The Pagan community includes a wide variety of personality types, interests, and medical/mental issues. As a festival organizer, sometimes you get drawn into paying attention to the big things, and treating everything else like minutia. So when you plan a festival centered around fun, freedom, and Springtime rites, you tend to think about parties, loud music, food and drinks, and being surrounded by lots of people. But what if these things aren't fun FOR YOU?
We are fortunate to have access to Gryphon's Nest Campround, where its 46 acres provide a large swath of space to spread out and retreat to peace and silence. Daytime classes tend to be relatively intimate, and groups typically number in the teens, which allows you to dig into the material and exchange ideas and energy with other people. But in the evening, shying away from the large pool crowd usually means going to bed early.
So we thought about engaging attendees in some new ways, without increasing the stimuli surrounding them. We want those who are more introverted to feel safe and invited into the large party, but perfectly comfortable withdrawing to a more contemplative place. All of us need a peaceful place to ground ourselves and witness the splendor of the Nest in quiet awe. So we have included a few new additions to this year's WFBH to connect with people more.
First of all, my greatest suggestion would be to focus on opportunities to meet people in smaller groups, like the first night of the festival (Thursday). That's the night of the potluck, and it's a less action-packed, more intimate night to meet new people. Larger groups will show up on Friday and Saturday, but if you start out in the smaller group, you'll feel more adjusted as other attendees begin trickling in.
The Great Oak toward the back of the property will be a grounding haven this year, partially due to the amazing art installation "Wisdom of the Swamp Goddess." Angella King and her numerous collaborators created this massive installation and hung it in the middle of New Orleans Central Business District as a petroglyphic reminder of our connections to the divine.
"Having created many art installations and environments for every discipline and for hundreds of artists, [Angela] is steeped in the creative world. Her primary personal expression is creating altars; altars to life, to goddesses, to experience, to love in her life, to nature, to her spiritual connection with the universe."
The installation will take over The Great Oak and will be on-display for the entire weekend. Please use caution when approaching the artwork, and do not touch or damage the items displayed.
Herne's Hideaway, toward the back of the property, will be the setting for our Beltane altars. Each one will be dedicated to a different god/dess associated with Beltane, including Lilith, Pan, Artemis, and Freya. We encourage attendees to bring offerings for the altars and use the seclusion to make devotions, do quiet prayer, or have personal space for magickal practice.
The community mandala is a new project at The Nest that every single person can contribute to, and work in some much-needed art therapy. Acrylic paints and brushes will be provided, and you can paint as few or as many river rocks as you'd like. Set your stones in the center of tree stump seats laid out like a pentagram, and sit in quiet reflection if your heart desires it.
Once twilight begins to hit on Friday and Saturday night, there will be a flurry of activity in the fields. If you are not the "flurrying" kind, then we will provide drums and noisemakers for you to contribute to the rhythm, OR you are welcome to simply be an observer. The labyrinth is also in centerfield, and is a fantastic place to connect to "genius locii," or spirit of place.
In the clubhouse, we will set up a lounge area for people that need a break from the entertainment and music of each evening. Couches, cushions, blankets, and relaxing incense and candles will be provided, along with a battery of Beltane-themed movies to keep you amused (including the classic Christopher Lee pic, THE WICKERMAN). Come out and hang around the pool when you want to, and retreat indoors when you need a break.
Finally, and I cannot emphasize this enough, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. We have had plenty of people in the past who just used the weekend for camping. The Beltane Hunt and rituals and activities and music simply provided a backdrop for people that come to the campground to camp. If that's your wish, we want you to have it! If you feel grounded and recharged after the weekend, then we will have accomplished our goal.
Speaking as someone whose true nature is introvertive, this can be a very energetic and empowering event where you meet a ton of new people and come back home with some funny (and maybe embarassing) stories. Or, you can spend the weekend meditating, doing personal Beltane rituals, and hanging out in the woods and fields. Whatever your prerogative, WFBH wants you to have a blessed Beltane!