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Temple Priests and Hospitality Vikings : The Role of Hospitality and Sacred Space at Pantheacon

It is a joy as always to know that right down the hall is the Coru temple and hospitality suite.

As in other years I have been unable to make it down there but even just knowing that they are there, standing by their statement of inclusion and hospitality means that there is a balm on my heart because I know I am welcome and it is expressly stated.

My own thoughts on hospitality and the PoC Hospitality Suite/Room will be forthcoming. For now, these words will suffice.

Thank you, to the Coru and all who help your endeavor year after year!

Strixian Woods

This year was my fifth year attending Pantheacon, one of the largest Pagan gatherings in the world and one of the Coru’s most involved events of the year. Pantheacon is an overwhelming and powerful event. It’s a place to learn from brilliant minds and to attend rituals and ceremonies presented by an abundance of traditions and groups. It’s a gathering of tribes, covens, traditions, and families. It’s a bizarre concentration of potent and powerful people, spirits, and Gods set in a semi generic chain hotel in an corporate center next to a major airport. Pantheacon is overwhelming, an energetic minefield and a maelstrom of energy……and Pantheacon has a hygiene problem.

I don’t mean that Pantheacon is dirty, the hotel and the con staff do an extraordinary job of maintaining the event. The Doubletree is a decenthotel and the staff are excellent. The Pantheacon staff itself areabsolutely amazing as well and…

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The Near Annual Post-PantheaCon List

1. PantheaCon as always gives me such joy and such stress. This year however, I can honestly say was less stressful than the year before *by quite a margin*.

Inevitably though, other points must be made. Like the following:

2. No, actually. Your personal politics don’t belong in conversations about specific topics. But, your personal politics do have bearing on the kind of attention and platform you are creating for yourself (and others) when you present.

3. The work that happens in hospitality spaces should be respected. If someone says to you that the event is private and for an “affinity group” and you do NOT belong then your job is to accept it and move on. Being snotty to the person who gives you that information is NOT the way to respect the space. And it’s not very respectful of someone who has chosen to spend this time at the door letting in people who need to be in that space. They are taking time out of the potential offerings to sit there and your snotty attitude does NOT endear them to this work.

4. The work I do, is NOT the work that you are required to do. It is my own work and it is fulfilling and happy-making, even when it leaves me completely broken and breathless from its pain. But I am more than willing to do it because I don’t know what else I would be doing. Please honor the people who do their own work.

5. The PoC Hospitality Room is the work of many people. Those people sometimes want their names attached and sometimes they don’t and that’s fair but I hope that when this room is someone else’s job that they will do better than I have. That they NOT make my mistakes. Because I have made them. But no one will see them because they are using the space and utilizing it in ways that people need to and that’s what matters.

6. It’s taken a while to find a way to succinctly state my own beliefs. Currently, that’s to say that I identify as a polytheist. But because there is no specific dogma or church attached to that label, people figure that we are some sort of weird amorphous blob on the pagan spectrum. Polytheists have been around far longer than neopaganism. Polytheism is (to my way of seeing things) a movement to recognize that an individual’s role is to establish a relationship with their G*ds, because They are real. I don’t get into P/polytheist debate much because I don’t get the focus but I do witness it on my feeds and it makes me feel batty at times because the questions are always the kind that require DISCERNMENT. It’s a scary word but it’s a vital one. Vital because in order to establish relationships we have to actually put in a bit of effort.

All this being said!

7. I had a blast! I horsed Nerthus for the Vanic Conspiracy’s “Four Thrones of Vanaheim” ritual and that went really well! Tidbit for those of us who offer our bodies for trance possession: try the ritual bits you specifically HAVE to do and check that you CAN do them. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me: discovering as soon as you open your mouth to sing a refrain that you’ve known and have worked on for a while that all you can taste is Her bog where She receives sacrifices. I got through it and the rest of the folks found the melody to sing it for me but it was definitely an interesting moment.

8. It is always a pleasure to sit down with PoC at PantheaCon and this year’s caucus was the BEST yet! New people and faces and from such faraway places! Their expression of how great it was to have the PoC hospitality room really made it clear to me how vital this work is, not just for individuals but as a community-wide endeavor to give us a space that is both carved out from the cloth of the conference but has also now been woven into it. People LOOK for that room, specifically. People have conversations there that they don’t have in the rest of the conference floor, people share ritual and information and knowledge in ways that don’t happen on the ‘con floor and that is amazing.

And vital. Allies (those new and those weathered) discover a renewed zeal for their own work; as anti-oppression fighters and as people who seek spiritual guidance (because we are there for that, too!).

9. Thank you to Dee and other discussion leaders for the Gender Diversity discussion because it was GLORIOUS to sit in a room with other gender nonconforming people! Many good points were raised and thought-provoking moments and I look forward to continuing these conversations and these ways of supporting each other that were pointed out. Yes, even as a genderqueer individual, there are ways I can support other gender non-conforming folx. We all can!

10. Thiasos Bakhios puts on amazing Dionysian devotionals! I am elated and grateful that I was asked to take part as a maenad! I apologize for that maenad bringing out my SoCal and Valley Girl affectations. But we did have a blast!  We went through a case of wine, we danced, we frolicked, we shimmied, we shouted, and the whole time Dionysus of the Revels smiled at our antics! The divination that people received were spot-on from all the people who shared theirs with me. I’ll revel with this group ANYTIME!

11. I am grateful to the people who attended, sang, danced (as they were able), and lent energy to my Pomba devotional. I am glad that I was able to share with the attendees a little bit about Pomba Gira Maria Padilha and bits of the tastes of Brazil proper. I hope that the technical difficulties I experienced beforehand did not detract from the experience you all had and I hope I get asked back!

And the list of what I MISSED!

12. The Coru Cathubodua hospitality room and temple-space. Again. One of these days I will be able to get away during your regular hours and be able to stand with Her in that space beyond the ONE time I have done it. It is a fervent wish and prayer.

13. The rituals and performances and presentations from friends and chosen family members: Elena’s “Loving Our Monsters”, “Facets of Freyja”, and so many more!

Now that I’m mostly back in the real world, I do want to say thank you to so many people who were amazingly helpful in the suite and in presenting in it or holding events there to draw people to the suite:

– Niki Whiting for hosting a meet and greet for Many Gods West which will take place in August 2016.

– Heathens For Social Justice for their “Social Justice as Heathen Praxis” which we are hoping to do as a Zoom! videoconference lecture for sharing!

– Jasper for leading a radical self-care drop-in that helped people get to balance and have a small amount of time for themselves and the Cauldron of the Celts for their donation of self-care goodies and the other donation that showed up as well (I’m sorry, I never caught the name!)

– Darcy and Geoffrey for leading an intense discussion for PoC who experience white-passing/presenting/reading privilege. In talking to the Beloved about their own struggles around this I knew that this was a topic that needed time and space to be explored and I knew also that this was NOT a topic for me to try and lead and Darcy and Geoffrey stepped up beautifully. I look forward to watching where this new avenue leads people!

– To Áine, Beverly, Luna, and Tanisia who co-facilitated a beautiful ritual for those who identify or have black ancestry. Getting to stand outside the door as it was wrapping up and feeling the power and love and strength in voices gathered in song. That was life-changing for me and I thank you for honoring the space by using it in this way. I will forever remember it as a highlight of the ‘con for me.

– To the people who stopped in (both staff, volunteers, attendees, etc.) for a bite to eat, a sandwich, a hot dinner that they didn’t have to pay a lot for: thank you for sharing time and space with us. The hospitality room is a labor of love and is set to celebrate five years in 2017. We look forward to doing something really special!

Okay, I think that’s enough. I will be updating on a more regular basis and trying different media options (maybe a podcast!).

So be it. See to it. – Octavia Butler

 

 

Shaman Sickness, Part I: Enter the Madness

Such a good way to start thinking about this from a modern non-academic experience. Thank you, Khi, for sharing your wisdom!

Conjure in the City: NYC Intuition + Manifestation

A Hamatsa shaman in trance. A Hamatsa shaman in trance.

I opened my inbox a few weeks ago to find an invitation to a ritual from friends to celebrate the Apotheosis of Ariadne – the transformation of the mythical Greek princess into a deity, as per the stories told about her.

As I perused the invitation and the suggested guidelines for those who might wish to celebrate at home on their own time, my heart jumped into my throat upon reading the second of the three stages that mapped the goddess’s journey from the Mistress of the Labyrinth to her discovery and awakening by the god Dionysos.

Around midnight, in the darkest hour, “The theme is Ariadne abandoned on Naxos.

It was just over a year ago that a Skype session with a friend jumpstarted my shaman sickness with her in California and me in my hostel in Athens, Greece. “Have you been out to the islands yet?”…

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Disillusionment

I have struggled for the better part of this week with these words.  I have sat with the pain and hurt and brutality of the things I have read and seen in print from people who should and COULD do MORE, and a small part of me, is NOT surprised.

Let me backtrack with a quick story from my childhood.  My mother used to tell me all the time that extending friendship and trusting people would only ever lead to hurt and pain.  She consoled me when people I thought were friends turned their backs on me, when I was betrayed, when as a kid, in my trust of so-called friends, I ended up getting beaten up.  

And yet, I trust.  I end up joining communities that make some lofty claims; that the people who engage in these communities live by trust, honor, and respect.  That they gather in perfect love and perfect trust.  That they will stand by you, that if you come to them with a painful situation, there will be people there.  

So, with that tiny bit of background, imagine my distinct lack of dismay upon hearing that the Eagle Bar (a quasi-connected chain of international bars that cater to the gay/queer Leather community) in Portland had decided to hire a white, gay-male comedian whose best ‘bit’ is donning blackface to portray a “middle-aged black woman on welfare with 19 kids”.  I sat, dumbfounded, as this act and the booking was defended by the proprietors and others in Portland and beyond.  I sat, feeling that same bitter disappointment in being betrayed by so-called friends and community members who started calling for neutrality, claiming that “art should NOT be censored” that those of us who were kicking up a fuss were too emotional and sensitive, that we (but really, people of color in the Leather community) did NOT deserve to feel our anger, our hurt, our OUTRAGE at being thrown under the bus for the sake of someone’s laughs.

The words my mother said came tumbling back down onto me.  And I had the usual response I’d had as a kid growing up, “Why?  Why did I trust them?  Why didn’t I listen to my mom?”  There were times in the past when that worked, when I’d pull so far into myself that I ended up appearing anti-social, withdrawing into books, into my studies, into my own self.  But, like many humans, I am a social creature.  I have a need to be in a group of people I choose to have around me, who see value in my contribution and with whom I can commune with.  CommUNITY.  

I am hoping that in 2013 I wouldn’t have to explain the history of blackface in the US; that we understand that white performers putting dark facepaint on and acting like caricatures that humiliate, demean, and denigrate black people (sometimes by making African-American performers put the paint on their own faces!) has no place in today’s society.  That the redemptive value of ‘art’ (which I loosely define as a body of work that draws the viewer into questioning some basic understanding of how their society functions, not just as a whole but as themselves in said society) is NOT found in this act.  I won’t even LINK to any of Knipp’s videos because I REFUSE to provide this person with more hits to his YouTube videos.  I am also hoping that we can understand that yes, blackface in the rest of the world is NOT based on the racist undertones that existed here in the US.  This is NOT about art, or blackface outside the US, or any other attempt at gaslighting the pain being experienced by real people who entrusted their fellow community members to stand up to racism.

This is about accepting and acknowledging and seeing the pain for what it is; a feeling of betrayal, as raw as any other betrayal; be it lover, friend, family, or any other relationship that calls on some of the very vulnerabilities that we willingly expose ourselves to when we decide to take a chance on a community.  To hear just a bit of how painful that sense of betrayal can be, here is Mollena William’s post, this is a video I am more than willing to share.

That hitch in her voice?  That rueful laughter?  That hurt in her eyes?  I know them all.  I feel them all, to varying degrees when I think that somewhere out there, at some play party I have yet to attend, or some leather weekend I bust my ass for, there is someone who says that Knipp’s act and the hurt it causes me and those I care for, is OKAY.  That I need to lighten up.  

Blackface is racist.  Full stop.  When a person of color states that a ‘comedic’ act is a horrible action that brings pain and hurt and disappointment and anger and a myriad of emotions too numerous and HARD, if you are ANY KIND OF AN ALLY, do NOT attempt to explain away our feelings, don’t take away that moment, and our being present to the pain and wanting to do something to stop a hurt so deep and heavy that humanity hasn’t even been able to find a balm for it; just acknowledge the pain.  Be the ally you claim to be and lend us your voices.  

My current standing in the leather community is on shaky ground; I believed that if I lived a life of integrity, if I followed the tenets of Trust, Honor, and Respect that I would find fulfillment in my authentic, kinky, liberated self.  In the leather community, I have found friends, partners, family.  Community.  But that foundation has been rocked to its core.  In writing these words, I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the pain I am feeling.  

I had originally thought of doing a video post to get these words out.  But a post where I sob for 15 minutes (maybe more) wouldn’t do much.  I feel like I have barely even given voice to the knot in my throat.

Happy Summer Solstice, of a sort.

Yes, happy Summer Solstice or Litha to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

I, who am clearly not designed to work well in daylight, spent most of the day in dark dress, avoiding activity, drinking tea and then finally forcing myself into suitable outside clothes for the running of the errands BEFORE entering my hibernation phase.

Come Samhain, I will be up and running and full of energy.  For now, please bear *hee* as I am feeling like a low-watt bulb in a much too high watt light socket.  I’m just not up to the task, apparently.

But I will do my best to be here for those that need me.  Caffeine is a friend, not a crutch in this time of year.

I do it all! Easter/Eostre/Ostara/Passover, did I miss any?

This year, I celebrated the return of Spring, marked the feast of the first Passover by attending two Seders, and went to two very different Easter services.

However, this is still my favorite way of marking the occasion.

Happy insert-your-holiday-of-choice!!!

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