Let's Chat About Festivals...
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Article ID: 8606
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,558
Times Read: 2,700
Posted: July 19th. 2004
Times Viewed: 2,700
Pagan Festivals. That small phrase can mean so many things. I think the best way that one can address this is by breaking the topic up into several key areas. What are these festivals and what differentiates one from another? What types of problems are inherent in the conception and implementation of them? What should you know as a newbie or an experienced hand at these events? And most importantly, what can we all do to make them better?
For the purposes of this article I am going to draw on the festivals I have been to over the years in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. These range in settings from hotel events, cabins in state parks and all out camping on private land. While I will be as fair as possible I must concede that I am by nature one that enjoys the cold yet I have for some strange reason chosen to live in the Southern portion of the United States.
What Are They?
What are these mysterious events that people talk about? As a newbie you hear of these things going on, sometimes in hushed conversations and at other times it seems there are billboards pointing with neon signs saying "Here! Pagans, come here!" Years after I began my path toward Paganism I was bitten by that strange bug that carries the infectious strain of "Iwannacommunitee-itis." Oh, I know there are many of you out there who carry the virus. Some have different strains but at the heart of it all it is the same pathogen. The main symptoms are all quite similar. You have the innate urge and desire to find others like you. You hunt on the web, in book stores, and dark coffee shops for mention of occult happenings. Yes, you know you do. And one day, you find them! Other Pagans! Wow!
So you make it to a circle and you meet some odd folks. Some you think are just too twisted for color TV, some that really belong on the Jenny Jones Show, and a few that seem to be sort of okay. So, after all that, you reason in your own mind the pros and cons of going out for a bite or a drink with them. Pro, you get to see if they have the same ideas as you. Con, they hack you up and dump you in the nearest landfill. Inevitably the pros win out and boom you are bosom buddies. The next thing you know the two of you have found a weekend festival to go to and commune with others. Now, just what is this that you are about to get yourselves into?
Festivals are divided up into a few main categories. For the purpose of this article we will assume they are all at least weekend stays or longer.
1. Hotel Weekends:
Remember, it's in a hotel. You must conduct yourself in a manner that would not get you thrown out of a hotel. These can be extremely entertaining festivals as you don't have to "ruff it" and have all the comforts of home. Conversely, they will be much more expensive. With a gallon of tea costing the presenters $15.00, you have to expect a price tag for the fun. On the up side there is heating and air conditioning and usually there is some type of guest author or musical entertainment.
2. Group Camps/Cabins:
These are usually cabins set in State Parks or nice resorts. The prices are often times lower than hotels for the event, but there are still lots of expenses. These allow you to be more in touch with nature. It's a nice hybrid between primitive camping and staying in a hotel.
3. Primitive Camping:
Well, these are about as back to nature as you can get. Usually you bring your own food, your own tent, and you throw yourself into the wilds of the forest. There are many very nice large festivals that have private land that has been cleared and is beautiful for camping. Some of these festivals last five days or more.
At the core of all of them should be a reconnection with the divine. There are usually workshops on various and sundry things as well as rituals, usually three of them including Opening, Main, and Closing. Vendors are also usually a draw and you can find lots of pretty Pagan-ish things that may not always be accessible to you in your local area. In the end, these festivals should leave you with a feeling of being energized and ready to take these new feelings and ideas back to your community. They should be a positive, life-affirming trip into the mystical.
What Are the Problems?
There are always problems or the potential for problems. That will occur until humans are but myths and tales told by rabbits. Most of these can be avoided if you are aware ahead of time what can happen at these events.
If the event is a long-running event ask those who have attended it before what their experiences were. Ask several people. Do a bit of research. If it has online reviews on WitchVox or other sites, visit those. If the event is a first-time thing you should inquire about anything you might need to know in advance.
Food. Is it provided? This is something to ask before an event if it is not clearly spelled out in the registration information. If it's not in a hotel ask if you need to bring anything like linens and toiletries. If it's an outside gathering are there bathroom facilities? For as many Pagans out there you will find that many varying events. Remember that questions are always better asked ahead of time. Promoters and presenters are used to this and will often times have form letters that they can send out to you.
If someone is promising you the moon for $19.95, be cautious. Great things cost money. This is a fact of life. I've seen festivals that cost around $25.00 for the weekend and many of them were tragedies waiting to happen, and did. Someone decides that anyone can put on a festival and so they try their hand at it. Scary stuff sometimes. However, sometimes great things come from these. Those that do okay will often times have drastic changes in the next several years where they work to make things better and ask for input from festival goers.
There is a mentality about money in much of the Pagan community that they just can't afford to pay for a festival. I like a bargain too, but some of those same people I see kvetching about money will turn around and drop $150.00 on a crystal skull or a staff made of enchanted faerie wood without blinking an eye. Over the years my patience has waned for the money argument.
I look at it this way... Most American families will vacation somewhere in the US at least once a year. It may be spending $125.00 on a night out at a decent hotel and a nice dinner. It might be $1500.00 at the beach. I see these festivals as my vacation for the year. That means a two-night/three-day stay, food and entertainment. Now, budget that in for a year and you can lose most of the money arguments. Not to mention many of the festivals have work scholarships. Ah, but I digress onto a tangent.
Another problem is Witch Wars. One group dislikes another for whatever reason and then they try a smear campaign. Wasted energy. When you go to one of these festivals you are only going to get as much out of it as you put into it. Open yourself up to the opportunities that present themselves when you go. You might find you have the best time of your life.
A big faux pas also occurs when people don't understand something and then they read other things into it. Cardinal rule here: If you don't understand something, ask. People are more than happy to answer you. Asking doesn't make you look stupid. Making things up from events you didn't understand, well, that does. Always remember that these festivals are about sharing information and ideas. So embrace that spirit and ask about those things that might confuse you.
What Should You Know and Do?
As stated above, know your reason for going to this festival. Is it just to see an author or musician? Is it because you want something new in your life? Is it for camaraderie? All of the above? If you don't have a reason at all except for an urge to attend then that in itself is the reason. The driving force should still always be that you go in the spirit of having a good time and plan on contributing to the over all success of the festival. I've never understood why some people go to a festival in a bad mood. This is the perfect opportunity to leave all that behind and embrace your spirituality.
These festivals are so important to our growth as beings on our way towards enlightenment. By going here and meeting people from all over the nation (world?) we can embrace ideas that have spawned from the universal consciousness and help incorporate those ideas and practices into our own working magickal lives. This is a golden opportunity to meet people that you might never come in contact with in your usual workaday world. You could meet someone at one of these festivals that inspires you in ways you have never dreamed possible.
What Can Make Them Better?
You. You are the number one ingredient in making festivals better. You have to attend. You have to be in the moment and be open to the experience when you attend. Yeah, you may find a festival or two that are wastes of your time because people have tried to run them and don't know what they are doing. That doesn't mean you should give up on the idea. It just means you get to try a whole new festival next time. Ah, the adventure!
Location: Unknown, USA
Bio: Salem is a co-founder and Elder in the Artemisian Faerie Faith Tradition (www.artemisian.org) and High Priest of both Caerulea Luna Covenstead and Quintessa della Luna Covenstead. Salem is also trained in the McFarland Dianic Tradition. Salem is active in The Oklahoma Pagan Association (www.okPagan.com) and is a featured speaker at many events in the Midwest.
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