WORDS BY JOHN KARLO TORRES
I don’t know if you noticed but there is an emerging #trend among music festivals where camping, getting fucked up, and listening to incredible music is no longer enough to satiate the masses. Whether it’s the booming popularity of Burning Man, or social-media-induced disconnection, something is happening. Immersive, interactive experiences are becoming the standard for escaping the grind, and Enchanted Forest Gathering embodies this trend.
I have been to my fair share of festivals and know the formula pretty well, but EFG reminded me that expectations are just that. Before stepping onto Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, CA, I knew a few things about the gathering that perked my ears like a dog hearing the crinkling of a wrapper. One, you get to party – but in an alcohol-free environment. Two, there will be people there – but less than 3,000. Three, there is a prison for nipples – but this magical land is a safe space to #FreeTheNipple. And Four, cannabis is medicine – and your local pharmacy is going to party with you. These very four things broke the formula completely, and perfectly set the tone in line with the festival’s pillar of "cultivating clear and conscious connection.”
Somehow I managed to get there perfectly on time when the Box Office opened on July 22 at 9:00AM and wait in a line much shorter than you would see at some trendy new chicken sandwich joint in the city. You might like waiting over an hour for some chicken like a masochist, but dealing with virtually no line really kept me in a great mood. The best part of my inaugural morning was the sweet older gentleman who directed me to parking and wished me an enchanted weekend. When was the last time someone wished you an enchanted anything!? I was happy to be there to say the least. This no-line business was incredible and thanks to the gathering’s participant cap, there was no waiting for most of the weekend.
You know that feeling when you are having a great time at a festival and you start to feel that pressure in your stomach and try to trick yourself you don’t actually have to take a shit? Well, you do, and lucky for everyone, there was NO LINE at the porta potties! I mean, that alone is something to celebrate. You get the idea: no one had to wait for much all weekend long. The delicious yummies found in the Nourishment Nook, the rad crystal-infused clothing in the Magickal Marketplace, and the hydrating drinks at the various Elixir Bars were all readily available when the cravings hit. The number of people was just right for me and you could really feel the intimacy it created. It was much easier to enjoy everything the gathering had to offer because time felt slower, people more engaged and aware.
Once settled into the beautiful oak speckled land and putting my sexy, "I wish I would wear these clothes more often” outfits on, I started to feel the importance of Enchanted Forest Gathering’s ethos. There were plenty of moments when I wanted a cold beer, some whiskey to loosen up, a bloody morning, but was happy to leave it all behind. This is probably the only festival I remember every single moment. It is a place where my morning started shortly after sunrise and not mid afternoon when one attempts to pick up their hungover, sickly body off the ground. Not having to deal with the aftermath of heavy day-into-night drinking made yoga effortless and I didn’t waste any time feeling like death. There wasn’t ever a moment where I had to dodge a belligerent drunk, translate meaningless ramblings, or step over puke. Thanks to being a sober sally I was able to participate in Shayna Zane's Chakra Flow, Pete Guinosso's Morning Cup of Vinyasa, and witness from a distance Live Music Vinyasa by Drishti Beats, which had the entire class completely activated. The Namastage Yoga tent in which these classes were held was beautiful. Not only did people leave their sweat behind, others left offerings at the Shiva Dharma alter that welcomed yogis to the space.
EFG’s value of “self-actualization through the process of sharing our gifts” was live and well with an entire Wisdom University & Community Center packed in with yoga and workshops all day. From workshops like Make Love Like a Goddess, Therapeutic Lap Dancing, 50 Shades of Yes, to Ritual Magic, Super Power Elixirs, and Banking with Bitcoin, the shared gifts were bountiful. I didn’t spend much time in this area; I kept getting there mid workshop times and just didn’t feel comfortable walking in after a class had started. While at the Center, I did witness a man and a women naked using body paint to decorate their bodies and thought that was pretty fun. I guess the lesson here is that no one is too old for body paint. Another area where gifts were shared was the Flow Zone, which was home to hooping, poi, staff and wand spinning, and other forms of movement. I stood around Mel Blue Moon’s Weird Hoop Rolls workshop and played with a hoop on the side lines while actual hoop dancers learned some new moves. There was nothing weird about the hoop rolls, they were all beautiful and visually pleasing. I was the weirdest part of the workshop tossing a hoop around and chasing it like a run-away toddler.