Every August, in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert, tens
of thousands of people descend upon Burning Man. It’s an outdoor event where
organizers build a makeshift city filled with art installations such as ice
sculptures and warped, inverted semi-trailers. It culminates with the burning
of a massive wooden effigy on Saturday night.
But where does water get its due in all this sound and fury?
The answer is being provided this weekend by the first Water
Woman festival, to be held at the Squamish Valley Campground this B.C. Day long
weekend, Aug. 1 to 4.
Water Woman organizer Renee Hope, an artist and social justice
activist from the Sunshine Coast, aims to provide a “complementary balance” to
the Burning Man festival by offering what its website calls a celebration of
the “Divine Feminine.”
The idea for Water Woman grew out of Hope’s disillusionment
spawned with complaints she was hearing about Burning Man.
“Burning Man is a lot about the power of destruction,” she
said. “People desire balance to the fire energies of Burning Man.”
Where Burning Man is characterized by themes such as debauchery
and hedonism, Hope said Water Woman will have a lighter touch.
“There was a time of the goddess, and then it transformed
globally into the predominance of the divine masculine,” she said. “We are
feeling that there's a need for balance by empowering the divine feminine
within women and men.”
Hope seeks to achieve this through a variety of installations
and events that will take place throughout the weekend. They’ll include
workshops for personal healing, as well as performance artists, a kids’ zone
and an art gallery showing work by international artists.
On the more spiritual side, sacred musician Shimshai will be
coming from California specifically for the festival, according to a news
release. His music defies classification — it runs the gamut from
Sanskrit mantras to traditional South American folk songs.
There will also be people from different spiritual traditions
joining together to perform water ceremonies. People from several different
spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism and various First
Nations traditions will lead the rites.
The blessed water will then be collected in a series of
fountains throughout the festival grounds. It will have a final blessing and
then be poured into the Squamish River, which flows into the ocean. It’s a kind
of spiritual cleansing ceremony, according to Hope.
“The point is that when you have blessed water, and you add it
to other water, it charges and energizes that blessing or that power through
the new water that it contacts,” she said.
Hope said the Squamish campground site was chosen because of its
proximity to the mountains and the ocean.
“It is a beautiful place where there’s glacier mountains, which
melt and run into the Squamish Valley River, which runs right along the shores
of Water Woman,” she said. “This glacier river provides water for many people
in the Squamish city, and it also flows out into the ocean, so it provides
fresh water for, really, the world.”
Though she isn’t yet sure what the event will look and feel
like, Hope expects that it will create a sense of community among those gathered.
“I think Water Woman may have started as an intention to create
a complement, but it has evolved into its own thing, its own intention,” she
Tickets for Water Woman are available for $99 online at www.waterwomanevent.com and $111 at the gate for the four-day festival. Tickets can also be bought at a series of locations. They’re being sold at HighLife Records in Vancouver, Sacred Herb in Victoria as well as three stores on the Sunshine Coast — Coast Books, MELOmania and Wind and Song Gallery.