Geraldmas: Should We Celebrate It?

For the past handful of years, many people in the British Traditional Witchcraft community have coordinated a celebration called “Geraldmas” that typically falls on (or a weekend near) June 13th, Gerald Gardner’s birthday.  For the past three years especially, the New Wiccan Church has hosted a formal function in Oakland, California where they rent out a hall, send out Facebook invitations, and really network the heck out of it.  To my knowledge, no other covens or organizations do anything quite as elaborate.  (Though perhaps they really should.  It’s really hard to meet BTW practitioners and get involved with a healthy community!)

Gerald Gardner in the Witches' Room at the Witches' Mill.

Gerald Gardner in the Witches’ Room at his Museum of Magic and Witchcraft on the Isle of Man.

I think the idea behind Geraldmas is fantastic:  the community basically takes a day out of the year to make themselves publicly available for outreach, socializing, and education.  It’s sort of like the BTW community’s version of Pagan Pride Day, since a well-organized Geraldmas will have workshops and rituals, community networking, food and drink, and maybe even vendors and craftspeople sharing their wares with others.  It’s also an excellent way for seekers to be able to get some exposure with area practitioners who, let’s face it, tend to become rather insular and cliquish.  Using Gerald Gardner’s birthday as a working date is also fairly convenient to giving the day a unique BTW stamp, and–luckily for us–Gerald happened to be born in a point of the calendar that’s largely scheduling-conflict free.  Beltane’s a little more than a month behind us at this point, and there’s still a touch under two weeks to go until Midsummer.  There’s no national holidays in the way for either America or the United Kingdom save Father’s Day, which falls on the third Sunday of June…but that’s easily remedied by hosting Geraldmas activities on the weekend before the 13th rather than the weekend after.  There’s also no real conflict with other Pagan Pride events, because those tend to be held sometime in the weeks of September and October.

So with all these awesome reasons to host a Geraldmas networking event and the extreme convenience of where it falls in the calender…why do I have a moment of pause surrounding the day?

Well, I think that there’s a bit of a danger of turning a day of outreach and networking into a holiday.  We’ve got an element of danger in the very name itself, which makes it look like we’re all celebrating Gerald rather than temporarily opening what is usually a very closed community.  Gardner is really just the imperfect founder and publicizer of our religion.  He’s not our guru, a saint, or a God.  When we use Geraldmas, as some have come to do, as a day to focus especially on Gardner and his biography, I think we’re starting to slide down that slope into giving him more veneration than he merits.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t give him some thought on his birthday…but lighting a candle and taking a moment to meditate on the foundation he gave us is probably celebration enough in our paradigm.

So I guess I’m really asking my community to think carefully about their future Geraldmas events and how we treat the day…and to really reconsider wishing people a Happy Geraldmas!  If there’s one thing that will make everyone believe this is a holiday, it’s that greeting!

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