Beltania camping festival kicks off summer in the mountains

Christianity has Easter and Judaism has Passover -- and there are dinners and ritual events widely available for both those celebrations. And for the pagan-centric religions, there's Beltania, the annual camping/music/spiritual festival in the mountains near Florence, Colorado, which kicks off festivities tomorrow (you can still purchase tickets for the four-day festival, which wraps up Sunday, May 8, at the gate for $100 -- cash or credit cards accepted).

Included in the admission price are all sorts of goodies, from concerts by an array of performers (Lunar Fire, Wendy Rule, Mythica, Tuatha and Kenny Klein are just a few of the names on the lineup this year); a Maypole dance, plus multiple other rituals and ceremonies (including coming-of-age rites for both young men and women); workshops and classes; sweat lodges; workshops on everything from sacred-touch massage to primitive fire-making; the Neo-Pagan Highland Games and more. There are daily trips to the nearby Dakota Hot Springs (you have to pay for admission), and the festival grounds are near the Newlin Creek Trailhead for hiking buffs. And once the sun goes down, there's all-night drumming and dancing around the community bonfire in the adult section of the campground.

One of the best aspects of Beltania is the openness of the crowds there; you won't be pressured to participate in anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, and you will be encouraged to experience the festival at your own pace and level of familiarity. Get more information about the festival at www.beltania.org -- and check back here on Monday for a travelogue of the experience, with photos.

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