I recently attended Pagan Spirit Gathering in Earlville, IL. hosted by circle sanctuary and Selena Fox. I am still "recovering" from this. My kitchen has a few camping items left out that are in the process of being washed..but my once mud soaked clothes are now hanging to dry, the bedding is cleaned and put away and I feel a strong connection to my faith and the earth that can not even be described in words.
I traveled from my small town in Independence, IA with the other 2 pagans in our town, we dubbed ourselves the Independence Iowa Pagan Alliance for shits and giggles and travel the 3ish hour drive to the festival. We used our GPS and from the road all you could see was a little drive way. Once we pulled in, we were in a different world. We were welcomed with open arms and being that this was our first time at the festival we were greeted with people calling us "virgins" and asked to ring a bell..I rang that bell with all my might and we were welcomed home.
I have been to several other festivals in the past, such as Phoenix Phyre, but this was the largest one I have ever attended. What I liked about this fest is that it was so big that we were literally tent to tent and were forced to get to know our neighbors. When we arrived, which we just went for the weekend instead of the full week, all of the shaded camping areas were filled and we had to open tent in the quieter area. I wasn't happy about it when we got there, because I fully intended to stay up till 5 am each night enjoying night time festival activities. However, I was more than happy with being there when I didn't stay up till 5 am partying like a maiden.
I was not able to attend any workshops the first day because we were still unloading and setting up camp at the time, but we were able to chat with our tent city neighbors and met some really nice people. We chatted and shopped around the merchants row area, which highly impressed me. There were over 20 vendors (probably even double that) and not many that had the same crap you see at every pagan shop that is made in china. Most of the vendors had homemade goods that were unique and very calling to me. I really wish I had about 500 bucks to spend there, because I would have spent it all between the crystal balls and hand made goddess outdoor hangings, or the hand carved statues. I came home with a CD by Emerald Rose (which I forgot to have signed.. boo), a handmade deer skin and quartz necklace for my son, a new goat skin head for my djembe and the biggest mortar and pestle I have ever seen.
That night I attended the festivities which several drinking parties were commencing. There were hoards of half naked women and men in kilts and loin cloths, and even people dressed like Pan. I do not remember many parts of that night because the jungle juice is still clouding my brain (I only had one after my few glasses of wine with din din). But I can say that it highly messed with me. I thought the bull frogs from the swimming pond were following me and started yelling curse words at them at 2am. I had walked about 5 times back and forth from my tent to the bathroom to the party and I probably stumbled drunkenly about a total of 5 miles that night. I danced around the drum circle a bit and sat down and enjoyed it allot. I got to meet a nice drum troop that fully reminded me that I am so not a maiden anymore!
The next day I woke up after about 3 or 4 hours of sleep and I got up early to try and beat the rush to the showers.. but I was wrong. I had to wait over an hour to shower, but the blessing was that Selena Fox was online right behind me and I got to chat with her and I must say I was impressed! Most pagan festivals I have attended, all the bigger named people tend to either go to a hotel instead of camp out, or have very private area. But she was waiting on the line with the rest of us as an equal. She was a very nice woman and very charismatic and funny. I don't think I have ever felt someone have such naturally happy energy. I also attended a few rituals she hosted during my short stay and I was even impressed with those because the way she did it was very polite and welcoming of everyone's beliefs. I definitely will be checking out gatherings at Circle Sanctuary (about 3 hours away from me) for the near future.
I went to the morning meeting and afterwards attended 2 different workshops. Both of these workshops had a strong effect on me. One was a guided meditation that just opened me up and brought me into the feeling of community at the festival. The other was about using the Charge of the Goddess in every day life that was just wonderful.
That night was the main ritual that was the biggest ritual I had ever seen, with nearly 1000 people. It was allot of standing and walking but beautiful in its own way. Afterwords we sat at our camp and chatted all night with a crone that came by with popcorn and marshmallows to share. We chatted all night and shared stories and ideas about life and paganism. It was so nice to be able to chat so openly.
The entire experience renewed my sense of pagan community and opened up things in my personal life that I needed to handle on my own. I felt healed and energized and came home with some new ideas. I will be definitely going next year and going for the entire week.