This article originally appeared on VICE Spain
I first heard about the Rainbow Family Gatherings about eight years ago. While hitchhiking around Europe, I was picked up by a group of Italian hippies who told me about these annual hippie meet-ups that run without real rules or currency. At first, it was hard to find any information about the events online, but I finally found a rather basic, tie dye coloured website announcing that the next European Rainbow Gathering would take place on the new moon of August 2008, somewhere in Serbia. The invitations would be sent out via email as soon as the scouts had found a location. I immediately subscribed to the newsletter.
About two weeks before that new moon, I received an attachment in an email. It was the scan of a postcard with a hand-drawn map drawn on it, covered with psychedelic florals, hearts and the words: "Welcome Home".
The Rainbow Family is an anarchist, utopian, new age community that comes together during Rainbow Gatherings. The emphasis during those gatherings is on freedom and love. There is no entrance fee, no hierarchy and no actual organisation behind the gatherings. Everyone is responsible for planning and setting up the event – scouting the location, cooking, providing first-aid supplies and peacekeeping. The costs are covered by donations from the attendees during the gathering, who spend their days giving and taking workshops at the gathering, dancing, meditating, sitting in council circles, women's circles and drum circles or doing herb walks, yoga, tantra or psychedelic drugs.
The first Rainbow Gathering in 1972, in Colorado was attended by more than 20,000 people. It wasn't meant to be that big – the idea was for a few people to get together in a remote wilderness for four days, to pray and meditate for world peace. But that first gathering gave way to a bunch of annual events now held all over the world.
Usually, the locations of the Gatherings are about 20 to 30 kilometres away from the nearest town. From there, Family members follow colourful pieces of string hanging from trees or piles of stones to find their way to the location. That's exactly how I reached my first gathering in 2008 – after a four hour hike on Serbian dirt roads.
When I stepped into the woods that day, the welcome was slightly overwhelming. Naked and half-naked people ran up to me to hug me and tell me they loved me, a group of hippies sang Krishna songs, and others were dancing to the drums while someone passed me a joint.
At my first Rainbow Gathering and every one that followed, I met traditional hippies and nomads, alcoholic Russian priests, hardcore anarchists, hackers, self-proclaimed prophets, reincarnations of famous religious figures and artists of all kinds – all holding hands in a circle.
I took the following pictures between 2011 and 2014 at different Rainbow Gatherings in Mexico, Guatemala, Russia and Morocco.
See more of Denis Vejas' work on his Instagram page
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