Looks like it's all gonna be peace, love and magick at the Lake Okeechobee Resort and Marina in Pahokee, this week. Local residents' alarm at the prospect of hosting a five-day festival of self-described pagans appears to have vanished like a rainbow in the sun.
According to a June 1 press release from the Lady Liberty League (kind of an ACLU for pagans and Wiccans), meetings between pagan activists and Lake O area Christian pastors cleared the air, the Christians being informed that visitors to the First Annual Lake Okeechobee Summer Solstice Festival practice "Nature Religion," not Satan worship. (That the local Chamber of Commerce came down on the side of the festival probably hasn't hurt either. Pagan money is green as any other.)
In a phone interview, festival organizer Bruce Mullins told New Times the event has already sold 400 advance tickets and that he expects as many as 1,000 pagans and pagan sympathizers to attend, making it "probably the largest pagan gathering in Florida history." (Pagan web chatter has tagged it "Pagan Woodstock.")
"Call it New Age if you like," Mullins told us. "It's people of like minds coming together, with an eclectic belief system, all rising as one to a higher level."
"Eclectic" is putting it mildly. The fest includes classes and workshops in the everything from yoga and bellydancing to "Pagan/Wiccan song & chant," "rune mythology and history," "Native American stone healing" and "hay bale gardening." "Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism" sounds kinda Wicca-wonky to us. A workshop on "Protection Magick" ("Come to the Dark Side... We have cookies!") might be more our speed.
If some of those suggest the Pahokee Christians' fears had some substance, Mullins says "horse crap" and "Hollywood hype."
"Satanism is worship of the material world and the flesh," he told us. "That lowers you. We're here to celebrate freedom of the self, the balance of masculine and feminine and our stewardship of the earth." (Stewardship of the young, too: Teens-only "midnight fire festivals" are chaperoned by Lady Nakoma Hawk; kid care at the "Sprite Circle Sanctuary" is overseen by Mama Gina.)
It wouldn't be a Woodstock without music, natch, and in addition to drum circles -- lots and lots of drum circles -- the aural apothecary stocks cures for whatever ails ya: country, Celtic, metal, '80s hair bands, "light shows and shadow dancing" and "karaoke by the pool and tiki bar!" What could be more, um, normal?
So unless some joker cast a spell, plain old common sense has prevailed in Pahokee, the locals realizing the pagans are harmless, if a bit weird. And in modern day America, where every other suburban kid is inked, pierced, and plugged into a digital gizmo 24-7, while Christianist pastors try to webcast the burning of other faith's holy books, it's hard to say who are the weird ones.
First Annual Lake Okeechobee Summer Solstice Festival, June 19 to 23, at Lake Okeechobee Resort, 190 North Lake Avenue, Pahokee. Call 855-99-5253 or 561-924-7832, or visit their Facebook page.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
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