It’s taken a full revolution of the seasons for the 7th ceremony of Stella Natura to unravel. I had chosen to attend last year, and found myself in a place so utterly free, wild, and inviting that it became a priority for me to return. What ensues are some of the stand out points of my time at the Stone Bear River Resort. That which is called the Light of Ancestral Fires.
The plan was to meet Sam Zermeno, a friend of mine in Riverside County, and keep up for the 9 hour drive to Tahoe National Forest. After nearly running out of gas on the way and stopping twice to sleep, making the night ride slightly easier, we crept onto Eagle Lake road in the early sun hours. Within the hour we had already traipsed down into the boulder valley churning with the Yuba waters. I found a totem and a crystal left in one of the hollows, and together, a small cove of rocks above the torrent. We drove thereafter into the site, filled with the incense of elder redwoods, pillar pines, and mountain air and quickly made our refuge in a small slice of the forest nearby a handmade stone circle. Shielded by massive etin-rocks all around with panoramic views of the wild lands beyond. After a couple hours of trekking around on the boulders, and eschewing songs of pan pipes and goat horn blowing, we headed to the stage areas. There were 3 stages like last year, one on the mountains edge, one beside the wood, and a full acoustic setup interupting a dirt blazed trail. I caught Dispirit and a special Trepaneringsritual/Sutekh Hexen collaboration. The latter, running into the late hours of the night, wreathed in fog and a cacophony of noise at the acoustic stage.
Day 2, the freezing rains, wind and snow poured down, cloaking the distant hills in white contrast. Equipment was getting drowning, stage pieces were collapsing, and only a couple acoustic acts played while folk beared the chill under tarps. I think this dampened many peoples spirits, and many went home or out of the site to find comfort in the nearest hotel. Sam and I bunkered in for the day, and went to occupy ourselves near the gate. To much appeal, meeting with some other hard natured festival goers and feasting on stew around a barrel fire. On account of Wardruna’s absence, we gathered near the flames listening to Yggdrasil, under the full moon, drinking mulled pear mead until the need for sleep overtook us.
After a rather harsh day on the equinox, the commencing day had an entirely different aura about it. The sun revealed the morning and it was assured to be a full day of music. I met another of the Gild members, Aldis, and we hiked beside the Yuba river. Inside an alcove of stones, a small womblike aperture hid glistening waters filtering in from the waters above. We galdored the futhark together in the darkness. This was the spritual high point for me. Over the course of the day, every band was able to perform, using all 3 stages simultaneously. Blood And Sun hailed the day with solar songs. Hexvessel swooned us with pagan charmed tunes. Saturnalia Temple sacrificed at the altar of Black Magic. Waldteufel made brazen the spirits of the mountain wights. Fire + Ice made anew the English traditions. And Halo Manash slurred the cosmic tones of archaic instruments for a perspicacious few. Completely unannounced and distanced from any sense of audience. Arktau Eos was a whole different take on a live show and for me was the most lucid and profound.A few guys clad in Viking garb were dueling in the dark. The trees were washed with a red hue not unlike the blood of animals, while cold translucent Burzum music echoed through the cold night air. By this time is was 4 am, and I was heavily intoxicated by absinthe, mead, and a psilocybin herbal brew. Three burlap robed, half human forms chanted Finnish spells to the swirling stars, spitting vile liquids during threatening posture magic. It seemed as if they were mediums of long forgotten seed sounds from distant universes and the dark places of the earth. A jar of strong herbal spirit, with decaying plants and a fermenting bird claw inside was passed around which I partook. The taste comes to my mouth even now recalling it. Less than 20 people were there watching, in the freezing cold, under a patchwork of the celestial vault, intoxicated, and half slumbered. We silently wandered back to our camp at 5am and made the journey back to the sunny state.
The connections made at Stella were some of the most special encounters for me, because it is the people there that truly make it what it is. The anonymity found in contemporary society is vanquished, and you are free to act how you are. Th communal aspect of the festival is the axiom of why in my opinion it is such a transformation and time of growth. The ceremony is the living tradition, real culture and the right atmosphere. I have made a vow once again to step afoot there next year.