Kenny Klein: Tales Of The Rambling Wren.
Follow Kenny from the levees of New Orleans to the whirling chaos that is the Pagan festival circuit and beyond. Musings, rants, and just plain Pagan talk.
Pagan Festival Review: Sacred Harvest and Earth Warriors
Since my last festival review, I've been to two festivals that have been awesome, and that deserve mention (not to mention love and adoration). While a thousand miles apart, what these two festivals have in common is their smallish size, and their very wonderful community feel.
In August I returned (after several years) to Sacred Harvest Festival in Minnesota. Sacred Harvest is what I classify as a small to medium festival, about 300 people. This festival has always had excellent presenters and entertainment: beside myself, the line-up included Teo Bishop and Star Foster, as well as very good lesser known presenters. Entertainers were myself, Teo (who recently 'came out' as a famous song-writer and Disney actor), and Ellie Bryan, who were great.
Ellie Bryan and I playing at Sacred Harvest Festival.
The draw of SHF is not just the excellent presentations, but the family feel. In this case, actual families: most of the attendees were there with spouses and children, and there were children pretty much everywhere. All of these children were incredibly well behaved, and well loved. Anyone who has been to a large Pagan event (or any event) with lots of kids knows how amazing that is. One of the programs that I really enjoyed at SHF was called “kids caught being good.” Adults were encouraged to carry around strings of raffle tickets: when the adult observed a child doing something good without being asked or bribed, the adult would write the child's name on a ticket and place it in a bucket. At morning meetings, some tickets would be drawn, and kids named on the tickets could choose items from a table full of books, games and toys. Of course these kids were all at morning meetings hoping their names would be called.
Each year a teen who had made some exemplary contribution is given a broom (for a girl) and a spear (for a boy) to take home and care for that year: the following year the teen hands the magical tool on to the next child. It happened that this year, the broom was given to two girls who are best friends, and who seemed to be everywhere help was needed at the festival. Every time a younger child started fussing or crying it seems like one of these two teens magically appeared and calmed them. The spear happened to be awarded to the brother of one of the girls, who had survived a tough year and came through with resilience. For me, it was an amazing experience to see these teens, who had been very present and very helpful through the whole week, honored by the community.
Not all of the activities are for kids: there are some very adult goings on too. An auction is held each year to raise money for the festival. Two of the items auctioned are a crocheted Green Phallus and a Lady Vulva. The winning bidder keeps these items for the year and tends their Facebook page. Photos of the item participating in the bidder's life are posted on the page. These items usually bring very large bids... I was also made aware of the Friends Of Ancient Riders, a Pagan biker club that meets yearly and rides together. We have Pagan bands, a Pagan legal resource, and Pagan Pride events: it's about time we had a Pagan motorcycle club!
Lauren with the Green Phallus at Pantheacon, 2013.
One of the main events at SHF is a community dance, set up in a labyrinth style dance area. I had the honor of drumming for the event, and it was great. The preparation that went into the thing was amazing.
I was touched by the family feel: people had been coming to this festival for many yeas, and the festival is small enough that there is a true sense of fellowship. People there, separated throughout the year by distance, truly love each other, and you can feel this every moment of the festival. My good friend Jason Mankey says often that he feels the days of the large (1000+ attendees) Pagan fests are over: while the Brushwood and Ramblewood festivals continue to prosper, many of the traditional large fests are seeing major problems in registration and organization. Jason insists that it is small festivals like this one, of closely knit communities, that are the future of the Pagan event (as well as hotel events like Pantheacon). I tend to agree with most of what Jason Mankey says, except when it comes to Morris Dancing...
So along those lines, and in keeping with the small festival rant, I am currently at Earth Warriors Festival in Ohio. Again, this is a small festival with attendance of about 150. The festival is run by the Earth Warrior Council. Most of the staff, with a few exceptions, are members of a Pagan Pirate-eclectic group-musical act called the Pirates of the CUC Constantine, and as odd as that sounds, they staff one of the best small festivals I have ever attended. While there are no children---the festival is an over twenty-one years of age fest--- the feel of community is everywhere. The staff and "crew' are themselves an extended family/coven/musical act, and the feeling of their camaraderie extends to all attendees.
Pirates of the CUC Constantine.
The festival, while small, attracts the best presenters and performers in America. Past acts include S J Tucker and Wendy Rule: this year's line-up, beside myself, included musicians Kellianna, Primal Rhythms, and presenters Jason Mankey and Oberon Zell. There is almost no other festival of this size with that amount of talent and Pagan history! And with such limited attendance, workshops are intimate and all voices can be heard.
The focus of the festival is community, service and fellowship; in the closing ritual, people new to the festival had the chance to speak about their experience, and every one of them spoke of how they were immediately and sincerely welcomed to the event. No one felt left out or ignored, as can sometimes happen at larger fests. In fact the main organizer of the event, Heather Killen, personally bids farewell to every attendee as they leave the event on Sunday. Like, OMG, dude!
The fire is a central focus of the fest, as it is at many festivals. Fire tenders from Wisteria ran the fire this year, and as usual, did an amazing job. The sight, Sunday morning, of fire crew member Angela in her Eeyore onesy questing for coffee was, for me, the highlight of the festival. But the rituals and workshops were great too, as was the concert, featuring myself, Kellianna, Primal Rhythms (a new project headed by Sue Baleschak of Telling Point), and Pictus, a thoroughly awesome bagpipes and drum band. And of course, the Pirates of the CUC Constantine, whose jokes really tied the sea chanties together. I was immortalized in song by the pirates this year. I feel very pirate-y now.
If Mankey is right, and these small fests are the future of Pagan community, then these two are two-to-watch-out-for. Both are highly recommended.
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