~ [ren-uh-sahns] < French: rebirth, equivalent to renaiss- (to be born again)
~ A period in European civilization immediately following the Middle Ages, which brought a revival of Classical learning and wisdom after a long period of cultural decline and stagnation.
Pardon me while I wax poetic about the Renaissance Festival for a moment. The Michigan Renaissance Festival is the second Ren Faire I’ve attended and — although you may find this odd — I have to say, I find them very moving.
Bare with me here while I try to explain…
When you think about it, we spend most of our “real” lives in a kind of cos play — dressing and acting in ways that will make us popular or help us to fit in. There is a kind of freedom that you immediately sense when you walk into the Ren Faire. It’s a place where people can let their freak flags fly — insulated from the stares and the glares and the judgement of a the real world. This is a place where fantasy rules, where people can recreate themselves, living a new and perhaps more authentic identity.
We walked about a half a mile through a winding dirt path, framed on either side by overgrown prairie grasses, which eventually opened up to a large field, And there in front of us, was THE Ren Faire. A miniature medieval village, constructed with just a little more heft than a theatrical set. It sits empty most of the year — a stage waiting for the players and the audience to arrive. And when they do, it springs to life, like the desert after a heavy rain, blooming with imagination and activity.
It’s a place dedicated to recreation — not only of a moment in time — but of personal identities. The Ren Faire is a place where it’s safe for people to play and explore and express the exact versions of themselves that they want to be. A place where they can recreate themselves in their own perfect image. It’s beautiful to witness so many people being exactly who they want to be.
And in a sense, the recreation of self inspired by the Renaissance Festival, mirrors the attitude of the Renaissance itself: a period of rebirth which represented a rejection of ignorance and cruelty and a return to higher moral, scientific and artistic values.
It’s hard to be who you really are and it seems the Ren Faire is a place where people can collectively build a new reality to escape into. And, in doing so, they provide something beautiful for others to come and see.
Although it’s a place of fantasy, it’s a model for what our reality could actually be — one where we are allowed to be exactly who we want to be — and instead of judging, we regard ourselves and others as something of interest to be be admired.