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Coronavirus

​Swedish Tantra Festival Becomes Touchpoint For Organic Anti-Vaxxers

"Conspirituality" is what some are calling the movement of those spirituality seekers and organic food devotees who don't trust the vaccine. It's highlighted in the fallout from a summer peace-and-love festival of Tantra followers that became a COVID cluster.

Photo of people dressed in white standing in a circle with arms interlocked

Tantra-conscious camping in Sweden

Angsbacka via Instagram
Carl Karlsson

In rural Sweden, what was supposed to be six days of summer love turned into a COVID-19 superspreader event as more than 100 people became infected during a tantra festival. At the time, the June gathering in the town of Ängsbacka for enthusiasts of the peace-and-love eastern rites created a minor (and brief) storm in Sweden, and beyond.

But even though they have mostly faded from view (and recovered from COVID), the attendees are now being mocked as everything from filthy hippies to sex-obsessed anti-vaxxers, according to a recent interview with event organizer Lin Holmquist in Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter.

Conspirituality: When new age ideas blend with conspiracy theories


"This whole event has triggered people's desire to judge others," Holmqvist said. "Of course many people think this is great — tantric getting infected with Covid."

In late June, some 500 people from around the world descended on Ängsbacka in the central Värmland region. After the first infection was discovered on the third day of the event, the number of guests testing positive eventually reached 107 — with the majority of those being unvaccinated or having just received their first jab.

The outbreak caused such a spike in regional COVID-19 rates that neighboring Norway announced it would once again classify Värmland as a "red region" and tighten travel restrictions along the border.

Holmquist said in the Oct. 2 interview that the majority of people attending her events are, in fact, vaccinated. Nonetheless, she understands why the public might draw such conclusions. As The Australian daily reported, the blend of new-age philosophy and conspiracy theory has grown at an extraordinary rate since the beginning of the pandemic — an unlikely collision of realms increasingly referred to as "conspirituality."

photo of two women touching each other's heart

Tantra conscious Camping in Sweden

Angsbacka via Instagram

QAnon on wellness forums 

Indeed, in countries around the world, both misinformation and general anti-vaccine messages are spread by social media influencers who focus on natural remedies, holistic health and new-age spirituality.

In the US, where the term "misinformation" typically conjures up images of right-wing online chat rooms, reports of various forums of wellness influencers spreading conspiracy theories like QAnon have multiplied throughout the year.

New-age spiritually was a response to the challenge science posed to Christianity.

This pandemic-fueled turn from alternative religion and medicine to alternative facts is in a sense counterintuitive, especially as new-age spiritually emerged in the 19th century as a response to the challenge science posed to Christianity.

Without making any direct comparison to the current phenomenon, some have noted that overlaps between new-age ideas and far-right ideology predates the pandemic: Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler and many other prominent members of the Nazi Party embraced organic farming, vegetarian diets, forest conservation, as well as natural healing — many of them also tended to be anti-vaxxers. Other musings included paganism, Indo-Aryan mythology and astrology (Himmler even hired a team of astrologers to locate the missing Italian dictator Benito Mussolini after his arrest in 1943).


Still, the broader proliferation of "conspirituality" remains a recent phenomenon. One yoga instructor and social media influencer said in a recent interview with CBS News that conspiracy theories flourish because certain followers of yoga and wellness communities were "already inclined to question and diverge from mainstream authorities on health and science."

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