A Wiccan Grove

December 4, 2008

How to Navigate A Pagan Festival

Filed under: General Discussions,General Information,Rituals,Wiccan Religion — ravenbird @ 9:58 pm

Each year more and more magical individuals pull together to host
Pagan Festivals. Many times it takes over a year of planning and lots of
Hard work to ensure that the magical attendees enjoy a safe and spiritual
Event. In this article we’re going to talk about the inner workings of a
Festival as they relate to you, the participant, and what you can expect when you set those magical wings down in Pagan Festival Land.

The Rules

At the gate someone will hand you a set of rules (or you may have
Received them when you sent in your money). All festivals have rules, based
On laws of the state and county, requirements of the owners of the land, and
Past experience of the festival coordinators. You are expected to follow
The rules. The teams are there to ensure your safety and happiness at
The site. At check-in you will usually be required to sign a form that lists
The rules, indicating that you have read the guidelines and that you will follow them. Yes, they can legally throw you out if you don’t follow the rules.
In the past, some very nice magical people have brought along kindness-
Impaired buddies. If you think that your friend will not enjoy this new
Experience or has a history of dysfunction, it is in your best interest (and
Everyone else’s) to leave him or her at home. Most festivals now require you
To wear an identification tag that indicates you belong there. Please wear
The tag, and don’t be offended if you aren’t wearing your tag and a staff
Member asks you where it is.

Clothing Optional

Okay! You’ve found where you’re supposed to set up your stuff.
You’ve got those tent poles out, and a man walks by you wearing a pentacle the Size of your mama’s old cook pot and nothing else! Many outdoor festivals Are clothing optional. Check this out before you decide to go. If you
Are taking your children, do not expect the staff to change the policy of
The whole festival because you forgot to read the instruction packet and
Here you are, 1,000 miles from home, three kids in tow, standing among 239 Nekkid Pagans. On the other side of the magical stick, don’t get all in a
Huff if you come in the buff and discover that you are at a festival where
Clothing is required. Rules are rules. I’ve personally seen both instances
And have been amazed at the ruckus one person can cause just because they
Didn’t bother to read their festival packet before they came.

Cameras and Camcorders

Since the vision of the man with the oversized pentacle cannot be
Missed, you whip out your camera, aim, and…someone screeches in your ear, “Stop that!” Some festivals do not permit cameras or camcorders. Usually this rule is in the festival information that you receive before you go. With the Advent of the Internet, too many people put up pictures they have taken without Asking the permission of the individuals in the photo. Remember, not everyone Is out of the closet.

Every Festival Has A Nut Or Two

Some individuals feel that because they are Pagan, they don’t have to
Follow the rules. I’ve been to several festivals where people on drugs have
Ruined everyone else’s fun. One man tore through a campsite and destroyed
Three tents. One woman in a drunken stupor almost died of hypothermia.
True, these instances are downright stupid, but a festival coordinator has
No idea who is sane and who is less than human when the registration fees
Come in. Many festival security personnel will now hand these people directly over to the police. And you know, they should.

People In General

You will meet lots of happy Pagans at the seminars, rituals, vendor
Row, and musical events. You are not going to like everyone there, and
Everyone is not going to like you. Get over it and leave the bad attitudes at
Home. Enjoy yourself. The larger the event, the more unusual people you
Are going to meet. Not every person who attends a festival is a magical
Person. Larger events tend to draw a bigger cross-section of individuals. If
You are unsure about a festival, talk to individuals who have attended in the
Past. There is also a big difference in an indoor festival (held in a hotel) and an outdoor festival, with indoor festivals requiring stricter control due to legal and social constraints. Festival coordinators around the country are now communicating with one another and do weed out potential difficulties during preregistration. They have your best interests in mind. You will meet High Priestess Kiss-My-Feet. You will meet High Priest Fake-Family-Lineage. You will meet Bubble Witch and Mistress Serious Witch. You will discover interesting souls who don’t know who they are or why they are there. You will meet snobs who won’t talk to you because you aren’t anybody. No kidding. On the other hand, you will meet lots of fun and interesting people who are at the festival to learn, grow, and have fun, so don’t let the strange ones get to you. Depending on the event, you will meet well-known Pagans (musicians, authors, publishers, poets, drummers, bards, etc.). Check your festival brochure for the featured speakers and events.

The Volunteer List

Many festivals have you sign up at the gate for a few hours of volunteer duty. Please, if you sign up for any task, do it. Don’t forget about your promise and party with your friends. Someone will be stuck with the job you offered to do. I was at a festival last year and one poor man stayed up with the need-fire all night because the people who said they would relieve him didn’t bother to show up.

The Fire Circle

This is one of the highlights of any festival. Before you march down to that great place in the woods, apply the bug spray and dress appropriately. Fire circles are very hot, so it would be a good idea to layer your clothing. If you plan to take an instrument, like your drum, you might want to carry a small camp chair. Even if you don’t have an instrument, many fire circles do not have seating, and you might just want to sit and watch for a while. Don’t forget your flashlight, as in my experience, most fire circles are well away from the other events of the festival, and even though festival staff come up with marvelous ideas for lighting the path, after about 1:00 AM many of the lights go to sleep. Having a drink in a cup with a lid is a good idea too. Theft is not normally a problem at festivals, but counting on everyone’s honesty is not the best idea. Keep your things together. If you plan to walk away and leave your drum or other items for a moment or two, ask the person drumming or sitting beside you if they would mind keeping an eye on your stuff. Don’t dance through burning ashes that are as large as a big-nosed Pagan’s head or whip those long tendrils of lovely hair too close to the flames in dancing frenzy. It is very hot close to a large bonfire. If you really want to dance and it is too crowded, back off for a bit. It’s been my experience that the largest number of people leave after the first hour of dancing and drumming, allowing plenty of space for you to enjoy yourself. Even if you’ve never danced before, don’t be afraid that you will look silly. I stood back from a fire circle once just to analyze it, and you know, everyone looked fine and even the most zealous dancers did not look stupid. WARNING: All-night drumming is usual fare at festivals. Many people just love this (including me) but some first time festival goers find the constant sound disconcerting until they get used to it. Finally, you may not want to take small children to the late night fire circle due to the dancing and falling ash.

Seminar And Ritual Decorum

Pagan Standard Time (meaning things don’t get started on time) is a common difficulty at festivals, especially if the attendance count is high. Again, get used to it. Coordinators work very hard to make sure things get going and move along quickly, but there will be the occasional time lapse. Presenters forget their time slots, the twenty-ton chicken for the potluck came frozen, etc. It happens. Just go with the flow. Try not to be a whiney-Witch or pompous-Pagan, and do your best to attend the seminars or rituals on time. Excessive talking to your neighbors during a ritual or seminar is rude to the others attending. If you aren’t interested in the function, you can quietly go to another place that might capture your attention. If you are very late, you can usually sneak in the back of any lecture, but perhaps not a ritual as the circle may be cast. Smoking and drinking alcohol is usually prohibited during a lecture or ritual. Save your questions or comments until the end of the lecture. Most lecturers allow time for questions or comments after their presentation, or they can walk off to the side to talk to you. This way, the next presenter can begin setting up for his or her time slot without interference. Rituals are a bit different. Sometimes main ritual seems to be more of an exercise in Keystone Cop decorum. With lots of people to coordinate, events might take awhile to proceed. I used to believe that leaving a ritual in midstream was the height of bad manners, but I’ve attended some events that were so long I thought my bladder would bust. If you just can’t take it anymore, don’t make a big deal about it. Slowly edge your way to the back of the crowd, then run for it!

Day And Night Vending

Most festival coordinators control the number and type of vendors to
enhance variety. Don’t count your money out in the open. Most people are
incredibly honest, but there is always that one or two who are looking to clean up, and in all the cases I’ve ever known of festival theft, the thief was not a magical person. Many festival-goers look at vendor row like a flea
market. Most festival-goers will cruise through vendor row several times
before buying because they are looking for bargains and will check out
vendors with duplicate items. Vendors often barter among themselves, and
occasionally barter with general festival attendees. Several festivals are
permitting night vending. It used to be that every vendor shut up tight at 6:00 PM. Not any more. Some sites now provide generators for electricity or allow tiki torches for night vending. Many festival vendors are now professionals and competition is stiff, with more vendors than ever before. In festivals past, when vending was new and not someone’s livelihood, the early close-up time was to ensure that the vendors could attend evening festival events. Professional vendors have gone to hundreds of evening events and would prefer to remain at their sites for consumer interaction. You see, vendors aren’t there just to sell stuff. Most festival vendors are a gold mine of information. They vend at festivals all over the country, meet lots of interesting people, and are extremely magical. You’ll find that many
older vendors are elders in their own clans or traditions and their wisdom
is exciting and entertaining. About one hour before shut down, some
vendors with large, heavy items may be willing to significantly cut their
prices, so if you are looking for a major bargain, you might just net that
coveted item if you wait until the last minute to purchase. All vendors take
cash, most take checks, and about half now take credit cards.


Some sites do have pay phones. Please do not hog the telephone. I
tried to call home once at a festival on a pay phone. I had to wait behind a
woman who gave her complete grocery list to her husband, a young fellow who was whispering sweet nothings to his girlfriend at home for over forty-five minutes…you get the idea. Because of bad phone manners, many festival sites will not allow you to use the phone on the premises unless there is an emergency. I now carry a cell phone.

by Silver RavenWolf
copyright 1999


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