Seidhr for energy work in a group setting was new to me, and executed beautifully. Having the singing (although it got tiresome to sing the same 4 lines for over an hour) over the questions for the oracular portion was intriguing and something I need to work with. It was a very moving and powerful ritual though.
The location though gets mixed reviews, but not bad. The hostel facilities were great. They had plenty of room and reasonable accommodations for a hostel. The food was on the poor end for food. This is not just an American's take on foreign foods but it was the consensus of many of the participants. It was edible, but it was not memorable in a good way. This is a hostel, so we really shouldn't be surprised. The views from the hostel were spectacular though.. Across the valley were a couple cliffs that gave a splendid backdrop to the event. We were also in town for their annual fair, which meant that Monday night, we got fireworks, against the cliffs, and at eye level.
In the end though, this was an amazing event. The people were all pleasant and friendly. I learned about pagan things, but also about these other cultures. I saw once again that we all have similar practice and beliefs with one major exception.... Loki is more than accepted and welcomed at their rituals. Talk about a feeling of being welcomed in ritual without having to guard others from your patron. Hearing multiple "Hail Loki" calls during a ritual is unusual to Americans and welcomed by me. I have now made more friends and expanded friendships I started at Frith Forge. I am looking at going back to Europe for other events, but I am really looking forward to going back to IASC in three years.