PSG Report: Looking for, and finding, love

Finding a suitable partner is difficult for anyone. With more Pagans saying finding a partner who shares their values, if not their religion, the search for a match is even more difficult. How to overcome that challenge? Attend one of the large gatherings of Pagans at festivals such as Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG). At this year’s PSG attendees were invited to a single’s meet and greet, attend the wedding of a couple who met at last year’s PSG, and wish Circle Sanctuary‘s Rev. Selena Fox and Dr. Dennis Carpenter, who met and later married at PSG, a happy 27th wedding anniversary.

Rev. Fox says that from the very beginning of PSG, straight and same sex couples have met, and married or handfasted, at the festival. “I think the courting dimensions of attending festivals is something quite old and never goes out of style. I’m happy for all the good relations that have come out of PSG,” said Rev. Fox. What is changing are the increasing numbers of Pagans who attend festivals with the express purpose of finding Pagan, and not just Pagan friendly, mate. Yet just like in the mundane world, sometimes love finds you when you aren’t looking for it.

 Wedding Bells
Although Brandon Mullikin and Nikki Pazdra didn’t attend PSG to find a mate, they met at last year’s festival and were handfasted at PSG 2013 on Tuesday night. Mullikin said he noticed Ms. Pazdra right away, “I happened to see her walking around and I couldn’t help myself but to find out where she camped and I had to creep by every now and then.”
While Millikin was making up excuses to walk by her camp, Pazdra was doing the same thing, “It’d be alot easier to go a certain way to the shower house, but I’d take the long way so I could pass by his tent.” Both were too shy to introduce themselves to the other so friends and family intervened.  “We didn’t talk until my sister introduced us because she was friends with [Pazdra’s] friend,” said Millikin. From that point, the two were inseparable.
couple 1

Then PSG ended and Millikin went back to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Pazdra went back to Chicago, Illinois. They kept in touch through Facebook, Skype, and phone. A few months after the end of the festival, Pazdra visited Millikin in Gatlinburg for a few weeks. A month after that the couple moved to Nashville and bought a home together.

The couple decided to take the next step in their relationship by getting handfasted where it all began, at Pagan Spirit Gathering. And where Millikin’s father, Danny, was handfasted the year before to Rebecca Hubbard. Both handfastings were officiated by Rev. Selena Fox, of Circle Sanctuary. Circle Sanctuary hosts Pagan Spirit Gathering.

Single Pagan Seeking Same For Relationship

“I want to find more people like me, single and Pagan,” said James, who attended the Singles Meet & Greet Tuesday afternoon at PSG. James said it’s hard to meet single Pagan women where he lives, which is rural. It was his first time at an event like this and he felt optimistic about being able to meet someone compatible.

His optimism was not misplaced. There were over 40 Pagans at the singles event, almost evenly split between males and females*. Some were looking for someone of the opposite sex, some were looking for same sex relationships, while still others were open to anything.  All attendees PNC was able to speak with said they were looking for a relationship that had the potential to lead to marriage. Most said it was very important to them that a prospective spouse be Pagan.

The meet & greet’s organizer, Steffanie, encouraged individuals to mingle by playing a game called Human Bingo. Each attendee got a card and they had to find people who matched the notes in the squares. “Have you ever walked a cat on a leash?” asked one single Pagan. “No. Are you a glamper?” he responded back.

human bingo (1)

While most attendees were busily engaged with the game, and with each other, a few stood uncomfortably on the outskirts of the group. “I’m not good with groups. I can’t do this,” said one male in his early 20’s. Soon Steffanie spotted him and helped him mingle back in with the group.

Lisa, who hails from south Texas, said that while there’s an active Druid community where she lives, it’s mainly made up of married couples and families. “I’m hoping to meet someone at PSG. I live in a really, I live in a dating desert so I’ve come to the fountain to drink.” After fifteen minutes of the game she was less optimistic about meeting someone during the meet and greet, but was looking forward to the more informal nightly singles get togethers.

PSG has hosted singles events over the past 33 years, but Rev. Selena Fox noted there is a rising interest in them, “We don’t have them every year but there’s been more of a request to have some times where people can actually see who is single. I think they’re a great idea and anyone that is interested in proposing other kinds of ways to connect – wonderful!”

To help singles find each other in a festival of over 1000 attendees, singles were given bright green bracelets that said I’m single, Let’s Mingle. Organizers of the event also used social media as a way for singles to get to know one another before PSG started. “I felt more comfortable coming [to the meet & greet] because I had already met a few of the people on the singles event page,” said Willow.

single (1)

“I think that social media provides a way of being able to make some connections, but there really isn’t a good substitute to meeting someone face to face,” said Rev. Fox. She went on to say, “If you’re at a Pagan festival that has emphasis on community and has shared values that helps with a filtering process in bringing people together that have some commonalities already.”

“Obviously here it’s great because automatically if your here you have most of the values that I treasure and cherish,” said Ladi, who had also been part of last year’s PSG Single’s Meet and Greet. He said he made great friendships last year and looked forward to doing the same this year. He was realistic about forming a relationship at a festival, “A relationship has to be worked towards. Anything worth doing does take time and work.”

Handfasting at the Pond

Millikin and Pazdra’s handfasting took place near the pond and was open to all PSG attendees. The ceremony had a distinctive Celtic flair and was filled with music, which makes sense as Millikin is part of the band Tuatha Dea.
handfasting wide shot corrected
The newly handfasted couple walks the circle.

The newly handfasted couple walks the circle.

Father and Step-Mother of the groom look on.

Father and Step-Mother of the groom look on.

Twin Cities band Murphey’s Midnight Rounders performed a song they wrote especially for the event. “That song was beautiful,” said one tearful guest. “I want that at my handfasting,” she went on to say, holding her girlfriend’s hand tight.

Editor’s note: video is blurred to protect the identity of children playing in the background.

As for our Pagan singles, how did they make out at this year’s PSG?  At least two attendees of the Singles Meet & Greet felt they had met someone they want to start a relationship with. “We’ve already made plans to visit each other next month,”said Willow. “Who knows, perhaps Selena will be handfasting us next year.”

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.


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.


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.

Exclusive: ‘New’ Location for Pagan Spirit Gathering Announced

In a PNC exclusive,  Pagan Spirit Gathering, one of the largest and oldest Pagan camping festivals, announces its ‘new’ location this year.  The site used for the last two years, Stonehouse Park, near Earlville, Illinois came under fire by local residents for loud music festivals and illegal activities.    None of the complaints or arrests have occurred during PSG.  Stonehouse Park was then listed on a sheriff’s sale in June of 2012.  This prompted speculation that  Circle Sanctuary, hosts of Pagan Spirit Gathering, would need to move the festival for the third time in five years.  That speculation was put to rest today when Circle Sanctuary announced Pagan Spirit Gathering 2013 will be held at Stonehouse Farm.  Same location as 2011 and 2012, just a new name and under new ownership.

The sale of Stonehouse Park to its new owner, Daren Friesen, with its accompanying change of name to Stonehouse Farm, was finalized last Wednesday.   A temporary special-use permit, solely for holding PSG, was granted on Thursday, and Friesen is going through the process of securing zoning for long-term use.  Friesen attended PSG in 2012 and is the owner of several yoga studios in the area.

This is not the first time PSG faced uncertainty due to drug charges at a campground by other events not related to PSG.  In 2009, PSG moved to Camp Zoe in Missouri.  In November of 2010 Camp Zoe was shut down by federal authorities after a four-year-long investigation allegedly uncovered rampant drug use and sales on the property.    In 2011, PSG moved to Stonehouse Park.  Then in April of 2012 Stonehouse Park underwent increased scrutiny by area residents, law enforcement, and the DeKalb County Board.

Concerns voiced by community members and law enforcement included loud music late at night, underage drinking, and arrests at two events in 2011 where witnesses say multiple people were selling and smoking marijuana.  Park owners improved procedures at the park and barred the groups responsible from Stonehouse Park.  With only weeks until PSG was set to open, the question of if Stonehouse Park would be able to host festivals or would be shut down was still up in the air as the park’s Special Use Permit, needed to host festivals, was recommended to be revoked.

In May of 2012 PSG’s Sharon Stewart worked closely with Stonehouse Park, county officials and park neighbors to seek a solution allowing PSG to be held as scheduled.  Stonehouse Park was granted an amended special use permit, but the approval came with eleven new conditions and contingencies from the hearing officer and health department and board members warned owners that a single violation could lead to a revocation.

Stewart says that the permit passed in part thanks to local Pagan Spirit Gathering attendees speaking out.  ”During the meetings I attended it became abundantly clear we needed local Pagans involved.  John Dickerman, our Sacred Fire Keeper, Barbara Andree and Ana Bledschmidt with the Crone Temple of Wisdom, and Jim Bledschmidt who will be working with the Sages at PSG this summer came on board and their work was invaluable in this. Then at the meeting last night, my assistant Brian Sather and another local PSG’ers Shawn Skau and John’s wife Caroline were there in support.”

PSG2012 happened as scheduled at Stonehouse Park and boasted  record attendance even with the uncertainty regarding the location. Now that the location for PSG2013 is formally secured, registration is open.

Below is the full Press Release from Circle Sanctuary:

Barneveld, WI – Circle Sanctuary announced today the opening of registration for Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG), to be held on from June 16th – 23rd at Stonehouse Farm Campground in Earlville, Illinois.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be holding PSG at Stonehouse Farm,” said Sharon, PSG coordinator. “This will be our third PSG at this location, and we are excited to work with the new owners of the property to make this event a success and to grow PSG.”

Held the week of the Summer Solstice since 1980, PSG is one of the largest and oldest Nature Spirituality festivals in the United States. Participants come from across the country and internationally to form a joyful and supportive community.

“Our goal for PSG has always been to create a community where like-minded people can meet one another, learn, and develop tools and ideas that they can take home with them to deepen their spirituality in the year to come,” said Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary’s
founder and Executive Director. “This year our theme is ‘Connections’ and we hope to incorporate many ways for participants to connect with Community, connect with the Land and connect with the Divine!”

Throughout the Gathering, there are hundreds of program activities including rituals, concerts, workshops, panels, meetings, intensives, revels, dancing, drumming, firespinning, and bonfires. There are also a variety of youth program activities including specific programming for children, tweens, and teens. In addition, there is leadership training for Pagan ministers and other leaders through the Pagan Leadership Institute. Applications for programming and merchanting are now being accepted at

Registration is open now via at the “early bird” reduced rate until March 3rd. For more information visit