Where was Pagan booth at MayDay Parade 2017?!
Every year on the first Sunday in May, the Minneapolis-based community performance company In The Heart of the Beast presents a themed parade in Powderhorn Park. This parade, called the MayDay Parade, openly criticizes anti-populist and ecologically-ignorant politics. For example, the motifs of this year’s parade included the corruption that comes with capital, devastation in denying science, and the benefits of protecting the water. In addition to floats and walking sections dedicated to these topics, there were performances and dances from Minnesota’s Indigenous communities (representing both American and Mexican Nations) as well as a colorful presentation by a trans youth group. Between the beating of the drums and the sun, the parade was about two hours of hot-blooded positivity and hope.
The festivities don’t end with the parade, however; waiting for the enormous puppet of the Sun to cross the lake in the middle of the park, parade-goers can walk around the lake and explore the booths there (or, oftentimes, engorge themselves on water and local food). Booths promote matters from Minneapolis elections to mental health to spirituality to alternative news media. Staples of the parade, the Bisexual Outreach Project (BOP) and MN Poly had tents nestled close to each other, while newcomers like She Rock She Rock were out with wristbands and their own table.
As I traversed atheist, humanist, and Buddhist booth alike on the eighth of May, I kept one sun-reddened eye out for the Pagan booth, which has been at every MayDay Parade since I started going in 2011. Usually, the promoters there have handouts on opportunities (camps, festivals, classes) in the Upper Midwest, books to check out, even stickers (although the BOP reigns when it comes to stickers and signalboosting) all about Wicca and general Goddess worship. This booth has been the greatest resource for me and my family when it comes to finding out when and where near Pagan fests are since we work mostly as solitaries. The booth, as we realized looking for it in the gaps between strangers, has almost become our stake in physical Pagan communities. Not seeing it there really put us at a loss, made us wonder just where we were.
We weren’t alone, however. After complimenting a man in a Green Man shirt, we started to chat nervously about where the booth could be and even about an upcoming event (which I’m totally blanking on now—I really need those takeaways to remember the names of conventions, too) before we were broken off by the crowd.
Feeling off-put, I marched to the other side of the lake to watch the Sun land on a firm shore and was pleasantly surprised. Two lithe forms, dressed as crows (black feathery wings, paper-mâché masks with beaks) held out wooden boxes with paper takeaways. The first reminded parade-goers of who made the parade possible (workers and those who care, among else) with a triple moon and a fist at the bottom. The second was a sticker with a similar logo along with the name of the group (W. I. T. C. H. MPLS) as well as their Instagram (@witchmpls) and the link to their Tumblr page. It was a little surreal and heartening, although there wasn’t space to speak with them as the audience roared at the resurgence of the Sun puppet as it approached the hill of spectators.
With such little information about them on their handouts and being wiped out from walking and sunburns, I checked up on their Tumblr the next day. A much newer Tumblr blog, it has less than ten posts that display anonymity, a groupface critical of mass groups like industry. Their manifesto is extremely humanitarian as well as equally extremely anti-institutional, based some off the W. I. T. C. H. manifesto and call. The aesthetic of the blog (black and white) made it hard to read for myself personally but also enhanced the images posted, deepening the shadows of Beltane pentacles and witches in all black clothing protesting the wall in Minneapolis.
Even as I appreciated their site, I was still bothered as I thought about the declining state of physical meet spaces. One reason I enjoy video games as spiritual texts and social media in discourse is because community is a requirement. A game without fans barely ekes out a presence; a social media platform without people is MySpace. Both categories of mediums also include secular and/or non-Pagan voices into discussions, which for a video game and social media technopagan helps make my worship more well-rounded. That’s how a Pagan presence, in the form of a booth, worked at MayDay, a place where religious and non-religious minds could converge, community backed and presenting. Without that stake, though, the secular place of MayDay had one less voice to greet the Sun of 2017.
It makes me worry about the future of physical meet ups in regards to Pagan communities. We learn and practice through connections. As many still rely on nature and physicality in their acts, I feel that something should be done to preserve space for physical worship, whether a coven or a cookies-addled meet-and-greet. Protest, the focus of many physical groups and covens today, works for those who have access as well as bravery. For now, there are enough out there unmoored from support to settle comfortably into resistant conformity.
The Sun rose from the boat and greeted those watching with its wide, open arms. Despite a raw sunburn and the lack of established Pagan presence at the parade, it was a perfect way to end six days of Beltane celebrations. To “You Are My Sunshine,” I observed among thousands a joyous thanks to Spring, to hot weather, to community, to Minneapolis, and to the world and its peoples beyond.
I was there.
Enough about me. How are people doing? Anyone go out to MayDay this year? I’m hankering to read about upcoming events (even outside of these states–the Internet isn’t America) and experiences with local fests and Pagan pride.