Goddess Travel: Where in the World?

As a Goddess-centric Witch, I am always looking for new ways to connect with the myriad of global goddesses. Even though I know that I can have powerful relationships with different goddesses from the comfort of my home, I’ve also got a bit of a travel bug, so when I am wandering in new places, I try to hold myself open to spiritual experience and divine intervention. Sometimes, though, I only realize how magical the experience was after the fact. I'll be exploring these different experiences and goddesses on this blog.

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Meeting the Muses

One of my favorite places on earth has long been Stratford, Ontario. I first visited this magical haven when I was very young; my mom was taking a Shakespeare class, and she decided to introduce me to The Tempest. We read it and discussed it together every night leading up to our trip, and then I had the spellbinding experience of seeing the words come to life in the Festival Theater, a beautiful space boasting the first thrust stage constructed in the world since the days of Shakespeare himself. There were trap doors and magical things, and I walked away completely captivated.

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_1970.JPGIn the years that have passed, I’ve been fortunate enough to sneak away to Stratford regularly; it was easy enough, since I lived in Michigan for the first twenty-four years of my life, and the drive was under five hours (provided everything went smoothly at the border). It has become harder to make the pilgrimage since I moved to North Carolina, but Stratford has now become a special spot for my husband and me, since we spent our short honeymoon there six years ago, and just returned again this summer for another amazing artistic experience.

During this most recent trip, I started to explore my passion for this place. I’d always thought it was the theatre that drew me, but the festival and the stellar performances that go with it are only part of the magic. While we were strolling down the charming main street, listening to street musicians ranging from a young quartet of siblings on strings to a wood flute to a man with a blue steel guitar, I realized that the magical nourishment I’ve always felt in Stratford comes from more than just the professional actors; Stratford is a flourishing home for the Muses.

Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, treads the boards each season alongside her sister Thalia, the muse of comedy, but Clio is right at home, too, within the histories by Shakespeare, and in the history of a small town with a deep awareness of its roots. As the festival has added musicals to each season, Terpsichore has eased into her tap shoes, happy to play once more, and Polyhymnia waits in the rafters and backstage, listening to the performers lift their voices. Calliope, Erato, and Euterpe are within reach for the countless workshop participants who flock to Stratford to hone their craft and find their voices, and clearly Urania guided the hands of the festival founders who, in 1952, took a gamble and created a place which has nurtured excellence in art for the past sixty-odd years.

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The presence of creative inspiration is tangible on every corner in Stratford, from the river with its graceful willows to the arts and crafts fairs that always seem to spring up on summer weekends, from the floating music festival every summer to the artistry of the many fabulous bed and breakfast hosts. It is a place where the arts have taken firm root, and this small town has become a vital source of renewal, rest, and inspiration through the stages of my life thus far. The entire town is a living shrine to the Muses, and I hope you’ll find an excuse to travel there someday.

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When I told my mom after this last trip that I realized she’d taken me to Stratford before I ever visited Disney World, a slow smile spread across her face, and she nodded before saying, “I knew I’d done something right.” Something right indeed; she'd fed my creative soul. Long live the arts!

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Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”). She is a poet, a novelist, and a goddess-centric witch with a love of all things magical. Her first nonfiction book, Goddess Spells for Busy Girls: Get Rich, Get Happy, Get Lucky, is out now from Weiser Books. A Michigander by birth, Jen now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn’t writing, she teaches writing composition at a community college. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.

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