Impressions from the Samhain Celebration in Gotha, 4th of November ’16
I arrive in Gotha Thursday evening and find the town nearly empty. Having to bridge time and spotting a supermarket nearby, I buy food, water and a pomegranate… Gotha seems to be a place of short distances. At the train station I meet Soth Arts, who will be my comrade for the next 2 days. We could take the tram but decide to walk. Through the park and by the castle; Gotha has its charm, despite or because it feels very much like a ghost town that evening. We check into our hotel, were I am presented the rosaries made for the event: black and ebony wooden beads harmonize perfectly with the Teufelskunst bronze amulets. I quickly put mine on. We have no time to loose…
Out again in the cold night and in a roundabout way we arrive at the pub. There Martin (the organizer) greets us. We find him surrounded by a bustling team of helpers, who are threading up chestnuts, painting banners and applying various green to the stage. One contributor supplied half of his garden to transform the stage into a theatrical scene worthy of an opera production, and 100% in harmony with the Samhain theme.
We quickly join the industrious proceedings and begin stamping and filling little bags with the prepared incense. It gets late and as we finally head back to the hotel, passing by the park again and from the corner of our eyes noticing different interesting trees and crossroads, we plan our spirit offerings for the coming night: I already have the pomegranate and incense; to this we add rum and candles.
The next morning we continue, finishing the last preparations for the evening. Then we have lunch, buy our offerings and pack everything to come with us tonight. It is all damn tight. Even minutes before the pub opens we are putting finishing touches to merch items and set up our table. In the end all is on time, save for my photo exhibition. It turns out the pub is too dark (behold the irony). In addition I face resistance by the pub owners over hanging up the heavy gallery frames, which would involve the hammering of nails into their walls and timber… The darkness wins, I no longer want for my sombre photographs to adorn the even more sombre pub walls. So I improvise and put up the works on chairs and inside windows, where they are still best seen. This serves as a temporary solution for the evening. A better place has yet to be found.
So this is a bummer. I am also starting to feel the lack of sleep and food and the pressure on me, just minutes before the audience begins rolling in. But I am not alone. Soth Arts is there, being an immense support. Erik from Grift, who I meet here for the first time, cheers me up with Swedish lessons and of course there are the many helping hands that are now waiting to see the result of their hard work. I forget to worry about my photos (whoever is meant to see the works will notice them.)
The venue fills quickly and the first band, Vivus Humare, starts on time, followed by Grift from Sweden, MOSAIC and finally Farsot. All four are new to me. Vivus Humare play Black Metal without much add-ons. The 60 minute performance passes in no time. Grift provide a contrast: there is Erik Gärdefors with his acoustic guitar and little singing bowl. He is the special guest of the evening and delivers a beautifully melancholic performance, which convinces the audience and is met with applause. Then comes the time for MOSAIC, the host of the celebration, if you will. Though Martin performs in fact with three bands on this evening, which deserves respect on its own. I watch the MOSAIC performance closely. Martin appears absent, absorbed in his roll of “Inkantator”. His facial expression are grotesque and there is a cold passion in his voice, which seems to echo from a distant glacier world. We spoke of Dame Hulda and her connection to the town of Gotha before – her icy presence is certainly to be felt on this night.
In between and during the gigs I chat with people dropping by our table. For me this is a new experience, as I have not presented my work with Teufelskunst to a live audience before, much less in a metal concert setting. I am used to black metal and the metal audience due to my photography and past-time freelancing for music magazines, but this is altogether a different situation. I was not sure at all if this would work out and whether the audience would accept and treat the hand-made artworks with respect. But it turns out they do, which is partly owed to the solemn atmosphere. On the other hand I also burn plenty of our protecting incense…
Those who are shy or can not relate, do not bother us. Others become curious: metal fans inquire for gardening advice and buy incense. Some communicate their understanding or serious interest in occult symbolism and practices. In the end there are around a dozen people that drop by our table, leave positive feedback and purchase photography as well as crafted items. It is nothing I take for granted and I am thankful for each and everyone one that shows interest. A special thanks goes to Soth Arts as well as Martin and his amazing co-workers. The spirits are thanked elsewhere.
Now I will leave you with these impressions in picture and sound, but not without a hint that you shall prepare for new offerings in November…
Handmade twin-serpent rosaries by Soth Arts
Teufelskunst harvest seal used as a focal point for the night; the stage was decorated elaborately with fern fronds, ivy, bladder cherry, shocks, corncobs and chestnuts.
Official merch, including journal with my Samhain essay, music tape, leather amulet and Samhain incense blend
Reviews and further reading:
November 9, 2016