Friday, August 18, 2006

Estrogen Woodstock

StandFirm posted a very funny article from the Daily Mail entitled 'The Golden Middle-Aged Goddesses'. It's a description of the Glastonbury Goddess Festival. It's as self-consciously twee as one would expect, filled with the usual sort of incense-burning, Mother Gaia-worshipping bunk.

But Americans are not the sort of people to be left behind in any kind of fad. On this side of the pond, there is the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. I found this reverie describing a week at the festival:

Then Monday morning K and I leave for the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. It's hard to describe what the Festival is and what it means to us. I'm not sure we really knew until we didn't go last year. We missed something that summer, something crucial in our souls. It's like a cleansing for the whole year, enabling you to go on with "real life".

The Festival isn't really about the music, surprisingly. We would go no matter who was playing. It's about community. It's about 5,000 women of all ages, shapes, sizes, sexual orientations. We come together on 650 acres of private land in Michigan. For weeks before the actual festival, a couple of hundred of our sisters go and get it ready for us. They run electricity from generators where needed, set up common tents (kitchen, workshops), make the woodchip paths for us to navigate, and set up the three stages. These "workers" are very highly regarded and continue to be the staff of the festival as it runs during the second week in August. It's been going on every year, for 31 years now.

The festival is often referred to just as "Michigan". As in, "Are you going to Michigan this year?" It's also common to say to other festival-goers, "See you in August." Everyone who goes to Michigan knows what this means.

When you arrive at the gate (usually after waiting in line for a while), someone will say, "Welcome home." Oddly, that's just what it feels like. Suddenly, you're in a whole different space, mentally and physically. You're safe, embraced by the land, your sisters and that amazing feminine energy seems to shift the universe. You can feel it. It's in the air, the trees, the food, the women, the very land itself.

Women walk around in various states of comfortable dress and undress. Some are topless, some are nearly naked. Hardly anyone wears a bra. It's safe, safe, safe. You leave your stuff wherever you want, come back hours later and it's still there. Inhibitions fade, slowly for some, quickly for others. Women who have never danced or drummed or sung, dance and drum and sing as if their very lives depended on it.

Everyone has to do workshifts, to help defray the cost, so you work with women from all over the world and you get to hear their stories. Some days we go to workshops, some days we don't. Some days we go drum late at night at the gathering spot known as Triangle, sometimes we don't. Some days we sleep late in the tent, some days we wake up early. We never miss a meal. We always go down to the kitchen to get in line for the great vegetarian meals prepared in the firepits. Recipes don't vary much from year to year, and people talk about their favorites. Pasta puttanesca and nut loaf (not really a loaf) are two of mine.

In the evenings we always gather at Night Stage, with almost everyone else. Afterwards, as we make our way back to our tent in the dark, we can hear music coming from the dances, drumming, women talking. All this, with the sounds of the woods, is the perfect soundtrack for falling asleep ... or whatever.

Michigan is where I most truly and fully meet the Feminine side of God. She and I commune here in ways that are more real than most of the religious experiences I have in church.

And did I mention what the writer does? Aww, you guessed it already! Yup, according to her bio, "Postulant for Holy Orders in the ECUSA".

There are pictures here, if you're anxious to see what this jamboree looked like.

The home page for the festival has some interesting information, particularly as regards childcare:

Childcare is available in three different areas. Sprouts Family Campground provides a day camp and family campground for moms and all children through four years old. Gaia Girls Camp offers daily activities and supervision through the evening concerts for girls five and over. Brother Sun Boys Camp operates from 8am-midnight with a program of outings, crafts, cookouts, music and sports for boys aged five through ten. Located in a mix of forest and meadow, the camp offers a fun, welcoming and secluded area for boys while preserving womyn's space in all other Festival areas. Please respect that all boys five and over, and their families, camp in Brother Sun for the week.

So males become "the enemy" at age FIVE, it seems. On the one hand, I think this is stupid and outrageous. On the other, I'm glad they make it impossibly difficult to bring boys into this mob of bovine hysterics, because I can't imagine anything that would bore or embarrass them more (the boys, that is.)


Blogger Dr. Alice said...

1. That looks absolutely ghastly.

2. "One thing that consistently disappoints me is that in general, the women are not terribly friendly to those who come alone. It's not as loving as I would wish, but I guess that's the churchy girl in me." You mean these 'womyn' aren't perfect? Even though you're telling us what a happy little commune you all had? I am shocked, shocked!!

3. She seems to be a lot more interested in the pagan side of things than in Christianity, from what I can tell.

1:07 pm  
Blogger Ellie M said...

"She seems to be a lot more interested in the pagan side of things than in Christianity, from what I can tell."

Sounds like an Anglican to me. :)

8:50 am  
Blogger Kasia said...

My mother and her partner attend a festival like that, but it's the national one. O these many years I have tried not to find out what it's really like, but I fear now I know. Woe is me!

In fairness to the worldwide Anglican Communion, I gather they tend to think that the American and Canadian branches are bonkers. (Though the Brits are starting to catch the bonker bug too...) I would say "sounds like an EPISCOPAL to me" (as I continue to work on my letter disavowing my Episcopal baptism and confirmation).

4:29 pm  
Blogger Allen Lewis said...

Wonder who makes sure that the lads from 5-10 aren't abused while Mommie is off drummin' and hummin'?

5:03 pm  

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