During the last two months Ron (my husband) and I visited two more or less pagan festivals in The Netherlands. Very different, but at both we had a great time!
In July we went to the Heartbonds Festival. It is a fairly new festival, this was the second edition. Created from enthusiasm, creativity and passion by two young women with a little help from their friends in a wonderful meadow in the forest. Ron is one of the volunteers. The festival is meant to be low-budget and affordable for almost everyone; meals and camping space included. Small-scale with free workshops and an inspiring market with artists and beautiful crafts. Performances (music and otherwise) around the campfire at night. Crew and visitors camp on the site. It has an intimate, warm atmosphere. The first edition was enjoyed by 70 people, this year perhaps some more but not that much.
In August we were at the 9th edition of Castlefest, in many ways the opposite of the wonderful Heartbonds festival but just as enjoyable in other ways. Huge estate, lots of stalls, tents, multiple stages for lots of bands. Workshops, performers, artists, re-enactment and LARP groups. The entrance fee is not cheap and includes nothing more than admission. A lot of people come in the most beautiful outfits. Fantasy meets pagan, but also science fiction, gothic, steampunk and much more. Thousands and thousands of people are visiting and enjoying themselves. It’s a BIG happening in every aspect.
Someone said the other day that they wanted to introduce a friend to their (pagan) lifestyle and decided to take that friend to some festivals. It got me thinking. Do these festivals reflect my path? Would I use them to introduce people to ‘my world’? As always with me the answer wasn’t a clear yes or no. Although there are many more festivals in The Netherlands, I’ll try to find an answer using the two festivals above.
Yes, there are pagan elements in the festivals. Heartbonds has a pagan base, originating in a coven. It has an opening and closing ritual. The workshops and market have pagan and spiritual themes. Castlefest is organised around a pagan festival in honour of Lugh: Lughnasadh. There is a pagan village with different groups that offer all sorts of pagan activities, and a Wickerman (or –woman or –beast) in which everyone can leave an offering. On Saturday night (Pagan Night) a ritual is performed around the burning of the Wickerman. There are also lots of stalls that sell pagan-related stuff.
But… are these pagan elements representative of my pagan path? Hmm, I don’t know. Again yes and no. J If they are representative, I’m not sure a non-pagan recognizes what is done and why. They might focus on the wrong details and miss the parts that matter most. Of course that can easily be solved by yourself being a good guide that explains things.
In earlier years the burning of the Wickerman on Castlefest was accompanied by a pagan folk band, that did not only play music to kindle the fire, but also offered an explanation of what was happening and why. A wonderful introduction of a pagan custom to non-pagan festival visitors that might be interested. Unfortunately since last year the ritual is performed without music and without explanation. The public could just as easily consider it a theatrical performance and most of them completely miss the point. Last year I started explaining what was happening to people around me. Lots of ‘aha’s’ and thanks… I really hope the organisations will change this back.
Also, not every spiritual thing is pagan, even though a lot of pagans like them. For example: Heartbonds had a Tai Chi workshop and there was a wonderful labyrinth among the trees. Are these pagan? No, but a lot of pagans do and like them. Same goes for Reiki, divination, etc. Castlefest mixes a lot of things, but it isn’t clear whether something is pagan, or fantasy, or re-enactment, etc.
On festivals people often dress up in beautiful outfits. One might think that is part of the pagan lifestyle. Well, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. And religion has nothing to do with dressing up. A woman dressed as a witch on a festival can be one, but just as easily follow another path.
So, would I introduce someone to paganism by taking them to a festival? Yeah maybe, but with a lot of explanations. First we would talk about paganism and perhaps read some books. To experience it I would rather take someone to a full moon celebration, or an open ritual somewhere, or do a ritual together.
What about you? How do you introduce someone to your pagan path?
Heartbonds : http://www.heartbonds.nl/festival.html