Posted by: adventuressetravels | June 7, 2011

The Rainbow Gathering

From the second I set foot in the Rainbow Gathering I knew it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be.  I like camping, I am all for new experiences, and trying different things.  But this – this was the antithesis of anything I wanted be involved in.   Taking Permaculture’s, my friend who brought me to the Rainbow Gathering, advice I did try and give it a chance.  The more I thought about it, the more I saw it as an opportunity.  This place was fascinating, a social anthropologist’s dream come true.

Unfortunately I was not a social anthropologist but playing Jane Goodall for a few days in this unique environment might be fascinating.

The gathering was a sight to behold.  Clusters of tents set up on marsh-like ground what bore a strong resemblance to refugee camps.  Dread-locked hippies, crust punks, and hybrids of the two in mud spattered ripped clothing that may not have been washed in years were the gathering residents.  Some had been there for weeks; others had been hitchhiking or walking from gathering to gathering, homeless – or “homefree,” in festival terms.  These individuals wandered the gathering stoned out of their minds looking like unfortunate survivors of a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

Several “kitchens,” cooked a variety of food with much more meat than I would expect from a hippy festival.  I must admit the popcorn kitchen came up with some inventive and delicious flavors such as pumpkin pie and key lime pie and turned out some of the better popcorn I have tasted.  Other than that though, I was not tempted to sample much of the festival food and what I did made me hesitate to try more.

The main area of the gathering was a “trading circle” where people traded their wares.  I was interested to see what creative artisans this type of even attracted.  I was sorely disappointed.  I was probably far too sober to appreciate the rocks hailed as crystals or “magic sticks,” but I did not see a single piece that I would consider good craftsmanship.  Blankets with odds and ends that would have been thrown away by the most avid hoarder displayed only made the gathering seem sadder.

Started in the early 70s rainbow gathering was initially a good and interesting idea.   It was founded as an alternative to consumerism, capitalism, and mainstream culture.  The gatherings were supposed to help foster creativity and spirituality.  At the root of it was move towards community and sustainable living.  The goal was to cultivate a peaceful harmonious atmosphere accepting of all types of people.  But along the way something happened and the Rainbow Gathering of today was a twisted shell of what it once strove to represent.

What it had turned into something was something like a hippy LARP (live action role playing).  Like going to a renaissance festival where people dressed like communal hippies and reenacted playing roles of they thought people in a commune would behave, act and dress like.  There was a special Rainbow language “Bliss” meant the bowl carried around for food, “head change” for a dose of drugs; “hippy mace” was a flashlight.  Try though they might, none of these people truly were what they played at.  They imported “Little Debbie” snack cakes, and several were arrested for shoplifting at the nearby Wal-Mart.  Unfortunately one of the areas that really fell short of the original Rainbow Gathering ideals was that few if any were truly peaceful people.

At the previous gathering in Florida someone had drowned, whether or not it was a murder was unclear but the rumors leaned in that direction.  This gathering, vicious fights broke out, knives pulled, there was only one actual stabbing.  Though hugging greetings were almost obligatory and “love you” was used as a goodbye, it was anything but the peaceful idealism Rainbow Gathering was based on.

Anything but sustainable, this manifestation was nothing more than an excuse to go out to the woods and get high.

Now I don’t smoke myself but personally I have no problem with marijuana for medical purposes.  I don’t even have a problem with people who get high every so often for fun.  But people who are always drunk, high or use substances to escape reality?  That I definitely have a problem with.  And that is exactly the type that the gathering attracted.

It was like watching a car accident the first afternoon, but by the middle of my first full day even the charm of studying it as a social anthropologist had worn off.  I was stuck out in the middle of the woods with no cell phone, patchy cell coverage, and no one to contact in Tallahassee to come rescue me.   I was starting to panic.

What I needed was the internet.  No, what I needed was a miracle.


  1. nao sei que tipo de rainbow era esse mas eu sou da familia rainbow e nunca ouvi um comentario tao pessimista. o rainbow nao é um festival, e se for para lá com a cabeça fechada nao irá conseguir integrar-se. tens que ter mente aberta.e quanto a telemoveis e isso, nós recolhemo-nos na floresta para podermos viver sem isso e aliás uma das coisas que se pedem nos rainbows é que as pessoas nao os usem. experimente ir a outro rainbow mas desta vez de espirito aberto.

    • haha I think I’ll skip opening my mind and spirit to places like the rainbow gathering… with the gun play, vicious fights, deaths, robbery,and tales of murder, that I encountered in just my short time I think it’s safer that way… At one time it might have been a positive experience but today I think it’s pretty far from what it was intended to be

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