A bunch of EMLC members made their way up to the Florida Pagan Gatheringfor Beltane 2012 over the past weekend, and we had a fabulous time. The “supermoon” was shining on us all weekend, and the festival was hot (in a few different ways).
EMLC got everyone’s blood flowing by hosting a “meet and greet” on Thursday evening in the largest hall, called Valhalla. The theme was “Meet and Greet and Dance with the Fey,” so the hall was decked out with faery images and symbols, a faery cairn with holey stones for our guests to pull from its well, green and white lights, and banners. EMLC members and friends helped serve our guests tiny cupcakes, jambalaya, faery drinks, and colorful orange sections filled with Jello and deliciously subtle additives for the adults, such as St. Germain and Midori. Of course, having the event segue into the first S.J. Tucker concert was a big draw, as well, so our guests and the fae got to let their feet, hands, and voices celebrate the start of FPG’s extended weekend gathering.
The musical events are usually outstanding, and Beltane 2012 was no exception. Two concerts by S.J. Tucker (of Skinny White Chick and Tricky Pixie fame) were well attended, technically smooth, and a musically rich way to get your pagan beats and storytelling. She’s got a growing following, and the enthusiasm and joy she shows performing are infectious. The Dragon Ritual Drummers came down from Niagra, Canada, and gave great beats with a concert, mini-concert on vendors row, and a workshop to help spread the New Orleans Voodoo drumming that is their hallmark. They warmed up the crowd to their style, then got folks on the dance floor under the supermoon when they got into the order of service with the rhythm of Papa Legba and opened the crossroads. Martin “Greywolf” Murphy and Shiny Happy People Drum Tribe kept us connected with more rhythm and percussion workshops, and they kept the fire circle’s spirits, dancers, tenders, and visitors in beat. The musicians are an integral part of this festival, and it shows both in talent and the community’s participation.
There were fabulous headliners in addition to the musicians. FPG continues to attract outstanding headliners with varied and valuable backgrounds. Raven Grimassi, Stephanie Taylor, Donald Michael Craig, and Orion Foxwood gave great workshops and helped meet the community’s need to learn and grow as we celebrate. Their experience with traditional Craft practices, hypnosis, Conjure, and Faery Seership gave the weekend a depth that our growing community really reaches for, even when we’d like to find a cool, dark place to take a nap!
The festival continues to have great community support. Sweatlodges, the Red Tent, Vendors Row, sacred body modification, ritual dance, fire tenders, Guardians, staff, and main ritual all made for a safe and enjoyable weekend! The myriad of workshops, crafts, and services offered ranged from the mystical to the practical and showed the community’s commitment to development of our own talents. By the way, if you go, you’re sure to hear “Guardians are sexy!” followed by the retort “Fire tenders are hot!” as a great mantra of support for some of the folks making this gathering work well, so keep the mantra up. It can be easy to criticize how a festival goes, but I’ve gotten to know a number of organizers over the years, and I appreciate how huge an effort is put in behind the scenes to make this gathering continue to work over many years. We’re a cantankerous bunch, too, so be mindful that meeting our needs and desires is no easy task!
If there are downsides to this festival, they are direct relations of the upsides. It was literally hot, with daytime temperatures up into the 90s, so it was easy to over do it. Hot music, hot headliners, and a hot, hot community makes for a gathering where drinking a lot of water is crucial. Yes, that means more water than you get from mead, beer, and wine! The evening temps were down in the 60s, so the nighttime and the “supermoon” were a welcome respite. Saturday night’s main ritual is a challenge, as the same participation that helps create the wonderful variety of workshops, crafts, and services makes for a difficult time dealing with the mechanics and magick of ritual at that scale. My experiences with the lighting and sound system have been pretty mixed and as much an impediment to main ritual as a boon. I’ve been at a number of FPGs over the years, and I hope to see the organizers support some innovative ideas about the main ritual offerings the community volunteers to bring and to be able to support more methods for scaling ritual up effectively. I’ll also say that it’s easier to put on a great meet and greet event than a main ritual at this gathering, so my hat is off to the festival organizers and all that have taken up the mantle of offering main ritual.
Overall, I’m calling Beltane 2012 a big success, and FPG is a festival worth the investments being made by the organizers and community. For more information on Florida Pagan Gathering, see their website or FPG Facebook Page. For more information on Everglades Moon Local Council, just poke around here, or drop by the EMLC Facebook Page.