I went to Four Quarters Farm seven or eight years ago for a music festival. The festival itself was put on by an outside organization, not 4QF itself. While I was there, I had a chance to chat with one of the staff members of the farm. I mentioned that I enjoyed going to Pagan festivals like Starwood and would be interested in coming back for one of their events.

“If you like Starwood, you probably won’t like what we do here. Four Quarters is for serious pagans.”

I don’t really know what this was supposed to mean to me, but the message I took away wasn’t that the place was for Serious Pagans. It was for Pagans with Giant Sticks up their Asses. While I liked the site, I didn’t think of returning because I’d already been told that I wouldn’t like the place. I am in fact utterly serious about my religion, and seriousness doesn’t put me off. What does put me off in a big way is the witchier-than-thou attitude of way too many pagans that was exemplified in that remark.

However, that was years ago, and I’m not one to hold a grudge. When plans to attend Starwood this year fell through, followed by the falling-through of plans to attend Sirius Rising, we jumped at the invitation from some friends who are 4QF members to attend their 4th of July weekend celebration, Drum and Splash. I love pagan festivals and we haven’t been to one in too many years. I was a little apprehensive because of the whole “serious pagans” thing – was everyone going to be all involved in the drum workshops? would the belly dancers pick on me for having too much fun dancing? but I assumed it would be fun no matter what.

Well, it was fun and my apprehensions were completely unfounded. I don’t drum, but that was no problem at all as no one cared. I do love to dance, and I got to do plenty of that, and if anyone didn’t like it, it was, as I concluded long ago, their problem and not mine. Dancing is fun. I also got to do a huge amount of splashing, which was what really made the whole weekend. They have a magnificent swimming hole. There was also the very simple pleasure of camping on a beautiful piece of land – not only beautiful in and of itself, but a dedicated pagan sanctuary lovingly cared for by a committed group of people. Dedicated, permanent Pagan sacred space is incredibly rare. We’re all so accustomed to creating a circle or grove and then taking it down, as a temporary thing. This place is permanent, as evidenced by the stones themselves. The stones are unspeakably magnificent and I felt blessed just to be able to spend a few days near them.

We got there on Wednesday, a little early, and set up camp with our friends, went swimming, wandered around the site to get oriented, did a little New Moon ritual, and went to bed. Thursday morning, we got up wonderfully late, had breakfast (we had our own kitchen in camp, so I can’t say anything about the food there because we did all our own cooking), wandered up for the free (!) coffee that is always on offer, roamed around and watched people arrive, hung out with the stones, went swimming, checked out the (mercifully few) vendors, had lunch, went swimming again, and then went back to camp because it was starting to rain. It rained all night Thursday and all day Friday.

I don’t mind camping in the rain – it is obviously less fun than camping in sunny weather, but I like the sound of rain on a tent roof, the feel of the woods in the rain – I really mean it when I say that I love and worship Nature, and that includes the rainy days as well as the sunny. It also helps that we have a heroically dry tent. It has never, ever leaked, even under much more intense wet weather than we had. So we stayed comfortable, if damp, and I got some reading done and we still went swimming in the rain. The 4QF drum circle is all sand, and wet sand is really no fun to dance in, so I didn’t do a huge amount of anything on Friday except attend Orren Whiddon’s excellent talk on peak oil. The subject didn’t really fit the theme of the weekend, but it’s an important enough topic that it ought to come up anywhere and everywhere an audience can be found for it. Orren presents it very well.

Saturday was sunny again and we spent the day in the water. Orren followed up his peak oil talk with a discussion of communitarian living and the community at 4QF. Those were the only two workshops I attended the whole time. This is normal for me – I go to these things convinced that I want to hear Those who Know speak about things I want to know about, and planning to attend all sorts of workshops and such, and then I spend the whole time being lazy in camp or dancing in the fire circle. I probably need to dance and laze more than I need to hear one more talk about Circle Casting Techniques or whatever, so that’s fine. I really thought I would get to some of the dance workshops this time, but nope. There was a beautiful New Moon service that evening that was one of the best large group rituals I have ever attended. I generally think that pagan-style ritual doesn’t work well with more than 10-15 people, but it all depends on what the “work” is, I guess, and this one did just fine. It also helped that we did it surrounded by giant standing stones. It would be hard to have it not “work”, under those circumstances. After that, there was a procession with a dragon and a fireworks show. The fireworks reminded me of the kind of small-town fireworks I remember from childhood, put on by the fire company. This isn’t a bad thing – they were small-ish and some of them were duds, but the community enthusiasm was better than the biggest, most high-tech firework display any big city could offer. Also, the “finale” wasn’t just more fireworks, it was poi dancers, and then we all went to the drum circle and did the fire-circle thing.

After Mr. Nettle and I decided it was time for sleep, we stopped off at the swimming hole on the way back to camp to see the stars reflected in the water. Instead, as we came up to the creek, we saw that the fire spinners were all standing in the shallow water doing their thing. We stopped and watched for a while. I was enchanted – the fire reflected in the water, the dancers looking magnificent (fire spinning is sexy, I don’t care who’s doing it) the stars above, the fireflies in the wood behind them – it was this perfect unexpected moment of magic.

Sunday, we packed up, went swimming again, and drove home. And here I am.

Four Quarters is a beautiful site with comfortable camping facilities – the showers were always hot and the portapotties never got too gross. The people were all uniformly friendly and pleasant. I kind of get the “serious pagan” comment now, because it didn’t feel like there were any “newbies” there – everyone had done this kind of thing many times before. It’s extremely family-friendly – a little too much so, in my opinion. I don’t have anything against kids but I don’t think they belong in a fire circle. It’s just too… serious for little kids, and it makes me nervous to see six-year-olds dancing around a fire with no parent in sight. I’d rather see a “kid’s hour” and then a time when small children are to be kept away from the fire. Maybe the kids are in no danger, but little kid+fire=hyper-vigilant Nettle, and I don’t want to be hyper-vigilant at a time when I want to be, you know, a serious pagan.