Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Fête, Revel, Role
Most of my friends and associates think of me as a serious person that is always up to their elbows in projects. I have a very full schedule with teaching workshops, writing, mentoring people within and outside of our tradition, organizing small, medium, and large educational events, and running a metaphysical shop. My days usually start at 5:00 or 5:30 AM and pretty much every hour is accounted for until around 9 PM when my off time begins. On May 4, 2013, my shop Bell, Book, & Candle sponsored an event called “The May Moon Revel”. It involved a live band, belly dancing, readers, book signings, food, drink, amazing costumes, and random merriment. It was a great deal of work and from my perspective well worth the hours required to plan it, and to pull it off. By the way, it just barely, sometimes, breaks even so money is not its motivation. After the event, one of my friends (who did not attend) asked me why I used my time on a frivolous event when I have so many important things already on my docket? Before going further, I'd like to say that I believe that my friends and members of my community do have a right to question my choices. I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of actually being in functional friendships or communities. So my answer was not “none of your business”, it was “let me tell you why”.
“If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.”
— Emma Goldman
One of the last century’s great free thinkers, Emma Goldman has had that quote attributed to her on many a poster and t-shirt. It may not be exactly what she said but it does accurately depict her position on the need for the passion of living to be considered an equal to the serious causes of life. As an individual, I enjoy the opportunity to dance and to have fun in a noisy, lively way amongst people that I view as a part of my extended community and hence my life. As someone who sees community building as one of my life tasks, it is also a great occasion to forge positive emotional bonds between people. It is my belief, that it is easier to get people to work together and to work through the inevitable conflicts, if they also have a connection to each other outside of the tasks of covens, groves, lodges, etc. And since so much of the pagan community now exists outside of official groups or affiliations, then these social gatherings are for many a very important part of feeling connected to a community.These are reasons enough for allocating a portion of my time and efforts to the purpose of fun, but there were other reasons as well. I am summarizing those reasons as fête, revel, and role (I am also singing “Shake, Rattle, & Roll” in my head as I write this).
A fête can be a gala, a bazaar, a festival, an elaborate celebration, sometimes outdoors, sometimes indoors, and many more things. They can be quite elegant or quite rustic. In the US, our state or county fairs somewhat resemble the old village fêtes of the UK. Some of the smaller Renaissance fairs and Faerie festivals come closer to being like fêtes. I think a community thrives when there are opportunities to display our wares, songs, and dances so we can be reminded of how clever and bright we can be.These events are frequently used to raise funds for charitable purposes and community projects as well.
A revel is a party or celebration whose goal is boisterous merrymaking. In other words, a revel is an opportunity to let your hair down and to cut loose. I think a community thrives when there are opportunities to show each other our playful and passionate faces. It is valuable to be reminded of each other's basic humanity, not just in times of struggle or hardship but in lighter times as well.This also brings us to the next point about roles, because these activities allow us to have the flexibility to slough off old roles and to try on new ones.
Fêtes, revels, and other similar events are also a place where people can explore roles. It is good to try on different masks and costumes just for the sake of fun, but there is potentially much more going on. In some cases the garb is a way to reveal, to explore, or to expose a facet of their personhood. Those that have roles as ticket takers, barkers, performers, organizers, etc. also have a chance to explore and to exercise their range of social and organizational skills. All these sorts of events are on-the-job training for those wanting to be active in the work of community building. I would also prefer for people to make their learning mistakes in these sorts of activities, rather than in more consequential pursuits.
Returning to the original question posed by my friend, I actually am too busy to be organizing these things. However I view them as important and part of what is needed to ground a community; so until others step forth who are ready to take on the task of making these events happen, I will do them. After all, I'd like a chance to dance as well.
Note: The photo is of the Mortifera dance troupe at the 2012 May Moon Revel.
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