Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," school-is-out edition! I'm your sweltering host, Anne Johnson. It's 98 degrees outside. Real feel temperature is 2,680.
For some years I beat heat waves like this by attending a Fourth of July event at an "Interfaith Church" (quotes are mine) out in the cool mountains. But that was then. I haven't gone to the event in four years. The reason is simple: The place may be a nonprofit, but the bottom line is still the most important line on the document. Some things just raise red flags, you know? The place is skeevy, and it doesn't take a psychic to pick up the vibe.
Today's sermon is a cautionary tale about Paganism for Profit.
*Paganism for Profit Rule #1: If the leadership seems always to need money to fight lawsuits or to buy the next shiny thing, beware! Chances are the leader has his or her own agenda and will use your money to pursue it. This holds true for campgrounds and "Cons" and even local covens. Be especially suspicious of the leadership that humble brags about their own sacrifices to obtain the shiny thing. This is merely a ruse to get you to want the shiny thing enough to invest in it.
*Paganism for Profit Rule #2: If the leadership attracts "interns" and then works them like draft horses, beware! Interns are notoriously underpaid and overworked, but this should not be the case at a church. This isn't the Middle Ages. People who enter into work arrangements as interns may be doing it to learn skills or simply out of religious zeal, and in both cases they are done wrong if they wind up sweeping barracks and mowing lawns from can-see-to-can't-see.
Paganism for Profit Rule #3: If volunteers are working so hard they can't enjoy the religious festivities, there's something amiss. Like the interns, the volunteers are being taken advantage of, either because there aren't enough of them or because they are so dedicated that they do way too much for way too little recognition from the leadership. If you go to a religious rite and some people there seem to be doing all the work, steer clear of that. (I have seen this at several different Pagan events.)
Paganism for Profit Rule #4: If your festival has absolutely no connection whatsoever to any established rite or ritual on any religious calendar, it's not a church event. It's a party. So don't promote it as something spiritual, even if it has speakers or meditations or whatnot. Likewise, if you go to an event expecting it to be spiritual, and it turns out to be a bunch of stoners setting off fireworks, don't go back! You won't find what you're looking for there.
Paganism for Profit Rule #5: If there's an "in crowd" and an "out crowd," partially or mostly based on how much money individuals donate, you do not need that foolishness. Isn't this partly why you left the Christian church? Don't be surprised that it happens in the Pagan community too. But don't buy into it. Literally.
Paganism for Profit Rule #6: If you feel like the whole thing is skeevy, if you're just getting uncomfortable vibes even though you're having a good time, proceed with caution. I have been at several events where excessive imbibing of alcohol was part of the rite. Whiskey isn't ayahuasca, okay? That person who is "channeling" by slurping spirits -- is she even 21? Ick.
So yes, I'm feeling a little sour grapey that I'm not sitting in a swimming hole with a whole evening of drumming ahead of me at a bucolic campground that nonetheless always skeeved me solid. But today I'm concentrating on the skeevy and not the sweet. I can't support a place that is baldly profit-driven and badly run. Nobody will miss me anyway. I was never an elite donor, or any kind of donor for that matter.
The moral of this sermon is simple: When you go to an event or a place that purports to be New Age spiritual, take a good look and listen before you commit. If it seems like there's one person in charge that everyone else defers to passionately, or if it seems like profit is a motive, move on. Build yourself a shrine in your back yard and drum on your porch. It's safer that way.