Yesterday was the first day of the three day long Sweeps Festival in Rochester, a day very much associated with Beltane with Morris dancing, maypoles and “Jack-In-The-Green,” a figure covered with leaves and linked with legends of the Green Man and other figures representing the greenery of spring and summer.
The day started with a short blessing performed in the Castle Gardens by the owners of the Pagan shop Woodland Wands & Magick. This was significant as last year, a Pagan group were timetabled in the programme to be involved with the official opening of Sweeps with a brief Pagan ritual, but it was cancelled at the the minute (allegedly due to complaints from a non-Pagan). The blessing was therefore a way for us Pagan attendees to express our pride, as well as retain the Pagan elements of the festival. It was also the first time I’d seen a ritual performed by someone outside of Medway Pagans, which I enjoyed – some of the invocations were in Latin, very interesting! After the blessing, I made sure to visit Woodland Magick’s stall, where I bought some “Green Man” incense (I’m burning it now and it’s nice).
Phoenix Rose and Abi Normal came to attend the blessing as well, and all three of us wore our Green Man masks. While Rochester High Street was still quiet, we spent an our at Nucleus Arts, a local art shop-cum-cafe with a lovely, peaceful garden outside.
When we left the cafe, the High Street was pretty packed. As we walked back to the Castle Gardens, several people asked to take our photos of us in our masks!
The rest of the day was spent exploring the stalls, eating delicious food, enjoying the funfair and listening to live music, including the French “folk-punk-pirate” band Sur Les Docks, who played at my wedding!
It’s raining today so we have no plans to visit Rochester today, but we plan on going tomorrow!
Here’s a few more photos from yersterday: