People sometimes treat other cultures as if they are contagious. If one participates in a ceremony that is different from how they grew up, obviously you will become contaminated and catch the other culture, like a disease.
Over my life, I have participated in many ceremonies from various religions and cultures. I participated in a Hindu guided meditation ceremony. I mentioned this in a previous post.
While I was in the Navy, I participated in a Shinto ancestor memorial in Tokyo. They gathered around a set of lanterns and focused on the memories of their dead relatives. I focused on my great-grandfather during the ceremony. One key question kept coming into my mind during that ceremony: Do Japanese grandpas do the “Pull my finger” trick, or is that solely an American thing. I wanted to ask the Japanese tour guide if her grandpa ever asked her to pull his finger. She was very seriously and diligently praying to her ancestors, and I felt that asking a fart question may not be appropriate. I know what you are thinking, but I don’t think I was drunk OR possessed by some otherworldly creature. I just decided (possibly for one of the first times) to not disrespect someone else’s religious beliefs. I will take my “not getting stabbed by ninjas” as indication that I chose correctly.
I have participated in a Hari Krishna parade and dance. To be fair, I did catch a mind altering experience on that one. I believe it was the realization that apparently there are religions where bathing is frowned upon. The Hari Krishnas around me (apparently) fervently believed in this tenet. I was thoroughly enlightened, or possibly just suffered from oxygen deprivation.
I said all that to say: I went to a pagan festival in Denver. I mainly went to experience a new thing before I judge it. I also went because the woman I am dating wanted to experience a new thing. I really expected it to look like a Burning Man festival full of loud, drug addled dirty hippies. I fully expected to hate every minute of it. I was pleasantly surprised, by a bunch of people who were dressed in various Harry Potter costumes.
As we walked up to the festival, we saw a group of tented kiosks. The first tent we came to had a sign that read “Gemstones for healing energies”. This is not an uncommon belief. I have seen “the healing effects of crystals” in many countries. The new experience for this particular tent was the phrase “and healing gemstones and crystals for your pets”. In one second, my whole day turned from “oh why am I at this crappy place full of smelly hippies” to “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA this is FANTASTIC!” Healing.Rocks.For.Your.Pets. I bet cats just love that rock…after a few of them have been crushed and put in a box that they can poop in. For the rest of the day, if the crush of people became too much, I just thought “Healing rocks for pets” and life became better. If we were walking too near people who actually believe that patchouli oil makes them smell better, “Healing.Rocks.For.Pets”.[ A side note to those who use patchouli oil to try to smell better, you have uncovered the hideous,corpse like stench of the zombie apocalypse without all that messy dying.Congratulations.]
We wandered through the festival looking at various tents filled with crappy jewelry and some art. How can I describe the jewelry? Imagine you had $12 at a craft store, but you wanted to make three hundred crappy little trinkets. Now imagine, that right outside the craft store, a hot dog vendor was selling a dog and a drink for $6 and you were hungry. Now imagine you wanted to make four hundred trinkets with the remaining money, but you also liked stickers. So you spend two dollars on crafts and four dollars on stickers. Then, on the way home, you supplemented your craft budget with stuff you found on the side of the road. That would still describe more craft supplies than were usually purchased, but it is a close match.
One of my favorite moments was when my girlfriend wanted to look at some jewelry, but there was a man in the way. He was talking to the poor kiosk owner who was trapped in the horrible twilight zone between trying to be a salesperson and accidentally making human contact with someone who is very lonely and wants to talk. He was sharing about his adorable dog that he adopted from the pound. He said, “I knew he was just for me because he looked exactly like Anubis (the egyptian god) if Anubis was a Scottish Terrier.” Then he started talking about how in his past life, he was an Irish Warlord. Apparently, it only takes a couple hundred years of genetics to completely remove a family line of “Warlord” features like a chin or a reasonable musculature. Despite being taller than me, my girlfriend is more polite than me [Shut up, I heard you say, “Well that isn’t hard”]. She was getting frustrated because the man kept blocking her. He was not doing it deliberately. The poor trapped woman trying to sell obviously hand-made jewelry was shifting to the right and left, trying to pay attention to a customer who may not be crazy. Mr. Past Lives was worried that if she broke his spell, she might actually enjoy her day. So I used Darwin’s theory, survival of the fattest (I may have been day-dreaming during that class) and “nudged” him by shoulder checking him and saying, “Whoops, sorry, excuse me”. He politely and rather quickly moved out of the way. Well, less “politely” and more “no choice because a comparative giant just shoulder checked him”. The diversion only temporarily worked, he was still blocking my girlfriend. I had a great view of handmade jewelry, something I did not actually care to see. The man continued to talk to the shopkeep and continued to stand in the way. I used an old Navy trick/ancient Chinese secret/Native American spirit trick to move him. I leaned over his shoulder and breathed hot air into his ear, with a “Paaaaaaaw”. Strangely, the Irish Warlord scooted quickly away after the relative giant breathed hot air into his ear. He didn’t even ask me why I did that. To be honest, that is for the best, because I would not have had a good answer.
All in all it was a pretty entertaining time. I did think it was a bit weird when the new-age/costumed people invited the guy in a button down shirt and pants to the “Group Photo”. “Um, I am not really one of you guy, I just came here for the experience” seemed a bit overly rude, so I just said “Sorry, I am frightened that a photo of me will retain some of my soul”. Apparently that was more rude. Who can understand all these stupid rules.