America was not founded as a Christian nation as some may believe. Our forefathers, many of whom were fleeing religious persecution, sought to instill the freedom of choice in this new land they called home. In today’s times, more and more people are exercising that right. The result? 67% of American seniors identify with the Christian faith while only 29% of young adults adhere to the same convictions.
But that doesn’t mean that Americans don’t consider themselves “spiritual.” They do, but more are turning away from traditional Christian religion. If indicators and polls confirm Christianity is not the fastest growing religion in America, what is? Hold on tight. It’s Wicca. Falling under the umbrella of paganism, Wicca is further classified as a legitimate religion which is growing by leaps and bounds. But Wicca isn’t the only culprit. Various forms of paganism are attracting new converts every day and statistics show the rate is doubling every 30 months.
To set the record straight, paganism is not atheism. A pagan is free to worship any god not common to the Torah, the Bible, or the Koran. Some reference paganism as “New Age Religion”, but in fact, paganism was practiced centuries ago by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in pre-Christian times.
With the re-birth of the paganism movement, if someone wants to take a vacation where they can be surrounded by like-minded people who are tolerant of their worship habits, where would they go? You might be surprised.
A Feast of Lights – Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Taking place in February of each year, A Feast of Lights is a time for rejuvenation and learning. Pagans of all sorts come together during the coldest time of the year to celebrate the coming of the earth’s warming cycle.
Old traditions along with living in today’s world are discussed around round tables as the earth is celebrated in music, dance, song, art, expressive dance, and other forms of worship. The event is held at the Sturbridge Hotel and Conference Center which is situated on a lake and features a large firepit. Guests can also enjoy the hotels pool and hot tub.
Paganicon – Minneapolis, Minnesota
This is the granddad of pagan gatherings. Held in March, Paganicon is a social event for pagans, Wiccans, druids, heathens, and all others practicing indigenous or ‘magikal’ forms of worship. The event features workshops, panels, discussions, social space, music concerts, theatrical presentations, an equinox ball, vendors, and a host of other activities and events.
A sacred galley space features paganistic art from around the world, much of which is for sale, but above all, Paganicon is a great opportunity to commune with others of similar or identical faiths while enjoying a fun-filled couple of days.
Hawkfest Drum and Dance Gathering – Hudson, Florida
This is the perfect gathering for working on a suntan during the day and increasing your spiritual rebirth at night. What began as a small gathering of friends worshipping the earth with drums and dance has morphed into a huge gathering of drum beaters, expressive dancers reaching towards the sky, hoop throwers, fire spinners, and other types of worshipping techniques.
The blissfulness of the beach setting only allows the presence of peace, and most of the attendees pull all-nighters, only going down when the sun comes up. The objective is to not only rejuvenate your own heart and soul but to be instrumental in rejuvenating the hearts and souls of others.
The organizers of Hawkfest say the gathering is what a person makes of it. If they are truly dedicated to their worship they can come away with a new sense of being, or they can simply stay up all night and have a fun and enchanting time with some non-judgemental people.
Phoenix Phyre – A Gathering of Pagans – Lakeland, Florida
Billed as the friendliest pagan gathering in Florida, Phoenix Phyre takes place on a working farm in Central Florida where it’s been held for the past 20 years. The event is held in a large field of live oak trees full of hanging Spanish moss which stimulates a euphoric feeling of peacefulness.
Many of the attendees camp on the grounds. To really experience the entire gathering in the best of ways, this is highly recommended though hotel accommodations are available in nearby Lakeland. The closeness of the gatherers is felt via community meals and rituals, nightly dancing and drumming around the spiritual bonfire, and other shenanigans aimed at promoting a sense of spirituality and camaraderie.
Attendees are warmly welcomed by their fellow pagans for a few days of letting their hair down in the company of other like-minded visitors.
Gathering of all Paths – Casa, Arkansas
This gathering is family friendly. Gatherers talk, cook, dance around a fire, drum, sing and learn from one another. The event takes place on four open acres and rough camping is available. This is considered a child safe event and is hosted by the Congregation of the Mistletoe and Congregation of the Ash and sponsored by various communities, covens, and clans.
Pangaia Festival – Fair Oaks, California
For 15 years the Pangaia Festival has gathered together the best of the best performers, vendors, spiritual advisors, clairvoyants, and all else pagan related. The festival’s primary purpose is to celebrate Litha, the summer solstice.
The event features musical performances, contests, raffles, a children’s area, excellent food vendor’s, pagan authors, and other type performances. If one can imagine a Pagan Fairgrounds, this would resemble the closest thing. It’s all about fostering a loving and joyful relationship in the spiritual community.
The festival takes place every June at the VFW Fairgrounds.
Spiritfire Festival – New Lebanon, New York
The Spiritfire festival celebrates life and spirit by way of musical presentations, movement, voice, service (Seva), and the mysteries held in the sacred all night fire circles.
Various spiritual practices can be learned during the day or attendees can learn new yoga techniques, sit in with affinity groups, or just hang out with new friends. At night the fire spinners come out along with poetry recitals, music jams, chanting, drummers, dancers, visual arts and other spiritual displays. The spirit of diversity comes alive as love permeates the air.
If you’re a practicing pagan or have interest in the pagan lifestyle, plan on visiting one of these gatherings or the host of others held around the country at different times of the year. You’ll find the friendliest, warmest, most non-judgemental group of folks you’ve ever met, and you just might learn something new about yourself.