On this past Saturday (May 5th) I went to a local farm for Fairie Festival. I hadn’t been for many years and I was very excited to go again this year. It’s a one-weekend festival that, described simply, celebrates the beginning of spring. It’s also a place for those interested in environmentalism and sustainable organic farming to share their experiences and raise awareness, and there are often representatives from local animal shelters giving out information. There are hundreds of craft vendors selling sculpture, paintings, clothing, hand-fashioned wooden kitchen utensils, and of course, a ton of specialty food. It’s become a huge family event as well, because almost all children love fairies and magic and blowing bubbles, so there are plenty of children running around getting their faces painted and making their own wings out of tulle. It’s a pet-friendly festival unlike the Renaissance Faire, and we saw some beautiful dogs (including salukis!) and a bearded dragon on a leash, wearing its own pair of wings. There were performances by a number of bands in all different kinds of genres, a belly dancing troupe, and even a comedy Shakespeare troupe called the Mad Mechanicals.
All in all, it’s a pretty fantastic time. My friends and I went and dressed up in costumes (which you should realize by now is a thing I do whenever I get an opportunity). I was particularly excited to go because I was able to wear this beautiful medieval reproduction dress that I only get to pull out maybe twice a year. The weather was perfect, although it was sunny enough to give me my traditional, first-event-of-summer, I-forgot-that-it’s-sunscreen-time-again sunburn.
The reason I mention it on this blog, aside from making you all jealous and suggesting you go next year, is because this year, there were protesters.
This was a huge surprise to me. The festival has been put on for twenty-one years. I hadn’t been in about six, and the last time I went there were no protesters. But this year, there they were. It was just a small group, maybe six people. They had signs like “Are you hugging the right tree?” with a picture of a cross, “The Fairie Festival is indoctrination into paganism,” and somewhat surprisingly, one that said “Global warming is coming.” There was also a man with a megaphone telling us that we were coming to worship dirt and that we should be worshiping the blood of Christ instead.
My first thought was, I guess this is a legitimate festival now.
The thing is, you could tell that those people had never actually been inside the Fairie Festival. It’s true that the festival aligns with the pagan holiday Beltane. Beltane is fundamentally an astronomical holiday marking the midway point between the spring and summer equinoxes, but it can also be a religious festival celebrating purification and the start of a new, hopefully fertile growing season. It’s a May Day festival. However, there’s nothing overtly religious about the events at the Fairie Festival. The most overt one is probably the Maypole, which is a tradition at just about any springtime fair.
An example: while waiting for a performance to begin, a girl came over to entertain those sitting with a hula-hoop demonstration. Before she began, she showed us the seed of life symbol, made from hula-hoops, and told us about the patterns in the symbol and how they could be found recreated in virtually anything. The neat thing was that instead of using religious terms, she used mathematical ones: the symbol contains the Golden Proportion and the Fibonacci sequence, for example. She said she wanted to share it to us because it calmed her to look at its continuous looping.
Then she jumped straight into hula-hooping. Religious pressure was totally non-existent.
So as far as “indoctrination into paganism,” it’s true that attendees may be educated a little about some of the religion’s tenets, but you’d never know it. Her approach (“So here’s this thing that I like, I’m gonna tell you a little bit about it, and then let’s do something fun and completely irrelevant!”) is pretty consistent with the entire festival, and it doesn’t fit the definition of indoctrination.
The Fairie Festival is a great, fun, family-oriented event that has a lot of emphasis on fairies and magic because springtime is fucking magical, and also kids love dressing up like fairies. My dad, step-mom and sister all love the festival and they’re devout Christians. Hundreds of different kinds of people attend the festival for hundreds of different reasons, and to the owners, organizers, performers, staff, and other attendees, all those reasons are great reasons. To protest something like that shows a real lack of understanding.