A transformational festival is a counterculture festival that espouses a community-building ethic, and a value system that celebrates life, personal growth, social responsibility, healthy living, and creative expression. Transformational alludes both to personal transformation (self-realization) and steering the transformation of culture toward sustainability. Some transformational festivals resemble music festivals, but are distinguished by such features as seminars, classes, drum circles, ceremonies, installation art (or other visual art), the availability of whole food and bodywork, and a Leave No Trace policy. Transformational festivals are held outdoors, often in remote locations, and are co-created by the participants. The events are psychedelic inspired, involving visionary art, speakers on topics of entheogenic substances, as well as audio and visual entertainment intended to amplify psychedelic experiences.
Transformational festivals and their milieu exhibit many features commonly found in cults and new religious movements. The events are characterized by heightened degrees of transpersonalism, collective ecstasis, utopian narratives, and community allegiance. They attract the atypical attendance of a social class characterized by expendable amounts of financial and temporal wealth. Their charismatic deployment of spiritual and entheogenic information emboldened by on-site ecstatic experience closely parallels religious revivals. Many attendees disengage conservative social norms and identify as an "evolved culture"—a worldview influenced by millenarian archetypes of planetary transcendence and the evolution of consciousness.
Some examples of transformational festivals are Boom Festival in Portugal, Transylvania Calling in Romania, Fusion Festival in Germany, Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis Gathering, and Lucidity in the United States, and Yaga Gathering in Lithuania. The prototypical transformational festival is Burning Man.
At TEDxVancouver 2010, filmmaker Jeet-Kei Leung presented a TED Talk about transformational festivals, and discussed their similarities to pagan festivals. Less than a year after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Jeet-Kei Leung and Akira Chan screened the first installment of their four-part documentary film series, The Bloom: A Journey Through Transformational Festivals (2013).
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