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  • Pagan Spirit Gathering 2013

    Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), one of the oldest Pagan camping festivals in the US, may have surpassed last year’s record breaking attendance. Final numbers are not yet available, but preliminary figures set attendance at 1070 registered guests. The festival was a combination of old and new. Same location, Stonehouse Farm in Illinois, but with new owners. Many familiar faces, but unofficial estimates put first time attendees at 30% of total attendance. There are also some new trends that appear to be emerging within the Pagan community that are very old trends in mainstream society.

    In the coming week, the Pagan Newswire Collective is covering the old and the new at PSG in our PSG Report series. Some of the upcoming articles include:

    • An interview with the new owners of Stonehouse Farm and what’s in store for the future.
    • How PSG is a tribe of tribes.
    • Marty the Drama Llama and how Psyche’s Grotto helps PSG attendees deal with life and festival drama.
    • Looking for love (and marriage) at Pagan festivals.
    • A warrior blessing ritual.
    • An exploration of how it may be Pagans, and not conservative Christians, who are the banner bearers for traditional family values.

    PSG 2013 – an overview in short takes

    Photo by Edmund Zebrowski

    Photo by Edmund Zebrowski

    The weather was almost the reverse of 2011. This year we had sunny, 80 degree days at the start of the festival and rain, flooding, and muck at the end. Both years were an improvement on 2012 where the extreme heat caused many campers to seek medical attention and made sleep difficult. However, just like in 2011, there were problems caused by the Friday afternoon and Saturday morning storms. Tents collapsed or were flooded. Some not only made the most of it, they turned it into a party, complete with floating through flooded areas of camp and mud wrestling.

    stormflood

    To counter the sadness of familiar and long time PSG attendees not able to make the festival this year, there were many new faces at PSG this year. The virgin bell,which is rung when a first time attendee enters the gate to the campground, seemed to never stop ringing. It’s not unusual to have over 25% of attendees be PSG virgins, but this year the number appeared higher than normal. Conversely, the informal camps that spring up at PSG, with people camping as a group and coming up with names (and even t-shirts) for their group also appeared to be more numerous.

    First time PSG Attendee Jimmy rings the virgin ball. Photo by Starr.

    First time PSG Attendee Jimmy rings the virgin bell. Photo by Starr.

    While you can always count on gnomes and fairies to adorn Pagan campsites, this year the gnomes took over. I blame a tenor named Chris. There was Gnome Camp, where people devoted to gnomes pitched their tents. There were more gnome decorations. There was a gnome contest to be played amongst the merchant booths. And there were roaming gnomes which would randomly show up in your camp. One even made it into Media Camp on morning.

    A roaming gnome sits among PNC's important reporting tools.

    A roaming gnome sits among PNC’s important reporting tools.

    Food and drink have always had a place at Pagan events, but this year was up a notch. Filet mignon with demi glaze and infused simple syrups were on the menu at several campsites. Not only was the food more upscale, the campsites themselves were all about glamping (glamorous camping). A Pagan ethic of being extremely eco-conscious and simply was still evident, but the trend towards  providing more elegant and comfortable hospitality was more prominent. This mirrors the trend in the mainstream, but perhaps this is also a sign of greater religious diversity in the Pagan community as hospitality ethics become as important as eco and feminism ethics and influences.

    symposia

    The theme of this year’s PSG was Connections, but the organizers may not have had social media in mind when they came up with it. PSGers were online more this year than previous years. They posted photos, videos, updated their statuses, and made plans to meet for lunch or arrange to pass of child care duties while enjoying the festival. Workshop handouts were made available electronically and there was even a workshop for technomages called “There’s an app for that.” Use of technology was, for the most part, very unobtrusive out of respect for those trying to unplug, but expect the use of social media during festivals to increase, not decrease.

    psg tenchology

    Rainbow Camp, a group comprised of GLBT Pagans and their straight allies, brought back the Rainbow Ritual. The ritual was attended by over 30 Pagans and one attendee said it was “The most powerful and moving ritual I’ve ever attended. I don’t often get to interact with gay Pagans as I live in a rural area. I was just touched.” The ritual, which was done in drag, and the very visible and active presence of Rainbow Camp was welcome after several years of gender controversy at festivals and conferences.

    PSG Drag

    Not only was PSG celebrating the summer solstice, but a super moon also made a magical appearance. A super moon is a full moon which occurs with the moon at or near (perigee) its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit.  The main ritual, hosted on the last Saturday evening of the festival, was graced by the light of the super moon.

    super moon

    This year’s PSG had many of the things you expect from a Pagan festival. There was all night drumming around the bonfire, rituals, musical performances, and more workshops than a person could ever hope to attend – even if they cloned themselves 7 times over. Hugs, cries of “welcome home” as people entered, and lots of really well made mead. Pagan festivals are an important part of the Pagan experience and they allow you to not only come together to worship communally and to enjoy being fully Pagan for a few days, they allow you to see where Paganism is heading and what challenges we face and offer an opportunity to be part of guiding and shaping the future of our diverse communities. PNC would like to thank all those at this year’s Pagan Spirit Gathering who allowed us to interview and photograph them so our history in the making can be recorded and not lost.

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