PantheaCon, ConVocation, Paganicon, Pagan Unity Festival, Heartland Spirit Gathering, International New Age Trade Show, Pagan Spirit Gathering, Mystic South, Sirius Rising . . . (with Hexfest and Beyond the Gates to go!) . . . . . I’ve been to a lot of Pagan and Pagan adjacent gatherings in 2019, and I think this gives me a unique perspective when it comes to Paganism in these United States.
What follows are some random observations from my wanderings in 2019. Take them to heart, or don’t, it’s all your choice.
My wife likes to call community hot-tubs at Pagan events “Pagan Soup” but this term might better apply to festivals. There are festivals built around specific paths and traditions, but most gatherings are a motley collection of Pagan (and Pagan adjacent) things, where Wicca mingles with Heathenry, and (Michael Harner style) Shamanism is not a dirty word.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been to rituals honoring the full moon, and rituals done in honor of the loa in the style of New Orleans Voodoo (with Voodoo initiates). There have been Heathen blots (no one seems to like it when I honor Loki), Druid devotionals, and lots of other things I’m most likely forgetting. My point is that there’s a lot of this stuff out there all sort of blending together, and as a result a lot of blended practices.
People today often act like any sort of blended practice is an affront to all magickal practice, but that was the way of things for decades in the magickal community. I’ll admit there are lots of things in many of those blended situations that bother me, but if people are coming to those things in an honest and respectful way, who am I to play gatekeeper?
THERE’S A NEW GENERATION AT THESE EVENTS
I’ve been amazed at just HOW YOUNG most of the events I’ve been to in 2019 are. Forget Baby Boomers, Gen X, and even Millennials, Generation Z is out and about these days and right in the middle of things. Younger people are stepping up and doing administrative work, facilitating workshops and rituals, and generally just being awesome parts of everything.
In the past I’ve lamented on the Pagan Doughnut visible at a lot of events. The doughnut generally refers to the “missing” generations at festivals, people between 25 and 45 who are most likely busy establishing careers and having kids, but I see the doughnut less and less these days. Festivals are full of every age, and they are slowly becoming more diverse in other important ways too.
What I might like the most about this “next gen” Paganism is that many of them have been influenced by things I’m unaware of or at least haven’t read. There’s no “one way” to get into Paganism and no “one book” required to dive into Witchcraft or anything else. The more ingredients we get to add to the Pagan Soup the better!
HOW WE SUPPORT PAGAN MUSICIANS AT FESTIVALS NEEDS TO CHANGE
About a year ago the CD player at my house broke. I have a disc drive I can attach to my Mac (computer), but for all intents and purposes the CD era is over at my home. But when I visit festivals and hear a band I end up liking, generally all they have to sell at the end of their performance are CDs. I guess I could buy a CD to support the band, but I really don’t want anymore “stuff” (especially made of plastic) at my house.
I’d be cool with buying a card I could use to download a record (though I’ll be honest, I’m more likely to stream something), and t-shirts would also be welcome too. I have friends who still buy CD and get all sorts of mad when I admit to streaming stuff, but CDs are not going to make some sort of miraculous comeback, those days are over. There has to be something out there besides “buy a CD” and “follow my Patreon account.” (My friend Utu tells me that even t-shirts aren’t much of a seller, and that his band the Dragon Ritual Drummers often don’t bother with “merch” at all at the end of shows.)
Last night after watching the group Boom Boom Shake I went up to the band and handed them ten bucks. The show was fun, I was entertained, and I felt like I should give them something, but I was not going to buy a CD. This has me wondering, would it be out of bounds to “pass the hat” for Pagan bands at festivals, or at least put a tip jar on stage form them while they were performing?
Being a touring musician, especially on the Pagan scene, is expensive and not particularly lucrative. We’ve got to find ways to support these hard working folks! (Tip jars could also apply to presenters at Pagan festivals, we also work very hard, often on our own dime, and put a lot of work and effort into what we do!)
WORKSHOPS ARE BETTER TODAY THAN THEY WERE IN THE PAST
John Beckett recently called me a “great presenter” which is one of the nicest things people have said about me in quite awhile. And just yesterday I had an individual ask if I was a college professor or something because he noticed I didn’t “uhmmmm” while presenting. I really do put my all into my workshops and rituals and it’s nice when people notice, but I’ve had no choice but to up my game recently, everyone else around me has gotten better too.
Back in my days as a Witchling simply hearing someone talk about Witchcraft or Paganism felt like a win, now there are more outlets and venues for listening to others than ever before. (Many of these are away from festivals too, most notably podcasts and Youtube videos.) The result is that the whole Pagan speaker circuit has improved tremendously over the past ten years. There’s no reason to hear (or book) an unprepared presenter anymore, because there are so many knowledgable and credible folks out there these days.