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 Festivals...Why Not Go?
Above: fire show at the North Stage of Brushwood during Summer Fest, 2012.
Pagan festival season draws even closer, and by now many people with "real jobs" are making decisions about whether to attend Pagan festivals this year, and which to attend. I am continuing my series on Pagan festivals with the above misleading title: really I am going to look at reasons I've heard people cite to say they do not want to attend a Pagan festival, and why I think those reasons do not stand up to scrutiny.
Now mind you, I love Pagan festivals. I attend several every year as a presenter and performer, and I feel that these events are at the center of what for me defines Pagan community. Also remember that I define a Pagan festival as an event run by Pagans, for Pagans, which goes on over several days, up to a week or more. That means that this definition does not include PPD, which is a one-day event; and does not include SCA events, ren faires, Sci Fi cons, etc, as these are not run for Pagans by Pagans (yes, I know you think that ren faires are run for Pagans by Pagans, but take my word on this, they are not).
Pagan festivals are usually camping events, usually held on owned or rented campground sites, always involve Pagan oriented workshops, rituals, concerts and other presentations, and in the last decade usually (always) have a nightly bonfire with drumming (some good drumming...some the most miserable I have ever heard).
I have heard many people over the years speak about Pagan festivals, and I hear some people who are not festival goers explain why they do not attend these events. Here are a few reasons examined, and some myths debunked...
"I'm afraid I will be outed as Pagan!" I can't even believe I've heard this one, but I have. I have heard people say that if they show up at a Pagan event, they fear their photo will appear on the Internet, or the organizers will add them to some secret database of undesirables, and they will arrive home to find a pink slip in their mail and Child Welfare at their door.
Why is this not going to happen? First, the people who organize and run Pagan festivals are Pagans, just like you. They have jobs and homes and children, and they are Pagans (did I mention that?). They do not keep secret databases, and it is not in their interest to post your photo on the Internet. In fact, every single Pagan festival I attend has a "no photos unless you get permission" rule. The organizers are very sensitive to the subject of privacy. But the basic reason here is economic: if you put on a Pagan festival, and someone attends and is "outed" by other attendees, no one will ever come to your festival again, and you will go bankrupt. Your festival will fail, and you will be blacklisted by the community. Who wants that?
At any reputable Pagan festival, privacy is respected, photos are only taken with permission, and by and large people respect the name you use: there are a LOT of Lady Cerridwens and Lord Pans.
"I don't have the money." A good reason, indeed. But let's scrutinize it... Pagan festivals can be costly: there is a fee for attendance: PSG, one of the oldest Pagan fests, charges around $200 per adult; Free Spirit Gathering charges the same ($220 per adult), with children free; Heartland Pagan Festival is only $100 for adults, and $30 for teens; Brushwood's Sirius Rising Festival was $180 per adult last year, with reduced fees if staying only for portions of the festival. On top of this you need to get there, and to buy food (some festivals have a meal plan, others do not), plus provide camping gear (some festivals, like Free Spirit, have cabins with indoor bathrooms).
But really, this is pretty cheap for a week of intense workshops, rituals, concerts and programs amongst several hundred, or thousand, fellow Pagans. Let's compare costs: A Wendy Rule concert costs $20; Wendy will be playing at most of these festivals and that will be free after you've paid registration. A Chris Penczac class at the Hermetic Arts Learning Center is $30...he'll be at several of these fests. Want to take an intermediate Tarot class at the Eye Of Horus bookshop in Minneapolis? That will be $75. Oh yes, there will be several Tarot classes at each festival. Okay, you've just paid $125 for one lecture, one concert and one series of classes: at a festival like Sirius Rising you get ten concerts, plus daily music at Phil's Grill, about twenty five or thirty class choices per day over five days, and lectures by ten or fifteen of the top names in Paganism. PLUS you get Pagan community, drumming and chanting, dancing, bonfires, Pagan merchants selling all kinds of great things, and lively conversation. And there's mead...
Above: Kenny Klein, Billy Woods and Kellianna performing at Wisteria Summer Solstice, 2011.
Now let's compare a week of Pagan camping and community to some other popular vacations: Four days on a Carnival Cruise Ship starts at $189 per adult, and goes up to $529 if you actually want a room with a bed in it: that's not counting the money you spend getting to the ship. Two adults at Disneyland for four days? $3,024. None of these feature the company of Pagans. OK, you think the Renaissance Faire is full of Pagans (I worked the faire circuit for 20 year...you are sadly mistaken). Two adults entering Bristol Renaissance Faire, $54; Two soup-in-a-bread-bowls, $18; Tips for your three favorite musicians; $1,800. Ok, maybe not... let's try this: the latest CDs from your three favorite musicians: $45. Tips for Moonie, Broone, the Mud Show and Ded Bob: $20 (you cheap ass bastard). You have just spent $137.That's more than your registration for Heartland Pagan Festival, and we haven't taken into account gas, tolls, and the price of your garb.
So maybe the Pagan Festival is not such a bad deal after all...
"I can't take my kids." Kids are a blessing. Cute, adorable little cherubs. And a big responsibility. So much work, so much time... But wait; Brushwood's two major festivals have childcare, FREE! You can drop your kid off, attend a few lectures or classes, and then pick them up. And there's a kids only swim every afternoon! Your kids don't get a kids only swim with twenty Pagan kids when they sit around your house all summer, do they?
Wait, what about Free Spirit Gathering? Let's look at their official website:
"Children are an important part of the Free Spirit Community. To help our children and teens feel more a part of the gathering, we offer a track of programming that's geared specifically to their needs.
For younger children, we have a special kids programming area set up with a schedule of workshops and activities designed so parents can participate with their children. Activities range from crafts to nature walks to ghost stories."
But is it safe? I don't want my kids around these filthy Pagans, do I? Most major festivals have a trained security staff, trained EMTs, and trained child care. You may not notice them, but they are watching for any sign of danger, illness or inappropriate behavior.Do your kids get that kind of guardianship in your neighborhood?
Wow...that sounds nice! Maybe my kids would get a lot out of this whole festival thing.
"I can't get the vacation time." Can't help you there; your job sucks. Do you get two sick days on either side of a weekend? Well, there you go.
"What? There are Pagan festivals?" That's the one I get irked by the most: there are something like two million Pagans in America, but only a few thousand attend Pagan festivals. In the old days, to learn of Pagan festivals, you have to read Circle Network News or Green Egg, or hear about them from other Pagans. But now, there's this thing called the Internet (wait! You're on it!) It has listings for every Pagan festival and event!
And no, the ren faire is NOT a Pagan festival.
to find out about Pagan festivals look here: I will write more about my favorite festivals over the next few weeks.
Playing with Billy Woods and Stephanie Mitchell at Brushwood Sirius Rising Festival, 2012.
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