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| Article Specs|
Article ID: 2781
Age Group: Adult
Posted: May 7th. 2000
by Patricia Telesco
Festival season is blossoming like the earth itself, and the number of gatherings and events around the world is growing likewise. So this is the perfect time to examine some basic helps and hints that will make everyone's festival more enjoyable. While this series is intended mostly for people who have not attended many events, it's a good idea for everyone to read this information over. Sometimes we get jaded or apathetic, overlook little niceties, and land ourselves in a political heap of trouble as a result. By remaining aware and informed a lot of problems can be avoided.
To start this series, we'll go over a few of the FAQ's that come to festival coordinators and speakers alike.
What festivals should I go to?
Talk about a loaded question. Circle Network News offers an annual guide to gatherings and there are also links to excellent gatherings on this site. There is a lot to consider before you send in your reservations, however. For example, how long has the festival been held annually? Do the coordinators of that festival have a solid community reputation? Where is it located and can you handle the surroundings of that location (e.g. camping, a hotel, and a college campus). Is the gathering reasonably priced? Are the speakers or lecture topics ones from which you will benefit? Do you have reliable transportation to this site?
All of these questions come under the heading of "common sense" which seems to be in short supply at many festivals. People come without adequate transportation home, hoping for rides... people come without sufficient funds. Don't do it! While pagans have a generous heart, one should never take advantage of that generosity, otherwise it wouldn't be there when you really need it!
What do I take to a festival?
Well, is it indoors or out? Camping festivals are, by far, in the majority meaning you need to be prepared for all types of elements. Get on the Internet the day before you leave and check the weather forecast for the area in question, then pack accordingly (and plan for the unexpected too).
For rain: make sure your tent has been waterproofed. Bring a dry set of clothing packed in a plastic bag just in case. Bring an umbrella, boots, and/or raincoat. Bring extra warm blankets (rain makes for damp nights, especially in a valley).
For sun: pack salt tablets, sunscreen, lightweight clothing, and plenty of bottled water so you stay hydrated. Please don't make our medical personnel work harder than they have to!
Generally: bring enough GOOD food (magick is hard work, and your body needs to be fed), Bring slightly more than you expect to need in the way of money so you have an emergency fund and spending cash. Bring towels, a wash cloth, soap, and other personal amenities (sweat smell isn't something easily dispelled by sage). Bring extra shoes that have good tread so you're not likely to fall when hiking around. Remember bug repellant, a flashlight, garbage bags, extra toilet paper, and a bottle opener (just trust me on this).
I have medical conditions that require specific care. Is there anything special I should do?
YES! Tell the people at the check-in area about any allergies or medical conditions. This will help greatly in the case of an emergency, and help on-site personnel treat you with greater efficiency.
I've heard a lot of discussion about drug use at events. What's the real story?
Consider for a moment that if the festival is held on private land, that land can be confiscated if ANYONE is found possessing illegal drugs on site. If ours is to "harm none" having illegal drugs at a festival is a huge karmic no-no. Be responsible, considerate, and wise.
If I see someone doing something at an event that I think is inappropriate what should I do?
If someone in authority is available, go to him or her immediately. On the East Coast we have a group called the Guardians who act as security at many events. This type of group is the people you should turn to for help. Unless absolutely necessary don't take things into your own hands, as that can make matters worse.
I'm not sure how I feel about clothing optional events. Can you tell me more?
Many pagans feel that clothing represents trappings from the mundane world. When a festival or state allows, they may choose to go without clothing especially during rituals as a symbolic gesture. You will find, however, that there's no gawking or discomfort about this. Most people in neo-paganism aren't overly hung up on the physical.
That having been said, you should know that there is nothing requiring disrobing! If you're not wholly comfortable with the idea, don't do it. Find a nice robe or sundress or whatever -- the most important thing is that you somehow feel different and magickal in what you wear. This will make the festival experience more positive and fulfilling.
Is there any protocol in place at events to handle emergency situations?
This depends on the event. Festival coordinators who have been on the circuit for several years know that "shit" does indeed happen, and prepare accordingly for storms, accidents, mundane "infiltrators" and the like. This is another very good reason to attend events that have a good history behind them, at least until you're more experienced yourself. Depend on the wisdom of people who have done this "forever" rather than exposing yourself to potential dangers.
I hear a lot about drumming and bonfire dancing at events, but also a lot of grumbling from people who feel that somehow certain "proprieties" have been overlooked. Please explain?
Ok, let's take this one part at a time. Drumming is a sacred art that honors the Ancients and Spirit when done correctly. However, some people come to a drum circle looking to be "stars" instead of wanting to simply share a voice in the greater whole. When this happens it disrupts energy and generally leaves the drum circle in a state of imbalance. A good drummer knows how to LISTEN too.
As for the fire dancing there are a lot of issues to consider, not the least of which is safety. I have pulled people away from a bonfire who were obviously in no condition to be interacting with such a powerful element at that moment. I have chastised people for being rude to those who were trance dancing by making loud conversation and other interruptions.
Similarly, fire is an element that demands respect. We do NOT command the fire, we honor it or become partners with it (just ask any experienced shaman). And, there are some people who just dance the fires to put on a good show -- trust me when I say you can tell the difference. Enjoy the dance, enjoy the fire, and enjoy the drumming. Let it take you to a spiritual space, but don't abuse it's gifts.
I really want to talk to one of the speakers at an event privately about something. Is it ok, and how do I go about doing that?
It may or may not be ok depending on that person's time constraints, but it never huts to ask. You'll find that most presenters at festivals are very approachable, being real people who have been where you are now. If they have time, they're normally more than willing to help out. A good alternative, especially for authors, is to visit them at their sales table where they are often quite happy for some company!
Do any merchants accept barter at events?
Some do, some do not. A lot depends on the merchant's financial needs. I know that I cannot do barter until I've made a certain amount of money with which to pay bills when I get home. After that point, I'm open to ideas.
Also, I've noticed that a lot of people expect that prices will miraculously go down on Sundays as people are packing up. This isn't always true. Some merchants may lower prices so they don't have to carry so much, but for the most part prices remain steady throughout an event.
I can't camp (or stay at a hotel) for the event. Can I just come for a day?
This, again, depends on the event. Some require complete participation (or minimally paying a fare that equates to complete participation). However, many events are now offering day passes at reasonable prices, recognizing that not everyone can get several days in a row off from work, etc.
There are so many things to do at an event. How do I choose?
This is wonderful! It means event coordinators are offering a great variety of activities from which to choose. Revel in it, but also be wise. When you're tired -- sleep. When you're hungry eat. The rest of the time, go to whatever activity speaks to your heart, spirit, and needs. Let your inner voice guide you. When you're really listening it's rarely wrong.
Are there any specific "rules" of which I should be aware?
Read whatever materials are provided upon registration. Some counties, for example, require that specific recycling guidelines be followed. Other events have areas set aside for smokers. These little details aren't designed to make things difficult, but instead to make everyone's experience BETTER. Please be respectful of your host and follow the rules for each event as if they were part of your own Book of Shadows.
What are festival Work Passes?
Some people find themselves short on funds, but want very badly to attend events. When this happens, look into work passes. A work pass requires that the individual perform a certain amount (usually a specified number of hours) labor at the event in return for free or reduced price admission.
Now, while this is a wonderful program, it shouldn't be abused. If you accept a work pass, plan to WORK. Also:
Find out what will be expected of you This is not a situation that allows for Pagan Standard Time silliness. Remember, you're relieving someone and if you don't show up, someone else has to do your work and miss out on part of his or her festival experience. This isn't fair, and it isn't the way to repay the perfect trust given you when your work pass was ok'd.
Find out when you should report to your workstation
Please be on time and work your complete shift
What is this "Pagan Standard Time?"
Somewhat of a joke in the community, it refers to everything running about 15-20 minutes behind schedule. However, in recent years this joke has become a real sore spot with many lecturers and festival coordinators. For example, if an event is held at a hotel, each room has to be paid for. And while attendees might be running on PST, the hotel staff IS NOT. This means that extra money may have to be laid out to pay for extra room time, or that some lectures and activities have to be cut short because people didn't arrive on time. You should also know that some speakers like me only allow a 5 minute leeway and then start anyway. Timeliness is a sign of professional conduct, not to mention a courtesy. So my suggestion is to be on time as much as possible.
Do most merchants at events accept checks, and what about festival coordinators?
Festival coordinators will often accept checks in advance of an event because there will be time for those checks to clear. At the gate, however, cash or money orders might be required (check the information you got about reservations to know for certain how to pay).
As for merchants, many accept checks with proper ID and a phone number, but please realize that this is a trust issue. Bouncing checks at events hurts everyone because it means some of those merchants WON'T accept checks again in the future after being burned. So be responsible, and use cash when practicable.
Do I have to worry much about theft at festivals?
As a general rule of thumb is: the larger the festival the larger the risks. Since one cannot be sure that every person who attends a neo-pagan event adheres to neo-pagan ideals, my suggestion is to be cautious. Have someone in camp at all times (people can take turns). Have a secure way to carry your money or credit cards. Don't leave beloved, expensive possessions just laying around the pool, a hot tub, or an unattended camp.
What happens if I loose something at a festival?
Every festival I've ever attended has a lost and found box. After the event, this box usually goes home with one of the representatives of the event. Note, however, that if the item is really important (like car keys) you should approach someone in charge and ask for a crier to go out on your behalf to tell people to watch for that item.
What happens if my car breaks down on or near the site?
If you have an automobile membership, call the membership service number and tell someone at the main gate that you have help coming. This way your service person won't be detained and the people at the gate won't have to hunt you down.
If you do not have an automobile membership, ask if anyone on the site is mechanically inclined. Frequently you'll find talented and helpful hands that are more than willing to fix what they can (within reason). Just remember to say thank you in some way!
The Witches' Voice
May 8th., 2000
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