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Modern Pagans Excerpt: Jeff Rosenbaum

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Jeff Rosenbaum

RE/SEARCH: Describe the Starwood Festival–

JEFF ROSENBAUM: Starwood is a big college of alternative thinking and alternative spirituality that suddenly appears like a carnival or circus. The tents go up, it stays there for a week, and then BOOM it’s gone, til next year.

We have 140 or more classes from 9:30 in the morning till 6:15 in the evening–sometimes as many as 12 at a time. You can learn about Druidism, Ceremonial Magic, Wicca, Tibetan Buddhism, and Native American Practices. We have classes on psychedelia and psychology, and different “movement systems” like tai chi, yoga and aikido. Past speakers have included Timothy Leary, quantum physicist Fred Allen Wolf, Paul Krassner, and Steven Gaskin, who created the Farm, the biggest hippie commune in America. It’s all included in the cost of admission.

Jeff Rosenbaum We try to bring in the “purist” forms of spiritual paths–real Africans teaching African culture, and real Native Americans teaching Native American ritual. Evenings include rituals from different cultures–a Voodoo ritual on Thursday, a Druid ritual on Friday, etc. Live music features everything from trance to jug bands to Pagan folk music. At midnight we set up an inflatable dome and have all night-raves. We want people from different lifestyles, backgrounds and world views to party together and find out the ways they’re the same, rather than different. It’s important for people to learn not only how to live with each other, but celebrate each other. Robert Anton Wilson said that the real evil done in the world is usually done by good people’s crusade against badness–by people who are rabid with righteousness and bristling with holiness.

There’s a huge bonfire ritual on the last night with over a hundred drummers–it’s an amazing catharsis. Sometimes the flames are 75 feet high.

The local hardware store opens a store on site during the event. Members of the local volunteer fire department are on hand, and we have first aid stations. Most people camp out; they can bring food and cook it. We also have a food court where vendors offer everything from basic American breakfasts to gourmet cooking, including lobster. We’re not roughing it! You can even order pizzas from a local pizza place which delivers on-site. Starwood is a complete village. People get their mail there.

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