There is no end
there is only change
This chant continues to ring through my head, one of the many powerful ones that were invoked during the March 5 – 8th Between the Worlds and Sacred Space joint conferences. I knew that this event would leave me with a certain resonance, I knew that it very may well strike my shining, spiritual self like a gong. But I couldn’t have been prepared for the accumulation of experience, for the volume of energy created not only by such a large crowd, but also by such a seasoned crowd.
Sacred Space “is the premier annual esoteric conference on the East Coast for intermediate to advanced practitioners.” Between the Worlds, “is an interfaith esoteric conference that occurs when the stars indicate that such a gathering is needed and favored.” This year, as chance would have it, and for the first time ever, they were combined into one event.
As my first hotel con, I felt that I was ready for a workshop-oriented event. I figured since I am so used to functioning on my own, as a solitary, and I am very used to going to conventions for work and in the gaming spheres, that this would be a good, safe way for me to slide into it.
I think one of the things that resonated so deeply with me about the conference was the fact that it wasn’t a beginners conference. Though my group practice is fairly limited, I have been a solitary practitioner for quite some time now and have devoted a lot of time to study, meditation and practice. I’ll admit, my everyday use of magic has mostly consisted of the use of rituals and pathworkings rather than spells. I regularly do the former and occasionally do the latter.
The point is, I thought I was ready. When I went to Robin Fennelly’s workshop, ‘Down the Rabbit Hole,’ I felt prepared. Looking back now, it was the accumulation of experiences that I maybe wasn’t ready for, in a good way.
The two plenary panels featured such a diverse range of folks, but the message was surprisingly consistent. There was an emphasis on community and owning your own shit, in a spiritual and personal sense. The first panel concentrated on building alliances with the spirit world and the second was on nurturing spiritual communities.
As John Beckett put it in his event wrap up the emergent theme was, “school’s over – get to work.” This line was spoken by Katrina Messenger, powerfully, during the main ritual.
As the weekend progressed, I attended the annual conjure dance, unfortunately with a broken ankle, and workshops with T. Thorne Coyle, Byron Ballard, Michael Smith, Orion Foxwood. There were rituals small and writ large. The main one occurred on Friday night where I was ecstatic to find myself in circle and in ritual with most of the aforementioned, as well as Kirk Thomas, Ivo Dominguez, Katrina Messenger, Christopher Penczak, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Diana Paxson… so many luminaries, so many truly experienced practitioners. It was humbling and amazing to have the opportunity. The energy raised, the sense of community that the ritual fostered, the sense of togetherness was deeply moving.
And that’s how it was for the rest of the weekend, energetic, exciting, overwhelming. My partner and I had to retreat to our hotel room for a little while just to allow time to process everything and to ground. And so it seemed appropriate, somehow, to find myself on a bumpy ride in a shuttle van on the way to the airport early Monday morning, talking excitedly with Kirk Thomas, Archdruid to Ár nDraíocht Féin, about everything. It was a continuation of that sense that anything was possible… because anything is possible.
Bringing it home
The difficult part about living in the part of Florida that I do is that the community here is disparate, disconnected, largely solitary. I’ve come away frustrated in the past when attempting to get something going. So to hear the two part message of 1. know yourself, own your shit and 2. work on your community, work with your community, was challenging. It set off a little bit of defensiveness. How do these people know where things are at with my community? I sat with that for a little while until I was finally able to move past my mini-tantrum. The answer of course, was in the first part… know yourself, own your shit. In what way could I, introverted, shy as I am, how could I help? Through writing and through honest expression, the answer came back. What was I not owning up to in my past attempts? That I was reluctant to be an organizer because of feelings it brought up from my past.
When I got back, I wrote a very quick, very energetic message about the conference and the message of community that came from it on our local Facebook Pagan group (already you can see the cracks in my argument that there is no community here… if there weren’t, why would there be a Facebook group?). The response was as rapid and enthusiastic as my post. Now, I’m happy to say that a group of us have made plans to meet up on the Spring Equinox in order to discuss what we’d like to see in our community.
I feel like this is the purpose of any conference you attend, be it Pagan, work related or something else. You become energized, you meet in a broader communal sense and are refreshed. But you have to take that energy home.
T. Thorne Coyle was asked in a panel discussion, “what is the most important thing we can do to nurture our spiritual communities?”
Her reply: “Show up.”
And that’s what I intend to do for my community.
She continued, (and I’m cribbing this quote from John Beckett’s post):
“communities have to be messy.” She said “too many of us are looking for an ideal community and give up when we don’t get it.” She encouraged us to be willing to apologize and move on and to continue showing up.
I’m excited to see where things go, I’m excited to have things get messy. I’m excited to develop deep friendships and to have things that I need to learn from and process. I’m excited to have community.