I recently got back from Pagan Spirit Gathering at Camp Zoe in Salem, MO, and it was a fascinating look at consensus reality in action.
You may not recognize the term “consensus reality” but most Pagans have practiced it at some point or other. Consensus reality is the idea that if enough people believe the same things then those things become reality. Consensus reality is what I think of as grey magic: the intent informs the ethics of the practice. Examples of consensus reality are the Facebook campaign to get Betty White on SNL, and the rise of the Third Reich in Germany.
Practicing consensus reality is simple. It starts with an idea, or a set of ideas, that people believe and promote as reality. How does this relate to PSG? It occurred to me that the entire festival is a powerful exercise in consensus reality. For years PSG has had a set of ideals, values and goals which participants accept as the reality of PSG, which then becomes the reality of the festival.This fascinates me. It takes the concept of sacred space farther than I have ever seen before. While we suspend the ordinary way of things for a few hours during ritual on a regular basis, suspending the patterns and behaviors of the everyday for over a week is not an easy task. Yet this happens at PSG.
For instance, nudity is frowned upon by our society. The body, despite modern attitudes, is still seen as something generally shameful by society. Despite our participation in Pagan culture, we are still shaped by the society around us, so that even if we see nothing wrong with nudity we are acutely aware that others do. However, once you enter PSG, the nudity is accepted by the consensus reality and becomes a non-issue.