Wednesday, June 7, 2017

When a festival becomes a community

Every large city has at least one metaphysical festival of some kind.  The lucky one's have several.  These events bring together a wide variety of alternative healing therapies, musicians & other performers, local artists, organic food & bath goods, psychics, and teachers of various spiritual paths.  Far from being simply hippy dippy entertainment, they provide a true community that aids in healing and empowering people in countless ways.

Above: A crystal vendor at the monthly Mystic Market held at The Brick in San Antonio, TX.

While an interest in various spiritual practices & the occult draw many to such fairs, fueled by both family folk traditions and Hollywood sensationalism, the search for alternative healing modalities is the primary focus.  Chronic pain sufferers turn to massage and acupressure for relief.  PTSD sufferers, ranging from our Veterans to adults who suffered childhood abuse, find relief in drumming, art, and counselors.  Those with physical illness can employ oils, color therapy, and energy work to aid their recovery.  People with depression and anxiety may discover that certain stones, dancing, or mediation helps them.  These are the individuals who either have not found relief in mainstream Western medicine or they add alternative therapies to their existing medical regimen for added benefit. Some call on certain spiritual beings, others approach it only as energetic techniques.  I've met several professionals from both Veteran Affairs and private practice at metaphysical fairs who are interested in using these 'other' type of treatments along with mainstream medicine.  I think it is becoming more acceptable now to discuss herbalism and energy in the medical fields.

Above: Energy healers & Reflexologists working at the Mystic Market, a monthly festival at The Brick in San Antonio, TX.

Above:  Mariam of Pure Aloha handmade soaps & beauty goods at the Coexist festival, held monthly at the Airport Hilton in San Antonio, TX.

While it might look to an outsider like a lot of feel good hoo-hoo, rainbow crystals, and tie-dyes, many of the people involved are dealing with very serious questions and health concerns. Oftentimes, as a person experiences their own healing journey, they then grow to become a teacher and healer themselves.  This is empowerment.  People are taking initiative in their own healing on all levels: physical, mental, and spiritual.

That's one giant freakn crystal right? I found this at Nature's Treasures in Austin while attending a fair.

Although the traditions represented at any given metaphysical fair might not share the same terminology or even disagree on basic concepts, they have certain things in common.  First, they are present to share their knowledge and abilities.  Culturally specific knowledge and appropriation issues should always be considered by both a practitioner and any interested student.  What is being shared openly by say a Hindu sadu, a Santero, a Wiccan Priestess, or a Native healer is a rare gift.  All of these traditions have their hidden and private realities.  That an Elder would choose to open even a small part of their pathway to outsiders is a gift.  In many traditions, healers themselves experience sickness and bad luck until they give themselves to their path, to the spirits, to the people.  There life is not their own anymore.  It is a life of service to others.  The impact metaphysical festivals have on practitioners cannot be discounted either.  These community events are one of the few spaces where different practitioners might meet and share with one another.

Above: Olga sharing Lakota hand drum traditions at San Antonio's Coexist festival.

The movement to build local green economies also fuels the market for handmade and organic bath, food, and fashion goods.  Cities with a variety of metaphysical and farmer's markets allow crafts people and artists to make a living doing what they love while offering high quality local goods.  Those attending festivals are willing to pay a little extra for healthier and unique things.  For those that ask why hand crafted items cost more, remember that the artist spends a lot of time working on their crafts, pays for all supplies and ingredients, travels, does all their own shipping, packing, and advertisement... it's a lot of work!  Most of the earnings go right back into their cottage business usually.  An essential point, for someone to make a living in the metaphysical community, they really need more than one venue once a month.  Having a variety of events, online sales, and even a local shop space allow practitioners and artists to survive and thrive.  Support local handmade, support your local fairs!

While I am so grateful to fair organizers!  Their efforts provide a space where I am able to make a modest living doing what I love, living as an artist and practitioner.  I most love the sense of community each festival develops.  We are a tight knit bunch that supports each other in our ups and downs.  We are our own community's best customers.  We are brothers and sisters there for advice, learning, and hugs.  Thank you to all!
My girls Crystal & Becky! Always ready to help

Above: My own handmade oils, salves, and soaps.

Coexist Festival in San Antonio and Austin

Mystic Market Festival in San Antonio

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