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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Little Pagan Camping Festival Advice

With Pagan Spirit Gathering coming up, and having been to a couple before, I thought I'd list some of the things I learned going to this event (and others similar to it, including non-camping ones) that any newbie (or oldie) should remember.

Take care of your health first and foremost, and that includes mental health.

If you're tired, rest.  If you're hungry, eat.  Drink lots of water.  Take electrolytes (bring Gatorade or take electrolyte supplements).  If you feel gross, shower or jump in the lake. If you're feeling drained because you're an introvert or an empath, duck out for a while.  And don't hesitate to go to first aid if you need help (I like taking this as a work shift, I might see you there!).  Doing All The Things is rejuvenating to some people, but not everybody.  It's OK to take it easy.

Take an electronics fast.  Also, bring a notebook.

How much of an electronics fast you can take is going to vary from person to person.  I understand that a lot of people use their phones for accessibility and other important things, so I would never advocate you try getting people to stop using their phones.  But if you can, turn it off or put it on silent.  Last year I kept my phone in my tent almost the whole time, and it rejuvenated my sleep schedule for weeks.  Keeping it turned off or in your tent will also prevent you from some common rude behaviors people enter into at things like this:
  • It'll prevent you from accidentally taking pictures of people who don't want pictures taken of them (something that is really common in today's day in age).
  • It'll prevent you from putzing on your phone during a workshop.
For me this is a great time to get some of my Pagan reading in, using the time I usually spend on my phone in study instead.

Relatedly?  Bring a notebook.  This is important not only so you can jot down any notes you have regarding things you learn at workshops, but to keep people's contact information.  Again, we're really used to being able to Facebook somebody immediately upon meeting them, and you may very well meet more people than you can remember off the top of your head.

Don't be creepy to the nude people and don't touch people without permission.

Last year wasn't a big deal (maybe because it was so hot that I'm pretty sure everyone was naked at least part of the time), but I gotta say, my first PSG it was super annoying to see there were some creepy guys approaching nude women thanking them for being nude (one of them bowed his head "namaste" style as he did it).  Seriously, if you do that, what's wrong with you?  Super creepy.

Personal note, not everybody who goes nude at a thing like this has a body you will immediately recognize as "normal."  If I see any of you rudely staring at my crotch because you expected to see balls I'll hex you (I'm kidding but seriously don't fucking stare at me).

Also, don't touch people without permission unless it's an emergency, like you put your hand on somebody's shoulder to direct them away from a golf cart that's about to hit them, I don't know.  That includes hugging (I don't care if you're "a hugger," not all of us are, there are also people healing from assault or other trauma and you have no idea who we are).

Don't try to go to every workshop slot.

Seriously.  Aim for one or two a day.  Before you're set free, look at all the workshops and when they are to make sure you make it to them (and don't accidentally schedule your work shift during that time).  But there's like, what, four workshops a day?  Don't sweat it if you can't make all of them.  Most people don't.

Broaden your definition of what Paganism and Witchcraft are... and what appropriate practice of them is.

It's really common especially for newbies to learn some really suspect information about what Pagans are and what we do.  It's not that we learn how to practice wrong by any means, we just develop a very narrow understanding of what Paganism is and notably what the ethics of Witchcraft are.  That leads to arguments sometimes, but more often it leads to really alienating statements by people who undoubtedly mean well but wind up excluding and demeaning whole swaths of the community.

Notably, keep the following things in mind:
  • There are Witches who hex, curse, or otherwise practice defensive or harmful magick.  Common interpretations of Wicca have made it really common for people to think "real" Witches don't do these things.  You don't have to, but it's a very traditional and sometimes very helpful practice.
  • There are Witches who are Satanists, and some of these own the term "Pagan."  They aren't doing anything wrong and in fact their organizations are at the forefront of religious freedom actions.
  • Not all Pagans follow the dualistic God and Goddess system of divinity.  More of us are hard polytheist (seeing the divine as several separate entities) than ever, and that's not all!  There are Pagans who are non-theistic.  They work with Ancestors, spirits, natural forces, etc.  There are also monotheistic Pagans as well as Witches who practice Judaism, Christianity, and Islam among others.  Don't assume everyone around you believes the same thing.
  • Not all Pagans practice Witchcraft!
  • There are queer and trans Witches and Pagans, and you won't always recognize us when you see us (example: A couple of Witches last year whining about the fact that PSG is trans inclusive by policy without realizing that I myself am trans).
As a general rule, my opinion on this matter is this:  If somebody calls themselves a Pagan or Witch, they probably have a real reason for that, and as such it is not my place to police their use of that term.  Just assume that if you haven't met somebody before you have no fucking clue what they believe in.  Hell, there are even people who show up (to support partners or families or because they just like the music) who aren't Pagans or Witches at all.

Bring enough food and package it well.

I seal all my food in airtight packaging.  It's not my norm (because it uses so much plastic, see next point), but when you're eating out of a cooler for a week trying to cook things from scratch it's really easy to not store things well and wind up with a cooler of rotten meat and mushy vegetables.

Take extra money as well, just in case things go sour and you need a backup meal.

Pay attention to your goddamn trash and don't take things there you can't take home.

One thing that's pretty consistent about PSG--at least the times I went--is that people are wildly disrespectful trash-wise.  It's really a harsh truth in Pagan communities that we talk a big game about loving the environment and then don't actually follow through.  Listen, the ecosexuals are wrong: You can't fix the world just by loving it.

I'm not saying you need to pack super light or avoid glamping if that's your thing, but know your limits based on your vehicle size and the amount of trash you assume you're going to generate.  PSG in particular does not have recycling, so please take recyclables home.

And please learn repair!  There have been people who have chucked whole chairs and tents into the garbage on the last day over really minor repairs.  Repair is such important praxis for the coming years; you an repair more than you think you can.  Darn that sock.  Tape that tent pole.  Patch those jeans.  Related note:  If you happen to see me there and something broke on you, feel free to ask me about it, repair is a big thing for me.