Why Attend a Pagan Festival?

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Wigington, Patti. "Why Attend a Pagan Festival?" ThoughtCo, Jun. 6, 2016, thoughtco.com/why-attend-a-pagan-festival-4050953. Wigington, Patti. (2016, June 6). Why Attend a Pagan Festival? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-attend-a-pagan-festival-4050953 Wigington, Patti. "Why Attend a Pagan Festival?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/why-attend-a-pagan-festival-4050953 (accessed October 24, 2017).
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5 Reasons You Should Attend a Pagan Festival

Celebrating The Summer Solstice At Castlerigg
Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

Every year, as festival season rolls around, many people in the Pagan community load up their cars, pack their tents and drums and coolers, and head off to the nearest community gathering. It’s a chance to spend a weekend – or even a full week – with the people you consider your tribe. However, something else also happens every year: lots of people miss out on those same festivals and experiences.

Maybe you’ve thought about attending a festival but just never got around to it. Perhaps you’d like to go to one, but the nearest event is a few hours away, or even a full day’s drive. Maybe you’re not sure you can get the time off work. Regardless, with a bit of advance planning, it’s worth it to try to fit at least one festival into your schedule each year, and here’s why.

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Community Building

May Day Celebrations In Glastonbury
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

When you attend a festival – especially if it’s one that involves staying overnight – there’s a real sense of community that forms. People that were strangers in the morning will be your family by the end of the day. You’ll find yourself chatting with people you’ve never seen before as you stand in line for the restroom, offering to help set up your neighbor’s tent even though you’ve never met before, and enjoying a campfire with a dozen people from all around the country.

Kylan is a young Pagan from the Midwest, who says, "Where I live, there aren't a lot of Pagans, so I decided to drive to an event that was four hours away. It was totally worth it - I made a lot of new friends, and felt like I belonged to a community for the first time. When a storm blew in, everyone worked together to make sure everyone else was dry and warm and safe, and it was like I had a new family to take care of me, and that I could take care of in return."

There’s a definite tradition of hospitality within the Pagan community as a whole – we tend to make sure that no one goes hungry, thirsty, or alone, if we can help it. We open up our physical space to people in a festival setting, and with that, we open our minds and hearts to new ideas. By the time you go home from a Pagan festival, your idea of Tribe and Community will have expanded far beyond the reaches of your own hometown. You’ll have new family when you leave, you’ll be sad to leave them, and you’ll be excited about reconnecting with them next year.

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Workshops and Vendors

May Day Dawn Celebrated On Glastonbury Tor
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Festivals are a great opportunity to attend workshops on various aspects of spiritual practice. Whether you’re hoping to learn about sacred sexuality, the magic of rhythm and dance, how to craft an ancestor altar, or tips on blending your beliefs into your office space, there’s something for pretty much everyone at a festival. One of the best things about workshops in a festival setting is that you get to attend them with people you probably didn’t know before you got there – and that means you get a whole new perspective on things that you might not have otherwise considered.

Most Pagan festivals include a selection of vendors as well – and you’ll often find that these are artisans and craftsmen who hand make much of their wares. Instead of looking at a table of mass-produced items that you can find in any metaphysical shop, you’ll meet blacksmiths, soap and candlemakers, knitters and needlecrafters, jewelrymakers, and more. If you see something you love, and it really speaks to you, buy it if you can – and support an artist.

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Music and Dance

The Annual Beltane Fire Festival
Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Nearly every Pagan festival includes some sort of music, and that’s partly because music is a fairly universal language. If you’re attending a smaller gathering, that language may be spoken in the form of a drum circle – so if you have a drum, bring it along. Drum circles tend to break out spontaneously at Pagan gatherings, and can go on for hours, as every drummer speaks to the others in the language of rhythm, raising energy together. If you don’t drum, you’re still welcome at a drum circle. Clap your hands, chant if you want, and become part of the web of music that weaves everyone together. Get up and dance around the fire, and let your body move to the beat.

If you’re at a larger event, such as CalderaFest, which featured 29 different Pagan musical acts, you’ll find that music plays an even bigger part in daily activities. Regardless, get up and dance or sing – and you’ll probably fall asleep at night to the sound of distant drums, flutes, and chants, which is an absolutely magical experience.

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Drop Your Inhibitions

May Day Celebrations In Glastonbury
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

There’s something very liberating about attending a Pagan festival. Generally, you’ll find that things you’re being judged for in the mundane world aren’t even an issue in an all-Pagan space. It’s a bit freeing to know that you can look however you want and be yourself at a Pagan festival.

Tarinda says, “I went to my first Pagan festival about two years ago, and at first I was kind of afraid to come out of my shell. I’m very much a plus size woman, and I generally keep my body covered up, but by the second night, I realized that if I wanted to wear a belly dance skirt and a top that showed some skin, no one minded. There were all of these people of different sizes and shapes who loved their bodies the way they were, and who embraced the freedom of not being judged. I got up and I danced and I felt sexy and beautiful and alive, and it was amazing.”

Pagans tend to be pretty open about a lot of things related to sex, as well. While that doesn’t mean that every Pagan event is going to turn into a giant orgy, you may find yourself speaking openly and frankly with strangers about sexuality. In particular, if you attend workshops on sacred sexuality, you’ll be able to talk about your needs, wants, preferences, and more – all without being judged for what you do, or who you like to do it with.

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Inspiration

Celebrating The Summer Solstice At Castlerigg
Ian Forsyth / Getty Images

When you attend a Pagan festival, you’ll get to sit and chat with people from all different kinds of backgrounds, from all sorts of magical traditions. You’ll sit at the campfire and share coffee and cigarettes and food, but more importantly, you’ll share ideas. You’ll have a chance to ask, “So, in your tradition, how do you handle it if someone wants to do this particular thing?” Likewise, you’ll get to say, “That sounds like a tough situation. We had something similar happen in my group, and what we did was…”

In particular, if you're part of a small group or if you practice as a solitary, by attending a festival, you'll get to experience larger-scale ritual energy, which is something incredibly powerful and awe-inspiring. 

By watching other people do things you’ve never seen before, you’ll get all kinds of inspiration for ways to change your ritual structure, chants and prayers and songs, magical techniques, and more. Odds are good that on your drive home, as you process all you’ve learned, you’re going to be thinking about the different ways you can include all of that new information into your life when you get back to reality.

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How to Find a Festival

The Annual Beltane Fire Festival
Roberto Ricciuti / Getty Images

Does everyone get a chance to attend a Pagan festival each year? Not at all – although there are plenty of people who travel the festival circuit. However, if you can, in any way, attend just one single festival each year, it will be worth your time, money, and energy. Start planning in advance, so you can make sure you can get the time off work, arrange child care if necessary, and pay for your registration without hardship. Even if you set aside ten dollars per paycheck for a year, that money will add up so that you don't have to shell it all out at once.

To find Pagan festivals near you – and they are everywhere – start with the event listings on Witchvox, which you can sort by location. Also, Jason Mankey over at Patheos does a great roundup of the largest festivals each summer. If you truly can't find one in your area, you might want to consider planning an event of your own.

Finally, if you’re going to a festival, be sure to read about Pagan Festival Etiquette and 10 Things to Take to a Pagan Festival.

You’ll discover that there’s a sense of time standing still at a festival, a place between the worlds. You’ll lose track of what hour and day it is, and you won’t even mind, because you’ll be in a magical place, with your tribe. You’ll feel like you’ve finally come home.