Journeys: Thoughts from a Druid Path

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40 Years of Pan Pagan Festival

Last week was the 40th annual Pan Pagan Festival. This festival is one of the longest running festivals in America. This year's crowd was about twice as large as last year's and it really was a relaxing and enjoyable festival. Held at the Rising Sun Campground between Know and Winnemac Indiana, it was a time - like with all festivals to renew old friendships and make a few new ones as well. It was a continuation of the festival movement that was founded in the 1970's and continues to this day in many different expressions.

Pagans and neopagans often come from diverse backgrounds and may or may not have others to share with. There are many solitary members and often the solitude makes the ways of their believe and practice such that the lack of direct contact or sharing makes it very difficult to maintain their faith. The festival movement was created to give people a chance to share with one another and to see that a) they are not alone in their paganism/Neopaganism, and b) that one may learn unexpected things by meeting other people of a like mind.

My first Pan Pagan was Pan Pagan 15, in 1991, at Timber Trails Campground near Plymouth, Indiana. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was amazed and surprised at what I found. There were about 125 people, all camped around a larger-than-a-football-field area with fires every so many campsites, rituals, workshops, meals, but more than anything, fellowship. I met some people that year that I still see today. Pan Pagan has provided me a continuity of festival experience but also an annual meeting of people who believed and practiced as I do, but maybe in some different ways. There were Khemetic rituals, Druid rituals, Wiccan rituals, rituals without labels, and they all had one thing in common: all were welcome. Like with Indo-European rites, many of these rituals over the years had fire as a central anchor to their practice. I gave my first workshop at Pan Pagan.

I looked forward to Pan Pagan every year. I did attend other festivals, quite a number of them, large and small, but there was something special about Pan Pagan. Each person was expected to contribute to the group effort by working two hours during the festival. My favourite volunteer activity was registration because it gave me a chance to see old faces first and to welcome news ones as they first arrived. At the time, I was working in Chicago and it was hard for me to take time off of work for the festival. The festival began on Tuesday night, unofficially in those days, and I would drive to Plymouth from Chicago after work on Tuesday night and commune with my friends and the early festival attendees on that first night. Early the next morning, I would drive back to Chicago, stopping at a particular motel along the way where the proprietor would let me take a shower for $5.00 and I would be on my way. After work, I would return back to Pan Pagan. I loved the dichotomy of technology during the day, and the virtual city of my pagan friends at night. It was a magical time.

One of the festival's founders was Stanley Modrzyk, a fixture and host at the festival for many years until his untimely death in 2014. Stanley was involved in the planning, along with the rest of the Midwest Pagan Council, for Pan Pagan, and led many rituals and activities throughout the years. I saw him do huge elaborate rituals that awed me at the time and encouraged me to think about what I could do to enhance and improve my own ritual experiences. After I returned after a few years away, Stanley greeted me like an old friend and encouraged me to do workshops on Druidry, ADF, RDNA, and Isaac. Ironically enough, during one of my workshops on Isaac, I met a young woman who had been doing ADF's Core Order of Ritual at her local UU church for a couple of years yet wasn't an ADF member. Now, a few years later, and that young woman is about to be Ordained as an ADF Priest. Stanley would always include Rhiannon and I in ritual, assigning us a quarter, and he was always understanding when we opened up a gate instead of calling quarter or watchtower. The joy of ritual at Pan Pagan was the joy of doing ritual together.

When Stanley passed away, there was a huge hole in the Pan Pagan family. His wife Doree and his daughter Lizzy stepped in to fill his rather large shoes and I know it was difficult to organize and manage a festival and to be grieving at the same time. This was the beginning of a few of the Pan Pagan lean years. Attendance dropped, people stayed away, and the festival was teetering on the brink of collapse. Then, out of nowhere, magic happened. Some new ideas were introduced to Pan Pagan and Doree, Lizzy, and the council made some much needed changes and Pan started to come back to life again.

At Indianapolis Pagan Pride last year, Doree and Lizzy asked me to do the Main Rite at Pan Pagan 2016. I said "yes" immediately. I am always looking for a way to demonstrate ADF to others like so many other ways had been demonstrated to me at Pan Pagan over the years. We arrived at Pan to beautiful weather, an attendance that had almost doubled, and a relatively drama-free and incident-free festival. The weather was hot but glorious, and I visited the swimming pool a number of times. I gave a workshop, attended a workshop, and spoke to a number of people old and new. Some friends that hadn't been back for a while returned; new people attended for the first time, and some folks from the early days of the festival decided to come back.

The Main Rite was a Lughnasadh rite, and the deities of the occasion were Lugh and his foster mother, Tailtiu. We included three people from the festival (including Doree) to call the Kindreds, and there was a special working for the Ancestors, including the ancestors of Pan Pagan. Offerings were made, blessings were received, and the waters of life were shared with everyone. I was assisted by Amber, the woman I had met in my workshop a number of years earlier, and everything seemed as it should be. Forty years had passed and I pray that the next forty years will be equally productive.

I am pleased to have been part of the Pan Pagan experience, starting with Pan Pagan 15. I hope to be part of this small community and the larger community that it spawned for many years to come. Let me encourage everyone to visit Pan Pagan and to participate in this continuing part of the festival movement as brings people together to share, to learn, and to be part of the pagan/neopagan community for years to come.

 

 

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I am a long-time pagan and charter member of ADF, Ar nDraoicht Fein, a Druid Fellowship. I am a Senior Priest in as well as the Arch Druid of ADF. I am a Druid of the Third Order, RDNA; Druid Grade, OBOD; and a Second Degree Druid Companion in AODA. I love Druidry!  

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