Thursday, September 29, 2022

Lunar Faire New Jersey

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Out Shopping!" I'm Anne Johnson, and for once I got a raise this year. Time to spend, spend, spend!

Well, um. Not exactly. I'm actually losing money over last school year, because I quit all the after-school side hustles that padded my paycheck.

But pish, tosh! Last weekend was Dark Moon, and New Jersey is beset with this new event called Lunar Faire. It happens on New Moons and Full Moons, from 6:00 to 10:00 pm. This time it was close to my house, so I went.

I had high hopes for Lunar Faire, because the advertising for it includes "chaos" in the activities. And it is a dedicated Pagan event. How could I not have a good time?

If there's anything I've learned from writing "The Gods Are Bored," it's that you'd better gird your loins if you're going to say anything critical about a festival. Lots of people make money from vending and organizing festivals, and they don't appreciate feedback.

But in my search for information about Lunar Faire before I went, I found -- next to nothing. One short article about the two women who founded the event. That was it.

So if you're Googling Lunar Faire and finding this, I am going to be as candid as possible, so you can make a judgment about going.

The Lunar Faire I attended was held at Burlington County Fairgrounds, which is a good, large venue with lots of parking. And it turned out they needed those acres of parking, because this event was more than well-attended. It was crowded. There must have been 4,000 people there.

Mr. J and I went together. Two tickets cost us about $27. We got there about 45 minutes before dark and joined a throng of young, enthusiastic New Agers flocking into the faire.

Knock me over with a feather. I had no idea there were so many Pagans in South Jersey.

Lunar Faire is a night market. There are vendors with booths, selling merchandise. There were lots of crystals for sale, and jewelry, and candles, and tie-dye, and personal care products. There was a sound healing booth and several tarot booths. Stuff was affordable.

Uh oh. I've got to say it. The event was so crowded, it was hard to see what was in the booths. And then it got dark.

There was entertainment at Lunar Faire, but the darkness was a problem. There was a singer doing acoustic covers of classic rock at one end of the venue, and a small drum circle in the middle. I'm usually all in for drum circles, but this one had an odd vibe (at least to me). It seemed like the other people were enjoying it, though. It was dark.

The other entertainment was a drag queen show. And again, most of the spectators seemed to be loving it, but it was dark. The MC, Cookie Dough, had all the moves, but she was shrouded in shadow. And again, it was so crowded that Mr. J and I couldn't get close enough to really see what was going on.

I think there was a ritual -- at least the little piece of paper they handed out said there would be a ritual -- but there wasn't any real list of events to consult, no program, and no listing of events online. I didn't see the ritual, so I can't comment on it.

Mr. J and I wandered around for about two hours. We bought a brass candle holder and some moisturizer. Very affordable and high quality.

I guess what I want to say is, if I'm paying to get into a venue, I want to be entertained more. I want a list of activities at least posted where I can consult it, and those activities should be well-lit and variable. Most festivals that require an entrance fee have roving performers who interact with the crowd. Lunar Faire doesn't have that.

This is a very young event, like two years old or something. And for such a new event, it was extremely well-attended. I can't confirm that its popularity is due to Tik Tok influencers, but that's what I've heard.

Long sermon short, if you want to go somewhere in the dark where you will be surrounded by New Age people, or if you want to purchase items from Pagan-themed vendors, this is the place for you. But if you don't like crowds, and you're spoiled by decades of flawlessly crafted Fairy Festivals and earnest Pagan Pride Days  (I stand accused), you're likely to be disappointed.

Watch me get hexed for writing this.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Great Wide Open

 Boy, is it ever hard for me to keep my mouth shut about my religion in my classroom! After all, we at "The Gods Are Bored" have dedicated ourselves to promoting and respecting deities who have been deprived -- by time or tide, or both -- of their praise and worship teams. So when a student comes in and proudly shows off his brand new, store-bought book from home called Celtic Mythology, ahem.

You know how "religion" turns into "mythology?" Some other religion steals its holidays and relegates its deities to "myth" status. The winning religion gets to keep the title of "religion," and the losing one gets flung in the dustbin of "myth." I tell you what. I'm not going to be the one who tells The Morrigan that She's a damn myth.

Well! That's actually an aside! Today's sermon is about something else.

For reference, here's a photo of the front of my school where I work:


Isn't that a gorgeous building? It was designed by the same architect who designed the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Yes, those are pillars! And above the pillars is a motto: "He Who Hath a Trade Hath an Estate."

What I want you to dwell upon, though, is that nice grassy lawn, and the lovely mature trees. The school was built in 1926. They just don't do it like this anymore. I would say there's about three acres of lawn in front. We also have a standard-sized football field and a baseball diamond out back.

Yesterday morning I was sitting at my teacher desk, conversing with a student who is sitting right up front in what I jokingly call the "teacher's pet seat." This student is a very quiet young lady.

The school will be having a pep rally next week, and the student asked me where pep rallies are held. (I teach freshmen.) I told her we all go out to the back fields and sit on the bleachers.

She said, "That's so much space out there. And there's so much out front. I've never seen so much open space before."

Reader, look at the photo and let that sink in.

My heart just broke.

Kids have said heartbreaking things to me before, but this one I guess just mangled my aorta because of my own lived experience. My school was bordered by a county park and was three miles from the vast swath of Antietam Battlefield. When I was that girl's age I could ride my bike to the Potomac River and sit all day by myself on the bank.

What kind of childhood has this poor girl had?

I do know that many of my students have to stay inside all the time because of crime, or repressive parents, or babysitting, or all of the above. Still it boggles my mind that someone has attained the age of 14 without ever having at least made one excursion to the beach just 50 miles away.

My students keep writer's notebooks, and sometimes I read about grandparents in the Dominican Republic, about riding horses and milking cows, and gathering eggs, and swimming in those gorgeous tropical playas. But I also read other notebooks in which the writer goes to school, goes home, locks the door, and stays inside. I remember one girl wrote, "I can't even sit on the stoop."

Tomorrow I will take all of my students outdoors onto that front lawn. I will literally point out the Quarters to them, and the motto on the building, and the soft grassy lawn, and the old trees. We will be present in gratitude to the open space that was a gift from the taxpayers of New Jersey to kids who want to fix cars.

If it's the most open space some of them have, then we'll honor it as such.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

When the Queen Was Scheduled but Didn't Arrive

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Are you tired of reading about Queen Elizabeth yet? I won't keep you long. Promise.

My mother was born the same year as Queen Elizabeth II and was a huge fan throughout her life. The largest part of our home library was devoted to picture books about the royal family. My name, Anne, comes from Queen Elizabeth's daughter, and my sister Margaret is named after QE's sister. Any time that anything pertaining to the royal family made the news, we were all over it in my household. 

When I was a kid, life could be chaotic in my house. I never knew quite what to expect when I arrived home from school in the afternoon.

On one memorable occasion, I came through the door with my school books and found the kitchen table set scrupulously with all the fine china and crystal my mother owned. She had also pulled out the sterling silver flatware and the linen napkins.

Mom herself was dressed in her best dress and high heels. The first thing she did when she saw me was to tell me to take a shower and dress in the clothes set out.

In my room she had laid out my poofiest Sunday dress and my Mary Janes.

When I asked her what was going on, she said that Queen Elizabeth was coming for dinner. Now get in that shower!

The last thing I wanted to do after a long day of school (and probably a night without much sleep) was to indulge my mother's newest delusion. I was old enough to know that she had mental illness and that the Queen of England was, in fact, at home in England.

But there was no arguing with Mom when she was certain of something.

I don't know how I did it, but I dodged the shower and the Sunday dress. Maybe I just shut the door on the whole mess, and that was that.

At any rate, the hours passed, my dad came home from work, my sister was somewhere (perhaps staying with a relative), and the queen didn't come to dinner. This was probably for the best, because my mother didn't cook anything, she just decorated.

After waiting for Her Majesty until nearly 10:00 pm, my mother wouldn't hear of putting away the fancy tableware. There must have been a mistake. The queen would arrive tomorrow.

I don't remember how many nights we prepared for a visit from the queen. Probably not many. By the time my mother got that far along in a manic episode, the chaos would become more widespread. But I have never forgotten the evening my mother spent, done up to the nines, waiting for her heroine to arrive to our little brick ranch house in Appalachia.

Queen Elizabeth outlived my mother by 20 years. I lit a candle on my Shrine for both of them the other night. If there is indeed eternal life waiting to torment us, Mom will get an infinite number of dinners with the queen, and an infinite number of dinners with all the queen's ancestors. Sheesh. I would rather be with the faeries.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Our Civic Religion

 Still hot as Hell in Philadelphia this Labor Day Weekend, but welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" anyway! Here -- have an iced tea. You can sit right next to the fan, unless some bored deity drops in.

Speaking of deities, I'm freshly back from Philadelphia Pagan Pride Day, and what a great day it was! No protesters, just lots and lots of fun people in Clark Park, both inside and outside the event.

(Aside: The Proud Boys called Clark Park the "Belly of the Beast." If it truly is the Belly of the Beast, then I want to be a heaping hot plate of Beast food!)

The nice thing about living in a big city like Philadelphia is that we always get some first-class keynote speakers at PPPD. This year it was Diana Paxson, novelist and Heathen. And her talk really made me take a cold, hard look at the Independent Republic of Johnsonia.

In a nutshell, Diana Paxson feels that Pagans should not cede the American experiment to the Christian nationalists but should instead fight for the nation's civic religion. Then she explained what that civic religion is.

If you think about it, it's so obvious. America, being a pluralistic nation, has created a whole religion independent of any sect or creed. We have founding documents and iconic figures ("mighty ancestors"). We have holy days, and a Pledge of Allegiance that sounds a whole lot like an oath. We have hymns. And a flag that flies in both blue states and red states. Not only that, we have Lady Liberty out in New York Harbor, and the Goddess Columbia (I've interviewed her here before) whose statue graces the very pinnacle of the Capitol building.

Rather than rejecting this civil religion, Diana Paxson suggests we embrace it, because it has dope rituals and is predicated on everyone being equal, which let's face it, most religions aren't.

Well, this fine lady already had me swayed pretty firmly, and then she sealed the deal. She told everyone to put off shopping for bargains on Labor Day and instead celebrate the workers, because Labor Day is a holy day! And boy, did I swell with self-righteousness, because I was already planning to do just that!

Ms. Paxson then led a ritual that touched on the same themes and included Lady Liberty as the deity of moment. And she again mentioned Labor Day as a time to honor all the workers, past and present, that have moved this country forward.

Gosh, I wanted to bake her a pie.

Now I'm feeling as if the ol' US of A actually needs me. I would call the government of Johnsonia into session with the prospect of dissolving the union, but I can't wrangle a quorum of squirrels in this heat.

Happy Labor Day, America!