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Making Community in Covid's "New Normal"

It has been a harrowing year for everyone. If you were lucky enough to maintain your health along with family and friends, you still had to contend with a host of other problems. I won't list the droves of disruptions... you already know what they are. But they have taken part in making us feel powerless, isolated from comfort, and scared for the future... if you were that lucky. Many in our community have lost loved ones or even their own lives. There are no words for the grief that 2020 brought to many. Unfortunately, our collective woes will persist this year with the arrival of a new, more contagious variant.

It looks like this will be our "new normal" for another year at least, but we've used 2020 to learn more about how the virus spreads and how to mitigate the risk it poses. We have adjusted, adapted, and coped to live in this world. And we have become accustomed to the measures needed to protect ourselves: six feet away, mask up, wash hands frequently, sanitize, and isolate when possible. So is there room for spiritual gatherings in the epoch of the "new normal," and if so, what might they look like? The 2021 planning committee for Beltane believes that a festival is possible in the time of Covid, just not one you may be used to.

Our committee this year consists of festival veterans who are active in the Southeast Louisiana Pagan community, many whom have helped develop Covid protocols in their respective professions. Tom Curtin coordinates Drums in the Swamp and Reunion of the Spirits at Gryphon's Nest. Vovin Lonshin has been a regular at The Nest for years, helping with activities at the Spring Imbolc Festival and The Harvest Moon Festival in 2019. Alex Vanbeber has attended events at the campground for a few years and assisted GNO Pagan Pride as their Vice President. And Alec Gibson and I have led the Wyld Fire Beltane Hunt for the last 6 years together. Consulting with EventBrite's online handbook for event risk assessment, we have evaluated Beltane to assess its risk "as is", developed mitigation procedures, and assessed the residual risk. Our assessment resulted in a judgement of low risk to attendees. Therefore, we are happy to announce that, as of January 23rd, this year's Beltane is "a go!"

We have created a page that outlines this year's protocols, increasing our volunteer numbers to accommodate them, and we have strived to take problems and turn them into opportunities. But the risk of "human error" is still there. It exists in those moments where people forget where they are and what's at stake. We will be there to remind them and help safeguard the event, but we can make no guarantees. Really, the only person who can guarantee your safety is you. We, as a community, are responsible to one another. The planning committee is responsible for taking all possible safeguards, and if necessary, cancelling the event. Attendees are responsible for respecting boundaries. The marriage of the two is what will help create the ultimate celebration of life for Beltane.

We have a few big changes we want to make everyone aware of.

Masks, social distancing, and regular hand-washing and temperature checks are required.

You must show one of the following at check-in:

  • Proof of a negative Covid test no older than 72-hours.

  • Proof of both doses of Covid vaccine.

  • Proof of a Covid antibody test older than one month.

If you register and then test positive for Covid before the event, we will refund your purchases.

If you exit the event, you won't be allowed re-entry. To assist campers with supply runs, we are providing contactless tent-side grocery delivery.

If we cancel the event, whether by choice or a state mandate, we will refund all indoor clubhouse reservations and vendor fees. Your event registration fee will be rolled over to one of our next two events (you choose which event to apply it to).

All the details regarding general festival rules can be found here, and the full list of protocols we have developed are listed here. Attendees will be updates on protocols via email as we approach Beltane.

With cautious optimism and an eye on the latest developments in our area, we intend to continue planning our event and assessing risks. April 15th, 2021 will be our last deadline for possible cancellation of the Wyld Fire Beltane Hunt. Until then, we implore everyone... please keep those masks on, make sure you're disinfecting, and keep your distance from others. The determining factor in whether Beltane can be done safely is you. We hope vaccinations become widespread and take the edge off the pandemic. Until that day, let's set the example for what community looks like during Covid... consideration for others' boundaries, empathy for slip-ups, and finding some joy in each others' company, even if it's from six feet away.

Our risk assessment was completed using EventBrite's Event Safety Playbook for Covid-19, assembled with guidance from the Chertoff Group, the chief medical officer for the Department of Homeland Security's pandemic planning, and publications from the CDC, WHO, and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. You can find a complete text here.

If you're ready to embrace Beltane in a new way, click here to register for this year's event, and don't forget to subscribe to our news page to get all the updates for this year.

With love and hope,

Ty Siddiqui

WFBH Organizer


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