Ritual Potluck : Our Pagan Pride Event
(click here to get to webrings)
The concept is simple enough. Starting in 2004, we're going to start holding a gathering around one or more Pagan-friendly camps at Burning Man in which Historical Reconstructionists and other nonfluffy Pagans are invited to hold an open house, in the great outdoors.
This is a Pagan Pride event, not a theological seminar. Yes, you're invited to hold rituals appropriate to your Non-Wiccan, Non-New Age tradition, and those rituals are bound to raise questions. You'd do well to have somebody on hand who can answer them intelligently, because you're going to be representing your faith to the public. But this is really more a celebration of the culture of each tradition than it is of theology. This is a festival of the arts, after all, and that's what your contribution should focus on. But please, no "sacred sexuality" events. There are plenty of sex themed events on the Playa already, and we'd like to do something different, something that parents feel ashamed of bringing their high school aged children to. Storytelling with a nasty edge to it is OK; intercourse in front of an audience is not.
One very natural question : What about food and drink? Certainly, an important part of many cultures throughout Europe and the Middle East. The answer is that while food is greatly appreciated at Burning Man, you should know what you're getting yourself in for. If you serve food to the public, the Washoe County health department will want to inspect your food preparation facilities, and you will be held to restaurant standards. The means that you're going to have to bring in a lot of water to do dishes, only to have to then cart out the sludge from the dishwater because the rule is "leave no trace" - the site must be returned to its pristine condition after the festival is over so you can't just dump your dishwater out into the desert. This is a major undertaking. Some camps do this and have a great time, but it takes real planning. Serving drinks, however, is relatively easy.
What should you bring? Keep in mind that we're going to be in the middle of the desert, and the nearest store of any kind is about 40 miles away in Gerlach, Nevada, the nearest town. This is self-reliance time; you're going to have to be prepared to provide for your own needs. Also, be aware of the realities of the desert. The place is prone to sudden windstorms which come on without warning. Please, please, please don't bring anything you couldn't bear to lose, because there's a good chance you will. Literature tables are a great idea back home; on the Playa they're a mistake because your papers will be in Utah before you know it. The desert heat is everything you've heard it is, topping 100 degrees during the day; a tribe of fur clad vikings raiding Center Camp might be an interesting sight, but we'd suggest that you hold off on that until late evening. (11 pm at the very earliest)
Bring lots and lots of water. Was that 4 or 5 gallons per person per day? Especially as you'd do well to ignore the nut cases who will tell you that you don't need to bathe in the desert. What else should you bring? We'll be expanding on this subject over the next year, but be aware that the "Burning Man Survival Guide" is a deeply flawed document. Many will tell you to bring cheap footware because the "corrosive playa dust" will supposedly eat its way through leather and plastic; this is not actually the case, and the ill fitting shoes people have ended up bringing probably have contributed more to the many cases of "playa foot" reported than anything else. If you're sliding around in there, your skin is going to get abraded. One good piece of advice, especially if you're a Faunus worshipper and were thinking of holding a skyclad event, is that going barefoot on the hot desert ground is good for 1 1/2 months of limping on blistered feet. Don't do that. If you want to literally take everything off, do it inside a tent on canvas, not on the gypsum dust outside.
Brief note on the tents : people learned, very quickly, that pup tents in the desert are a mistake. They're boiling hot during the day, and they make great sails when the wind gusts over 50 mph. What you'll tend to see when you go out are dome tents, which tend to be far more stable. Decadence Camp did something interesting with a shade structure which dealt with the wind by bending with it; you might want to see if you can get in touch with them if you'd like to set up something the wind can blow through.
And then there is that dust. Yes, it gets in everything. Don't wear anything white out there unless you're comfortable with the idea of it coming back a mucousy greyish-green and staying that way for about a year or two. Food and water containers should be covered unless you like the idea of drinking powdered drywall, good advice in general in an environment in which dripping wet skin becomes spontaneously dry in a little over 60 seconds. Uncovered water is going to evaporate away at an appalling rate, and barter being what it is, water is worth more than some faily decent alcoholic beverages out there, on a volume for volume basis. Wait 45 minutes in the Camp Arctica line waiting to buy a bag of ice, and you'll find out why.
More later. I hope you haven't scared you off. It's really not that bad, but the environment poses challenges and you're going to have to learn to deal with them if you wish to enjoy your stay.
"What is a non-fluffy Pagan?", you ask. A non-fluffy Pagan is somebody who isn't just making it up as he goes along. While he will acknowledge that religion is a matter of faith, not knowledge, he also knows that while we may not know what reality is, there is a reality there to be sought, something that exists outside of our beliefs about what it is. This is something that many before him have had their own experiences of, each in her own tradition, and as the nonfluffy Pagan pursues his own tradition, he makes sure to learn what he can from that vast body of experience of those who have gone before him. He does not try to reinvent the wheel, or worse, say something along the lines of "we're all Neo-Pagans, so we're reconstructing and re-inventing everything, and it can all be whatever we want".
"Such a position", he would respond, "is pure hubris, because it ignores the reality that our wishes and feelings are not the only ones at issue, here, because we are not the gods. If we should, as supposed worshippers, treat them as if they were our property and not as beings to be respected in their own right, they will make their displeasure felt, and rightfully so." This is why we study tradition, instead of chucking it all out the window and pressuring others to do likewise. Through the experiences they have granted our predecessors down through the ages, the gods have spoken to their followers, ever so softly, of how they would be honored. "If we disregard this", our nonfluffy pagan would ask, "then in what sense have we shown them respect?"
Sometimes, people take this to the point of not even thinking. To take a recent example from a Burning Man Pagan list which shall be left unnamed, somebody spoke of offering "hatred, bigotry ..." and number of other unpleasant things as "sacrifices"; somebody on the same list even spoke of offering her used maxi pads to Kali! (Later, the moderator would inform us that she didn't care what Kali thought about any of this). But let's go back and take a look at what 'sacrifice' actually meant to the ancients. Very often, it was a ritual meal to which the gods were invited as the guests of honor, or, conversely, which was brought to the gods in the temples, their homes. Or, sometimes it was the symbolic giving of gifts or tokens of gratitude. But, at its core, it really all comes down to one thing - hospitality - and that's something we really ought to think about. What would you expect as a response, were you to invite somebody to your house as a guest, telling him that you had something for him, a token of your respect - and you handed him your garbage? At the very least, you would have made an enemy. Toss in your wife's used tampons, soaked with menstrual blood (something viewed as being ritually unclean in more than a few places) and in some societies, you would have delivered a blood level insult, in more senses than one. In a religious context, this is sacrilege. Or should we say "hubris"?
As one of us asked somebody at a Pagan convention, "you'll understand if I don't stand next to you during any thunderstorms, right". But this moderator would not, sternly warning somebody who had questioned the reasonability of the maxi pad sacrifice about her 'condescension'. What we oppose when we call ourselves "nonfluffy" is this intrusion of the "Ugly American" ethic into man's relationship with the Divine, under which our ignorance is enshrined and our arrogant refusal to rise above it mistaken for conviction.
Will there be event announcements here? Yes, of course, and please feel free to bookmark this link.
That will take you back here. This page is where you'll find links to the discussion list and the events schedule which is empty right now, of course, because I'm still typing this page and the site doesn't exist yet. (How pleasantly self-referential. The postmodern thing must be rubbing off on us. ) Before the schedule can be filled, enough nonfluffy Pagans have to gather in one place and there have to be hospitable burns for them to meet at.
Click here to get to our list. Our thanks to the Witches' Voice for listing our event, and to those who have agreed to host mirrors to this page.
Note: This is not a radical free speech list. New members are automatically put on moderation and so are those who are being a pain in the ***. This list was not set up so that people could vent, it was set up as a place where serious polytheists could meet others like them for a civil exchange on an adult level. Some have come to see an anger management problem (like the one you get to see Weotch display early on in this list's archives) as a useful tool for getting what one wants, online or off. Here, that approach to interpersonal communication is good for a quick banning. So is lying about what somebody else wrote, a practice which the Internet has become justly notorious for.
We don't mind you disagreeing with us, or making a case for your disagreement. However, we expect you to do so in a mature, ethical and intelligent fashion and reserve the right to eject you if you don't. (If, on the other hand, somebody really does go over the line and do something to you that would clearly be unacceptable according to traditional, normative Western values, please don't think that we're going to go Emily Post on you, and not let you express some highly called for anger. Nobody should have to be a doormat).
If you do join, please consider crossposting some of the material you post here over to the Unofficial Global Burning Man Freelist, where this material will be considered on-topic until July of 2004. Understand that it is a freelist, so if you post there non-pagans will be free to critique your writings and even Paganism itself. You might not want to deal with that, but if you do, appreciate that a defense of your faith made in an uncensored forum is going to carry a lot more weight with those looking in. These is some reward to be found in taking on such a challenge.
If you'd like to take part in "Nonfluffy Pagans on the Playa" (yes, we'll work on that name) you do have to sign up for this list, where we'll be hammering out some of the details. This event, group and list are for nonfluffy Heathens, Traditionalists, Pagans and Polytheists going to Burning Man, or other burns. Post your event announcements or discussions. No need to stand on ceremony or even introduce yourself, unless you want to. Just dive right in.
Understand that (as the name suggests) this is an anti-fluff bunny forum, so if you're coming in with the attitude that "we're all Neopagans and so we're free to make it up as we go along and nobody has a right to criticise anything we say or do" ... get over it. Others will get to make judgments here, both of your ideas and your actions. That's part of what the gods gave us our brains for.
They also gave us backbones. Radical Feminism and Political Correctness will be shown a chilly reception by the modstaff here, as will any preferential treatment encouraging movement that would deprive Man of his right to speak up on his own behalf without apology, or in support of what he believes without hesitation. The ethic here is that of Traditional Western Rationalism, not Postmodernism, and free speech (to the extent it is allowed) will not be put to a vote. Fair play, not mob rule, shall be the policy on our list.