Eve of the Elections, Precipice of Change. And a new Grief Support group

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today on the eve of the elections to face our fear and commit our hearts to the work of a better world.

Or something like that.

If you are hoping for something light and inspiring telling you that we have the power to change everything if we wield our magic and our will, you won’t get that here today. I’m also not going to shame you into voting or not voting. If you’re feeling anxious and fearful, that is very real and I’m not going to tell you to make it go away with positive thinking. You’ve been brow beaten with all of that enough. I am going to be honest with you though and share with you where I am and what I’m seeing.

And well, I’m really really worried. I haven’t felt so ominous since the days leading up to September 11 2001. It feels like we are at the top of a roller coaster, having slowly creaked and clacked our way up, and now we know something is coming but we don’t know exactly what – a long drop probably, and a bunch of twists and turns and loops that will leave us confused and knocked around, but hopefully exhilarated at the end.

Whatever happens in the elections isn’t going to change that. It might change the speed; are we on a super fast coaster or an old wooden one? But regardless we have a long and bumpy ride ahead of us. We’ve reached a point of no return and the only way off this ride is through it.

If anything is giving me hope, it is that it seems like more and more people are finally seeing behind the curtain, are acknowledging our political machine for what it is: an elaborate and complex thing that is held up by the bodies of the oppressed, to the benefit of the rich and powerful. We are all being played by the system, pitted against one another, divided and conquered. Capitalism and kyriarchy rules us all.

That isn’t going to change by voting. Never. Two party, Third party, makes no difference. Even the most ideal candidate is vested in maintaining the machine. I’m not going to say voting is pointless, or that not voting is valid protest, but voting isn’t going to save us. No one in a position of power in the greatest Empire the world has ever seen is going to save us.

It really is up to each of us.

Change is going to have to happen on the ground in our communities. It always has and always will. This is why we are so swept up in promises and appearances of change (Obama, Sanders, and H. Clinton, and even Trump) – because real change is hard and we would still rather not shoulder the burden. But I am convinced that whatever way this election goes we are going to have to finally get REALLY REAL about building community and creating change where we are.

Focus your power and your magic and your will on that. Even if you are still vested and believe in the political-capitalist machine as it runs now. We have to figure out how to meet people where they are, where our hard boundaries are and what we will do to defend them, and how to support and be in community with others who are suffering. We have to do this now.

Doing this work won’t take away your anxiety or fear, but it will help. And it is essential to the safety of PoC, LGBTQ people, women, the disabled, the poor, and everyone who is being Othered.

I’ll be working on some more well thought out posts about tools and methods for building community. In the meantime I have two offerings to help us do that:

If you are staying home Tuesday night and want some company as the election results come in, I will be online on a video conferencing platform beginning at 5:30p Pacific time. If you want the link, just contact me or comment here. You do not need to install any software and set up anything.

As I deepen my grief work, I want to specifically focus on the needs of pagans, polytheists, animists, spirit workers, and the like. I have created a Facebook group called Pagan and Polytheist Grief Support as a place for our grief to be heard and witnessed as well as for the discussion of traditions and cultural and community based approaches to death and grief work. Whether it is the result of personal loss such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or stems from disability, oppression, politics, or ecological distress, all forms of grief are valid and welcome.

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Caryatid Bearing Her Stone by Auguste Rodin PC: S. Nagakyrie It seems like we all feel like this right now

A few updates: Pilgrimage, Grief Ritual, Many Gods West, Work

I’ve been pretty busy in the four weeks since Many Gods West. Much busier than I thought I would be, actually. But this year: Whoever keeps turning up the pressure cooker really needs to take a break. 🙂

I’ve been doing quite a bit of visioning, for myself and for community, and there are some exciting things brewing. Here are a few of them.

I’ve been invited on a pilgrimage to India for about 3 weeks in December to January. Whereas my first trip to India was actually a working trip, this will be a spiritual pilgrimage dedicated to Maa and visiting sacred Shakti sites for devotion. It is being led by a mandir in the San Francisco Bay Area that I greatly respect and I am honored to join them. My heart longs for this, but to make it happen I will need community support. I’ve launched a fundraiser Naked Before Maa: Pilgrimage to India where there is additional information and a more full picture of why I desire this so. I would have such gratitude for your contributions and your efforts at helping me share this!

I will be facilitating a Community Ritual of Grieving in Portland, OR in October. This will be similar to the ritual that I had planned to do at Many Gods West. I am also in conversation with others to bring this ritual to Seattle, WA and to hold other grief circles in a dedicated space in Portland. If you are interested in inviting me to your community to facilitate grief work, please contact me at the form below.

We’ve been getting some excellent feedback on Many Gods West 2016. If you haven’t heard already, I will be the lead organizer of Many Gods West 2017. One of the first things I will be working on is establishing a non-profit organization for the conference. If you would like to assist with establishing the organization, or with organizing the 2017 conference, you are also welcome to contact me.

I am also opening the to door to some additional contract work. Such as: Non-profit and grassroot organization work, including formation, strategic planning, and grantwriting/fundraising; Project management; Working, supporting, and brainstorming with cultural creative types; Writing and Editing; Spiritual coaching and Teaching. I also am a very experienced accountant and bookkeeper. If you are or know of a person or woke business looking for such services, or have another project that you would like to bring me in on, please contact me.

I’ll be writing in more detail about all of these things soon!

And here is a reminder about my Patreon. If you would like to support this and all of the other work that I do, please consider becoming a Patreon supporter and be a part of the community building!

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Building Polytheist Community: You Might Be Doing it Wrong

This past weekend was the second year of Many Gods West. As one of the conference organizers, I am still recovering from the last 11 months and so find myself unable to put words to my experiences just yet. I am planning to write a blog post about exactly what goes in to putting on a conference for Polytheists, Witches, and Pagans. We don’t talk about it too much and I think our communities should be able to see what goes on behind the scenes so that there is more awareness about how hard organizers work and just how much we wish we could do things like pay presenters. I would also love to see MGW East, Midwest, etc and sharing our experiences is helpful for those who want to try to do this thing. =)

As I wrote in my last post, I was also a part of the plenary panel on building polytheist community. I took the opportunity to hop on a soapbox and say some things that I really felt needed to be said. Here it is:

How do we build Polytheist community? First I want to start off with this:

We don’t build it by allowing people to attack members of our community in such a way that threatens their physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial safety. That especially includes attacks by people who are supposedly also a member of our community. If you hold some degree of privilege or position and there is nothing stopping you from standing up to such behavior that would also put you at risk and you still choose not to address it in some way, at the very least by offering support to the one being attacked, and then try to talk of community, you are being very hypocritical. And I say that in the most loving way possible, but there is an increasing amount of behavior I see happening that is hurting people and driving wedges into our communities.

And yes, sometimes addressing it does not mean making grand public displays, and we can do this while holding compassion. But there is far too much turning the other way, hoping it will just go away, lets just let them get bored and slink away until the next time. As a community builder I take this personally, because it counters everything I do and makes it that much harder. We have to be brave and willing to stare the dark, vicious, scarred parts of ourselves and our community in the eye. I also think we need many more opportunities to learn and employ tools of restorative justice.

I want to add and clarify that this applies to not only individual, interpersonal actions but also to those who use our traditions to promote bigotry and fascist ideologies.

I am working on getting the rest of my notes together into a more coherent article and will publish it here or on Gods&Radicals when it is finished.

I changed my plans for the Community Ritual of Grieving over the weekend. I recognized that it would not have been safe or responsible for me to hold a big cathartic ritual on Sunday given how tired I was, and it seemed like a lot of people were feeling “ritualed out”. Instead I facilitated a grief circle; it was so deeply moving and beautiful, I think that perhaps it was what was needed all along. The feedback I’ve received is confirmation of the deep healing potential of having our grief held and witnessed in community, and that we really do need more of these spaces. So I will be offering more of such things in the future.

I also want to say thank you to everyone who helped make Many Gods West 2016 such a success, and to everyone who has helped hold and support me during this very difficult year. You have my unending love and gratitude. I am very much looking forward to taking some down time to Just Be, and then jumping back in to co-creating more amazing things with you all.

Would you like to support my work in the community? Consider joining me on Patreon. Your financial support helps make it possible for me to offer my work to others.

Many Gods West, Community, and Grief

Many Gods West 2016 is only 9 days away. The 2015 conference marked a significant point in my life, and I really can’t believe it has only been a year.

This year, I am one of two primary organizers of the event. And let me tell you, it has been quite the adventure worthy of a novel (I’m just not sure what kind yet – contemporary drama, urban fantasy, or maybe even a Dan Brown book). I won’t gloss it; it is exhausting and underappreciated work. And I am honored to offer it.

In the process, my relationships with gods and people have deepened greatly. Doors have been opened and thresholds crossed. Friendships that I will always cherish have been strengthened. Community has been woven. And it is that weaving of community that has held me in my grief during this time as well.

I am a part of two offerings during the conference. The first is the Plenary Panel on building polytheist community (Friday at 12:30); following our opening ritual we hope that this will help set the tone for the remainder of the conference.

Community building seems so challenging. And sometimes we make it more complex than it needs to be. I think people have a tendency to envision community as a utopia, as a grand idea to be reached. We set ourselves up to fail. If we adjust our thinking a bit, we may realize that we are already always building and supporting community, and that the work of doing that is not as big and challenging as we make it out to be.

We can also fall into the trap of conflating “community” with “identity”. Community does form around identity, but if we are not careful we will form an exclusive monoculture. Communities require diversity to thrive. We treat community as something that should just happen because we all share some thing in common, and we don’t question who we are including. For marginalized people this can be a source of support, but it can also be a source of harm. Community is a process; it is continually creating, evolving, changing, dying. And it is based in relationships.

The second offering is a Community Ritual of Grieving (Sunday at 2:00pm). Grief work has been a part of my service for a long time, but it is so much more personal now. And I feel more deeply than ever before the desperate need we have for community spaces around grief, and for more ceremonies for death, loss, and grieving.

We must grieve before we can create. We must learn to mourn what has been lost before we can build something better. We must honor that which is hungry and grief stricken within us. We must give voice and space to grief and to celebration.

That wail? The one coiled in your gut, the tip of it stuck in your throat? You fear it is too wild, too unrestrained, that if you were to let it free the force of it might just break you in two?

It is. It will. It must.

It is the sound of stars, the sound of black holes and supernova, the sound of a sun burning to its death giving us life.

It is the sound of your liberation. It is the key to your wildness and your power. Your restraint is the lock put there by those who seek to keep us quiet, passive, productive.

Let grief break you. Let our wails rise in unison, mourning all that we have lost all that has been taken from us.

And let us build a better world with the pieces, serenaded by rediscovered notes so sweet.

Grief is a part of who we are; as natural as breathing or eating. Grief and ecstasy weave together to form the tapestry of life and love. We will co-create space to access the grief that is held within, to give it sound and movement. We will then fill the space with love and our visions for a better world. We will hold and be held, witness and be witnessed.

I am very much looking forward to sharing Many Gods West with everyone. I hope the conference fills the cup of everyone in attendance, so that you may continue with your own good works.

Would you like to help support my work? Please consider joining me on Patreon, or dropping a tip into the PayPal link on the sidebar. 

On the Backs of Turtles

I know, its been quiet here. I’ve promised you more writing on India, and on polytheism, and the currents I see in our communities.

But Death came for a visit.

As many of you reading this will know, my sister died in her sleep on March 10. It was sudden and unexpected. Though in hindsight I see the many, many portents and preparations for this I received.

A week prior, an intense and fully embodied experience with Kali.
Continued visions of threads and weaving, and that night a raspy comforting whisper from One of the Ones who Weaves, cutting and removing a thread.

So on March 10 my world came to a screech. It didn’t halt though.

And I’ve been watching the chaos within a portion of the polytheist community while all this was happening. The pain and anger and harm directed at projects I am actively engaged with, and at those I love. I haven’t said much, because go to hell assholes, because I’m grieving and have been a little busy, because I would still much rather put my time and energy into building and supporting community and less into dealing with authoritarian power trolls.

The drama of it seems to have faded again, for now, though the damage has been done.

Some of that damage has been very personal. Yes I am a founding board member of Gods&Radicals. Yes I am a co-coordinator for Many Gods West 2016. I do it because I am passionate about the work, because it is Work that has been asked of me, because I care for the people I work with. I don’t shout it from the rooftops, because that is not who I am as a priestess. But know that an attack on them is an attack on me.

So let me lay this out there: while one of your own was deep in grief, was in desperate need of support from her spiritual community, was in need of the work and service that she has so often provided, that we claim to hold as essential and necessary Work for our Gods and for community,  y’all were embroiled in bullshit petty online arguments about who was right or wrong, about who was the devil and who was the savior, about who was trying to tear down community and religion. Rather than ACTUALLY DOING THE WORK OF COMMUNITY you were arguing about who was destroying it.

I’d call it ironic if I weren’t still so angry.

Oh, not everyone of course. The support I’ve been receiving has come from some of the most unexpected places. Primarily from people who either don’t care or don’t have the luxury to engage with the online arguing. And bless them, for if it weren’t for them I really don’t know where I would be right now.

I noticed those closest to me who have been the most directly affected by the vitriol struggle to maintain their engaged support of my grief, as they were forced to field the mud slinging and direct attacks to their emotional and even physical safety. Eventually I heard less and less from many of them, as their own reserves were drained.

Can no one else see how all of this is related?? For a community of people who claim such access to the Otherworldly, to be outside of the boxes of status quo society, to be able to forsee and rise above… we are just as susceptible to the currents running through our culture and our world.

What is it that forces us to devour our own? To not live our speech? To not actively engage our work, or only engage it when it is convenient or pretty or polishes our egotism?

How about we start sacrificing that egoism instead of feeding it? I know Someone in particular who will gladly devour it, so that we can feed ourselves something so much better…

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And now that this post is out the way, I’m going to do my best to continue to weave all that I am learning and experiencing right now into a coherent story for you all. There will be entries into the Grief Papers. There will be more on India. More on my current journey and how it all relates. It will be uncensored. And I will hold no space for the kind of rabid shit show I’ve been witnessing. So join me, or not.

 

A Conversation on Power and Authority in Polytheism

This is taken from a Facebook conversation which I initiated on my wall. I have included only my comments, and summarized some of the questions that arose.

We (meaning western polytheists, and still I resist the idea that there is a big We – we are too small and too diverse) have an opportunity. If we really do want to bring polytheism back (the Gods never left), and grow the polytheist community, (which I take to actually mean grow the religious movement of polytheism in the West), we have the opportunity to do that from the roots.

Now is our chance to do our best to root out totalitarianism, Authority and power over, and oppression. To really examine what it is we want, who we want to be, and how we want to build the community.

Yes, we are steeped in monotheism. We are steeped in capitalism and patriarchy. It has infiltrated us and infected us whether we’ve diagnosed it or ignore it or not.

We look towards the world religions and easily pick apart what is wrong with them. But when we turn the same discerning eye to our own, we pick apart each other. This is not growth. This is the disease.

All of the world religions have issues with the power that is in the hands of the priests. That power corrupts. Some more than others, as there are individuals who resist. But at the top that power inevitably turns it’s gaze toward money, to how they can profit from religion. Look at the mega churches. Even the Hindu temples in India – one of the longest unbroken “polytheist” (our definition not theirs) traditions – often demand huge amounts of money from devotees.

At the top, that power turns it’s gaze to control. To determining religious experience, to deciding canon, and who is worthy of their religion and who is not. Again, look at the world religions. Look at the history. This is not conjecture or conspiracy. This what we see happen again and again and again.

We have an opportunity to do differently, to try. Yes it means hard conversations. It means it will take time. But if this is not the work, then what is? If this is not an act of devotion, of dedication, then what is? I am led to believe that this is why some particular powerful deities, and the Dead, are making Themselves so known right now.

This is the time. We have to change. We have to do the Work.

But what about creating structures to support the growth of polytheism? What about religious organizations? What about those who approach polytheism from a religious, as opposed to a Witchcraft perspective?

I’m not disparaging the creation of structures and religious organizations. That is good, hard work and I’ve done a lot of it myself. They aren’t for everyone, but they do serve a purpose for those who want/need them.

If that is one of the paths that people want to take, one of the directions polytheism is going, then it becomes essential to examine the power structures within them.

Whose responsibility is it then?

It is all of our (those that identify as a polytheist) responsibility. Organizations do not exist in a vacuum; structures rise from the ground upon which the foundation is built. What are we fertilizing that ground with? How are we remediating it?

I have a hard time separating it from the same responsibility that requires us to examine privilege, to call out bigotry, to say “this is wrong and I will not tolerate it in my community”. It is all a symptom of the same disease.

The tendency that I see within religious and spiritual circles to withdraw, to insulate, to isolate and say “this is my practice and my community and I don’t care what happens over there” is troubling to me. On the one hand, I get it – we are an individualistic bunch focused on claiming our own authority and power. But I don’t understand how we can advocate full community engagement with social justice issues, and not with our religious/spiritual communities. How is that behavior any different from the Christians that ignore and tolerate that awful Baptist Church (whose name is escaping me at the moment ironically)?

Yes the first line of responsibility rests with those who are directly involved in the organization. But we all know that that does not always work, and that being in the center of something often renders people blind to the dynamics at play. It requires outsiders to call attention to it.

And if we are, as I see, in a position to truly examine and improve these issues, it is going to require everyone’s involvement. We are not to blame for the influences at play, but we are going to have to be responsible for resisting and changing them. If not us, then who?

So yes, we can start with the ground upon which our feet rest (our immediate community and community relevant issues). But we can’t ignore that there are other patches of ground (communities) all around us, stretching as far as we can see and beyond. And that all that ground is a part of the same planet (global community) and is all being poisoned by the same things (power, greed, the -isms).

Are we excluding people?

I think we are, sometimes intentionally and sometimes inadvertently. People should feel comfortable claiming whatever identity and associating with the group that they are most comfortable with – and if something is keeping people out from what should rightly be their place, that needs to addressed and corrected.

What about the growth of Polytheism and making sure we only include polytheists?

This question echoes the questions that many groups ask around inclusiveness and identity. It is the same question asked of, for example, “women only” groups, which often receives huge amounts of rancor and pushback.

Self identification is my sticking point. Once someone self selects, if then their behavior is determined to be detrimental to the group, the behavior can be addressed and ultimately they may be asked to leave.

But even larger than community based groups, I hear from MANY people that they are not sure if they are welcome in polytheist spaces, are not sure if the Polytheist movement is for them. This seems to stem largely from interactions with a vocal minority of people seeking to define what Polytheism is for all of us, and intentionally excluding other input and conversations.

I also want to see polytheism “grow” in that I want people to be validated, to have access to the community that is the most relevant to their experiences, and to be able to share what we learn with the wider community – including those outside polytheism – because there is much wisdom in the way we (sometimes) approach the world.

But at what cost does that growth come? Our current examples of growth in movements and organizations are not the most healthy. We can do better.

And if our entire religion/movement is going to crumble because we “let in” a few of the wrong people, or because not everyone agrees with us, then it was probably not very strong to begin with. We have to build it to withstand those things. We have to have healthy soil and solid foundations, a strong guiding ethos. We have to practice what we preach. Or we deserve to fail.

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The Tower from the Ride Waite Smith tarot. Wikimedia.

The Community That Wasn’t: A First Timers Reflections on PantheaCon

(This is the first in a series of posts about my experiences and thoughts following my first PantheaCon. This post is meant as both a recap and general critique of my experiences – and my experiences alone. Future posts will delve more in depth into specific topics.)

I passed through the double sliding doors, and immediately made eye contact with someone I knew – a person with whom I had engaged in a few meaningful conversations online and via Skype, and shared physical space with a few years ago. I smiled as this person locked eyes and recognition flashed across their face; then, without any additional acknowledgement, looked away and returned attention to the congregation of Big Name Pagans.

This was my first time attending PantheaCon. I’ve lived on the West coast for almost 5 years, 3 of them in the Bay Area. I’m originally from the Southeast, where the stuff that happens on the West coast doesn’t feel particularly important. I’m also an experienced Witch that has been actively learning, teaching, and participating in communities for almost 18 years, though I still fall under the “young leader” umbrella (more about that later). I never felt like attending PantheaCon, and honestly it felt both overwhelming and irrelevant. As I started to engage more within the Pagan blogosphere and social media, and became more familiar with West coast Paganism, all I could imagine was that a national indoor conference of 2500+ Pagans would be a massive clusterf*ck. And a place where those we elevate enjoy their position on the pedestal and the rest of us sit at their feet.

Over the last few years, a lot of things have been shifting in my world. I’m at a place where I once again have more questions than answers, where my Saturn return has left me feeling at the beginning of another Journey of the Fool and my nearly two decades of experience is from another lifetime. Then again, I’ve been known to be hard on myself. In the past several months I have been receiving a lot of internal and external affirmations of my path and place within this grand scheme of life. It came to occur to me that I really should attend this conference at least once, that it could be a very clarifying experience, and if I was going to do it now was the time.

It was clarifying, and confusing. Intense, and interesting. I’m not going to tell you that you should attend at least once too. But in many ways I am glad that I did, criticisms aside. I don’t know if I will return though some friends and I have some fun ideas about shaking things up a bit.

I wanted to know, would this feel like community? Would I walk into any of the spaces at PantheaCon and immediately feel like I was surrounded by my community, my tribe, by people that welcomed me? Would I feel accepted?

The first session I attended was Gods and Radicals: Anti-Capitalist Resistance and Pagan Practice, by Alley Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth. I consider Alley a friend and comrade, so I was glad to start my official PantheaCon experience with a welcoming hug and diving right in to one of my passions. Surprisingly, the room was filled beyond capacity and discussions remained thoughtful and civil, even with the stifling heat from a room that had not been cooled. There was an obvious yearning for more discussion and action around anti-capitalism as it intersects with spiritual practice. I am hopeful that maybe Pagandom does care about issues that aren’t just the latest hot topic, that there are Pagans ready to get at the core issues of power and oppression and empire. This felt good and safe and welcoming.

The times in between sessions and over lunch and dinner are chaotic. I was prepared for large crowds and was well shielded to be surrounded by 2500+ Pagans and magic workers for 3 days; I can have a pretty imposing presence and solid boundaries when I choose to. Where I live now, there is a nasty practice by some witches who feel entitled to poke and prod at another witch’s energy body anytime you share space with them. I hadn’t encountered much of this before, and thought it was just a local thing. But at PantheaCon, I felt it. The little tugs, the pokes, the feeling of being ‘undressed by someone’s [energetic] eyes.’ Nope, this was definitely not community.

In the afternoon I attended Turning the Wheel: Nurturing Young Leaders and Embracing Change. I was excited for this panel, as it is also a subject I care deeply about and I have a lot of respect for several of the people that were on the panel (specifically Thorn Coyle, Jason Pitzl, and Shauna Aura Knight, who I am the most familiar with their work). I’ll have another piece up about my experiences of and thoughts following this panel, but for now suffice it to say I left with more questions than answers and still wondering “is this really my community?

There were several people I wanted to connect with face to face during the Con, for various reasons. Accomplishing that task was a bit more difficult than I anticipated (and I anticipated it would be very difficult). At the end of a session, there was generally a rush of people to snag the attention of the presenter(s), and then little groups that break off of folks already familiar with each other. If you’re not fast or already a part of a little clique, getting some face time is challenging. You can try to snag someone during one of the meal breaks, but personally I would eat someone who came between me and my meal if I was hungry… so that wasn’t a good option for me. Mostly, it just seemed to happen by synchronicity or through sheer patience.

Saturday evening I attended the Bringing Race to the Table panel. I found a seat on the inside edge of the room, so I could be best positioned to listen and hold space and fade out of the way if I needed to. A lot has already been shared about what happened at this panel. I will say I was very glad to see a panel again own up to the fact that they were a very poor representation for the discussion, as only one panelist was a person of color Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, in addition to the moderator Crystal Blanton. The discussion was intense and often uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating. I was sitting next to Luna Pantera, and when she stood to speak for the trauma and pain she was experiencing, it washed over me. When I heard her battle cry for us, as magic workers, to get up and do some damn magic, I threw my hands and energy into the air in support. When she sat down again, sobbing as I felt the waves of pain rolling off of her, I did the only thing I could do and breathe slowly next to her, sending my pain and I hope a little of hers back into the Earth with a prayer. At the end of the panel, as Luna’s friends came to comfort her, I met my eyes with one woman in particular, we smiled at each other, and I quickly and quietly slipped out of the way. That was the best way I knew to be of support in that moment.

I was curious about the hospitality suites since they get talked about so much, and wondered where they would be located (this hotel must have a lot of meeting rooms!). Actually, the suites are located in regular hotel rooms or larger hotel suites – which made sense once I realized it, but for me poses a bit of a problem. A bunch of people I don’t really know crowded into an unknown hotel room (with or without beds) – yeah definitely trigger material. So that was a barrier to me accessing those spaces, but I did make a go of it.

Walking into the suites, I felt awkward and received varying degrees of welcome. If there were already intense discussions or an event happening, it was much more likely I was ignored. If it was fairly quiet I was invited to sit and chat and have a drink, until someone came in that was more well-known at which point I was pretty much ignored even as I tried to engage. I left most of the hospitality suites feeling like a stranger in a strange land, and wondering just how we define hospitality.

Since I attended all social justice events on Saturday, I decided Sunday would be a day for me to attend events more focused on spirituality and practice. I started the day by donating blood; I thought it was amazing that this had been coordinated as a spiritual offering for the Con. The process itself took way longer than I expected so I missed the first event I had planned for. But, this opened the space for me to socialize and I made some of the face to face connections I was hoping for. Jason Pitzl was one of those people and I had a very enjoyable conversation with him and a friend. There are people at PCon, well known people even, who are genuinely open and excited to meet others and it is the interactions with those individuals that led me to feel like there was some community to be had.

Oddly enough, I frequently found myself hanging out in Vendor Land as a kind of safe space. I’m not going to unpack that much, other than I did have a couple of friends/acquaintances with booths so I would hang out there for a little while wandering. But it felt comfortable, like I could be there without needing a reason to be there.

I hadn’t seen Starhawk in a few years, so I attended her ritual workshop on Ritual and Storytelling. I can’t say I found the material particularly informative, but the ritual we co-created was sweet. I am continually surprised, even with all of the struggle and discussions around community, when Pagans get into a ritual together we have no trouble supporting one another and sharing really private things. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it does make me wonder why we can’t carry that into all of our interactions with each other?

Humans are funny creatures.

In the evening I attended Shauna Aura Knight’s discussion on Leadership – Boundaries, Communication, and Groups. I was pleased with her facilitation and creating a safe container for discussion, but as was the case with all of the sessions it didn’t feel like enough time. By this time in the conference I had learned a little more about how to get things done, and since she was one of the people I had been meaning to connect with I waited for the crowd to disperse so we could meet briefly.

Time. Time is a commodity at such a large conference. The schedule is packed and run very tightly – so there is little time to mingle after a session before someone comes to clear the room.

I was looking forward to Kali Puja all weekend. I attended some of Sharanya’s pujas in San Francisco and have had some really wonderful discussions with Chandra. I knew the power of the puja, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect with such a large group of people. Well, I was taken by surprise. I went deeper and connected more strongly with the yearning of, for, and by Ma Kali than I ever have. As I rocked in ecstatic abandon, tears of joy and release streaming down my face, I felt the love that was in that room and the longing that we all share for connection with the Goddesses/Gods. Even as I type this, I feel the tears welling up. We are indeed so hungry, so in need of authentic connection – with each other, with the spirits of the land, with the Deities.

I don’t fully understand yet why we don’t have it, why a group of people that believe so strongly in the divinity that is all around and within us and outside of us have such a hard time building and sustaining nurturing communities – but I think back to Luna’s call for us to ‘just do some damn magic already’ and Elena Rose’s poignant thought that ‘if we’re going to stop eating each other we’re going to have to start feeding each other something better’.

In the room next to us, the Pagans of Color Caucus was happening. I observed the Ally Sentinels as they gathered while I was in line for the puja. At the time, I wasn’t aware of the other events that had been occurring. And, I knew I was where I needed to be. But during puja I had the distinct feeling that we were doing important work of support as well, creating a temple of love and joy, praying to a Goddess who had long been relegated to a position of darkness and evil, while People of Color who were experiencing such hurtful acts and incredible pain were doing their own healing.

The ironic thing about community is that by opening ourselves to it, we also open ourselves to the possibility of members of that community causing us pain. As in any relationship, I don’t think that the causing of pain means there is no community. But to be in community, there has to be trust that the pain caused is not intentional, and we have to assume the best intentions until proven otherwise. I saw very little of either over the weekend.

On Monday I attended a session that was pulling at me: Beyond the Gates of the Seer Divining the Oracular in Community. I seldom go to Seidh or other oracular rituals because it makes me uncomfortable to have a single priest/ess on a throne divining the Gods. However, I have always been a natural seer and oracle and am at a place where I am seeking more support around that. When I arrived I felt a very strong connection with the two Priestesses and realized I had run into them the day before and felt a tug of sisterly recognition and a need to speak, but the opportunity passed. I later realized I had met one of them at some Priestess events in San Francisco.

The goal to create a community of oracles felt lofty, but so important. I had an intense experience at the ritual and definitely felt a connection with some of the other strong visionaries in the room. But, as soon as the ritual ended that connection was gone, and people fled in their separate directions. I was finally able to speak briefly with one of the Priestesses, but that interaction too was cut short.

After taking some more time to ground myself, I walked through the hotel lobby area one last time, feeling out if there was anything left for me to do. No, I was ready to leave.

After we left my husband drove us out to Santa Cruz so I could put my feet in the Pacific again – this siren can’t avoid the pull of the Ocean, and indeed as soon as I stepped onto the beach a huge wave came and bathed my feet, while a school of dolphins appeared in the surf. That was the perfect end to the weekend, and a reaffirmation.

This weekend has stimulated a catacomb of thoughts that I hadn’t fully explored, and for that I am grateful. It was right for me to be there, and will be an experience I look back on and continue to unpack for many years even if I never return.

A synopsis of my thoughts and experiences:

We are a long way from creating any kind of cohesive Pagan community, and most attempts at creating huge infrastructure to do that are going to struggle while we try to figure out what community is and even if we want it.

The sessions at PCon help create a very brief sense of community – but in my experience were fleeting as people rushed off to ‘the next big thing’.

I don’t care who you are, nothing excuses blatant rudeness.

More effort needs to be made by those who are well known to welcome and create space for those who are struggling to find their place.

For all of its massiveness and amount of coordination, I did feel that overall PCon was more “for the people, by the people” than I expected. But, my expectation was very low.

My suggestions to other first-timers:

Don’t carry any expectations about what is going to happen. Let intuition and synchronicity guide you.

There are moments of opportunity for authentic connection Seize them, treasure them.

Don’t attend something just because you feel like you should or because there is a big name on the presenter list. It is unlikely you will get to connect individually with them. Attend what calls to you – you may be surprised at what you get out of it.

If you have any challenges around attending events by yourself, bring a friend. It could be overwhelming and feel a bit lonely if you don’t know anyone.

Be prepared to push yourself and the edges of your boundaries. Let the experience move you.

Don’t be ashamed to ‘check out’ if you need to – find a quiet spot, go back to your room, opt out of some events. The more self-care you practice the more you will get out of the event.

Feel free to love it or hate it, to agree or disagree, to feel like it is the most amazing event ever or complete bullshit. All of it is ok.