By Star Foster
I've tried to write this article three different times. The first two attempts weren't bad articles but they simply couldn't convey the week I had. It was unexpected, life changing, and beautiful. So forgive me if at times I write emotionally and ecstatically and poetically and in a rather rambling way. Perhaps once I have that out of my system I can analyze the experience more objectively.
After over nine years as a solitary, over a year involved in local Pagan groups and my Google-all-things-Pagan prowess, I thought I was prepared for my first Pagan festival: Pagan Spirit Gathering 2010. No big deal. I'd keep a journal and then come back here to fill you in on what you missed. I was cynical, and my friends can attest I was less than enthused about the trip. In other words, I was completely unprepared to have a life-changing experience, and now I feel I lack the language to convey my experience to you.
The feeling of living with Pagans for eight days is an unbelievable high. Sure, it was also unbelievably hot, but for me that was part of the Summer Solstice experience. I expected to camp out at a country fair/psychic fair type event. What I found was living, breathing community, in the very deepest sense of the word. There was an overwhelming feeling of safety, harmony, friendliness, reverence, and good humor.
Yes, I realize that this sounds like a cult or the opening sequence of a horror movie, but trust me, this was the real deal. There was an incredibly diverse group of participants: GLBT, poly families, nudists, 12-step folks, and people of various traditions, ethnicities, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Imagine 900+ such diverse folks crafting a community of love and tolerance in humid mid-to-high 90s for eight days. Imagine this community running smoothly and events consistently happening on time. Imagine the highlight of the day for quite a few folks being a meeting!
Now imagine that these huge rituals with hundreds of participants are deeply meaningful and leave you feeling like you've experienced something extraordinary. The opening ritual featured a bonfire shooting sparks to the stars that made me feel very close to the Gods. It honored every tradition and country present and made it quite clear I was in for a unique experience. The Solstice morning ritual was lovely and funny as we each stepped forward to honor the rising sun, asking him to shine down on us, just a little less brightly. Even I participated by stepping forward to sing "We All Come From The Sun God."
The women's ritual was intense and the power was incredible. The main ritual left me permanently altered. There are very few moments in our lives that are absolutely perfect. For me, winding into that ritual in a joyous spiral dance was one of them.
Oh, and there were about 130 workshops on such various topics as New Media, Prison Chaplaincy, Making Dreamcatchers, Bardic Arts, Pagan Ethics, Making Goddess Flags, Devotional Dance, Home Blessings, Public Relations, Didgeridoo Healing, Gemstones, Pagan Academics, Runes, Warrior Blessings, Drama In Ritual, and many more! All of the authors and presenters were very friendly and approachable in a way I had not anticipated. Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary ministers, and PSG staff were warm, welcoming, wonderful people.
Did I mention the music? Damh the Bard, Coyote Run, Arthur Hinds, Murphy's Midnight Rounders, and Shibaten were just a few of the musicians performing. There was music all day long -- generally two shows on the main stage, music at morning meetings, and a late night show at The Gathering Place.
Add in the beautiful surroundings of Camp Zoe, the kindness of Camp Zoe staff, and the presence of warm showers and flush toilets, and it's easy to see why I fell in love with PSG. Adjusting to my normal life isn't easy after spending a week at PSG.
PSG revealed the lack of the sacred in my everyday life. I miss the drums. I miss my neighbors. I miss rituals by firelight that leave me exhausted and whole. Here in this house I don't have to haul my daily drinking water uphill, or hike up and down a hill to take a shower. I even have working fans and air conditioning, as well as a reliable internet connection. I don't share a bathroom with anyone and I can't hear anything from the outside world in my bedroom. My life lacks vitality.