The Future of Pagan Gatherings: Virtual and Local?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 10, 2012 — 69 Comments

This year Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), a Midwest Pagan festival that’s been running for more than 30 years, broke attendance records, drawing over 1000 people to the week-long event. The West Coast Pagan convention PantheaCon, held each February in San Jose, California, has gotten so popular that they’ve introduced a new reservations system to prevent individuals from gaming the system. Pagan-friendly fantasy-oriented events like Faerieworlds are anticipating record-breaking numbers this Summer, and even brand-new Pagan events like Paganicon in Minnesota are growing at a healthy rate. It seems like Pagan festivals and conventions, at least in the United States, are doing great, but are the days of the large Pagan event that draws a national or even international audience numbered? That’s what Frater Barrabbas Tiresius at the Talking About Ritual Magick blog argues.

Solstice Fire at Pagan Spirit Gathering

Solstice Fire at Pagan Spirit Gathering

“There are many factors that are shaping the future in which we will live and they will probably have a profound impact on Pagans and Wiccans being able to assemble in large groups, unless of course, those groups are local and sustainable in the long term […] times are indeed changing and the need for such large gatherings may have achieved the upper limit in terms of both usefulness and sustainability. By usefulness I am saying that merely getting together for what would seem to be mostly a social gathering with sprinkling of some workshops, presentations, rituals, live music and the selling of obscure books and goods may not represent what is really needed or relevant for our growing population of practitioners and followers. By sustainability, I am thinking of the availability of resources to gather together in large regional or even international groups. Traveling by car or plane does impact the environment with pollutants and it also uses up precious resources, namely fossil fuels. These resources will probably become a lot more expensive in the decades ahead.”

In short, if I’m reading Frater Barrabbas’ argument correctly, the looming reality of peak oil, the effects of global warming, along with other factors, will eventually make the larger gatherings too expensive for anyone outside the immediate area to attend. That right now we are witnessing the upper limit of the Pagan festival phenomenon, one that might continue for several more years, but will eventually crumble. Is this prediction accurate? We are certainly seeing hotter summers each year, and scientists predict this will be the norm, with some areas seeing “the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat” in the next 20 years. Already, the record-breaking heatwaves being experienced in many parts of the United States are causing disruptions in all aspects of our transportation grid, a situation that could worsen as average summer temperatures increase. If long-range transportation becomes unreliable during the summer months, that would certainly keep many people close to home.

Airplane stuck on melted tarmac.

Airplane stuck on melted tarmac.

Environmental shifts changing the way we live our lives was recently discussed here at The Wild Hunt in a review of John Michael Greer’s new book “The Blood of the Earth.” Greer reminds us, and has been reminding us for years, that things will eventually change. That we cannot be forever insulated from the reality many parts of the world already face, resource shortages, and ever-inflating prices for the kind of travel we once took for granted. That we as Pagans, many of whom claim a special connection to the natural world, need to be ready to experience and live in this shift. This is echoed by Barrabbas, who advocates that Pagans start acting like those days are already here, and plan their events accordingly.

“As followers of earth-based spirituality, we should not only be aware of these facts, but actually embrace them and start planning and acting as if those times were already here.”

Barrabbas’ post is just the first in a series, one that I look forward to reading, especially his conclusions and recommendations, but I can take a few guesses of my own at where this line of thinking will go. Primarily, face-to-face Pagan events will become either regional or hyper-local affairs, and that national and international figures in the Pagan community will increasingly have to “attend” such events virtually. That “Pagan community” will increasingly lean on the powers of social networking to bind itself together. This reality is, in many respects, already here. Sociologist Helen A. Berger, in a revisitation of her Pagan Census project from the late 1990’s, noted that we are becoming increasingly solitary and eclectic, and that a majority of us already depend on the Internet as our main interaction with co-religionists and adherents of other Pagan faiths.

How often do we communicate with other Pagans?

How often do we communicate with other Pagans?

“Solitary practice and training outside of groups, most likely through books and the Internet, appears to be the future of the religion.”Helen A. Berger

Noted figures in our community, like T. Thorn Coyle, have already begun embracing a model that integrates virtual communication into their teaching. Producing a subscription web-series that students can use, including a private forum, giving access to Thorn and her teachings, without the need for her to travel constantly. The next step would seem to be virtual panels and virtual presentations at Pagan conventions and events that couldn’t afford to fly in a “big-name” Pagan. This would not only be “greener” but will ultimately be the only practical way to host such an event on a limited budget.

I think the age of the virtual and the hyper-local are upon us, and the quicker we accept that and learn to adapt, the better. Larger Pagan events can prepare now by investing in the infrastructure necessary to have a virtual component to all indoor events that used to welcome several noted teachers or religious leaders (projection screens, audio equipment, computers). We should set a goal so that in the next ten years, we will be ready for when these shifts in lifestyle become mandatory, rather than a lifestyle option. As Pagans, we can set an example for how to keep our communities close-knit and vibrant while dealing with the ramifications of our society’s choices. In a way, our heavy reliance on social networking, on virtual communication, to bind us together gives us a necessary head start. One we should exploit to make our events as environmentally sustainable as possible.

For more on this subject, stay tuned to the Talking About Ritual Magick blog, and I hope to revisit this topic after his series is completed, talking with some festival and convention organizers about what they think will be sustainable in the coming decades.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.youtube.com/TheBookVlogger Lindsay Mead

    I’ve certainly started preparing for the changing of climate and weather. I’m even moving into an apartment that is under ground and has more room to store food/water. It may seem extreme to some, but it gives me security and it’s better financially/environmentally.

  • LeohtSceadusawol

    I would disagree (I seem to do that a lot – it is not intentional) with the notion that the future of Paganism is the individual eclectic. I think that demographic is the most common because that is often how people new to Paganism start. Some remain there, others find traditions that ‘resonate’ with them and others drift away altogether.

    So much of Paganism seems to be based on the group that being a solitary just seems completely at odds with the basic nature of nature veneration.

    To stick with the nature-centric stance, I do agree with the notion that the Pagans should be leading the way (as it were) in lowering impact and preserving (and restoring) the environment.

    The really important thing (to my mind) is to remember that sustainability and ‘green’ living does not mean reverting to a pre-industrial state, but advancing to a post-industrial one.

    • William Hood

      Not to mention that a lot of the polytheists who do not accept the “Pagan Umbrella” are decidedly non-eclectic and often non-solitary; at least based on my experience, not hard data. I think that ends up skewing the results.

    • Dbendr

       I think your first paragraph is a valid observation.

      I also think Helen Berger’s survey results need to be taken with a tablespoon of salt. Anecdotal observation seems to indicate that solitary practice is on the rise, but this survey exaggerates the effect because it has built in confirmation bias. The wording of a number of questions was skewed to the assumption that respondents would be relatively recent pagans, unaffiliated, or affiliated at most with a single  organization, tradition or group at a time. For people for whom this is not true, some of the questions were off base and even unanswerable.

      This is not just my opinion. I was directed to the survey by several colleagues who had similar experiences with it.

      • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

        I had a similar experience with the survey, it’s like it was designed for newcomers and a specific sort of long-time practitioner.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rpaxton Robert Paxton

    To no small degree, this is working itself out on its own.  Considering PSG: I did analyses of where the registrants were coming from, when it became clear that Camp Zoe was no longer an option.  A strong majority came from the core states around WI (where Circle is located), enough so that you could count that as the core constituency.  When we moved away from Ohio, we lost a lot of Ohio people — and when we moved away from Missouri, we lost a lot of Missouri folks.  These local constituencies were not as substantial as the core one, but measured in the hundreds nevertheless.

    People from elsewhere in the US (and other countries) have always been outliers to a degree…the fact that this past year was the biggest PSG ever really just underscores that northern Illinois is a) in the heart of that core constituency, and b) close to the second biggest population center in the country.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Thanks for that feedback Robert, I’ll be sure to include it in my follow-up on this subject. I’m also glad to hear that PSG’s success looks to be sustainable.

    • Florence Edwards-Miller

      That was what I suspected too, based on where folks at PSG say they’re from and the quick state-by-state call-out that Selena did before the opening ritual.  Most of the people at PSG were from relatively nearby. 

      And that’s saying something – that in a relatively small part of the country with only one huge metro area (Chicago) there are enough interested people to populate major Pagan festival.  I think it says that our numbers are growing AND that people’s desire to connect with a broader Pagan community is strong.

      I definitely think there is room for even more Pagan festivals in other regions – climate change may suggest that we need to schedule them at times other then the Summer Solstice in warmer regions, but that’s all to the good, as it will mean that artists and pagan professionals who financially depend on the revenue from these events will have more opportunities to attend and to contact a broader audience.

      • Crystal Kendrick

         Yes, this is what I have been thinking.  There need to be more winter and spring festivals.  Summer Solstice has been miserably hot on the East Coast for several years now.  Even May was uncomfortable.

  • http://aquakerwitch.blogspot.com/ Stasa

    Cherry Hill Seminary also embraces virtual / long-distance options for its students as the primary means of holding its classes, and has for a long time.  

  • Rory

    By way of disagreement I would offer two words: Burning Man.

    Physical gatherings are crucial to the creation of alternative culture. This is not an either/or problem but rather a both/and opportunity. Virtual community simplifies outreach and connection, which physical community cements and strengthens. Expect more smaller, local events to emerge as the hunger for community strengthens.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I don’t think I disagree with you at all! I think virtual + local together is, indeed, the future. Especially when events like Burning Man, which take place far from where anyone lives, become unsustainable.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O2ZNSWRACRDWPG3UVXMIL3USBI M.A.

        Well, post-petroleum interval Burning Man could return to its roots: Baker Beach, San Francisco. 
        Finnchuill 

    • Melissa Murry

      Knowing of the Burning culture, many groups hold ritual/fire/gatherings through out the year and then band together to make the trek to the Playa. Maybe that is a model Pagans can use to minimize the impact, cost, and all around craziness that is traveling 1200 miles to attend PSG. I have attended two years now and travel with my sister and her family. We split the cost this year and it was manageable. We bought sandwich stuff and drove for two days taking turns. It was wonderful and brought us closer while eliminating the burden of this travel just for one person! It has worked for the Burner community!!! It can work for us!!! We can do a regional road trip!!! Love it!

  • http://syncreticmystic.wordpress.com/ Soli

    Perhaps this will also mean areas where there is not a very active community (like where I am) will start to develop one. Though at the same time I have to wonder how well that would work out.

    Also, on the virtual model. Peak oil also means having less energy to fuel the virtual teachings. So what happens when that is gone? I guess we will be moving back to lessons by mail one of these days.

    • http://www.magickal-media.com/ A.C. Fisher Aldag

      “Peak oil also means having less energy to fuel the virtual teachings. So what happens when that is gone?”  Solar, wind, water power, geothermal, that’s what.  A computer can run on a couple of small solar panels.  A server can be run by a medium-sized turbine.

      • http://syncreticmystic.wordpress.com/ Soli

         And many of these sources aren’t being utilized in the US now. I also wonder how much energy they’ll be able to produce in order to run the bigger servers.

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    I won’t argue with the facts about the cost (environmental impact as well as financial) effectiveness of festivals as  teaching and socializing vehicles.   But I think festivals will continue for the foreseeable future because for most of us, they represent our only opportunity for immersion – to be among our people and to live as a Pagan openly, fully and freely 24/7 (or 24/3, as the case may be).

    I’ll learn much more reading a book or attending a short-term seminar than I ever will at a festival.  But festivals leave me refreshed and inspired – they give me a taste of what Pagan life can be like at its best.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I agree with John on this point. As a member of two minority communities, Paganism and Unitarian Universalism, I’ve learned to treasure the few chances for  immersion.

  • http://profiles.google.com/johnd39 - steward -

    I’m not convinced that the end of ‘big’ events would be all that bad.  Smaller events allow participants to get to know more of their fellow participants, and for a greater percentage to be involved over the course of the event in the pre-planning of ritual.

    I maintain the content for the Reclaiming Tradition’s witchcamp.org site, and we now have sixteen camps (one additional is still looking for a new camping area) over three continents – N. America, Europe, and Australia.  These events range in size from about 50 – 120 participants, and many maintain online links with their communities via website and/or facebook during the year.  Camps are generally independent of each other, except that sometimes a single community will have more than one camp – the camps are not under planning or fiscal control of any central body, and – in the US at least – are usually 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations (they may be equivalent in status in other jurisdictions.)

    Reclaiming being a tradition which has an initiation which is not mandatory, everyone’s welcome to come to and fully participate in our events (some camps have age limits.) The camp community that I belong to, SpiralHeart, has two camps – one all-ages and the other limited to eighteen and up, so that we can have both a family-oriented camp and a camp that can explore more adult themes.  SpiralHeart also has one-to-two day events through the year, as do many other Reclaiming communities.

    I’ve also been recently informed that Claudia Manifest and Chelidon, who were very involved in SpiralHeart before they moved to New England, will be offering courses both Reclaiming-oriented and generally magickal over the internet for eight-week periods.  If they’re successful at this format, I would expect to see it move throughout the various Reclaiming communities, both camp-based and local groups that have only short events instead of full-sized camps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikethebard Michael Dolan

    Two observations:

    1)  Peak oil also means an end to cheap energy- something which will affect high-tech infrastructure such as videoconferencing, nearly as much as it will affect travel.

    2)  While the web and other telecommunications are excellent ways to keep in touch, share information, and get organized, there is simply no substitute for face-to-face communication. 

    Having been to probably around 100 events ranging from 10 to 1000 people, I can say that while I feel more connected to a small group, there is nothing quite like participating in ritual with over 500 people.  When an event reaches a certain size, the intimacy is overtaken by another feeling- essentially moving from “this is my tribe” to “these are my PEOPLE”.  While going to my local meetup and seeing familiar faces feels like returning home, going to PSG and entering a veritable city feels like returning to an ancestral homeland.

    Now, as far as my own theory, I think that the single most significant development on the horizon for us will be established Pagan sanctuary space- Places like Circle Sanctuary (WI), Our Haven (IN), A Sacred Place (NH), Laurelin Community (VT), Stone City (CA), and others will be the next “big thing” for us:  To give the legitimacy that comes with owning land and property, to provide safe and hallowed ground for events, to grow and raise food (the very foundation of many of our practices!), and to give us a place to seek shelter come the zombie apocalypse (I make light, but between peak oil, concurrent recessions, and environmental conditions, the idea of having a place in the hills to head for is no longer the province of the purely paranoid).  More importantly, as our numbers grow, this infrastructure will need to support more and more people.  In another two or three decades, it is possible that even a local event will draw the kind of audience we now see only at PSG, Rites of Spring, and Pantheacon.

    (Disclosure: I serve on the Council of Elders for one of the sanctuaries mentioned above, ASP in Canaan NH.)

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I admire your ambitions. You are striving for the Pagan festival to do what the Pagan circle or coven generally cannot: Meet on dedicated, Pagan-owned land. As someone for whom “another two or three decades” slips beyond my probable personal time-line, I nonetheless wish you the best of fortune.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I live in the south west of England. Three iconic locations are fairly easily accessible to me – Glastonbury, Stonehenge and Avebury. (There are plenty of fairly minor ones, also.)

        Whilst the two stone circles are not Pagan-owned, they are public owned and pretty well Pagan dominated. Glastonbury is an interesting place, having a diverse local culture, ranging from the ruined church on the tor and the ruined abbey in the town proper to the Glastonbury Goddess Temple and the White Spring.

        It is good to see such open displays of Pagan spirituality but, unfortunately, they still have to shake the reputation for being weird, hippyish and generally nutty.

        Also, at the Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge, you get an increasing number of revellers who are partying for the sake of a party and actually resent the spiritual presence. (I have personally known a few people who have gone to the celebrations only to later complain about how the ‘guys in white robes’ were ruining the party atmosphere for everyone else.)

    • Deborah Bender

      Gobekli Tepe,  that 11,600 year old temple complex in Turkey, was built and used by hunter-gatherers. It’s not out of the question that pagan communities could sustain large gathering places on privately controlled land even during economic contraction (already happening) and loss of advanced technology (soon to come if John Michael Greer is right).

      We don’t need the Internet or a lot of long distance travel to sustain and develop Pagan culture. The founding generations of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies did pretty well with a combination of print media and face to face small groups, before the Internet, before the personal computer, and even before offset printing, xerography and fax machines.

      Ideas need some mode of propagation, but connection with the natural world depends on knowing the place where you are.

      • Deborah Bender

         “. . before offset printing” is a bit of an exaggeration. According to Wikipedia, the modern form of offset printing was developed in 1903.

        However, in the mid twentieth century, offset printing was expensive for small print runs because of the requirement to burn a plate for each page of the publication.

      • Kilmrnock

        I’m not sure the Modern Pagan community can survive and grow w/o the internet ……………just about everything i do pagan related has ties to the internet. My Grove , meet up groups , my CR religion we all communicate here . The internet is responcible for the general Pagan community being what it is now , we as much or more than any other group adapted to the net quite quickly and have made it our own .    Kilm

    • Lonespark

      I am glad to learn there are sanctuaries here in New England.  I also think this is a critical step in the future development of the wider Pagan community.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com/ A.C. Fisher Aldag

    I’m predicting a shift to renewable energy, and transportation, festivals, meetups and travel continuing, in a different way.  Electric service stations for cars, battery-swap stations, more rail travel… investors, are ya listening?

    However, the virtual world is gonna continue to surprise us, as paper becomes obsolete, and magick users explore new ways to use communications media  — video, audio, interactive media.

    Excited?  Yeah!

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       Switching to renewables (and microgeneration) is the obvious way forward, but there will be an initial cost for the infrastructure to be set up for large scale generation.

    • Lonespark

      Yeah!!!

  • Kilmrnock

    I work in a small family business that is struggling . My finances are quite tight as is my free time . I don’t have the funding of time to attend large pagan gatherings . So local it is , for me .For reasons we have already discussed most pagans have meger finances ………..so i’m not alone . Every few years we do have a large pagan conference here and we also have a pagan pride day nearby . Not to mention environmental and peak oil , i welcome more local events , due to my finances .      Kilm

  • Charles Cosimano

    Peak oil does not mean people will travel less.  It will just mean more nuclear reactors, electric cars and other fuel sources.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       We already hit peak oil, though. It happened in 2005. The only reason oil production has seen an increase since then is because of a redefinition in terminology to include ‘synthetic’ oils.

      We are seeing a rise in electric cars and other energy sources, but Fukushima has produced something of a reaction against new nuclear plants.

      Even without that incident, nuclear is no more sustainable than fossil fuels and should not be relied on.

  • Thorn

    Thanks for the mention, Jason.

    The Conference of Wicca and Goddess Spirituality in Brazil has used Skype to broaden their ability to have international presenters. I had the pleasure of attending and Macha Nightmare has presented there both in person and via Skype and could likely speak to the experience.

    http://www.conferenciadewicca.com.br/

    Concerned with the environmental impact of travel, I have cut mine by 2/3rds this year. I teach online and via video more and more, and see clients and students (and work with peers!) over Skype or g+. Online is not the same as in person, but folks are finding better and better ways to make it work

    Some combo of hyper local mixed with tech not only is likely for the future, it is happening now. Even the Dalai Lama has done G+ hangouts, broadcast to thousands. There is no way to have a good festival fire online, though!

    • Thorn

      It also strikes me that this is why I record some of the Pantheacon panels each year: so people not able to attend can share in the discussions, worldwide. I know that Pcon filmed some classes two cons ago, but I don’t know what happened to that footage. I have considered paying EMBS to film a class there, but am not sure how to get repaid for fronting the money for that. The podcasts, Solar Cross pays for, and some kind people donate on occasion.

      • Dbendr

         Glenn Turner has arranged for most of the presentations at Theurgicon 2011 and 2012 to be recorded; DVDs from Theurgicon 2011 are currently on sale. A few of the programs at PantheaCon are also being recorded and sold as DVDs.

        • http://profiles.google.com/thorncoyle T Thorn Coyle

          Good news, as I had to miss Theurgicon this year! I know Pantheacon recorded a class of mine – along with some others – a couple of years back, but I never heard what happened after that. 

          Thanks for this update – any idea on when/where the DVDs will be available?

          • Deborah Bender

             Within a couple of months, based on what we were told. There should be ordering information on the Ancient Ways and Theurgicon websites by and by. The presentation on animating statues had a handout, which probably isn’t included but could be obtained from the presenter.

            BTW, all these Dbendr comments are from Deborah Bender; for some reason, I can’t get the software to put up my name.

  • http://twitter.com/Magicexperiment Taylor Ellwood

    This year I will be offering a virtual class to a convention that is on the east coast. It’s the only way they could afford to have me there, so I definitely agree that more of this will occur and I think its a good thing, both in terms of environmental impact, but also learning to do more with the technology we have available to us.

    • FeistyAmazon

      Huge festivals,  except Michfest, don’t really appeal to me, the way smaller ones that are more focussed are. I’m interested in a women only environment when I ritual, and preferably a natural one. It doesn’t appeal to me to gather in a hotel one iota, in a city environment. For  a mixed event, something both natural and citified, a smaller event like Berkeley Pagan Pride is enjoyable to me, maybe something in a local greenbelt park, like up in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills. I like the grassroots too, not the whole worship of ‘big names’ that goes on with gathering/festival circuits.

      I know there are those that swear by Starhawk’s 1500 strong Spiral Dance, and while I’ve enjoyed watching them on video/youtube, or others telling me their enjoyment of them, that is way too much energy for me, and too impersonal. I want something with more personal connection, and a 100-200 womon Spiral Dance is more than enough for me!

      Burning Man fascinates me, and I’m glad people can go somewhere’s and be their artistic Pagan selves, but like was mentioned above at Stonehenge, so many just go for a big drunk/drug fest and to get laid by as many people as possible. I’m all for: ‘all acts of Love and Pleasure are My rituals’ but so much of this is just about one big party/celebration and less about spiritual connections, community and Goddess, and EXPANDING those connections throughout the year, not just for that one event. My question is “how do such events fit into our daily lives and continue our deep connections through ritualling with one another in community? Not just for that one time a year, but THROUGHOUT the year. How do we keep the energy going?”

      I have had no desire to go to Pantheacon. Raise all that energy in a mixed environment but have no Nature to connect with afterwards to ground? At least when I went to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival one year, and LED a large ritual of 200 womyn for the Full Moon, afterwards I spent an hour alone grounding as the Moon rose, connecting with Nature in that meadow we had just done the ritual on!

      I like the idea of Land and Sanctuary, and CONNECTING with Nature in myriad ways, as well as with each other, and weaving the Tribes together in a REAL way, not just a virtual one! Yes, put your money where your mouth is, and KEEP IT GREEN(and I don’t mean just $)!

      • Lonespark

        The potential for much more specifically focused events is a big appeal of local and/or virtual meetings.

      • Deborah Bender

         I go to PantheaCon almost every year, but I mostly go for the scholarly presentations on specialized topics, some of the music and conversations with people in the hospitality suites. I’m selective about the rituals I attend at Pcon for reasons similar to FeistyAmazon’s, and I avoid going to anything that involves deep psychological work, because it doesn’t seem safe to me.

        For people who are at all shy or sensitive, it’s much easier to handle the energies of gatherings of more than a hundred people if you can spend some of your time there with a smaller group of people you already know. At Pcon for me that’s the CoG/NROOGD/NWC suite.

        My deepest pagan spiritual experiences have been alone in wild places and at small Pagan festivals on natural sites, sitting by a creek, telling stories by a fire, listening to the trees.

  • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

    From a religious angle, Pagan festivals can serve as pilgrimage sites.  Whether it is outdoor or indoor, many people come together, celebrating their Gods and exchanging information in ways that we do not usually do.  I think that, if anything, Pagan festivals will expand, as they give us touchstones between our diverse communities.  This, even in the face of energy decline; the festivals will mean that much more to people.  

    We may stick closer to home (i.e. I have never been to PantheaCon but I attend ConVocation regularly), so there will probably be development of more festivals closer to where people live.  Given the cost difference between renting land for such events versus a person allowing a festival to take place on their land, I am thinking the trend will go towards private people allowing festivals rather than continued renting.  Beyond the initial cost savings, there is also the ability of the private person to transform, through the festival and/or local community as well as their own efforts, their place into an eco-friendly place, one that incorporates both money-saving and environmentally friendly practices for its festival participants, and the owner(s).

    • Lonespark

      I definitely agree about pilgrimage.  I experience this with other types of festivals, too (holiday celebrations, SCA events, different fan or professional conventions…)

  • Hecatedemetersdatter

    Jason, lately your posts are getting better and better.  

    Interestingly, I think that I heard John Michael Greer discuss something similar at this year’s Sacred Space conference.  As peak oil (and bad policies) result in continued bad economic climates, fewer and fewer of us are likely to have the money and time to travel to conferences.  Greer’s comment was, as I recall, in the context of the need to preserve texts, esp. print-outs of information now available only on the internet, but I believe that he’s correct:  fewer and fewer of us will have the means to travel to distant locations for conferences/festivals/meetings.I’d like to suggest TED as a model.  Recording important speakers (and this can be done in a way that protects the anonymity of those who must stay in the closet) and posting the talks on YouTube, the Wild Hunt, facebook, etc. is an effective way to make the instruction from important Pagan discussions available to those who, for whatever reason, cannot travel.  We’ve gone (pace R. Hutton) to ground before and survived.  Hopefully, we’ll do even better this time.  Greer has a lot to say about how to preserve information for the Next Time Around.

  • Amanda

    This is disappointing to me, because I don’t think that online communities are in any way a substitute for face-to-face interaction. It’s apples and oranges.

    And I’m bummed out that I’m too poor to go to a lot of in-person pagan events, and now I guess it will become even LESS likely for me to get to go.

    I hope that this just means more small events will pop up over the country so people don’t have to go as far to an event, and maybe that will make the events less expensive. But for those of us who live in areas where pagans seem to be thin on the ground, that might not happen very soon.

    • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      I hope that this just means more small events will pop up over the
      country so people don’t have to go as far to an event, and maybe that
      will make the events less expensive. But for those of us who live in
      areas where pagans seem to be thin on the ground, that might not happen
      very soon.

      Well, that’s part of what the article said, that there seems to be a trend toward smaller and more-localised events and gatherings which should, as a whole, be more-sustainable for a lot of reasons.

  • Obsidia

    I don’t agree with the thrust of this article at all!  As someone who attended Woodstock (“way back when!”), I can see a future where large festivals will actually become places where people live for several weeks…maybe months.  Gypsies, of a sort, to hear the music, dance, and share the food an the culture.  With more sustainable transportations (electric, perhaps, charged by solar, etc.) and group sharing, festivals themselves will become actual villages that are powered by creative and sustainable ways.  Maybe not specifically Pagan, but surely inclusive of Pagan cultures.  LOTS of music….both professional and home-made.  Magickal in many many ways.  Don’t forget, we ARE magick and we can have these global gatherings if we want to.  We just have to be very very creative and innovative in the way we do this….with the least damage to the natural environment……in fact, HELPFUL to the Earth, Water, Energy, Air….and cooperative effort.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O2ZNSWRACRDWPG3UVXMIL3USBI M.A.

    I think as fossil fuel costs make continental or overseas travel affordable for fewer and fewer people, regional gatherings, pilgrimages and so on will be more important than ever. They played an important function in ancient and  medieval times when travel was hard, after all. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    Myself, I’d like to see less emphasis on internet study and more on making the effort to actually live near each other. Obviously, some of us have more flexibility in that department than others, but I can’t overstate the deepening impact of a group that meets in person regularly. It is tremendously important that others be present in the flesh to welcome our children’s births, celebrate our coming of age rites, celebrate our marriages, and mourn our deaths. Religious and ethnic groups of the past formed neighborhoods to maintain and grow their culture. Why can’t we?

    • http://syncreticmystic.wordpress.com/ Soli

       moving into the Polytheist neighborhood… I like that idea.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I keep trying to convince people to move to Eugene, but so far it isn’t working…

      • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

        I was thinking more  along the lines of moving across town, at this point. It’s a lot easier to meet as a group once a week if you all live within a mile of each other. :)

      • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

         I would, if it were the size of Philadelphia, minimum. 

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           It is very hard for a large conurbation to be ‘green’, though.

          • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

            It is very hard for a large conurbation to be ‘green’, though.

            I can cite you sources to the contrary.  Also, urban homesteading is far from an unknown concept.  It’s nice that you live in an ecovillage, but that alone doesn’t make you or your ways superior.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I don’t live in an ecovillage. I simply pointed out that they exist.

            I didn’t say it was impossible for a large conurbation to be ‘green’, just hard.

            I also very much did not say that small settlements were superior (I know I certainly am not.)

            I think that, in the future, we will see the rise of the ‘sustainable city’, but I think that is still a long way off.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Christine, Discus isn’t letting me reply to your comment, so I’m starting a fresh thread.

    I think Pagan neighborhoods are a wonderful idea, but there’s the matter of history. Most religious and ethnic neighborhoods were founded by immigrants who came over together and transplanted an existing social culture, and then welcomed others of the same definition as they immigrated. BGLTs weren’t tolerated in their home neighborhoods, so moved to the big city to form new ones.  Pagans, not denying our constant civil liberties problems, don’t have this kind of neighborhood-forming history.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

      One does have to start somewhere. ;> As lovely a thing as the Internet is, I think the ease of contacting our co-religionists at a distance is ultimately hindering local community growth.

      Pioneer Mormonism is a great example of a new religious movement that successfully formed strong community out of nothing — although they did have the advantage of a prophet telling them that that was what their God wanted. Whatever else we think of the Mormons, 150 years later they continue to have powerful communities of mutual social and economic support.

      Right now I don’t think contemporary Pagans value the notion of living close together. Some of that is a function of the internet, and of cars and relatively cheap gasoline. As we look ahead to a future where travel is radically more expensive, forming neighborhoods of mutual support with those with similar values could make everything from child care to growing local food easier. It’s an obvious principle of green living that hasn’t even made it onto the platform.

      I think we could learn a lot if we were to look more closely at the values people held during the Depression. In addition to some good survival skills, we might begin to shift our patterns of isolation.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        I can’t argue against values developed during the Depression; I was raised on those values (b 1941).

        I’ve never before seen neighborhoods of shared values designated a part of green living. I’ll have to give that some thought; I can imagine upsides and downsides.

        You gave an answer to Jason about the value of living near enough to attend regular meetings, something more tenuous than a neighborhood and definitely a big-city concern. This is so much a function of the quality of the city’s streets and thoroughfares. When I was a baby Pagan (age 45) I had to go from the east side of Cleveland to the west side to get my regular Pagan fix, which was socially like crossing the Berlin Wall but phsyically quite easy because Cleveland is laced by Interstates.

        If you could argue that Pagan neighborhood growth currently has some drivers behind it that the Internet is blocking, I’d agree with that point. But my UU church is definitely a face-to-face society that makes intense use of the Internet, and isn’t hindered thereby. In fact it’s helped; we have a couple of special-purpose email lists, eg, our social justice list facilitates the involvement of some elderly members with mobility challenges.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          “I’ve never before seen neighborhoods of shared values designated a part of green living.”
          You heard the term ‘ecovillage’? There are several in the UK. Most famous one is Findhorn:
          http://www.findhorn.org/

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            You’re right, I have heard of Findhorn. Good for the UK. Now why hasn’t it happened here?

          • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

             Because Atlas Shrugged is considered the most influential novel in the $tates.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             It has.
            http://directory.ic.org/records/ecovillages.php
            Perhaps the problem the USA has is, ironically, its greatest strength – it’s a very big country. Lots of space to lose people.

            This would be why US based ‘Pagans’ find the internet (and big festivals) so important.

            Over here, there are several ecovillages, Glastonbury (a regular town with a significant ‘Pagan’ presence), as well as various local ‘Pagan’ festivals not to mention a whole load of open-to-the-public monthly ‘Pagan Moots’.

    • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

       

      Pagans, not denying our constant civil liberties problems, don’t have this kind of neighborhood-forming history.

      I think the question isn’t whether or not that history exists, but more “why not?” and “why not make that history happen?”  Like you noted, there’s a history of other marginalised groups forming de-facto colonies in neighbourhoods of bigger cities, so the important question isn’t whether or not pagans and polytheists are a part of that history, but for those to whom it is feasable, what’s there to stop the formation of a pagan neighbourhood?  We meet all the same requirements that similar communities of the past have.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        The point is not that we’re not part of that history, but that that kind of history is not part of us as Pagans and polytheists. It’s part of my history because I’m Jewish by extraction, but that doesn’t bring me a step closer to a neighborhood of my Pagan kind.

        “We meet all the same requirements that similar communities of the past have.”

        All but one: We haven’t done it. My theory is that it’s because the crap we take isn’t as unbearable as that dished out to the BGLTs who booked from the Heartland and went to the Castro or Christopher Street. We don’t have that much motivation to pull up stakes.

        If you’ve got another theory I’d love to hear it.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           Comfort zones. With a disorganised religion, there is a lot more personal interpretation going on. Communities benefit from shared ideals and ideologies. Put a bunch of ‘Pagans’ together and, before too long, you start getting differences of opinion emerge.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            That would explain why previously existing Pagan neighborhoods broke up. But there were no previously existing Pagan neighborhoods in the US. And Findhorn is still intact.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I wouldn’t actually call Findhorn ‘Pagan’, as such, it is more eclectic ‘new Age’. (I was pointing out the ecovillage model more than the spiritual model, with that place, anyway.)