Archives For Faerieworlds

“This is a Pagan event” a visiting California-based Pagan exclaimed to me at Faerieworlds this weekend, and she was not wrong. I replied as I have often replied: It’s a Pagan event, but it isn’t a Pagan event, which allows it to become something unique and special. Over the years I’ve been attending and working at the little faerie-themed mythic festival in my hometown of Eugene, Oregon many have tried to sum up what makes this event so special. How it isn’t a transformational festival, or a Pagan festival, or a music festival, or a fantasy festival, but contains elements of all of these. Perhaps like those magical fairy markets depicted so often in literature, it is the undefinable collision of everything that creates the liminal magic.

Fox Firemaker at Faerieworlds.

Fox Firemaker at Faerieworlds.

Though Faerieworlds has traveled to a few homes in its history, I have only known it existing at the foot of Mt. Pisgah, in an area dubbed the Emerald Meadows. Due to NIMBY-motivated political fights that I won’t get into, all large-scale events were forced out, and this past weekend would be the last year Faerieworlds would create its special magic in my “back yard.” Though I knew the festival had found a new home outside Portland for next year, and that Faerieworlds would rise again, I couldn’t help but feel a certain melancholy of an era ending. Here, I had encountered a new community, new friends, new family, and had been blessed with the opportunity of opening the doors to this realm to others.

Raven and Stephanie Grimassi at the Faerieworlds opening ritual.

Raven and Stephanie Grimassi at the Faerieworlds opening ritual.

While Faerieworlds is not an explicitly Pagan event, and is open to all who want to enjoy it, there is so much there for the Pagan soul. The opening spiral dance ritual, the workshops this year by individuals like Raven Grimassi, T. Thorn Coyle, LaSara Firefox, Morpheus Ravenna, S.J. Tucker, and Lupa, the main stage altar, the music of bands like The Wicker Men, Woodland, and Omnia, and much, much, more. All part of a liminal creative explosion of color, sound, and intense creativity.

T. Thorn Coyle and Stephanie Taylor Grimassi

T. Thorn Coyle and Stephanie Taylor Grimassi

I mention the bands and workshop presenters, but really, the spirit of Faerieworlds is how it inspires those who attend it, and how they create an event the goes beyond the easy borders of classification. There are very few passive viewers here, and instead, everyone is a part of the show. A cascade of costumes, wings, horns, fabric, and hide that can make you wonder if you’ve truly stepped through a gateway into another reality. Attending Faerieworlds, and then, being a part of the team the helps make it happen, has changed me, and my expectations of the festival experience. Faerieworlds is the flowering of thousands of souls that feel safe together, and that is powerful magic.

Spiral dance at Faerieworlds.

Spiral dance at Faerieworlds.

I know there are other great festivals out there, but I also know that the energy and excitement built here is unique. So, until next year, when the Realm rises again, please enjoy some photos I’ve taken in my travels through faerie this year. You may also want to read my coverage from years’ past.

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 let’s get started!

Pagan Radio Network

Pagan Radio Network

After 13 years of operation The Pagan Radio Network, one of the most prominent outlets for Pagan and Pagan-friendly music, shut down suddenly on July 21st. Owner Lew Wirt gave the following explanation for the sudden closure: “Not enough time, money, or energy to keep it up. I won’t bore you with a long-winded explanation, except to say that I attend college and raise a special-needs child. This leaves very little time or money to devote to my hobby of Internet broadcasting (as enjoyable as it was). Thank you for tuning in for nearly 13 years.” While there are other worthy streaming Pagan-oriented stations, few rivaled PRN’s size and scope, showcasing an amazing breadth of music. Currently, the domain names and IP are being auctioned off, and Wirt is recommending alternatives (plus new stations are popping up). As someone who had a show hosted on PRN, I’m saddened to see this essential resource go, and I wish Lew all the best in his future endeavors. Whether this is an isolated and personal development, or something that augurs a larger discussion on money and support within our communities is, I think, something that is still up in the air.

Dan Halloran

Dan Halloran

PaganSquare, the blogging portal hosted by Witches & Pagans Magazine, has added a new writer: Dan Halloran (who is going by Dan O’Halloran). Halloran, currently serving on the New York City Council, has been indicted in a massive political bribery scandal, and is facing trial sometime in 2014. While the matter of his guilt or innocence awaits due process, Halloran seems to be publicly re-embracing his Heathen beliefs (and the wider Pagan/Heathen community) by writing about Germanic polytheism. Quote: “Now it’s my turn to kick back in life after politics and discuss the things that matter to me from an academic and philosophical perspective. It may stir up some controversy… but that’s half the battle of ordeal, the crucible process of Wyrd. I’m looking forward to the journey….” I questioned editor Anne Newkirk Niven about bringing Halloran on board and she said that she was aware of his history, and was not looking to make any political statement by having him write for PaganSquare. That Halloran “just seemed to fill a gap in our PaganStudies section.” It should be interesting to see how Halloran’s new engagement with the Pagan community is received. You can read all of The Wild Hunt’s coverage of Dan Halloran, here.

Omnia performing at Faerieworlds.

Omnia performing at Faerieworlds.

This past weekend was the Faerieworlds Festival in Eugene, Oregon. As I said in my post this past Friday, it is a very Pagan and mythic event, and also boasted the first American performance for the Pagan-folk Netherlands band Omnia. On their official Facebook page, the band said they are “so very happy that the AMAZING audience here has such a strong reaction to our pure PaganFolk musick, seeing as it’s our first time here in the USA.” Meanwhile, featured workshop presenter T. Thorn Coyle said that she “had a grand time. Blessings of magic, mirth, and music to you.” Standout performances this year (aside from Omnia) included the mythic Pagan neo-folk of The Wicker Men, ethereal singer-songwriter Mariee Sioux, the transcendent world fusion of Stellamara, and a brief Kan’nal reunion featuring guitarist Tierro and singer Kurt Baumann. Also of note was the fact that American Pagan band Woodland officially released their new album “Secrets Told” and closed out the event on Sunday night. There’s a lot more to tell, and many more Pagans of note who participated (S.J. Tucker, for example, who, as always, was universally beloved), but suffice to say that this is an event that more Pagans should discover. Here’s the opening spiral dance for a small taste. Tons of photos at the official Faerieworlds page. [In the interest of full disclosure, I work for Faerieworlds, but I thought the festival was awesome even before I did.]

In Other Pagan Community News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Today is the start of the Faerieworlds Festival in Eugene, Oregon. Faerieworlds is a weekend-long event that mixes fantasy, art, music, mythic themes, and wild creativity to create something that is truly unique within the world of festival culture. Existing in a liminal space between the “transformational” West Coast festivals, Renaissance (and re-enactment) fairs, and traditional multi-stage music events, Faerieworlds is something that is hard to describe until you experience it for youself. As co-founder Kelly Miller-Lopez said in 2009, Faerieworlds opens “doorways to help people connect with beauty and magic.”

“For the first time ever…OMNIA will be bringing the one and only, pure and uncut PaganFolk to the US! Old world Paganism meets the New world tribes! The Clans that were sundered by time, politics and emigration will be re-united for this one amazing, fantastical, artistic and magical Festival in Oregon! I get all goosebumpy thinking about it!  Finally we get to play to an audience that speaks our language!  FaerieWorlds here we come! Nature has provided us with a lot of energy, and we long to share it with you! See ya there!”SteveSic Evans-van der Harten of the band Omnia

I would argue, as someone who has experienced Faerieworlds as both an attendee and an employee, that an integral element that makes Faerieworlds so special is that, in many ways, Faerieworlds is very Pagan. While the festival has no religious or theological mandate, and is welcoming to everyone, there is, and always has been, a strong Pagan thread running through the event. For those who simply want to frolic with Wotan the Faerie-Smasher, dress up in glitter and wings, sample from an array of artists, or simply dance to a diverse lineup of bands, the festival provides all that, and more. However, if you go in looking for it, you’ll notice the ritual and Spiral Dance during opening festivities, that headliners like Omnia, S.J. Tucker, Sharon Knight, and Woodland sing songs from within a Pagan frame of reference, and that Pagan luminaries like T. Thorn Coyle are there conducting workshops. These Pagan elements do not dominate, but merely inform the festival, creating a creative ambiguity that resonates far beyond modern Paganism’s borders. As Faerieworlds co-founder Robert Gould put it in 2012, when talking about why Faerieworlds booked singer-songwriter Donovan, all great art inhabits this ambiguous, liminal, space.

2013 Faerieworlds Map

2013 Faerieworlds Map

“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.”

This melding of elements, this willingness to stand in a liminal space, has allowed Faerieworlds to strike chord far wider than any explicitly Pagan event, drawing an estimated 6-8000 people per day last year, and with an even bigger year planned for 2013. As I said in 2011, Faerieworlds taps into our primal communal need for festival, for gathering, to honor nature and the numinous

“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.”

Faerieworlds is something magical and unique, something that I think many Pagans need to see, and perhaps emulate. Grown from a small local gathering of friends and family, Faerieworlds has become, in its 12th year, something of an institution in Oregon, rivaling the venerable (and popular) Oregon Country Fair. They did it by realizing that the need to tap into myth, into story, into festival, resonates far beyond the borders of our personal communities, whatever they may be.

I hope to see you at Faerieworlds, and let’s all live our legends!

Not much time to do a proper post today, but do check out my interview with Soriah and Ashkelon Sain at my A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast, and check out a small selection of photos from my Saturday at the Faerieworlds festival.

A view of the crowd at Faerieworlds.

A view of the crowd at Faerieworlds.

Jesse and Emilio from the band Treguenda.

Jesse and Emilio from the band Treguenda.

Deborah "DJ" Hamouris leading a circle singing workshop.

Deborah “DJ” Hamouris leading a circle singing workshop.

Faerieworlds MC Mark Lewis with headliner Donovan.

Faerieworlds MC Mark Lewis with headliner Donovan.

Your humble author with some wonderful Portland Pagan friends.

Your humble author with some wonderful Portland Pagan friends.

Regular Wild Hunt posting will resume tomorrow!

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

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.

That’s it for now, back to the Realm for me!

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, before the event is underway.

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.”

Jeet-Kei Leung dubbed Faerieworlds part of a”transformational festival culture,” one that re-merges spiritual/religious practices within the context of secular festival culture. Leung has just crowd-funded a web-series documentary on these festivals, and will be visiting Faerieworlds this year to document and interview participants.

“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!

[While I like to keep something of a firewall between my work at The Wild Hunt, and my job at Mythic Events, the folks who put on Faerieworlds in Eugene, and the FaerieCons in Seattle and Baltimore, I felt that in this case an exception was in order. Faerieworlds, while not explicitly Pagan, is steeped in the same mythic, transformational, energy you’d find at any number of festivals marketed to our community. This year, we are immensely proud to have recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Donovan headlining, and Robert Gould, a co-owner and Producer of Faerieworlds, has written an eloquent appreciation exploring why this artist fits so well into the ethos our event inhabits. I greatly enjoyed reading it, and I felt that many of you would as well.]

“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!

Teo Bishop’s Sacred Electric Grove: Pagan blogger Teo Bishop of Bishop In The Grove fame has launched an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money so he can record an EP of original songs entitled “Sacred Electric Grove”. According to Bishop, this is a chance to “offer up another voice of mine; a voice used in ritual to invoke, to inspire, to conjure up emotion and passion.”

“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 on the Wisconsin Recall Elections: At her Dirt Worship blog, activist and author Starhawk weighs in on the Wisconsin recall elections being held today, and the upcoming elections cycle, stressing the need to remove the “toxic thought-blanket the political fabricators are laying over us.” The author of 2012’s “The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature” calls on Pagans to send energy towards Wisconsin to counteract the “massive amounts of money” being spent to influence the results.

Starhawk at Occupy Santa Cruz. Photo by Matt Fitt, Santa Cruz IMC.

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!”

In addition to Starhawk, Selena Fox of the Wisconsin-based Circle Sanctuary sent out a blessing that “the voting process be fair & honest” and “may there be progressive change for the better.” She has also sent out a picture of herself with her “I Voted” sticker.

Sharon Knight of Pandemonaeon at Faerieworlds: Yesterday the Faerieworlds festival in Eugene, Oregon announced that they had added Pagan musician Sharon Knight to their main-stage lineup. Knight is a member of the gothic-tribal fusion band Pandemonaeon, and has recording two albums of seasonal chants with T. Thorn Coyle, in addition to her solo career as a Celtic-influenced singer-songwriter. This is the first time Knight has played the main stage of this event.

Sharon Knight

Sharon Knight

“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.]

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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.

While there are many presentations and performances I’m looking forward to, I’m perhaps most excited about participating in a panel discussion with Jeet Kei Leung, who’s writing a book entitled “Dancing Together into The Great Shift: Transformational Festivals & The New Evolutionary Culture”, and once again getting to interview famed urban fantasy author Charles de Lint, best known for his “Newford” novels. I hope to bring you photos, interviews, and coverage from what I’m hoping will be amazing weekend. If you’re in the Seattle area, I hope you’ll drop by, experience it for yourself, and say hello!

In the meantime, before I head off, here’s a few quick Pagan news notes that I thought you should know about.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

The TEDx Youtube channel recently uploaded a talk by Jeet Kei Leung from TEDxVancouver 2010 on transformational festivals. The half-hour presentation focuses on West Coast-oriented festivals and events like Faerieworlds and Burning Man and talks about how these events re-merge spiritual/religious practices with secular festival culture.

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.

Finally, any discussion about how Western festival culture has taken on a spiritual dimension should recognize the great debt we owe to European festival culture. Not just to 1990s Rave culture in England, but to the vast tapestry of long-running music and (sub)cultural festivals that have slowly evolved into entrenched tradition. It’s in Europe, after all, where even the Goths go camping. Faerieworlds, for example, is very much in the tradition of fantasy-oriented European festivals like Castlefest, merged with Pagan, Burner, and Tribal elements. Still, no 30-minute talk can cover everything, and I appreciate Jeet Kei Leung articulating this as an important trend. I look forward to his in-progress book “Dancing Together into The Great Shift: Transformational Festivals & The New Evolutionary Culture”.