Elliott’s Writings: The Woodstock Festival
In the summer of 1969, Mike Lang rode his motorcycle over to my house in Woodstock and asked if I would be interested in photographing a festival he was planning. It was one of the most important yeses I ever said. We didn’t talk about money except to say that we would work it out. It wasn’t even a handshake-it was preordained.
On August 15, 16, and 17, 1969, nearly 500,000 people gathered together to celebrate life. They came looking for music and new ways. They found a hard path-there were miles to walk; rain and mud; not much food to eat, nor shelter to sleep beneath; life was not as they usually knew it. But something happened. There was peace and harmony despite conditions that might have set off riots. Most everyone lived in consideration and enjoyment with everyone else. Woodstock became a symbol to the world of a better way of life-of freedom, of love, of spiritual union between many. There
was hope. Years have passed. “What has happened… where has Woodstock gone?” Words are heard: “It was a fluke.” “It can never happen again.” “It was not real.”
The coming of a new consciousness is a slow process. Woodstock is a way of thinking, a way of being-kindness, consideration, sharing and enjoying; life as it should be and would be if we lived that way. Astrologically, the birth of the age of Aquarius is upon us-an age of peace and understanding, a golden age. Like all births, the birth of this new consciousness is difficult. Old ways are falling as new ways evolve. The time of labor nears. A soft seedling must break through a hard seed shell. A baby comes through a birth which can be painful.
Change is often difficult, but what is outside the new door is usually better than what was behind the old. We are given habits by the culture we grow in, the physical realities of our planet, and the needs we have. With the coming of new, clean technologies, physical wants can be met – people no longer have to fight to survive. There can be enough for everyone. Woodstock showed us that people can live together in a peaceful and sharing way. It showed that the goal many were going toward during those years was reachable. It actually happened for 500,000 people at one time for three days.
The mystical teachings tell us that with the birth of each age there is a sign, a teacher, which appears to lead the way. As Christ was the example for a world 2,000 years ago, so the experience at Woodstock can be an example for our world today. Just as the birth of Jesus could find no place, so, too, Woodstock was without welcome-yet both found their destined place to be-one in Bethlehem, the other in Bethel; the similarity of names whispering to us of a cosmic declaration, an intelligence beyond our own, telling us that our ideals could be made real, that a new time was approaching- telling us to keep on trying.
In addition there are many personal, first-hand accounts from the producers, builders, hippies, and straights that describe the spirituality, the trials and tribulations, and the sheer joy of being there.