At past Faerieworlds, Friday is usually seen as the least busy of the three-day event. People have to work, it’s a shorter day, and many are still arriving. However, this year seemed far, far, larger, and the energy level was high, making me think that we’ll see record-breaking attendances on Saturday and Sunday. Like all opening Fridays at Faerieworlds, it started with a ceremony/ritual led by Emilio and Kelly from Woodland, with help from S.J. Tucker. They did a Lammas invocation, including offerings of fruits and grains, with Donovan and his wife as special guests of honor. Then, a giant spiral dance was led by a local priestess while the musicians played.
That kicked off a day of amazing music, headlined by the transcendent Persian fusion ensemble Niyaz, featuring the amazing vocals of Azam Ali. However, I think that the performance by Soriah with Ashkelon Sain is one that truly surprised a lot of people, and created hundreds of new fans. The shamanic throat-singing ensemble, by the end of their set, had entranced the audience, and I feel confident this won’t be the last time they’ll play at Faerieworlds.
Soriah with Ashkelon Sain and Lucretia*Renee
Check out my A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast tomorrow for an exclusive post-show interview with Soriah and Ashkelon Sain. Today at Faerieworlds I’m hoping to conduct an interview with S.J. Tucker for The Wild Hunt, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, here are some Pagan news links to peruse while I’m away with the faeries.
Secularism isn’t atheism, just as any Pagan! Quote: “What secularism does concern itself with are relations between Church and State. It is a flexible doctrine that can embody a lot of policy positions. Strict separationism is one, but not the only, of those positions. At its core, secularism is deeply suspicious of any entanglement between government and religion.”
Today marks the beginning of Faerieworlds, a three-day arts and music festival in Eugene, Oregon that embraces the mythic and the fantastic in ways that many of us in the Pagan community would find familiar. A transformational space where each of us is encouraged to embrace the numinous in our own way, our own context. A chance to “live our legend.” As I said last year, this event taps into a blossoming re-enchantment of the world, one that is very in line with modern Paganism, but is not exclusively so.
The stones at the center of Faerieworlds’ realm, before the event is underway.
“Events like Faerieworlds tap into a deep cultural hunger for romanticism, for a re-enchantment of the world that has long been denied by both secular and religious institutions in the West. I don’t think the recent fantasy boom is happening in a vacuum, nor do I think it is any coincidence that a growing number of people are opting out of traditional forms of religion altogether while still holding onto religious beliefs. While Faerieworlds, or Burning Man for that matter, aren’t explicitly “Pagan” they tap into a primal need for festival, for gathering to honor the numinous, the changing seasons, each other, and our own creativity. I think that these events, especially as we weather hard times, will continue to grow in importance. There is a vital roots-up form of small-p “paganism” emerging here that is very compatible with our more formal adoption of Pagan religion.”
“This webseries aims to explain this remarkable and important phenomenon while retaining the artistic sensibility and inspired creativity from which these festivals have been birthed in the first place. Our goal is to promote coherency and cohesion among those in the culture while building a bridge of understanding with those outside it–to support growth and expansion while preserving the magic and integrity of this potent movement.”
As in previous years, there are number of Pagan musicians involved, including Sharon Knight and SJ Tucker, and this year they are joined by the shamanic sounds of Soriah with Ashkelon Sain, the Persian world-fusion of Niyaz feat. Azam Ali, and, of course, festival headliner Donovan. Those elements, along with the performers, artists, vendors, and costumed participants, create a atmosphere that I feel is unique, one not even duplicated at the many explicitly Pagan events I’ve attended over the years. It’s a focused burst of creative energy that changes you if you’re open to the experience.
This year, I’m not only attending as a journalist, I also work for the producers of Faerieworlds, and I’m hoping to use that access to capture some images, impressions, and interviews that will enlighten and enrich. I would like to give a glimpse of the magic happening in my own backyard, in hopes that perhaps you’ll join me here someday, or even be inspired to create that pluralistic, transformational, fusion in your own backyard. Expect updates throughout this weekend!
“Why Donovan?” is a question we have been asked since we announced his landmark appearance at our event in Eugene, OR on July 29th, several months ago.
A master of the poetic evocation of place, character and emotion, Donovan is, first and foremost a storyteller in the bardic tradition. Tales of love, longing loss, rapture, adventure, crisis, mystics, heroes, heroines and above all, devotion fill his songbook. Tactile and sensual, these stories have deep roots in mythic and folkloric tales of the Land and the cultural, often timeless challenges faced by humanity within our global community.
Like any great artist, Donovan sees and uses words and music as symbols for ideas and emotions; rarely are his expressions fixed or overtly literal. He seeks and showcases the inherent poetry within words and the syllabic rhythms they contain as best evidenced in “Wear You Love Like Heaven.” Melodies often flow over a drone of instrument or voice, serving as an inner mantra for the expression of the lyric. He has a respect for and appreciation of the importance of poignant, delicate and fragile musical moments that produce enormous emotional impact: within even in his most dramatic songs there is a heart of suspended stillness. Such moments become fixed in time and memory and produce instantaneous, visceral recall when heard even decades later.
His gentle, often whispered voice with its warm, Northern burr creates a seductive intimacy that quietly commands attention. The master of the sideways glance, Donovan rarely addresses any subject directly; all is liquid, evolving, emerging. His lyrics do not offer obvious observations or insights, they are as if observed in a mirror, tempered by a poetic symbol or provocative metaphor. His music is welcoming and seductive, accounting in part for the exceptional number of artists he has inspired or influenced. His unique finger style method alone has spawned a celebrated lineage of the finest guitar players of our time.
The most common and unifying quality of great art is ambiguity: it’s ability to be experienced and interpreted by people of any gender, age, culture or time. Donovan’s music shares this rare, open quality: it is most often simple in form and melody but at the same time elusive and ephemeral. He hangs his art in the air and subjects it to the harmonizing influence of the elements. Never dogmatic, he addresses social issues as a poet, not as a politician and avoids literal conversations about power within his art.
Since the beginning, Donovan’s spiritual practice has been at the heart of his physical, emotional and spiritual life. He joins George Harrison as a pioneer and champion of introducing and popularizing the philosophies and music of the East to the West during the 60s and 70s and his presence, influence and support lies at the foundation of much of what we call alternative culture today. His work has transcended being solely linked to two world-shifting decades because his music, poetry and the subjects of his art are timeless.
In a rampant consumer and celebrity obsessed culture that is addicted to the empty calories of entraining, metronomic beats and autotuned robo-voices, Donovan’s music reminds us of the transcendent power of a compelling melody and a poetically crafted lyric to touch the human heart and soul and bring Meaning, if only for a moment, to our all too temporal lives, To accomplish this, Donovan sources his art from something greater than himself. It is evident that his lifetime practice of meditation has produced an enormous bounty. For Donovan, life, art and music are a ceremony of innocence and a sacrament of devotion. He lives and creates today in joyful celebration of and in service to Spirit and Beauty, a wise and accomplished artist and poet humbled before the greatness and vastness of the Universe to which he knows he shall return.
Simply put: Donovan is an artist very much of our time and completely embodies the intention, heart and spirit of Faerieworlds. Donovan has always been and remains to this day, an artist for the ages.
[I'd like to thank Robert Gould for sharing this with us. Donovan performs at Faerieworlds, the music and arts festival in Eugene, OR, on July 29, 2012. For more information, visit: www.faerieworlds.com. Stay tuned, because I may soon have an exclusive interview with Donovan to share, one that I think many Pagans will find interesting.]
Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started!
“This is the voice I used before I had language, or before I was fascinated by religion. This is the voice that preceded my Pagan identity (or any identity for that matter), and this is the voice which has come to inform so much of who I am. This is the voice of my soul, and I share it with you when the Moon is most full.”
Bishop is hoping to raise $10,000 dollars in one month, and says that “this is not a time to throw our money away, clearly, but it can still be a time to invest in something that stirs our heart.” For those interested in donating, Bishop has arranged a number of nice “perks” for those who donate, even if only a dollar. I certainly hope that Teo succeeds in his goal, not just for his sake, but as a model for other Pagan musicians to use, creating a community of support for our bards and artists. Teo Bishop is one of our rising leaders and thinkers, someone who I’m proud to call a friend. This addition to his writing at Patheos, and newly-launched contributions to HuffPo’s Religion section, should be one that enriches us all.
Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.
“Today, June 5, I and Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary invite our allies to focus on Wisconsin, using the Goddess atop the State Capitol as a beacon to rouse the forces of truth and justice. For today is vote on the recall of Scott Walker, the union-busting governor who was the focus of protests and a sit-in in the Capitol in January of 2011, at the same time as the Arab Spring. Republicans are spending millions to defend him. Democrats—not so much. But this election isn’t just about Democrats and Republicans, it’s a test of whether or not massive amounts of money can determine who gets into office or who stays. Generally the answer to that is ‘yes’—whoever spends the most wins the race. Money is one form of energy, and most of us don’t have a lot of it. But we have other forms of energy—let’s see what we can do!”
“Just when you thought our stellar line up was complete, we are happy to announce that Sharon Knight of the gothic tribal rock band Pandemonaeon will be performing on the Faerieworlds main stage. Based in San Francisco, Sharon’s musical foundations are solidly based in her Celtic heritage from which she has evolved her uniquely rich and powerful personal style. The music of Sharon Knight combines a love of antiquity and romance with an affinity for the haunting and melancholy, adds a hearty dash of feistiness, reminding us that we can all see the world through the eyes of enchantment.”
Knight joins an amazing lineup this year, including the Persian tribal-fusion band Niyaz, long-time Pagan favorite SJ Tucker, shamanic throat-singing from Soriah with Ashkelon Sain, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Donovan. So if you’re in the Pacific Northwest this July, don’t miss out on what should be a legendary year for this faerie festival! [In the interests of full disclosure, I work for the company that produces Faerieworlds, though I do not decide who's booked on their main stage, so I'm just as pleased as anyone to see Sharon Knight joining the lineup.]
I’m in Seattle, Washington this weekend, part of the team that’s putting on FaerieCon West, a transformational celebration of music, myth, fantasy, and, of course, faerie. While FaerieCon West, and events like it, are not explicitly Pagan, the openness and embrace of Pagan culture can’t be missed by anyone whose eyes are open to it.
In the meantime, before I head off, here’s a few quick Pagan news notes that I thought you should know about.
A Ninth Circuit Court challenge to the making of treated wastewater snow on the San Francisco Peaks in Arizona, an action considered sacrilegious by several local Native American Tribal Nations, has been roundly rejected (more here). With this decision, it looks like the final barriers to the already-in-process construction are now removed. You can read my full coverage of this issue, here.
Jeet Kei Leung specifically references how many of these festivals have adopted practices and rituals from modern Paganism, incorporating opening and closing circles, altars, invocations of sacred land, and pre-Christian (often Goddess) imagery. I’ve written about the Pagan current within Faerieworlds before, and many scholars, including Sarah Pike and Lee Gilmore, have talked about the Pagan (and “pagan”) elements within Burning Man.
While I appreciate Kei Leung giving voice to this growing trend, I do think its far larger, and older, than he might think. Yes, something unique did happen when rave/dance culture intermixed with the West Coast’s tendency to hold events in nature, but modern Pagans have been holding multi-day outdoor festivals with many of the elements he describes for over 30 years. In addition, these events, like Pagan Spirit Gathering, Starwood, Brushwood, and Wisteria, are held in the Midwest or East Coast. The reason Pagan threads have woven so easily into modern transformational events like Burning Man is because we had a thriving festival culture of our own. I also think that indoor events (like Dragon*Con), while fundamentally different from outdoor events, are starting to take on the same liminal/numinous/spiritual/tribal features.
It’s a rare and wonderful think to have a major Pagan-friendly event happening in your figurative backyard. Living in Eugene, Oregon (home of the Slug Queen) I’m lucky enough to attend the yearly Faerieworlds festival during the Summer and witness amazing Pagan (and Pagan-friendly) bands like Faun, S.J. Tucker, Woodland, and Stellamara play in a friendly, colorful, and creative atmosphere. This year, in addition to the now-traditional Summer festival, they are holding a Harvest event taking place over this weekend. What’s interesting is that while Faerieworlds is not explicitly Pagan, and draws individuals from all sorts of backgrounds who appreciate a weekend of fantasy, music, art, and skilled artisans, the openness and embrace of Pagan culture can’t be missed by anyone whose eyes are open to it. Take, for example, the community altar built in front of the main stage at every Faerieworlds.
Faerieworlds communal altar.
Throughout the day people will add offerings to it, while others will offer prayers to their respective gods and goddesses, and it is an integral part of the experience at Faerieworlds. In addition, as I pointed out at the beginning of this post, a variety of Pagan bands and musicians play here, and last night I got to witness the birth of a new one. Treguenda, a group made up from members of Woodland and cellist/composer Adam Hurst, who performed live for the first time last night.
With a sound very close to that of Woodland’s (for obvious reasons) but enhanced with Hurst’s cello and added electronic elements, Treguenda performed a raft of songs about Pagan festivals, the gods, and a special composition dedicated to Aradia. The audience, Pagan and non-Pagan alike, swooped, danced, cavorted, and enjoyed themselves as the night grew darker (some, no doubt, anticipating that evening’s closing act Delhi 2 Dublin). I’m very much looking forward to hearing recorded material from them.
Events like Faerieworlds tap into a deep cultural hunger for romanticism, for a re-enchantment of the world that has long been denied by both secular and religious institutions in the West. I don’t think the recent fantasy boom is happening in a vacuum, nor do I think it is any coincidence that a growing number of people are opting out of traditional forms of religion altogether while still holding onto religious beliefs. While Faerieworlds, or Burning Man for that matter, aren’t explicitly “Pagan” they tap into a primal need for festival, for gathering to honor the numinous, the changing seasons, each other, and our own creativity. I think that these events, especially as we weather hard times, will continue to grow in importance. There is a vital roots-up form of small-p “paganism” emerging here that is very compatible with our more formal adoption of Pagan religion.
Tonight, I’m looking forward to seeing Stellamara and Faun perform this evening on the main stage. I was lucky enough to interview Oliver Pade of Faun yesterday, to talk about their work, performing in the United States, Paganism in Europe, the intersections of Goth and Pagan music, and future plans. You’ll be able to hear that interview in tomorrow’s A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast, so stay tuned, and if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, it’s still not too late to participate!
There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.
Religion Dispatches is featuring an article on Burning Man from Jay Michaelson entitled “Burning Man in the Age of Rick Perry.” In it Michaelson says that “a dogmatic religionist cannot abide the inspiration of another. Unless it is within the same religious system, it is damned, or confused, or pagan, or worse. Thus the dogmatist is only left with data which confirm her existing categories of thought. All contradictory data is removed from consideration. Whereas, any religious/spiritual progressive must be inspired precisely by the plurality of revelatory experiences.”