The pagan holiday of Beltane is a celebration of spring and all that comes with it: rebirth, nature’s abundance, love and fertility. Traditionally, that can lead to some wild bacchanals in honor of the season, from Dionysian feasting to sexual abandon.
Growing up a practicing pagan in New Jersey, Olivia Jorgensen’s memories aren’t quite so colorful or carefree. “I remember meditating with my mom when I was a kid and being bored out of my skull,” Jorgensen says. “My mom would try to get me to participate in various activities, but like most children, I wasn’t interested in being a part of it once I reached my teenage years.”
The pagan practice was passed down the female line in Jorgensen’s family, skipping a generation from her great-grandmother to her mother and finding a sometimes willing but often unsure practitioner in Jorgensen herself. “It wasn’t called ‘Wicca,’ and they didn’t refer to themselves as ‘pagan,’ but it was this Earth-based spiritual practice where they talked about the moon a lot and grew herbs in the backyard and did little rituals.”
Jorgensen began to come around to the faith around the same time that she was preparing to graduate from the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, the renowned Philly theater company’s educational partnership with the University of the Arts. So with a few of her classmates, she created a short piece titled “The Gathering of the Mother Moth Peoples,” a clown version of a Beltane ritual that she calls “really over-the-top, exaggerated and quite silly.”
Two years later, Jorgensen has expanded “The Gathering of the Mother Moth Peoples” into a full-length performance. The show promises a raucous party with hand drumming, fire jumping and slightly misguided neo-pagans.
“I’m using art as a lens through which I can look at my relationship to this spirituality that I love but also have a lot of cynicism toward,” she says. “Before I was at Pig Iron, I probably took myself too seriously, so I never would have thought it would be safe to navigate my own feelings about how I see faith.”
‘The Gathering of the Mother Moth Peoples’
1fiftyone Gallery, 151 N. 3rd St.
$1-$20 suggested donation