Every year, thousands of people worldwide travel to various Pagan festivals to experience a spiritual retreat, as well as to create and rekindle bonds and friendships with those who share similar beliefs. In the United States, some of the most popular fests draw over a thousand attendees each, complete with speakers, presentations, workshops, musical acts and vendors. These contributions individually may touch a special place in the hearts of festival-goes, but it is the community and contact with kith and kin that reaffirms their choices in the multitude of Pagan faiths, whether eclectic or defined.
What is truly unique about fests is how warmly people are greeted, whether it is their first time or hundredth. Unlike commercial campgrounds or state parks, attendees are not just numbers occupying a parcel of land; they are family. The arduous journeys into these secluded grounds are rewarded by sincere smiles from fellow Pagans of varying paths. The grounds themselves seem to resonate with a symbiotic, vibrant energy of perfect love and trust, hearkening back to a bygone era of simpler times.
Pagan fests are somewhat reminiscent of Renaissance Faires, due to the free-flowing, peasant-style costumes visitors tend to don themselves in, as well as due to the various merchant booths dotting the landscape. Many fests are designated as Primitive Camping, which can exclude access to running water. Doing without electricity and water can be challenging for some, but most folks prepare ahead of time with modern-day gear, reliant only on natural lighting, propane or batteries.
Also, many fests are designated as Clothing Optional, or have certain sections of the grounds reserved for those wishing to free themselves of society’s trappings and other adornments. This is actually one of the highlights for some attending these fests, so it is expected all attendees, including children and teens, to adjust accordingly.
Since the majority of these fests are held in warmer weather, fests with a celebratory theme tend to focus on common Pagan and Wiccan holidays, such as Beltaine (the first of May), Litha (the summer solstice) and Lammas / Lughnasadh (the first of August). However, many fests will merely plan their dates around other major fests’ dates in order to draw more folks, allowing the fest itself to be the reason of celebrating. It is not uncommon for some Pagans to spend the entire traveling season hopping from one fest to the next, especially if they are also vendors, presenters or touring musicians.
Besides the opportunities to celebrate their faith with others during rituals and workshops, the main highlights of any Pagan festival are the drumming circles and the large bonfires, held at the same location concurrently. Free-form and fire dancers during these events add a powerful, primal element to the evening. Attunement with various Dieties can be achieved in these environments, and that of course is a highly prized goal.