Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 8th annual Earth Warriors Festival in Clarksville, Ohio. Usually, when attending Pagan-themed events, I am working, generally teaching or leading rituals. This time I was there as my husband’s “plus one” and so I had the majority of the festival to just experience what it had to offer. This made it a very relaxing event for me and –with it being my first time there—gave me an opportunity to really experience the festival how it was intended for the attendees.
If you are a fan of Pagan festivals then you really should attend Earth Warriors. It’s held at Camp Graham, a 4 H campground with excellent facilities. Unlike some other events I have attended, they have shower houses (with real water pressure and hot water!) and flushing toilets, making the experience a little but easier for this city boy. On site cabins were available for rent, and made my experience very nice indeed. There is also space available for tenting if that is your desire.
Entertainment for this year’s event was fantastic. Pagan singer Kelianna, proved to be both a talented singer as well as just being hilarious. (The night of the lunar eclipse she emerged from the darkness wearing a horned Viking helmet, which she then proceeded to use to chase and pop enormous soap bubbles being blown by one of the attendees). Another musical highlight was Pictus, who astounded the audience with a primal display of Highland bagpipes and drums… and even an Irish hard shoe! If anyone had told me that I could have listened to bagpipe music and drums for more than 30 minutes I would have thought they were crazy. Pictus did an amazing job and now I have to own all their music! Burning Sage rounded out the musical offerings, doing their brand of “intense, primal, metaphysical rock”.
Presenters offered classes and workshops and rituals. As I mentioned previously, I was there as a “plus one” for my husband, Chas Bogan, who offered classes on folk-magic and Hoodoo which were well received and attended. My partner Devin Hunter (one of the original staff members of the festival) offered a class on “The Pentacle of Sovereignty”, a meditative device of his creation, and then led the main ritual, “The Rite of the Cosmic Weaver” based loosely on stories of Grandmother Spider, told to Devin in his youth. This ritual was one of community and weaving, invoking the great spider into the body of EWF’s founder, and then weaving threads of intention around her for the next seven generations of Pagan community. Each community member held a piece of the thread and sent their prayers and intentions into the emerging web. After this web was woven, the community collectively took the threads and our intentions to a special fire (done in a spider theme!) and burned it with our prayers that they could be released to work their magic.
Other presenters included author and ADF member, Alaric Albertsson, Jacki Smith of Coventry Creations, Frater Ziku, and Soolah Hoops, fire spinner extraordinaire. There were more, but I was not able to meet with and attend everyone’s offerings.
The staff is friendly and helpful. And pirate-themed. (Yo ho ho!) They are also quite talented. There were several nights spent around the fire in which the crew broke out into song: sea shanties, at first, but then this evolved into contemporary tunes with a surprising talent of voice and musical accompaniment.
There is a meal-plan available for those who wish to purchase one at pre-registration. The food was good and the portions were filling. Over the course of the event I had meat chili, ham, potatoes, rice, jambalaya, chicken salad, pancakes, scrambled eggs, quinoa, and broccoli just to name a few things off the top of my head. As a traveller I always bring some snacks with me “just in case” and I was still glad I did (midnight snacks are NOT part of the meal plan!). I would highly recommend getting the meal plan and then just having a few extra things on hand, like some trail mix, or granola bars. But all in all the food was good and I was never hungry.
One thing that really struck me was that (now as EWF has achieved it’s 8th consecutive year) there are so many people for whom this group comprises an extended family. While this is not necessarily a new thing, (many festivals I have attended have likewise had this sense of collective belonging) it was surprising to me that the staff of EWF was able to do this in a way that was not “cliquish” or off-putting. Yes, they have a history together (and inside jokes to go along with it) but they never came across as aloof, or superior. If anything they projected a sense of community, of acceptance, and belonging.
As a gay man I am careful about which situations I put myself in. Most of my Pagan festivals have been for gay and bi Pagan men which (for me) carries an added sense of safety. While Earth Warriors is open to everyone (21 and up!) they have taken great steps to ensure that the event is safe and welcoming for all who attend.
Another point that I found refreshing was “encoded” in their casual vocabulary. “This is not princess camp!” read one t-shirt from a previous event, a reference perhaps to the tendency of some Pagan event-attendees to whine and complain about every little thing instead of taking personal responsibility for their actions and choices. “There is no whining at EWF,” states their event website. “Warriors do not whine.”
Personal responsibility and accountability are paramount at EWF. When there were problems to deal with (and in any group of humans there are always problems to deal with) they were dealt with quietly, politely, and effectively.
Earth Warriors is the brainchild of founder Heather Killen, owner and operator of Violet Flame Gifts, “a hearth and internet based one-stop practitioner’s shop” which has been serving the community for over 12 years, providing ethical products and services. Her oils, ointments, and soaps can’t be beat and her eye for stones and jewelry is impeccable. While Violet Flame Gifts has a definite presence in the vendor area, it is joined by some really talented artists and vendors selling their wares. T-shirts, drums, sarongs, and other items were readily available for purchase, as well as a booth set aside for Tarot readings.
The whole event was really well organized and run and I am looking forward to going back next year. In this time in which Pagan community seems to be eating itself alive, it is refreshing to see Pagans doing what we wish they had been all along: acting like responsible ADULTS. It’s a new trend that I hope continues, and I for one will be happy to lend my support to this amazing event as it continues to grow and thrive. “We are a one people divided by a vocabulary,” Heather stated at the opening circle. “We are a One People by Spirit & Heart. And when we come together here we have come home.”
Next year’s dates and theme are already set: the 9th annual Earth Warriors Festival will have a theme of “Impeccable” and is set for September 22 – 25th, 2016. I hope to see some of you there!