I talked about my experience on an individual level on the last blog post, but this post is more about my interactions with the people and panels of Many Gods West. Next blog post will be about what I hope to see the following year!
The first person I had the pleasure of meeting was my hotel room mate, Sophia. A wonderful person! She welcomed me into the hotel room, we had a short chat, then I was off to registration to volunteer.
I then met Niki Whiting, one of the organizers behind Many Gods West. She was delightful, professional, and handling the stress of the entire endeavour better than most people! We had some small talk before she had to busy about the hotel to tie up some loose ends.
I met so many people while at the registration, that I apologize for not remembering everyone’s names! One person in particular I remember was Emily, the blogger behind Home, Hearth, and Heart. I blushed and gushed instantly! She does so much good work for the community at large. She was there with the Dionysus assembly, called Bekcheion. She was just as sweet and caring in person as you would expect someone who ran Home, Hearth, and Heart to be.
The first thing we did was a community ritual lead by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. It was very lovely, though it did drag on in some places due to the amount of people attending exceeded the anticipated amount. Still, very meaningful and wonderful. It had elements drawn from Shinto, as the organizers had spent time going to a Shinto shrine prior to the event. I really appreciated how PSVL did the ancestors, as e made sure to include nonbinary ancestors as well as male and female ancestors. Then of course the deity section was also meaningful, and the land and water section. It all led up to a beautiful community shrine being created.
I then went back to the room briefly before attending the first panel, “Cutting Through the Fog” by Anthony (Tony) Rella. The basis of the talk was how psychosis and divine experience differ, are the same, and intersect. It was so fascinating and well-researched. What I took away from the talk is that the community needs to have more reliable leaders for people who need advice, counsel, or help. This leader should not be therapy, but know when therapy would be appropriate and who to recommend to the community member.
Then there was time for dinner, but instead of dinner I took time to take a bath and rest as I slept poorly the night before.
I came back for Morpheus Ravenna’s keynote. And wow. I hope she writes it down somewhere, because I would love to reference that keynote again. She had a wonderful way of talking about the differences between archetypes and deities. Something I want to remark is that she specifically did not trash-talk people who wished to work with archetypes alone, which I admired her mentioning at all. I too don’t think there is anything wrong with working with only archetypes, but as Ravenna also said, it’s different. Working with or honoring a deity is so much more personal than working with or honoring an archetype.
After her keynote, I quickly purchased her new book off her: The Book of the Great Queens. She even signed it for me! I felt like such a fangirl, blushing and stuttering. Oh well. Morpheus Ravenna is a good person to admire, I think. She avoids some of the issues I came across in other blogs of hubris and elitism.
After the keynote, I went to the spontaneous seidr! I had never gone to one before, but it was very interesting. I talked more about it in my previous blog entry, so I won’t go much into it here. Just gave me a lot to think about.
The following day, I went to Gwion Raven’s lecture on Ceridwen. Raven told a story about Ceridwen, then followed up with this powerful environmental lesson of “Change or Die.” Sounds dire, but that was definitely the intention. Talking with Gwion Raven definitely makes it clear that activism and environmentalism is very important to him and to him spiritually.
The next panel was something I was anxious to know more about: Anonymous Spirits! This panel was done by L. Phaedrus. On top of being an excellent introduction and discussion on anonymous spirits, Phaedrus made sure to mention culture appropriation in their presentation–which is something I am always happy to see more people talking about and taking seriously. I definitely feel better equipped to help people who come seeking divination services for entities they aren’t sure who they are as of yet–and may never get to know.
After the panel was lunch, and I had the privilege of going with Phaedrus and another person (who’s name I sorely forget!) to lunch. We had a great conversation about anonymous spirits, culture appropriation, and family. It felt very refreshing to talk to people who just understood the polytheist dynamic and managing a life around it.
We arrived back to the conference in time to see Elena Rose have her panel on “Loving Our Monsters.” Another WOW moment. Very powerful talk about how the monster iconology is being applied to people. She talked about monsters such as “The Thug” and “The Tr***y” and “The Alien.” And if you didn’t understand how those three classifications are “monsters”, you need to stay tuned for the book she is writing about it all! Very powerful in a very real way. At the end, we did a short visualization where we took up our monster crowns (discussed more in my previous blog entry.) I had the pleasure of meeting Rose after her talk and thanked her for the presentation. I wish I could link everyone to it because of how profound the panel was.
Then there was a short break before I got ready for the Devotional to Cathobudua by Coru Cathobudua…which I detailed more in my previous blog entry.
Then was time for dinner. I had the pleasure of going with Lizzy and my friend Chris to a very nice Italian restaurant–as Lizzy and I decided it was time to “treat yo self!” It was a real pleasure to meet Lizzy for that short time and we had a lot of fun talking and discussing various polytheist and woo type things.
We made it back a little late to the conference and attended John Beckett’s “Preparing the Way for the Gods.” Two things about his presentation that bothered me. I didn’t like the undertone that all polytheist communities looked the same, or would be the same, or have similar goals. But the real problem I had was when he mentioned that “polytheism is a religion of practice”. That didn’t sit well with me, because polytheism isn’t about practice by itself.
Otherwise, I really appreciated points he brought up during his lecture, such as “publicize, not proselytize.” The idea that being open about being polytheist and/or pagan is very important to helping others know they aren’t alone, which I agree and am very open about my religion myself. I also appreciated the piece of advice that the idiom “build it and they will come” is wrong! In regards to Polytheist Community Center, I should find the community, then build it. Which makes sense but is trickier that way.
After that panel, I spent some time in Dana Corby’s room with Chris while the both of them played on their respected instruments and I listened. Corby was just dispencing so much interesting information about music and song that I couldn’t keep up writing it all down! Her claim-to-fame is that she helped on the first Pagan Music Album, Songs for the Old Religion. In particular, she wrote “The Sungod”–which she played live for me! It was a fantastic, low-energy evening and I was so lucky to have been able to attend.
I then had an unfortunate evening of going to a bar, being ditched, and almost having a panic attack…but I made it through okay, and went to bed quite soundly.
Sunday morning I mustered the courage to sit down with my hotel room mate Gwion Raven and talked to two other conference goers at the same time. I sadly do not recall their names, but we had a great talk about community. I bravely shared why I was no longer part of ADF to an ADF Druid. He expressed regret about my experience, which I appreciated. We then discussed various traveling and travels, and how I should enjoy my youthful body why I could!
I then went to the Heathens United Against Racism talk about Heathenry today, handled by Sophia and Ryan. The discourse was very enlightening, though the entire time I could only think about the transgressions I recently had with a Gaelic Polytheist group…and how many of the red flags I wrote down corresponded in part to something they said. Even though the issue with that GP group was not racism, I wonder if it could have eventually been.
With room check out being a mess, I arrived late to my second panel on Sunday. Anomalous Thracian hosted “Religions of Relation: Place, Hospitality, and Regional Cultus in Modern Polytheism.” Unfortunately, room acoustics and arriving late made me wonder what the hell was going on in the panel. I did gather the idea that you should go to the experts when something strange happens–whoever those experts might be. He also discussed about how alcohol isn’t always an appropriate offering, since some land spirits–a lot even–might be offended by it, which I have heard elsewhere as well.
Afterwards, I grabbed lunch with Phaedrus and Chris. Again, a wonderful conversation, one involving lots of theatre talk as I learned Phaedrus use to work at theatre.
Then we came back to the conference and…sat. We didn’t go to the next panel, but instead sat around. This is where I met Ember Cooke and really got to meet Xochiquetzal Duti. We chit-chatted and Cooke shared with us Love Letters from Freya. They went to set up for the ritual, and soon after I joined them.
The Freya Ritual was very simple but very moving. First off, I was very happy to see a youngster in the crowd. I was glad that Cooke decided to let the parents bring their new baby to the ritual, who was rightly named Freya. While Cooke sang devotional poetry, the little one bounced around in dance. We then sat around and discussed Freya, what we knew and didn’t know about her. Then we were led through a visualization. Sadly I didn’t have an easy time with the visualization, but I felt Freya nonetheless. Afterwards, I quickly snagged some gifts for my friend in Alabama since she has interactions with Freya and could appreciate a love letter from Freya perhaps.
Then before we knew it, it was time for the closing ritual! We did the reverse of the opening ritual and in the process dismantled the community shrine. It was saddening to see the community shrine go, but it was a must as the time came to a close. I said goodbye to several people.
Overall, I met a lot of wonderful people this weekend. My only not-so-great-encounter was sometime on Friday when an older person gushed about The Frosts…I decided to bite my tongue and not go into how awful they are. Eeep. EEEEEEP though.
But luckily that was an isolated incident. Otherwise, I felt very safe with the rest of everyone I met and hope to continue to keep in contact with most if not everyone. I plan to read up and become more active in the blogging community, too, so I have a better understanding of the people I’m meeting if this should happen next year.
Speaking of…onto the next blog entry!