Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ren Fests, Pagan events and SCA

At first glance these things all look very similar. A bunch of weirdos all dressed up, doing something strange in a wooded area. While an ordinary person might go to a renaissance faire, they would never dream of joining the SCA or becoming pagan.

And there are reasons for this.

Paganism is a lifestyle. It is a religion and something you do every day. It changes your world-view and alters how you act. It brings magic home on a daily basis. There is little room for magic in Joe Ordinary's Life.

The SCA can range from hobby to lifestyle (FIJAGDH or FIAWOL). It can be something fun you do on weekends, a chance to wear pretty dresses, learn a new craft, eat new and exciting food. Or it can devour every non-working hour until you're rushing from Baronial meeting, to guild meeting to fighter practice to event planning session to household craft night with never a chance at any other sort of life. Again, Joe Ordinary, with a job and mortgage and kids, isn't interested in living like that.

But the Ren fest, that's a little bit of magic, one or two or six weekends a year. That requires no great time commitment from Joe, just a day of pleasure. He gets outside. He watches some really bad comedy shows ( While I was on holiday, I shot two enormous grizzly bears! And I had them stuffed./Mounted?/No, just shaking hands), some pretty decent music shows, the belly dancers, and maybe some artisans making things: a blacksmith, a basketweaver. He has a bit of cider from an ancient style press. He eats a turkey leg while watching the jousting and pretends he is lord of all he surveys for the afternoon. And then he goes home to his ordinary life, satisfied he's normal, feeling virtuous for having donated to the arts, either directly to performers or indirectly (the RenFest was, for years, a fundraiser for the KC Art Institute) .

As a merchant, and I have sold to all three, these are HUGE differences.

Pagans may or may not have money. They don't tend to be the most financially prosperous, much like the SF convention community, with whom there is some overlap.

When they buy, they buy something that fits into their whole life. They buy shawls, and scarves and hand-warmers. They buy boxes and jewelry that speaks to them, and wands. Ritual clothing is also a good bet.

In short, they buy things they don't know how to make, and kind of need. Something they will use frequently.


SCA folk seldom have money. It all goes to play the game. If they buy, they are buying something they cannot make. They shop for their persona first and then their ordinary life. And SCA folk are all crafters. Most sew, most do several other things. Wood, leather and armor are the best bets here. And under $20 or over $200 was the rule I heard years ago.

They are buying game upgrades.


Ren Fest shoppers fall into two categories.

The first wants something a little unusual to have after the fest, a reminder of the fun they had, that isn't too intrusive. A tiny bottle with glitter that glows in the dark (a bottled fairy), a flower crown or hat to hang on the side of the mirror and smile when they see, a plaque with a witty saying, or a CD by a musician they enjoyed. These things fit their lives. make them smile and bring them back the next year.

They want souvenirs.

The second kind wants to be a part of the show. They will buy clothing, pouches and other items to fit their idea of themselves. This is the corset, sword and chain-mail bikini crowd. They tend to be teens or college students and often end up in the Faire or in the SCA.

They want, like the SCA folk, game upgrades.

I have opted for the Fest crowd because it goes with my painful lesson: You can't sell things to broke people. People come to the Faire to spend money. People go to pagan events for the rituals and their friends and classes, and to SCA events for the fighting or classes or competition or feast. Shopping is extraneous in these venues.

So, we go where the money is,.

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