Circle Sanctuary’s Beltane threatened by washed out road

Sean McShee —  May 15, 2018 — Leave a comment

BARNEVELD, Wis. — A heavy rainstorm on May 3, 2018, made the gravel driveway to Circle Sanctuary impassable. That impassable road threatened to block access to Circle’s Beltane festival, which was to begin the next day. Heavy rains had damaged Circle’s roads before, but never before had they threatened a festival.

Damage to gravel driveway [courtesy].

On-site festival volunteers rapidly became a road crew. Still, festival organizers had to call in a local contractor, who lived nearby. That contractor brought in his heavy equipment and enough gravel to repair the road. Together, the volunteers and the local contractor made the gravel driveway passable enough for the festival to occur.

The repaired driveway allowed cars to pass and even became the site for a Morris dance, but parts of the ground remained soaked. Organizers had to move some activities to dry ground. While organizers had to move some activities, children turned water-soaked fields into “mud amusement parks.” Florence Edwards-Miller, one of the organizers of the event, described it as “a marvelous festival.”

That gravel driveway still has serious water problems. Without improved drainage, rainwater will continue to flow down the hillside and onto that gravel driveway. Nature has no concern for something as non-natural as a gravel driveway for cars. Circle Sanctuary has to work with nature to direct that water flow away from the road and into a nearby stream. Unfortunately, this work has to occur on the material plane, and like most things on the material plane, it will cost money.

Edwards-Miller volunteered to lead the fundraising efforts to generate that money. On May 5, she addressed festival attendees to discuss the problem. Children lined up to donate. One donor offered $2,000 in a matching fund challenge. Another offered $1,000. In a matching fund challenge, the donor offers to match any donation for a limited time up to a set amount.

Circle Sanctuary has developed one innovative fundraising technique that mixes cairn work with fundraising. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a cairn as “a heap of stones piled up as a memorial or as a landmark.” The stone circle forms the oldest sacred site on Circle Sanctuary land. Circle Sanctuary has their Earth Day festivals at this site. Edwards-Miller said that people have brought “a single rock at a time, over the decades” to this circle. While this stone circle is more of a low wall than a traditional pile of stone, it “rhymes” with a traditional cairn. Individual actions can build something over time without direction from a central authority.

If people send a $10 donation, Edwards-Miller will write the donor’s name on a new stone, and add that stone to the circle. She said the donor might use that stone or its image in some future magical working. Edwards Miller described the stone circle as “a perfect place for magic that focuses on restoration and balance.”

Edwards-Miller contrasted emergency fundraising with sustainable fundraising. She likened this campaign to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe or Kickstarter. Crowdfunding techniques work well for emergencies like the damage to the gravel driveway, but fail to create long-term sustainability. She compared Circle’s land management with other natural systems. Both need steady growth and emergency responses.

As of May 11, Edwards-Miller reported that Circle Sanctuary has received almost $8,000. Most of the donations were for $10. Edwards-Miller said Circle Sanctuary can now cover the initial cost of road repair. They may even be able to “implement long-term solutions for road improvement and improving the water flow on the land.”

Edwards-Miller described this as an “example of what our Pagan community can do, when we work together.” She included both the Circle Sanctuary community and the “network of Pagans near and far, many of whom will never physically set foot on the road they helped repair. That compassion, and that willingness to take action together, give me so much hope for our future.”

To donate to Circle Sanctuary, visit the organization’s donations page. Edwards-Miller said donations in any amount are gratefully accepted.

Sean McShee


Highly alienated, over-educated, and under-employed, Sean McShee is a San Francisco ex-pat currently living in Fort Lauderdale. He writes on HIV issues and health issues for South Florida Gay News, and blogs movie reviews at He has worked with Reclaiming, the Feri Tradition, Radical Faeries, and now is studying with ADF.