Claer, you are right, burning vegetable oil is just another can of worms, I was taught not to waste food as a kid and I still try to hold to that, as food is life and is sacred. Burning large quantities of a food crop in a hungry world is no solution. A firewalk is a great fossil fuel free alternative, it is much more of a rite of passage than a fire labyrinth, and involves more commitment from those taking part. I would like to see more of these, though event organisers may feel that the quick fix of a fire labyrinth is an easier solution to putting on a show for large numbers of punters who might not be trusted to act safely and respectfully with a firewalk, which after all has a higher risk of causing injury.
Bish, thanks for popping by to join in the discussion here. I appreciate that we are talking about relatively small scale use of paraffin when compared to industrial pollution, but it is, I suppose, mainly the symbolic significance of these events that bothers me. That said, every little counts. I am reminded of a talk by Starhawk I went to in London, where she argued that part of the business of Paganism and Pagans is culture creation, that we shape the mainstream culture by what we do, and thus have an influence beyond our numbers. What effect on mainstream culture does the recreational burning of fossil fuels have- especially when these events reach a wide audience via Youtube etc? How long before these things cease to be a Pagan spectacle and reappear across wider festival culture? Because of us?
I can appreciate the beauty of Chinese lanterns, but again we are following a trend from the mainstream culture (how many tv adverts feature these things at the moment?) when perhaps we should be questioning it.
The image of the Druid in the public imagination is still redolent with 'Green' symbology, do we want to lose that?
Skydove, talking about cloth labyrinths, I remember an early OBOD camp where we took a massive length of blue cloth up onto Dragon Hill near Uffington and ran about with it in the wind, it was quite a spectacle. Good if the cloth could be borrowed/hired, not so good if its purchased just for a one off event, as cloth production is also highly environmentally destructive...
Candles are also generally made from fossil fuels, though soy and beeswax alternatives are available. We used (organic non GM) soy candles at the Bear Feast last year, and will try to use beeswax this year. This had a symbolic meaning in itself, by lighting the site with something rare and expensive we return to the truth known by our Ancestors- that light is precious in the depths of winter. There is, as Claer says, a cost to this, probably £3 per head of the ticket cost is for the lighting.
Mwyalchen, I agree with your reservations about burning Green Men. What do our Wicker figures represent? In folk culture we burn people we want to get rid of and don't like. In France there is an old tradition of burning a giant who has been put on trial and found guilty of causing all the bad things which happened in the community that year, a sort of scapegoat. I have some old Folktrax footage of these events, and there is music and dances and other revelry that goes with it, a very interesting and possibly very ancient custom. I'd like to discuss this more.
Paul, your point is well made, it is about walking our talk. I'd love to have a camp where people would come by foot or bicycle or maybe public transport, a camp with zero environmental damage, but sadly I think few people would be able to spare the time to come, as we are all so tied into a destructive mode of life that is embedded in our culture like a cancer. It is a dream I have though. I did experience something like that once, a gathering of Dongas and friends on St Catherine's Hill, Winchester (the location, incidentally, of a medieval turf labyrinth). The radical edge of 'alternative' culture seems to have blunted somewhat since those days, or am I just out of the loop?
I think the best idea is Katie's, lets make a proper turf labyrinth together. It might still be here in hundreds of years time (a few do survive from the middle ages), it could be a permanent ritual space, and a gift from us to the future. Until Druids walk their talk in another way- and get together to buy land, then this too will probably remain a pipe dream.