The question of freedom at a Rainbow Gathering is always a thorny one as we negotiate the subtleties of being free from and being free to.; do we come to a Rainbow to be free from alcohol or is someone free to get wasted?
One thing I love about being at a Rainbow Gathering is that I don’t need to think about money for a month. I put in my donation to the magic hat at the beginning, spend a little each week for some extra chocolate and bread, but between each other there are no commercial transactions. The chai shops are that rare enterprise where a smile pays for a cup of tea.
Sometimes though it can be a fine line to walk. I gave away 50 copies of Somewhere Under the Rainbow and sent the PDF to everyone who signed up for my email list but was shy to mention to people that they could also order it on Amazon. I send newsletters to everyone on the list about new stories and blog posts but also let them know about the Sahara retreats in Morocco that I run. It’s outside of the Rainbow so I feel okay about it. But only just.
When I saw people giving workshops in the Rainbow Gathering and then passing out flyers about courses they run it seemed to me to be crossing the line. Especially when I then saw them pinned to the info board. I actually took them down – otherwise we might find ourselves with an active marketplace with people advertising their tipis, retreats, therapies and crystals.
Likewise in the parking of the Lithuanian European Rainbow Gathering there was one stall this year selling spirulina and tahini. It was great that the locals could come and sell their cheese and honey but these guys had come from Poland to sell food designed to appeal to hippies. It was good food but was it in the spirit of the Rainbow? It seemed to risk setting a precedent where next year I could be selling books in the parking and T-Shirts saying my brother went to the Rainbow and all he brought me back was headlice.
Of course people do buy and sell marijuana in the Gatherings but at least it’s kept out of sight and no one is walking around whispering ‘hashish?’ in a sleazy voice.
Part of the reason that I’m happy that we keep commerce out of the Rainbow Gatherings is that it would just be too easy for charlatans to exploit the gullible. I heard a story of the World Rainbow Gathering in Thailand a few years ago where one American would look at people with a concerned, professional eye before revealing to them:
‘Oh man! You’ve got a crack in your aura – all your energy is just leaking out!’
‘Oh no!’ they cried, ‘What can I do about it?’
‘Well, I can fix it,’ he sighed, ‘but it takes a lot of my energy so I’m going to have to ask you for 200 euros to do it…’