Pagan Festival Tips

It’s nearly spring, which means festival season is looming on the horizon! I’ve finally reached the age where my kids can be left unsupervised for a few days at a time – they’re pretty much feral at this point and can hunt/gather their own food – so I’ve been allowing myself the luxury of going away for a weekend sans familia every now and then. I attended three Pagan festivals in 2016 and they were so amazing that I actually sat down after CalderaFest and wrote an entire article on why you should go to a Pagan festival.

Casa de Patti at CalderaFest 2016

Last year was really my first big festival year, and I’ve set myself a goal of attending three to four a year, whether they’re weekend camping excursions, or single day events. At any rate, though, there are a few things I’ve learned so far this year – just from observation, personal experience, and discussion with other folks – about stuff you might want to bring.

First, there’s the important stuff like your tent, sleeping bag, and food – and all the other things on this list of Stuff To Take To a Pagan Festival.

  • A sturdy tent: for the love of Pete, don’t go to an overnight event without one. I encountered people who arrived to spend the night but who brought nothing to spend it in. Don’t be that guy. If you want a reliable and inexpensive tent, and don’t already own one, you really can’t go wrong with a Coleman tent, or if you’re lucky enough to score one on clearance, Ozark Trail (which is what I use) makes several great varieties that are easy to set up. Make sure you pack a tarp large enough to cover the top and sides of your tent, just in case a monsoon blows in, which is what happened to me at Blue Ridge Beltane. I stayed nice and warm and dry and took a nap in my tarped tent during a massive thunderstorm.
  • Something to sleep on: if you’re young and chipper and healthy, you can probably just lie right on the ground in your sleeping bag, and more power to you. I, however, am 48 years old with arthritis and occasional sciatica, so I have no interest at all in sleeping on dirt. Hell with that. This year, though, I treated myself to a folding camping cot, and it was the best money I’ve spent in a long time. I topped it with a piece of egg crate foam, and it was like sleeping in Nerf. In my tent.
  • Food: it should go without saying, but please don’t be the person who shows up and didn’t bring anything to eat and doesn’t have any money to go buy any food. It’s not that I mind sharing with you – no one will ever sit at my hearth and be hungry – but you knew you were coming to this event, so next time, plan accordingly. Bring a bag of snacks, at the very least.

Now, the stuff you probably never thought about:

  • An altar table: I use a small tv-tray style folding table that I found at a garage sale for $2, and I toss a cloth over it, and add my statuary, a couple of candles, incense, and a few crystals. I set it right outside my tent, so as I start and end each day, I’m reminded of why I’m at the festival in the first place.
  • Tent decor: Normally when I camp, I don’t decorate my tent, but when you’re at a Pagan festival, you’re surrounded by other Pagans, and it really does become a small community. I have a hanging I put up over my tent’s zipper flap, as well as a couple of cool pieces of portable hanging artwork. I saw people with flags, coven banners, and all kinds of other doodads. Customize your tent – after all, it’s going to be your home for a few days!
  • Drums, bells, and other musical thingies: I guarantee you, if you go to a Pagan event, odds are good that a spontaneous drum circle will pop up. If you have a drum, bring it. Another great option is bells, and especially if you have a jingly bellydance scarf to wear, pack those as well. I did, and it gave me plenty of chances to shake my goodies
    when I wasn’t drumming.
  • A journal and something to write with: If you attend workshops or seminars, you’re going to want to write things down. I also made notes of some of the new chants and songs I heard, because there was a LOT going on at each festival, and even though you THINK you’ll remember it all, you won’t. Plus, a journal is a good place to write down the names and phone numbers of all the cool new people you’ve made friends with!

Are you planning on going to any Pagan festivals in 2017? What are you taking that’s not on this list?

 

Save

Up Helly Aa: Great Balls O’ Fire!

One of the things on my bucket list is a trip to Scotland, which I’m hoping to accomplish as a graduation gift to myself in a year or two. Ideally, I’d like to visit in the summer time, when the weather is less sucky and the heather is a-bloomin’ on the moors… but the problem is that a summer visit means I’d miss Up Helly Aa!

Up Helly Aa is a Shetland festival that’s a throwback to the islands’ Viking heritage. If you ever do any Sheltand Island genealogy research, you’ll know what I’m talking about – I’ve got people with names like Angus MacDonald marrying people named Gunnhild Olafsdottir, and the like. It’s a very odd mishmash of cultures, and Up Helly Aa, which falls at the end of January every year, is a celebration of that blend.

And really, it’s a festival that has fire, food, and drinking – all of which are very Scottish and very Viking, so how could it be anything but awesome? Here’s a bit more: Up Helly Aa