Annual Pagan Camp

Always the first weekend in September

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All text and illustrations ©Anna Franklin, unless otherwise stated

tibulum | Sed vulputate

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Why did you change the Gathering so much and decrease the numbers?

Even though the 2014 tenth anniversary Gathering was the biggest (1200 people) and in many ways the most successful Mercian to that date, the organisers had some very grave concerns about the way the Gathering was evolving. It seemed to have begun changing into more of a festival than a Pagan camp, with a lack of involvement in the talks and rituals and people just sitting back drinking in the camping field.

We had to ask ourselves why this was. We were staging very high quality talks and speakers. We hadn’t changed what we offered in terms of the type of entertainment or rituals since 2005, and we had had 1000 attendees since year four, so what changed?

The only conclusion was the type of people who came. In the beginning, attendees consisted of committed Pagans, sometimes with their non-Pagan but respectful partners/friends, and genuinely interested newbies.

Then in 2013 and 2014 we got a lot more non-Pagan attendees just wanting a festival or to sit drinking all day in what was effectively a cheap camping weekend. We think they didn’t come with Pagan friends, but just bought tickets on the Internet.  Some of them were talking loudly, drinking, laughing, catcalling, mickey taking  and talking on their phones during the rituals, treating them as another piece of entertainment like the band. For those of us who see our rituals as sacred, it was extremely upsetting. I know some genuine Pagans were put off attending by this, and I suspect this would have happened increasingly had it been allowed to continue, and the good reputation we had built over many years would have been lost.

We could have carried on as we were and easily sold 3000 for a 2015 Gathering, but instead took the decision to have a year off and think about what would be the right thing to do. It might not be the most profitable or popular thing, but we wanted it to be the right thing.

 We came to the conclusion that the Mercian needed to go back to basics and our core supporters for a while. 2016 was a smaller, invitation only event. Everyone who expressed their opinion to us said they really enjoyed the laid back, friendly atmosphere, that it was more like it used to be. 2017 was even better and flowed beautifully - we became one camp, one tribe for the weekend. 2018 was even better.

We’d like to build on what was achieved in the last three years and continue to make it better and better, while keeping it Pagan and without diluting the sacred.  We are keeping the numbers to 300. We still have more talks and workshops than any other camp or conference, joint rituals, great entertainment,  cafe, art attacks, crafts, stalls of handmade goods, and plenty to get involved in.

Sharing, learning and honouring the Gods - if this speaks to your soul,  come join us and celebrate.

Anna Franklin

I started the Mercian Gathering with very definite aims in mind – I wanted a real Pagan camp where people of different Pagan paths could come together to share ritual and wisdom. I wanted a wide variety of talks from different traditions so people could exchange ideas and learn from each other. I wanted meaningful, well organised and powerful rituals.