June 12, 2024


Health is wealth

I Attended the Firefly Gathering & Here’s What I Learned

6 min read

Final summer time, I resolved to master how to survive. Nothing too serious. Make a fire. Detect toxic plants. Maybe hunt a smaller animal. I was never ever a Boy Scout, but I have often had an ambient distrust of the modern environment. I figured that owning some survival abilities could occur in handy when things get lousy a pair of many years from now. So I drove up from South Florida to a 940-acre farm just outside the house of Asheville, NC, to attend the Firefly Accumulating, the country’s largest primitive technologies competition. There, smiling New Age-styles promised to educate and celebrate the religious and specialized abilities of our ancestors in get to dwell in harmony with the Earth. But beneath all their great vibes I could make out an ominous eyesight of the future.

I didn’t expect them to be so appropriate so before long.

On the campgrounds, I predicted a good deal of woo-woo earnestness. Right after all, this was a competition with no electricity or running water, no net and no smartphones. The crowd was filled with hippie styles, armed with didgeridoos, extensive eyes, and unrelenting positivity. But the competition was also attended by Christian homesteaders, blue-collar craftsmen, anarcho-primitivists towing about blonde, androgynous-wanting children and yoga trousers-sporting graduate students. Well mannered and cheery, they ended up like a aid group for our dimming environment. But they weren’t, in the regular sense, preppers. The four-day competition was like if Mad Max was established in Canada. They most well-liked teepees to bomb shelters, hand-carved wooden spoons to assault rifles. “I’m an empath,” a female named Tara told me my to start with evening, as tears slid down her cheeks. “I can feel the Earth’s agony.” I was speedy to dismiss their alarmism. Matters are lousy, yes, but, at the time, I identified their considerations to be exaggerated. Like they ended up making an attempt to justify their quirky hobbies with a fantastical future.

Firefly Gathering
Courtesy Firefly Accumulating

When Firefly released in 2007, 200 folks confirmed up. But in new several years, it has drawn extra than a thousand people today. Rising distress about the climate can help to make clear the spike, reported Marissa Percoco, Firefly’s executive director. “A part of the people today are inspired by anxiety,” she reported. “They do not see modern culture as a viable possibility.” She to start with attended Firefly in 2010, when she was dwelling off the grid, with her four children, near Chattanooga, TN. “I taught a fermentation course,” she reported, “and appropriate absent felt like I wasn’t by itself.”

In 2019, Percoco’s team capped the number of attendees at 800, for a extra personal learning working experience. The lessons covered simple survival subjects, these kinds of as scythe strategies and how to butcher rabbits and make resources out of deer bone. Other individuals ended up a bit extra whimsical: herbal start control, conversing with land spirits, plastic remediation meditation.

I couldn’t resist some of the extra peculiar lessons. Symbiosis and the Ecology of Paradise was taught by a biologist named Lee Golos. Golos, who wore a bohemian poncho and was a lifeless ringer for pre-Islam Cat Stevens, stated that a hundred and fifty,000 several years back, human beings and animals, which includes apex predators, lived in a paradise, many thanks to an abundance of berries. We can return to this lifestyle, he reported, if we embrace anarchism and permaculture. A female questioned whether, in this berry-consuming utopia, friendly grizzly bears can nanny her children. Golos nodded, as if to say, “Of system.”

I took a different course with an herbalist who named himself the Bush Ninja (his serious identify was Alex Howe). He led a course on historic health and fitness remedies. For the course, he distribute out an assortment of herbal medicines he procured even though dwelling in South Africa. They ended up all bitter and promised all forms of cures. The Bush Ninja told us we need to have extra bitter things in our lives. We have saturated our meal plans with too a lot sweetness. 1 of the medicines was derived from the petrified piss of a gopher. It wasn’t so lousy.

Firefly Gathering
Courtesy Firefly Accumulating

The most rigorous course of the competition had me stuffed inside a little sweat lodge with twenty five other semi-naked gentlemen and women. We huddled in darkness about a pit that held a dozen glowing, fire-soaked stones, our sweaty limbs rubbing up versus each individual other. This course was intended to get us in contact with our ancestors by way of struggling, but I could only consider about how a lot oxygen we had still left to breathe. The sweat lodge chief, Uncle Skee Potent Wind Pratt of the Pima tribe of Arizona, poured bowl right after bowl of water above the rocks and sizzling vapor burned our lungs. I realized it was perilous, but I felt I had to rely on Uncle Skee. Right after 20 minutes, Uncle Skee opened the canvas flap, allowing interesting air, light-weight, and relief flood into the hut. He invited us to pray or sing aloud. People reported things about emotion the embrace of Mom Nature’s womb and sang about the love and existence of our ancestors. Right after about two hours we exited the hut. Everybody was covered in sweat-caked mud and we lined up to stare in each individual other’s eyes and then make a lengthy embrace just before we washed off in a chilly stream nearby. What I wouldn’t give now for the ability to hug a bunch of corny, sweaty strangers.

What I wouldn’t give now for the ability to hug a bunch of corny, sweaty strangers.

I created absolutely sure to master at the very least just one simple ability. I attended a course on how to make a fire with a bow drill, an historic technological up grade from rubbing two sticks jointly. I failed all over again and all over again to get a blaze likely. The spindle slipped out of the bow, or the embers died, or I burned my hand versus the friction-sizzling wooden. But the instructor, a massive, shirtless boy just hardly out of his teens, was client. Right after an hour of rubbing, the coal turned red. I diligently packed it into some tinder and softly blew air into the smoldering issue I held in my arms. Smoke spiraled from the embers and a fire emerged. I held the flame in entrance of me like an featuring and the youthful instructor enable out a primal whoop. “You did it!” He shouted. It was the to start with issue I have at any time created making use of only the Earth. I have hated every little thing I have at any time prepared, but I was very pleased of that tiny fire.

Firefly Gathering
Courtesy Firefly Accumulating

A woodworker named Marc Kessler led a course on how to make hand-hewn wooden beams. I missed his course mainly because I was too occupied sampling rodent pee, but had a chance to chat with him above a fire. He sported a buckskin jacket he created himself. He told me I could dwell on $4,four hundred a 12 months. “We pray for the apocalypse every day,” he told me. “Something has got to transform. We’re screwing it all up.”

When I still left Firefly, my skepticism was however intact. I doubted the practicality or need to have of numerous of these abilities in some imagined finish-of-environment circumstance. Now, on the other hand, the virus has altered all that. These people today ended up ahead of the curve. This virus is a delicate apocalypse. A gown rehearsal for what is to occur. And these competition-goers have not just the specialized information necessary to survive, but a thing even extra important—hope for a variety future.

This year’s Firefly Accumulating has been cancelled, and it is a shame mainly because I would most unquestionably attend. I remember there becoming a course that taught which plants are safe to use in location of toilet paper.


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