PSG2011 – Parade of Homes

The summer Pagan festival season is almost over, but we have a few more stories to share with our readers while you clean your gear and start planning for next year.

If you’ve never been to a outdoor camping festival, you may be surprised by how comfortable and fun some of the campsites are. At Pagan Spirit Gathering 2011, one of America’s largest and oldest Pagan festivals, attendees go all out to make their campsite unique. Finding a full bar, a queen size bed like what you have in your bedroom at home, an attached Hoodoo temple, and stocked baby nursery is not unusual. PNC-Minnesota was no slouch in ‘glamping’ (glamorous camping) in the Media Camp at PSG. We brought lime green leopard print curtains and a plant for decor’. Not to mention enough tech gear to land on the moon.

PSG Report: Pan’s got some serious Balls

Pagan Spirit Gathering is known for many things – the fantastic musicians who perform, the variety of workshops, the fulfilling group rituals, and the (in)famous Pan’s Ball.  Pan is so popular at PSG that he doesn’t have just one Ball, he has two.  The other Pan’s Ball is logically named Pan’s Other Ball.  The two Balls have an intertwined history, but are very different in purpose and feel.  Both are held on Friday night, along with separate parties for teens and tweens, and both have a long tradition, but that’s about all they have in common.

Pan's Ball attendee using body stickers to invoke lust

One of the organizers for Pan's Ball shows off her costume for the revel

Pan’s Ball
Pan’s Ball is strictly for those 21 years of age and older.  Pan’s Ball is dismissed by some as a drunken college frat party or an excuse for an orgy.  Organizers say it is a revel, in the sacred sense of the word, and a time to burn off the energy that has built over the past week.   Dancing and drinking are used as a gateway to a state of sensual abandon.  This view of revels, both positive and negative, is nothing new.  The worship of Dionysos, with its accompanying revels, was opposed where ever it was first introduced.  And it was also enthusiastically embraced by a segment of the population.  Usually those who were oppressed by cultural norms and had limited avenues of expression.  In ancient Greece it was women who sought out the Liberator in the wild countryside.  In the modern world, it doesn’t surprise me that Rainbow camp, a group of GLBT campers, are the ones reviving this way of worshiping Dionysos.

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PSG Report: Serendipity

Something that brings people back to Pagan festivals over and over, yet is hard to convey to those who haven’t attended a festival are the conversations that organically happen throughout the festival. You may be sitting at your campsite and a stranger will stop by and the next thing you know, you’ve spent an hour chatting with one another and a friendship is formed. Or a BNP (Big Name Pagan) may hear the sound of your martini shaker going and you learn more during that conversation than you have from a bookshelf of Pagan books.

I’m shameless about luring people to my campsite with booze and food. I consider it an even trade – you give some of your limited time during a festival and I will feed you. I enjoy being a host and I love guests.

One guest who wandered into my campsite was Patrick McCollum. He was tired, very hungry, and extremely friendly. The conversation ranged from early Pagan history to a very special instrument he was carrying. The instrument, a violin, had a story behind it.  And like the really good stories that stick with you, this one had a lesson behind it.

Patrick McCollum at PSG 2011

Patrick was moved to make a violin.  no, he told us, he had no experience in making instruments.  He just felt he wanted to do this.  He made it over a period of years.  A bit of gifted wood from this trip, inlaying some carved willow from a sacred site, more ethically harvested wood from another place.  Finally, it was ready for the lacquer.   He mixed it himself, let it dry.  Put the strings on, raised his bow….and it sounded like shit.

What went wrong?  He sanded the lacquer off, remixed a new batch, and then let it dry.  It still sounded like shit.  but not as bad as before.  So he put it away for about 6 months.  The violin sat in the dark, away but not forgotten, until Patrick took it out once more and played it.

Detail of the inlaid willow on the violin

It sounded pretty good!  What had changed?  He hadn’t done anything different to it.  The temperature was the same, humidity was the same.  The difference was the violin had time to sit.  To incubate.  Time and darkness to Become.  Patrick told us sometimes that’s what we need to do with our ideas – allow them to sit and develop and become.

I’m a person who jumps in and wants to DO.  Plan and execute.  This story from Patrick wasn’t just a neat story, but is a new modern, Pagan fable that can enter our storytelling.  It  shows our ethics in how he gathered the materials and didn’t just take and cause harm to the environment.  Our curiosity and desire to create is shown in his drive to make an instrument himself, even though he had no experience in instrument making.  When he didn’t get it perfect, he didn’t take it personally.  He accepted it as a learning experience and utilized it.  And finally…it is a very Pagan concept to see darkness not as an enemy, but as a positive place of possibility and incubation and magic.

PSG Report: Wiccaning for Wisconsin boy at PSG

This morning, young Arden received a Wiccaning blessing presided over by Rev. Selena Fox.   The Wiccaning ceremony took place at the Ritual Circle at the Pagan Spirit Gathering held this week in Illinois.

Rev. Fox blessed the child with element of earth, air, water, fire, and spirit and gifted Arden with a feather found on site.  Arden enjoyed the first half of the ceremony, especially when Fox played peek-a-boo with him.  But as the sun came out, so did some tears.  Rev. Fox noted that was just what Arden should expect from  life, times of laughter and times of tears.  The parents, Kidril and Twitch, then gave their baby his first drum and gave him their blessings.  The community was then invited to grant Arden blessings such as friendship, comfort, peace, and love.

Pagan Spirit Gathering Report

PNC-Minnesota Co-Editors Cara Schulz and Nels Linde are in the lovely, but very wet, Stonehouse Park near Earlville, Illinois for the Pagan Spirit Gathering. We are part of the brand new Media Camp that brings together podcasters, journalists, bloggers, and other Pagan Media into a centralized camp to better facilitate interviews.

Throughout this week we will updating you on what’s happening at the festival, working with the Proud Pagan Podcasters to podcast some of the musical acts, and giving you our impressions of this festival. We are focusing on Minnesotans attending, performing, and presenting at the festival.

Star Foster of Patheos conducting an interview at Media Camp at PSG

Today, there are three Minnesotans scheduled to present workshops – Steven Posch, Nels Linde, and Judy Olson. Their workshops may be cancelled due to weather. It poured and stormed in the wee hours this morning and has rained most of the morning. We have a slight break in the rain, but we are unsure how long it will last.

Due to the storm, there are some challenges with the basics at the camp today – the food vendors can’t plug in everything they need to be able to cook, the potapottys and bathrooms are a bit interesting, and tents in lower laying areas have water in them. Yet – everyone is in great spirits enjoying the festival to the hilt. Pagan festival communities are awesome things to watch develop and the community is stepping in to help one another. This feeling, this sense of a true Pagan village pulling together, is the number one reason I attend festivals. A close second is how every person is open to wonder and joy. Festivals are very joyful experiences and it’s rare and precious to have joy in your life.

I’m going to get ready for the Media Camp presentation on journalistic ethics, which starts at 1pm. Hoping for a good crowd and perhaps we’ll find some more people who wish to join the PNC in an existing bureau or willing to help establish a new one.

Stay dry fellow PSGers and tarp your tent!