HILL SPIRITS are an energetic folk quintet from the fabled hills of southern Ohio. While at some points boisterously uplifting and at other times stirringly mystical, Hill Spirits have become known for their passionate energetics and wholesale love for lifting their voices in song together. Based in Athens, Ohio, the group has forged deep musical bonds over the course of a decade in a multitude of musical projects ranging in sound from psychedelic rock to acoustic to neo-soul, eventually finding home in the Appalachian folk modes of their forebearers. In the course of their work diving into the revival of both Americana and old-world folk styles, Hill Spirits seem to have found a way to communicate with other realms, creating spaces during performances that summon restless spirits to join in a spirit-dance. All-in-all, a Hill Spirits show is an invigorating experience, one not to be missed. (BYO Moonshine)
Hill Spirits are Kyle Lyons (Knux) on banjo, Eric (the Reverend) Osborne on fiddle, George Joseph van Fossen (Old Dutch) on upright bass, Benjamin Stewart (O’Burteen) on guitar and mandolin, and Brother Hill on lead vocals, guitar, and Irish bodhran.
Byron will be presenting a keynote talk and three workshops.
The Ragged Wound: Tending the Broken Spirit of Appalachia
The problems of a mythic place require a mythic solution and this talk and the book-in-progress are my response to all the palaver about this place I call home. What do we do after the decades of clear-cutting, strip-mining, absentee ownership, mountaintop renewal, poison water and people with no hope or resilience left? We look at the root causes and we address the region’s ills with all the allies we can bring to bear, including the powerful Appalachian diaspora.
A Great and Subtle Weaving: Animism as a Political and Economic Force
So much of the interconnected global economy is dominated by capitalism and the domination language found in Genesis that is foundational to these global movements. This workshop proposes a return to animism and the incorporation of this ancient notion into the political arena as well as the economic one. How would this change these systems in the face of global climate transition? Is it even possible?
Living Under the Tower: A Discussion
Environmental and cultural challenges surround us and it is tempting to fall into despair or apathy. In this time of destruction, we can choose to live bigger, noisier and more engaged lives. Creating activities and putting protocols in place for and with our communities can lead to more resilience and stronger links in an increasingly isolated world. We’ll brainstorm what is already working in our local groups and consider how we move into this deepening time of possibility.
These “hearth gatherings” began in 2019 and have a general shape: we spend some time getting familiar with the idea of Tower Time, then come to a collective understanding of this collapse we are experiencing on all fronts We go from there to visioning about where we go now/next steps, how we grab agency, how we work collectively and individually to “grieve globally and act locally.” By relocalizing everything we can, we will build resilience as well as a kind of hope.
Warts, Waters and What Mountain Folk Know
Dive deep into the specific uses of water in Appalachian folk magic. From stump water and willowwater for cures to ditchwater for creativity and dish water for warts, the many uses of this powerful element have been passed down since the early days of immigration.Learn how they can broaden your own magical practice.
H. Byron Ballard, BA, MFA, is a western NC native, teacher, folklorist and writer. She has served as a featured speaker and teacher at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Spirit Gathering, Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference, Glastonbury Goddess Conference, Heartland, Sirius Rising, Starwood, Scottish Pagan Federation Conference, Hexfest and other festivals and conferences. She serves as senior priestess and co-founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple and the Coalition of Earth Religions/CERES, both in Asheville, NC. She podcasts about Appalachian folkways on “Wyrd Mountain Gals.” Her essays are featured in several anthologies and she writes a regular column for SageWoman Magazine. Her books include “Staubs and Ditchwater” (2012), the companion volume “Asfidity and Mad-Stones” (2015) “Embracing Willendorf” (2017), “Earth Works: Ceremonies in Tower Time” (2018),“Roots, Branches, and Spirits: the Folkways and Witchery of Appalachia” from Llewellyn (Feb. 2021) and “Seasons of a Magical Life: a Pagan Path of Living” (Weiser, August 2021). Upcoming: “The Ragged Wound: Tending the Soul of Appalachia” (Smith Bridge Press), “Porch Food: a cookbook from Wyrd Mountain” and a musical adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Learn more at www.myvillagewitch.com