What more of our Guests and Friends have to say about the Starwood Festival...

In collaboration with the ever-mingling Water and Earth gods, the Cleveland-based Association for Consciousness Exploration pulled off the 23rd Starwood Festival in grand style and spirit. 2000+ people gathered at the Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, New York - about 2 hours from Cleveland - to share their souls, the air, their creative expression, their passion, and lots more. This was definitely the place to be free, to get in touch with your Inner aaa-AAWWWW, and to be transformed by the synergistic fires of brilliant teachers, powerful drums, ritual, and some of the most elegant camping since camping began.

Starwood entails over 150 workshops on everything from Hebrew Paganism, to African drum making, to Qi Kung and Yoga practice, to plant wisdom and more. Professors, Shamans, Artisans, Storytellers, Pundits and Polyamorists from all over the world shared their experiences in these workshops all day long. To catch a lecture by humorist Paul Krasner, a tabla lesson from master Badal Roy, a drum workshop from Rusted Root's Jim Donovan, a vibrational healing from Madonna Moonhawk, or an inspired rant by Reverand Ivan Stang of the Church of the Subgenious, is to receive a tremendous gift.

Concerts featuring several musical genres graced the stage every night, from Celtic-African-Middle Eastern-Jazz-Electronic-Folk-Metal-Funk to acoustic mellowness for when you need to finally sit down. Bonfires burn through the night surrounded by drummers, dancers and songsters, creating a rhythm that remains in your head for at least a week after leaving the festival. One of the African guys from the band Baka Beyond, seeing this scene for the first time in America, remarked that he had never seen white people dance like that, and that it seemed we were dancing more like Africans than Africans do now. I still can't get the sun god chant out of my head. Catchy tune. You've got to see Saturday night's processional and bonfire ceremony to believe it.

Starwood invites all people. Some go just to party and observe. Others teach, or practice their healing or creative art. There are tons of kids - some adult festival-goers have been attending since they were toddlers - and they are well taken-care of, with a kid's village and a kid's parade featuring outstanding masks and costumes of their own creation. The extravagance (or sparseness!) of outfits builds each night, and I tell you - women love a man in a sarong. And you actually get used to seeing an old naked man riding by on a bicycle.

The campsites were equally fascinating: from quiet small tents to giant tarped villages, to teepees, yurts, campers, and converted school buses. People decorated their sites with colorful tapestries, myriad candles lighting the paths and hung from trees, bring out the crystal and china, or the absolutely unexpected whimsical and enchanting. You could camp in the main field, in Babylon Heights, the Faerie Woods, The Dark Moore, Druid Heights, or by the PufferDome.

There were merchants selling everything from clothing, pottery, gemstones, magical herbs, drums, rugs, swords, and other crafts. Henna and tattoo artists, body-piercers, and body painting seemed to do a brisk business. You could also take advantage of the many massage therapists, Reiki practitioners and Shamanic healers that lined Healer's Row. Food stands were available if you didn't feel like cooking over your own fire (Phil's Grill can definitely cook it up!!). There was a full service bar, a coffee stand, a smoothie stand, a hardware store, and a first aid center. You could also swim in the covered pool, take a dip in the hot tub, take a hot shower, or just relax back at your campsite. It is said that some people actually slept at some point during the festival.

This being my sixth Starwood experience, this stuff appears normal to me now. But what I liked this year was the increase in diversity among musical acts, workshops, and attendees. It seemed there were more people of color this year and more Latinos. There is always diversity of age and worldview, although I'm not sure many social conservatives were there. Still, there was representation from old traditions and new movements, from indigenous, pagan and/or organized religion, to Discordianism, Zen, VooDoo, Druid, Inipi, Rasta, CAW, etc.

Anyone interested in attending the Starwood Festival in the future should plan ahead... - From Cool Cleveland reader Grant H. Marquit

I'm writing because for me, the festival was everything that a festival could be. It was organized, people were friendly and I felt safe and peaceful the entire time. There was no lack of things to do because there was such a diversity of workshops with major leaders like Isaac Bonewits and Oberon Zell, and discussions about the issues that we are concentrating on at home were also taking place at Starwood. I felt like I was exposed to a number of perspectives and that the workshops were presented with equanimity and intelligently.

I enjoyed the entertainment immensely, too, like Gaelic Storm who upon my arrival at the festival were playing in concert. Halim's concert was entrancing and most beautiful. The PufferDome hosted some great music - my few minutes watching Einstein's Secret Orchestra brought me to my rollicking senses and was one of the highlights of my Starwood experience. The arts and crafts were represented in every way and I was amazed at how good the food was - I didn't even have to bring my own coffee from home because most of those luxuries (and that tasty strawberry lemonade from Phil's) were already at Starwood. It was indeed a "welcome home" for me.

What brought me great joy was after my arrival, and a couple nights into the festival I sat around the campfire and began to wonder how my experience here would translate into my mundane, daily life. Moping, bug-eyed in front of the flames I got this fantastic image of a golden Chinese New Year's Dragon Mask, like the kind with a huge smile and paper hair dancing around the Roundhouse fire and I went down to the Roundhouse, where a woman named Spinner came up to me and explained the reasoning behind the arrangement of the drummers and dancers around the Roundhouse fire. I watched the sun come up around that fire, and listened while Spinner and Magnus and others sang something about "Sweet Surrender" and I swear to the gods that the experience has changed me for life. That and before Starwood, upon my confirmation I received this beautiful Shiva-like figure streaming with sparkling stars right as I dropped off to sleep.

Now that I'm back at home and have had a chance to reflect on my time at Starwood - after dancing in the storm at that massive bonfire (our camp-mate was Woodchuck!) I wanted to thank you for committing yourselves to such a great event every year for the rest of us to enjoy. And I hope to do it all again in 2003.

Also, please remember me in your lists for Starwood radio. I am an announcer for our local NPR station (classical, blues, world music too) and would love the opportunity to spend some time on the air at Starwood. - Adalia Shchurowsky, First Siouxland Wiccan Congregation

As most people know, Dr. Leisure is a recognized authority on public nudity. He has testified in a number of court actions, written a book on the management of public nudity and given a few talks on the subject.

During the summer of 1995 he gave a talk at a Naturist gathering at the Cherokee nudist resort. His talk was on the subject of trends in the law regarding the concept of public nudity. During the few days at the conference he met Gavin and Yvonne Frost (founders of The Church and School of Wicca).

After the talk, Gavin asked Dr. L if he had ever been to a pagan get together.
Dr. Leisure responded that he had not. It was suggested that since Dr. L was an expert on "nudity" he ought to attend a pagan event or two since nudity was not uncommon at such festivals. Apparently pagans like to do some of their rituals "skyclad" which translates to nude. Furthermore there was to be a significant such gathering in a few weeks in New York known as "Starwood." Dr. Leisure couldn't think of any reason why he shouldn't attend and made it a point to visit the festival.

At Starwood XV Dr. Leisure not only learned about nudity he found that he was a pagan at heart. It seems that the underlying premise for many people attracted to the festival is a reverence for mother earth and all which that entails, including a concern with the environment and a deep respect for mother nature. As one might expect a persons religious views are ultimately defined by the individual. Each of us is different and to the extent that we are different we define our religious beliefs in the same manner.
There is a lot of variability in the way people look at themselves and how they fit into the scheme of things. Dr. L came away from Starwood realizing he was a "Born again Pagan."

If you think you are a born again pagan and want to get connected with the movement here are some suggestions from Dr. Leisure on how to go about it!

One way is to attend a festival like Starwood. It is a terrific place to learn. Many of the key people associated with different aspects of the rather diverse movement can be found there. - Written in the third person by Dr. Leisure


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