Festival Season and the Coronavirus

In January, Pagans in much of the northern hemisphere were starting to look forward to the Pagan festival season that comes with warmer weather. In the US, that has, for many years, kicked off in February with Pantheacon and Convocation…and with this being P-con’s last year, many people were wondering how that would change the landscape.

Little did we all know that festival  season was about to run head-first into a global pandemic.

Coronavirus. Image courtesy of the CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/media/subtopic/images.htm

In mid-March, events started cancelling as US states started issuing “stay home” orders. 

As the days have turned into weeks (and then into months), and the stay home orders have been extended, we’ve learned more about the virus that we’re facing. In response, many municipalities are closing public parks and campgrounds for the summer – places that have been our festival grounds over the last 20-30 years. 

With the ongoing uncertainty, and the risks of having large groups of people together, many events are cancelling completely, with no way to have a safe festival. Others are moving online – something that’s been talked about in our communities off and on for years, given the expense of travel and the likelihood that most folks won’t drive more than a few hours to reach an event. 

Pagan Spirit Gathering, Michigan Pagan Festival, and Phoenix Phyre cancelled, as did numerous other events.  Ardantane has moved online, as did Otherworlds, Sacred Space, Between the Worlds, and the ATC’s Spring Mysteries Festival.  Paganicon has been postponed to the fall. Numerous other events, later into the summer and fall, have not yet decided what they will do – many of these events fund their organization’s whole budget for the year with these events, and losing that income will be devastating.

So, too, will the loss of events be devastating to many vendors, performers, and authors, who depend on the festival circuit for their income. While most of us are still shipping products from our websites, it’s clear that the US post office is struggling under the weight of spreading illness (we are only getting our mail every other day). Some Pagan shops are offering curbside pick up, assuming you’re close enough to drive there. But most shops are so small that getting a piece of the payroll support offered by the US government was not possible.

In January I was feeling quite hopeful about this year, business wise – I already had 6 events booked, and had arranged space for a regular in-person class offering. The first event that I missed wasn’t cancelled per se, because it happened just a day before the lock-down here, but my children’s school had already been closed, and I was needed at home to help manage the resulting behaviors and anxiety. As the weeks have gone by, 3 events are completely cancelled, one is probably moving online (and has cancelled all in-person events), and 2 more are late enough in the year that their fate remains to be seen. In-person classes are cancelled, but getting time in a reasonable environment to teach online, when everyone is home, has been challenging.

There are always a million places and causes that would benefit from your support, but now is the time to buy magical supplies from those vendors you know from festivals and events, support Pagan artists and musicians you love, and donate to Pagan organizations that you care about. Our community has always needed our support, but we’re going to need to put some time and effort into seeking them out this year to offer that help. Buy your books directly from authors, or from smaller online retailers. Seek out the classes that you’ve been interested in, and the things you want to learn.

And don’t forget to wash your hands frequently and take other appropriate precautions. Hopefully we’ll all see each other next year!

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