On September 29th we started a journey to L’Homme Sauvage festival, held in the small town of Aspet, in the French Pyrenees. As we have mentioned several times, Occvlta is now established in the Catalan Pyrenees, an area called Pallars Sobirà, so it was really easy to get there, just needing to cross one mountain pass in order to get to Aspet. Those who took as the same path as we did surely noticed the slight change in the scenery, and surely did not miss the constant energy of the mother mountain embracing the wanderer. The characteristic slate stone of the Pallars and the Val d’Aran made way to marble of the French Midi-Pyrenés region, the black and brownish grey constructions transformed into white spectral buildings, the Catalan tongue made way to the French. But the mountains, the plants, the spirits remained there, different but always familiar: the everlasting spirit banners of the Pyrenees.
Personally speaking, knowing where the festival was taking place was also a reason not to miss it. Aspet is quite close to a town called Lannemezan, where, in 1232, a curious but crucial concept took form and made its appearance for the first time in medieval Europe: the idea of the Landes du Bouc, ‘the lands of the goat’. This toponymy is especially relevant in the history of Pyrenean Witchcraft, as the Lands of the Goat would later be the reference for the Catalan Biterna, the Basque-Navarre Akelarre, and the Aragonese Lanas del boc or Eras de Tolosa. This concept, the idea of the territorial link between worlds, the liminal plateau, is characteristic and definitory of the Witchraft paths in general and of Pyrenean witchcraft in particular, and its culminating ritual, the Sabbat, is entirely dependant of that intangible territory: the Lands of the Goat exist and do not exist at the same time, they are the spirit of the territory, but also the spirit of the practitioner, they are the path and the goal itself. And so, we eagerly followed the steps to the mountains that witnessed the first apparitions of Pyrenean Witchcraft.
Thus we arrived to where the festival was to take place, and after being warmly greeted by organisers and magnificent individuals, we proceeded to set up our stand. The area was hot, lush green, but it was already starting to show the signs of the coming harsh autumn. Little wild animals lurked curiously among the bushes, some even approaching our stuff as we were unboxing the offerings we had brought. We personally had no expectations to sell anything, as we do not consider Occvlta to be really popular, but soon those thoughts vanished when people came in and recognised the artefacts we had carried.
But let’s move on to the setting. The stage, crowned by a solar wheel, guarded by old wooden mountain idols, became like a window to the transformation process of turning music into magic. The huge horned idol that witnessed All marked the more and more tangible presence of the spirits of the woods, which awaited for the night to come and greet us. The rain in the second day of the festival, though it could have seemed a matter of concern, was eagerly greeted by audiences and artists alike as a gift of recognition, and it not diminish our will to proceed with the ceremony.
It is easy to remember the performances of all the artists, who mesmerised and surprised us all. They all became instant connoisseurs of the powers of the mountain mother, and all those who performed their sonic rituals were imbued by the same flow of energy, where the vibration of the place joined their own tunes and sounds, making it a unique live ceremony. All the artists had something to say, a message of their own, but how deeply it seemed to connect to the energies of the land, the night, and the fire. I hope they were enriched and changed by that time and place as much as we attendants were.
The rites of fire, remembrance of old solstice rituals still carried out in the Pyrenean territory, surprised many attendants to the festival, but not us (watch video below if you want to know more about it). We arrived at the Pyrenees four months ago, the night of the solstice itself, and witnessing that ancient ritual was a rite of passage that marked a new beginning. Therefore, this same celebration in the context of the festival was like a closure, a great comeback and the chance to reflect on our priorities, our choices, and our personal implications in the Crooked Path. Everything was falling into place.
It could be easily seen that attendants, artists, and organisers alike were riding the same flow of energy: the land had given us to drink from its cup, and we all had instants where time and space had no meaning whatsoever, those sabbat-like moments in which we all conjoined and danced in circles, felt bewitched by old-but-new melodies and chants, those instants where we had conversations in and outside ourselves and revealed thoughts we didn’t know we were thinking. The soil, the rain, the wind, the flames drowned us in a way that cannot be imagined nor explained, but only lived; we were sacralised, killed, and reborn by the grace of the Pyrenees, we became the Wild Beings again, together but alone.
And so, 775 years after the Lands of the Goat were made known to the world, we found the liminal plateau again, there, lost amidst the mountains, in the depths of our own existence. After the Homme Sauvage festival had ended, each of us came back home, muddy, exhausted, but transformed and cleansed by the blow we had received from the primitive strike of the wilderness and the magic of the raw power of the Land, First and Last Master to the Keys of knowledge.
May it happen again, sooner than later.