The New, Old Rainbow Family
The Rainbow Family of Living Light (usually known just as the Rainbow Family) is an unofficial group of constantly changing individuals – they call themselves a “non-organization of non-members,” and are one of the largest in the world, according to the unofficial website at www.welcomehome.org (The Rainbow Family). The Rainbow Family is an intentionally-built community of people dedicated to non-violence and what are considered alternative lifestyles by many (The Rainbow Family). This sample essay by one of the professional writers from Ultius explores how each year, the non-organization gathers its non-members for a month-long celebration of, well, celebrating.
What is the purpose of the rainbow family gatherings?
The non-organization gathers with the intent to:
- Avoid working one’s life away for a while
- To celebrate life and express love for one another
- Create something “new and beautiful”
- Engage in peace and cooperative society
- Help one another through that cooperation (The Rainbow Family)
- Teach children about cooperation
- Offer alternatives to war and economic exploitation
- Show respect for animals, earth, water, plants, and other people
- Enjoy life.
The history of the rainbow family?
The non-organization seems to be based loosely on various Native American tribe prophecies which speak of a “Rainbow Tribe.” The Warriors of the Rainbow are meant to save the world from environmental destruction, and has been written about by Lelanie Fuller Anderson, a Cherokee writer who has published several books on native herbal medicines and states that the story of the Warriors of the Rainbow was told to her by her grandmother (The Rainbow Family, “Native American Prophecies”). Black Elk, a famous Lakota Sioux tribal leader talked about the Rainbow Tribe in his book Black Elk Speaks, as well. In the Hopi tribe’s prophecies, the Age of Purification is mentioned and talks about people not of the tribe coming to join them and share in their ancient wisdom (The Rainbow Family, “Native American Prophecies”). There is also a story called “The Lost Tablet of the Hippie” which is said to have been found on the Rainbow Farm in Oregon and was brought to Hopi elders before the first Rainbow Gathering (The Rainbow Family, “Native American Prophecies”). This tablet was found in 1971 by Garrick Beck of Aqua Fria, New Mexico, according to the “Native American Prophecies” section of the website.
According to Wyler of Vice, the gatherings started in the 1960s as a peace movement, and calls itself “nonpolitical” and “nondemoninational.” The actual gatherings began in July of 1972, occurring each year in a different forest, and are “more authentically weird versions of Burning Man” (Wyler).
What happens at a rainbow gathering?
Although the number of people attending these gatherings fluctuates, Wyler estimated the attendance at 10,000 and up to 20,000 at times — people from many different walks of life, including
- Jesus freaks
- Computer programmers
- Naked yogis
- Gutter punks
All are trying to temporarily escape “Babylon,” or the “evils of modern life” through the free and accepting non-controlled gatherings (Wyler). The author of the unofficial Rainbow Family website is Rob Savoye, and he stated that
“People are tolerant, accepting of different stuff…a lot of us have had rough family lives, and the Rainbow has sort of filled that void for us.”
Rob himself is a “self-employed computer consultant” who works from his Colorado mountain home – he creates the Rainbow Family’s website in his spare time, and is a C and Linux programmer (LinkedIn). Rob spends his free time building the website; rock, ice, and alpine climbing; and enjoying other outdoor winter sports in Colorado – he has also been part of the Firefighter and Search and Rescue volunteer cadre for “decades” (LinkedIn.)
Take the bad with the good
At the 2014 Heber City, Utah, Rainbow Gathering, however, there was intolerance and even a possible murder or drug overdose – allegedly a result of the “seedier crowd” that uses the Gathering for drug abuse and other crimes (Wyler). A 39-year-old woman was found dead lying outside the campground – her name was Susan Wilkinson, and she was from New Hampshire; a woman nicknamed “Hitler” was also accused of stabbing a man inside the campground (Wyler). While there has been speculation that the gatherings present the potential for the genesis of potential Manson-esque cult followings, attendees are quick to quash such rumors. Of course, it only takes a few bad seeds to ruin everything great about Ibiza, Coachella, Rainbow Gatherings, and Burning Man, but for some reason it is our human nature to persevere despite the destruction of national forest lands, rampant drug abuse and overdoses, and death – to say nothing of the stress it causes for the environment and the plants and animals in that forest. In Utah, the local government chose to relocate two girls’ camps in order to avoid the spectacle that is the Rainbow Gathering. That’s not to say that the Rainbow Gathering is not an admirable effort of human beings to be tolerant and respectful of alternative choices in life – coming together to celebrate people and the earth is fantastic as long as it doesn’t do more harm than good.
What is rainbow culture?
Rainbow Gatherings may have started in the United States, but they have since spread internationally, and the following locations have hosted Rainbow World Gatherings over the years:
- Switzerland (1983)
- Bosnia-Herzogovina (2007)
- Serbia (2008)
- the Ukraine (2009)
- Finland (2010)
- Iberia (2011)
- Slovakia (2012)
- Greece (2013)
- Romania (2014)
- Lithuania (2015) (The Rainbow Family)
Rainbow Culture is not just limited to American Indians and United States culture, but spans the globe. A Site About Nothing lists various key parts of Rainbow culture, including the reference to everyone as a “brother” or “sister,” a tenet of many native cultures all over the world. Babylon is the “Codeword for the dominant culture” according to A Site about Nothing, and also a way to exclude others because “they don’t speak rainbow.”
Organized anarchy is the way the Rainbow Gatherings are un-organized, and talking circles are a traditional way to make decisions and pass along information. (These talking circle traditions may be based on Hopi Indian practices.) Communal singing happens often and following the “dinner circle” as a way to connect with fellow Gathering-goers, as well (A Site about Nothing).
Announcements are often made after dinner, and then the Magic Hat is passed around after meals by children, musicians, and dancers – one of several funding practices to pay for the proceedings (A Site about Nothing). Donations of food, physical labor, and funds are also encouraged prior to the Gatherings – Drainbows are the people who show up but don’t contribute anything.
There is different lingo used at Rainbow Gatherings, including “Six up,” which is a coded warning that police are nearby, or “rainbow movies” which are different things happening in the camp according to the point of them – “after that yoga movie I’ll go to the dinner circle,” for instance – it isn’t really a movie but a happening that someone is engaging in. Kyle Pennell, a writer for Quora.com, notes that Rainbow Gatherings and Burning Man are similar to one another in that they are meant to encourage leaving no trace, communal effort, and radical inclusion instead of exclusion. They are both temporary self-sufficient money-free “cities” far away from major metro areas, and are not focused on spending money (Pennell). Tech is also not encouraged, but may be present in certain situations.
Rainbow gathering concerns
As might be expected, hygiene is a major concern for the Rainbow Gatherings, along with destruction of the forested and outlying areas, the avoidance of drug overdoses and unfortunate happenings, and simply making sure all the trash is picked up at the end. There are established hygiene rules, according to A Site about Nothing – these include keeping fingernails short, washing hands following use of the holes in the ground and before preparing food, and avoiding touching plates with the serving ladle at dinner circle. At the risk of being crude, A Site about Nothing noted that
“thou shall not pass solid stools while at a rainbow gathering.”
It is most likely impossible to avoid being touched by people you don’t know at a Rainbow Gathering – it’s kind of like entering a preschool playground. People you don’t know will hug you and maybe even kiss you; holding hands is popular; and – although they are billed as dog-free events – many people bring their dogs (A Site about Nothing). Although they are not popular, meat, alcohol, and money are present – trading circles occur but drugs might be the only thing someone pays actual money for, according to A Site about Nothing.
How can I attend a rainbow gathering?
The Rainbow Gathering for 2016 in the United States is being held in New Hampshire, Maine, or Vermont – the exact place has yet to be chosen or decided upon by whoever decides these types of things (StarsRainbowRideBoard). Simply watch the website for the announcement of the final celebration location (StarsRainbowRideBoard). This webpage has all the information needed to attend, and since it’s free of charge, there is no worry that it will sell out. The page includes requests for donations, info on the water purification system, and basic supplies needed to build kitchens such as black poly pipe, plastic couplings, and hose clamps. The Rainbow Guide is published each year, too, for newbies to the celebration (StarsRainbowRideBoard). The highlights of this year’s celebration, to be held over the 4th of July, are a Cyberspace circle, the Circle for Peace, and the Talent Show at Granola Funk Theater. There are also:
- Cleanup reports for last year’s Gathering in Wyoming
- Legal backgrounds
- Letters to District Rangers
- A lexicon of rainbow terminology
This is not likely to be the Rainbow Gathering’s last year, or even its last decade. The Rainbow Family is venerable, and continues to span the decades with its positive vibrations – attending should be done only with full knowledge of what the experience might entail, as well as supplies needed for camping, hygiene, and just generally having a good time. Rainbow gatherings are not just destinations for college kids on vacation any longer, and their enduring nature can appeal to anyone with an open mind.
LinkedIn. “Rob Savoye.” LinkedIn. LinkedIn Corporation, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016.
Pennell, Kyle. “How Does Burning Man Compare to Rainbow Gatherings?” Quora. Quora, 2013. Web. 14 May 2016.
StarsRainbowRideBoard. “Happenings at the Gathering.” StarsRainbowRideBoard. StarsRainbowRideBoard, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016.
The Rainbow Family of Living Light. “Native American Prophecies”. Welcomehome. Welcomehome.org, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016.
The Rainbow Family of Living Light. “Welcome Home!”. Welcomehome. Welcomehome.org, 2016. Web. 14 May 2016.
Wyler, Grace. “The Dark Side of the Rainbow Gathering.” Vice. Vice, 2014. Web. 14 May 2016.