The Magic of Fall Festivals

Faery at the Festival

I love Autumn.  There is no season like it.  The air is crisp, the colors intoxicating, and the seasonal selection of food unbeatable.  I don’t know a single human being who is not enamored with fall.  There are many ways to enjoy this season of bounty and beauty, but one of my favorites is to take advantage of the numerous fall festivals that appear all across the country, in small towns and cities alike.

Fall festivals have transformative powers.  Even in the city, Autumn reminds us of the pleasures of country living and of simpler times.  Like the Yule season, Autumn demands colorful celebration, which changes stoic and crowded city streets into brightly bedecked havens of harvest hospitality.  Most fall festivals contain some hint of the harvest theme and often will include stalls dedicated to local farmers and artisans. I love prowling the stalls for seasonal flavors I have not tried or old favorites presented in a new way.   This year I tried garlic ice cream for the first time.

For many Pagans Summer is the festival season, but I prefer the festivals of fall.  I begin taking advantage of the fall festival scene in September with the many celebrations of Pagan Pride Month.  This year I attended the Pagan Pride celebration hosted by the Eastern Massachusetts Pagan Pride Project in North Andover, MA.   It was the best PPD I’ve ever attended.  The location at Harold Parker State Forest was cozy, pretty, and comfortably close to nature.  The vendors were good, the workshops amazing (I attended a great herb walk with Susun Weed), and the music was kickin’.  Even now I look forward to celebrating PPD with the Pagani of Eastern Mass. next year.

Come October the fall festival season really heats up.  With the harvest flowing in like the tide and Halloween just around the corner, there is no end to the celebrations.  However, there is one celebration that I take advantage of each year, the Renaissance Festival.  Renaissance festivals are magical and exciting places with obvious Pagan undertones (for more about this check out the Autumn issue of Witches & Pagans). Renaissance festivals, like Halloween, are an excuse to let our inner witchlings out to play.  My inner witchling likes to attend ren fests in breezy black dresses and a red velvet cloak.  I get a kick out of eating smoked turkey legs and watching the daring and sometime ridiculous performances.  But I can’t lie; I mostly attend ren fests for the shopping.  Vendor stalls at renaissance festivals are a smorgasbord of Pagan delights.  Any decent ren fest will have at least one good herb and oil dealer, several incense shops, numerous clothing shops with fantastic options for ritual garb, and many shops selling statues, trinkets, and jewelry of a witchy or Pagan nature.   My coven sister, AutumnMoon, and I go shopping for ritual effects every year.

No fall festival season is complete without celebration Halloween and the mother of all Halloween parties takes place in Salem, MA.  Each year my coven, Cat’s Claw, visits Salem, MA for the fun, history, and yes the shopping unique to the Witch City.  Although there are endless tourist trap distractions to amuse, I prefer to take in the more historical attractions.  My favorite is the House of Seven Gables – yes the actual house depicted in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famous book.  There’s something amazing about walking through a structure with such literary and historic importance.  Salem has also devoted itself to preserving the history of its infamous Witch Trials and there are several historical houses and sites to visit in connection to that sad chapter in American history.  There’s so much to be said about Samhain in Salem that I think I’m going to save it for a later post. Needless to say, I can’t wait to continue my tour of fall festivals.  Below are links to some of my favorite festivals in New England. Enjoy & Happy Harvest!

Pumpkin Festival

Connecticut Renaissance Faire

Keene Pumpkin Festival

King Richard’s Faire

North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival

Pagan Pride Project

Salem Haunted Happenings