The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts May 5, 2007

Oberlin Pagan Group Brings Beltaine To Tappan

A small but enthusiastic crowd was gathered in Tappan Square with some people decked out in skirts and capes and sporting their finest piercings, while others were dressed in everyday clothing. But everyone was there last Saturday to experience the Beltaine Festival, which Tim Sullivan, an Oberlin resident and part-time student who helped organize the event, called a “Renaissance-esque Fair with a pagan bent.”

The Oberlin Pagan Awareness Network has been planning since September to get the festival — which is its biggest event of the year and the one most open to nonmembers — off the ground. The Beltaine holiday is an Irish tradition related to the May Day festival that celebrates renewal, rebirth and fertility in the moment between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.

As it began, the day did not seem like an ideal one for a festival, But as time went on, more and more people arrived. On average, there were between 20 and 30 people wandering around the center of Tappan, mostly Oberlin students but also, surprisingly, several adult community members.

“Beltaine has been around so long that some of the residents in town stop by to say hello,” said Sullivan.

Several vendors from the Northern Ohio area were selling their pagan wares, though none seemed to be doing very good business. The most successful aspects of the event were well-attended performances given by the Belly Dancing ExCo and the Fencing ExCo. In addition to this, Oberlin band SPACE PENGIN! performed in the pavilion before a small, but amused, crowd, opening with a rousing rendition of the epic Spinal Tap song “Stonehenge.” Informal rounds of “boffing” also took place, the sport of fighting with plastic medieval weapons wrapped in duct tape, named for the sound the weapons make on contact.

For the most dedicated people at the festival, the event culminated in a ritual held in the center of Tappan. Approximately ten students held hands and took turns speaking.

“We prayed for clarity and happiness in the coming time,” said Sullivan. “We were purposely vague so as to include everyone.”

OPAN includes members who belong to both pagan and non-pagan religions, and some who don’t identify with a single religion. What brings them together is a common interest in religious diversity and magical workings and a general spirit of camaraderie. Sunday lectures, which occurred in tandem with the festivities on Saturday, were attended mostly by dedicated members of OPAN. Sullivan gave a lecture on “Ritual In A Hurry,” the description of which reads: “For the multitasking modern Pagan who doesn’t have time to cast circles and bless tools between bio and Japanese!”

Overall, the Beltaine Festival was an event for those specifically interested in pagan traditions, but if nothing else, it brought a decent number of students and community members out to celebrate Oberlin’s unique sense of community.


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