Monday, February 25, 2013

PantheaCon 2013 :D

Well I have been back from PantheaCon for a week now and I’m still taking in some of the things that happened.  It’s amazing that anything happened at all, considering how short my stay was and how some unplanned “adventures” tried (but failed) to derail an awesome weekend.

I enjoy traveling.  I like the whole process of flying from booking flights to picking up checked luggage and everything in between.  I like to think of myself as an experienced planner of trips and an adaptable traveler who can overcome whatever random obstacles are thrown at me.   Well, I kind of blew it in that regard this time.

In an effort to book an affordable flight, using my preferred method of payment, I ended up booking a flight that didn’t even leave until after 8 PM on the Friday of PantheaCon.  That was a huge blunder and I will never repeat it simply to save $75.  As a result of this decision, I reached my hotel room (about 3 blocks from the primary hotel) at 11:30 PM.  I was too tired and it was too late to go over to the con so I hauled my 100 pounds of luggage (no lie) up to my room and crashed.

Saturday morning at PantheaCon is a wonderful thing to see.  I got a good night’s sleep and hoofed it over to con fairly early on Saturday morning.  I had to hang around a few minutes for registration to open, but they whisked me right through.  By the time I had checked in at the Green Room (since I had a workshop scheduled), the Llewellyn table was up and running.  I gave Elysia a big hug and got to meet my publisher, Bill Krause, for the first time.  After apologizing for missing the Llewellyn’s author “get together” on Friday night, we chatted for a bit before Elysia was off to another panel and I took a quick tour of the vendor’s room. 

I thought that the vendor’s room was a really nice mix this year.  Last year it seemed a little lopsided, but this year I thought there was a great mix of vendors and that they were well distributed.  I was surprised to see several vendors with large assortments of buttons for sale.  I thought that was very cool.  It was refreshing to see a good assortment of less expensive items for sale.  I also like PantheaCon’s policy of having a vendor’s room that is open to the general public.  I’m not sure if that’s to appease a California law or just good business on the Con’s part, it is a smart move that certainly won’t hurt the vendors. 

PantheaCon brings together quite a diverse spectrum of people.  The most recent head-count I saw put attendance over 2,400 people this year.  As you can imagine, attendees run the gamut from strict Wiccans to free-wheeling Solitaries to many who do not describe themselves as “Pagan” at all.  People from a huge variety of lifestyles and spiritual backgrounds gathering under a single roof has some pretty obvious opportunities for conflict.  Luckily, the energy of PantheaCon is a very positive one of inclusion, so conflicts are rare and generally handled quietly.  Sitting in the hotel lobby, as I did for several hours, is one of the most unique “people watching” opportunities I have encountered.

Around lunch time on Saturday, I moved towards my workshop rooms.  The Con had doubled my space from last year and I had brought enough materials for 64 people (at least a dozen more than had been in my best-attended workshop in years past).  I know that the previous year I had planned for 30 people and had just enough materials to allow 35 to make incense.  I thought that more than doubling my planned capacity would be enough.  I was wrong.

For workshops, attendees cannot get into line more than 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.  I had to set up for 64 people inside the room as well as set up the projector to work with my netbook, get my PowerPoint queued up, and get merchandise out for sale.  Needless to say, I was completely occupied for the 45 minutes leading up to start time.  I was blown away when one of the wonderful Con workers came to me and said that when they allowed people to line up, 53 people immediately got into line for this workshop.  That was still 15 minutes before the doors would be opened.

I just can’t say how humbled I was in that moment.  To think that so many people were interested in spending a little time making incense just took my breath away.  Once the doors were opened, the 64 seats filled quickly and I ended up with another 20 people sitting around the edges of the room.  A few of them even bought incense making kits so they could join in on the fun!  I’ve participated in many festivals, retreats, and conventions, but I have never been so moved by an audience at a workshop.

The workshop itself was awesome.  This was the first crowd to get to see my PowerPoint.  It was an amazing group of people.  I was very fortunate to find so many people to share my little corner of the universe for a few hours.  I do not know if I lived up to their expectations, but I can say that they completely exceeded mine!  I was wiped out of books in a matter of minutes.  I sold dozens of incense making kits and related material.  Everyone was kind and patient while I helped people roll incense and check out with their books.

A very wonderful lady stayed behind and helped me clean up after the magnificent mayhem subsided.  We cleaned up and cleared the room for the next presenter in record time.  Aside from 9 sets of measuring spoons vanishing, it was the most flawless workshop of my career!  My deepest and most sincere thanks to everyone who attended the workshop this year.  There were only 3 of the 85 attendees who had ever been in one of my workshops before, so I hope that I set the other 82 firmly on the path of using natural incense.  If there is anyone who wanted to attend but couldn’t get in (is that even possible??) then I can’t wait to see you next year.

Assuming I am lucky enough to be chosen to present again at PantheaCon next year, I plan to propose a second workshop for those who have already attended the beginner’s workshop.

After my workshop, the rest of the time at the Con was pretty much my own.  I went back to my hotel room and took a rest before going back for some fun.  I got to sit in on parts of a number of workshops (including a most interesting one on kyphi – sad I only got to stay for a few minutes since this is a topic I plan to cover in more depth as I work on the 2nd edition of my first book) and meet a lot of people.

On Sunday morning, I manned the Llewellyn vendor’s table while the Llewellyn folks went to offer a panel about how to get published.  I was able to chat with a variety of Con attendees and meet a whole new assortment of friends.  River Higginbotham and I spent a great deal of time discussing the Pagan community.  We traded war stories about community building and he keyed me in to some very interesting things going on nationwide.  It was a very enjoyable, and very enlightening, conversation and I really appreciate him taking the time to chat so freely with me.  I didn’t want the conversation to ever end but I had to check out of my hotel room, so we parted ways.

I got to drop an incense making kit on an unsuspecting Oberon as he passed me outside the restaurant.  His arms were full so he didn’t even have a way to refuse my gift if he had wanted to!

Is this a boring report from PantheaCon?  If you’ve never been, it is difficult to explain just how overwhelming it is.  There are so many interesting and powerful energies running loose that I have trouble focusing on anything for more than a few minutes.  Needless to say, there is something going on every minute of every day from start to finish.  I hope to be lucky next year and get called in the room lottery so I can stay in the main hotel.  I think I will avail myself of the massive number of great parties and suites far more if I can stay in the hotel while meandering back to my own room.

Aside from getting food poisoning on Saturday night and nearly starving to death (again) in the San Jose airport while searching for something to eat that was gluten-free, this was a nearly flawless trip.  I had such an incredible time, got to hang out with amazing people, have the most unbelievable workshop of my career, and got through it all safely.  My car was waiting for me in long term parking and it took me right home.  All I can say is that I can’t wait for next year!!!!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pagans and Television: Has the time come?

2013 just may be remembered as a watershed year for Pagans and the media.  Currently (quite early in the year) we can see several projects that might bring America's large and diverse Pagan population into the unblinking eye of the media, especially television.  It is possible that this year could see Pagans finally make a break through with public perception and overcome at least a few negative stereotypes.  It is also possible that this year could see Pagans even more vilified and marginalized because of this interaction with media.  Some segments of the Pagan community are ready to move (or already have moved) away from an Occult philosophy (staying hidden from view) and reach out to the greater community in America.  Other segments of our community are either waiting to see how things will progress or are simply unprepared for us to be seen by this double-edged medium.  It is just possible that 2013 will be the year it happens, ready or not.

The first part of the Pagans and television launched at the start of the year.  Pagan Living TV has now competed their 4th weekly episode of their new Pagan-oriented news magazine called "The Pagan Voice".  It is a professionally-produced television similar to 60 Minutes.  The show seeks to look at current events from a Pagan persective.  This show is clearly in its infancy and has a long way to grow, but already in just 4 episodes the show has gained greater depth and increased maturity.  The purpose of the show seems (to me) to not only be an opportunity to inform, but also to begin discussions on many different topics.  Often it is the discussion that stems from the stories that provides the greatest benefit in our homes and communities.  I am definitely a supporter of Pagan Living TV and hope that we see it grow and blossom in the coming years.  For a long time, many in our community have toiled to create wonderful podcasts and on-line broadcasts shows for Pagans.  Pagan Living TV has taken the leap from the web to the production standards of broadcast television.

In a very different vein, at least two different west coast Pagan communities have been approached by a Hollywood production company that is interested in creating a reality television show.  Leaders in both communities have met with representatives from the production company but the project is still far from being certain.  As you can imagine, the communities being approached have to balance generations of villification at the hands of popular media against the potential gains of showing the greater community the true nature of Paganism in many of its varied forms.  The general consensus seems to have been that if the producers are fair in their treatment that this would be an unequaled opportunity to educate.  Naturally, everyone is extraordinarily concerned about the potential for abuse or explotation of our communities.  The foremost thought in the minds of most is to protect our community first and educate second.  If the community feels unsafe, the show would lose all realism as the vast majority of the community would withdraw from public view.

I fear that therein lies a danger.  Let us try to imagine the realistic outcome of this situation. The cameras might be focused on a growing Pagan community finding its way to intercommunication and participation with their non-Pagan neighbors.  The cameras might focus on a large, well-established Pagan community in a sprawling metropolitian area.  At either extreme, the impacts of non-participation could be just as harmful as the worst case scenario if the community DID participate.  Imagine that the leadership from every Pagan organization in the area banded together and decided that cameras were not welcome and the community would not participate.  How long would it be before camera "hogs" would move in and fill the void?  Can you imagine if anyone who wanted 10 seconds of fame could just claim to be a crazy Pagan and appear on camera?  What would people's perceptions be of Pagans then?

I should also point out that the production company also has to be interested in going forward.  The community leaders with whom I have spoken have all been openly skeptical and have approached the situation cautiously.  If this concerns the production company they might not go any further.  There are 100 other factors that might cause the production company to scrap the idea totally unrelated to any decisions that we might make.  I think that's fine.  I have faith in the universe and if the show is canned I will thank the Powers for answering the question for us.

Personally, I am one who is prone to gamble but ONLY when the odds look good.  I don't want to suggest that any community should bow to pressure from Hollywood to do something they don't support.  At the same time I also think that (especially for those of us who are out of the "broom closet") those of us who can help to promote a positive image of the Pagan community owe it to those who must remain in the shadows to try to reach out.  Building bridges with our neighbors is a key to the future of our community.  If we can build bridges with broadcast television then I am all for it.  However, perhaps it is time for us to also consider how to respond if we see that the cameras in our communities are causing more harm than good.  Or perhaps even if they are causing any harm at all

Welcome aboard television.  Remember that many of us are keeping our eyes on you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Being A Pagan Leader

I have been privileged and cursed to have served in leadership roles a number of times in my adult life.  Whether for personal or professional life, many people are called on from time to time.  Being called to become a leader, sadly, does not equate to knowing how to be one.  If there is one common trait I have found in good leaders, it is their lack of desire to take on the role and their dedication to complete it successfully (in spite of the lack of desire).  The one most common trait I have found among bad leaders is the desire to lead being greater than the desire to serve those who follow.

Never be confused about this.  "Leader" is a misleading term in at least one sense.  The best leaders are concerned first and foremost with their followers.  They don't let their own egos, their desires for revenge, or their need to control others drive them as leaders.  A good leader might find herself in a position where she has to work with someone she would rather not even speak to.  A good leader might find himself faced with a situation created by someone else and he steps in to fix it anyway, for the good of his group.  A good leader knows when to step aside for the best interest of the rest - and a great leader is usually eager to do so.  Most good leaders would prefer to be followers, but they are filling a need until someone else picks up the mantle.  Good leaders worry about "us".

Bad leaders are most often motivated by ego in one form or another.  The worst leaders are motivated by nothing other than money.  A bad leader will use the power of her position to punish those she feel have personally wronged her.  A bad leader will use that role in the community to force other individuals or groups to do things "his way" or face retribution.  Bad leaders worry about "I" and are rarely concerned with "we".

That having been said, I don't think that all bad leaders are beyond redemption.  If one is a cult leader, only interested in building a personal following and then using the power of that following to fulfill petty personal desires, then that leader is most likely beyond redemption.  Leaders who are obsessed with controlling things themselves are not necessarily beyond redemption.  Sometimes it's a matter of showing them the path.

Being a leader is a serious responsibility.  Those who relish in leadership are difficult to trust.  Every great leader, and nearly every good leader, I've ever known did not want to lead.  Instead, they pick up the mantle of leadership because it has to be done.  Sometimes others ask them to lead, other times they simply begin working and others join in.  These defacto leaders often give tirelessly of themselves with little notice or thanks.  However, bad leaders can still meet this criteria.  Sometimes people are bad leaders because they are inexperienced.  Sometimes people are bad leaders because they do not realize what they are doing is harming others.  Sometimes people are bad leaders because they don't have an understanding of diplomacy or they have poor communication skills.  Many of those leaders can grow and learn over time and become great leaders.  It doesn't mean that they will, but the potential is there. 

That's why I'm not willing to completely shut to the door on the bad leaders of today.  I may not support them with networking, but I am always willing to help them grow on the path to good leadership if they ask.  I would never foist my opinions on them unbidden, but if they sought help I would consider it.  This is also one reason to keep an eye on the bad leaders in your community.  If they change for the better, it is important to support that change.  If they do not change, then it is important that your community be aware of their activities.

As a perfect case in point, I encountered a pair of bad leaders last week, but I believe that they meant well.  They fell into that "inexperienced" category (I hope).  When I approached them about a topic of great importance to our community (I had asked if I could bring a non-Pagan to this meeting so that people could ask him question about his plan to do a TV program on our community), they reacted in a very childish manner and accused me attempting to ambush their gathering with cameras.  I was being a courteous person and asking if I could bring him, and they flew into a vulgarity-laced fury about how horrible I was.  OK, I'm an author.  I've had my work torn to shreds in reviews so I've developed a fairly thick skin.  I would have been prepared to write the situation off to inexperience except for what happened next. This pair of self-proclaimed leaders told me that if I did not do exactly what they told me to do (follow the "rules" - their word - they set out) that they would disband their public discussion group and reconstitute it in private and I would not be invited to attend.

Um, what?

For a leader to be willing to actually disband a public group and attempt to convert it to a secret group harms the community they originally set out to serve.  It hurts the members of that group to lose their meeting time and place and have to keep in the loop on the new, secret information.  The group's meetings can no longer be included in community calendars.  All networking is lost.  Many people in need might never find this group as a result.  And why?  Because a pair of novice leaders thought someone else was going to take away 1% of their control over their meeting.  They harmed the group (by denying them the chance to meet this person), they harmed the community (both with their threats and by limiting how many people knew about a situation that would have a major impact on our community), and they harmed the integrity of their group by acting so immaturely. 

They lost attendees by their behavior and that is really sad in a young, growing community.  They also harmed themselves by destroying their credibility with the so many other community leaders.  That credibility might never be regained with some and that's unfortunate.  Perhaps one day, given time and the desire to learn, these two will become wonderful leaders who put their community ahead of themselves.  Until then, I will watch them.  Although I can't in good conscience attend their meetings ever again, I shall hope for them to blossom.  However, I will keep an eye out in case they rot instead.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Yule: A Sabbat for Guardians

::copied from my Open Ways Yule 2012 column::
Yule is a special sabbat for us all.  The shortest day of the year is a day for all forms of magick, high and low.  It marks the ending of long nights and promises a new Spring yet to come.  In our community, Yule is often commemorated by drumming up the sun, the burning of a Yule log, and with many traditions that had been co-opted by our Christian friends.  The Christmas tree, mulled wines, wreaths, and many more Christmas traditions were “borrowed” from Pagan traditions and I love it when I see modern Pagans reclaim these traditions.  In some ways, Christmas and Yule are very difficult to tell apart and I think that’s a great thing for us.  Like many families, my family celebrates both holidays.  Yule is the spiritual holiday and Christmas is the secular one.

Yule is celebrated in many ways and in virtually every culture past and present.  I also believe that Yule is a sabbat that is a rare chance for Guardians to practice their own magick and celebrate who they are and what they do.  Generally speaking, all sabbats are busy for Guardians.  There is always work to be done in preparation and always circles that need protection while they celebrate their own rituals.  I have always seen Yule as the one exception to this.  It is the one sabbat where, I believe, Guardians should consider their own needs and practice their own magick.  That’s not to say that there still isn’t plenty of preparation and protection to be done, but during the night of Yule I encourage Guardians to gather together and celebrate who they are and practice the special magick generally reserve for others.

Many of you may be asking “what do you mean by ‘Guardian’?” so before I go further I want to give a (decidedly truncated) explanation. Sometimes called “Dragon”, “Watcher”, or “Green”, Guardians have existed in virtually every culture and society throughout mankind’s history.  Guardian is not a “tradition” as we Pagans label things.  A Guardian may walk any kind of Pagan path: Wiccan, Heathen, Eclectic Solitary, Druid, or any other path you can name.  Guardians are a special (some would argue “infected”) group of people who truly live to serve others.  The next time you go to a festival and say “darn it, I left [fill in the blank] at home and I need one!” and then whatever you needed miraculously appears, there’s an excellent chance that a Guardian provided it.  Guardians stand watch during other people’s rituals not only to intercept any tourists who may be curious about the activities but also to ward against any unwanted energies that are often attracted to energetic rituals.

The ultimate goal for most Guardians is to protect the community while providing for the needs of its members, but doing so in the most subtle and unobtrusive way possible.  Guardians prefer to remain in the background and facilitate gatherings and public rituals out of the community eye (as much as possible).  Guardians tend to spend so much of their time making it possible for others to safely practice their Craft that the Guardians themselves sometimes forget the joy that they feel from their own personal rituals.  One of the many pitfalls faced by Guardians is the losing of self in work for others.  That makes it critical for Guardians to take a step back on occasional and focus on their own workings and their own needs. 

That’s another reason that I think it’s great when Guardians can gather for Yule.  This is a sabbat that is especially appropriate for Guardians.  Yule is a night to stand watch while awaiting the rising of the first Winter sun.  Therefore, Yule is actually a kind of celebration of the role of the Guardian within the Pagan community.  The long night provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the year that went before and plan for the one about to begin.  When Guardians gather for Yule, they can do this as a group.  It is also a time for ritual to renew the energy needed for the work in the coming year.  It is a chance for the Guardian to cleanse, release, and energize.

If you are a Guardian, then I urge you to set aside the night of Yule for yourself.  There is a great deal of work to be done at this time of year and we Guardians find it impossible to stand aside while others do the work.  Preparing for the holidays, following through with holiday plans, and the clean-up afterwards are all tasks that demand our attention.  Just remember yourself in all of this.  Make Yule night for you and those with whom you share the affliction of being a Guardian.

Is there a special Guardian in your life that you would like to thank?  Here’s a way to shock, stun, and thrill a Guardian: offer to stand watch while your Guardian performs ritual.  It is generally considered an honor when a Guardian offers to stand watch for others.  It is an amazing honor when a non-Guardian makes this offer to a Guardian.  It is a way to recognize what Guardians do for us by following in those steps for a few minutes.
I wish for a wonderful and energetic Yule for you and yours.  Sing some carols (“Deck the Halls” is my favorite Yule carol – I love when people sing it for Christmas!), have some mulled wine, and kiss the ones you love and tell them why they matter to you.  My thanks to Charlotte Stoehr (who offers reiki sessions, magickal living classes and general spirit coaching) for her response to my Samhain column about Paganomics.  If you are interested in Charlotte’s services, please let me know and I will provide you with her contact information

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts at Samhain

This week marks the 20th anniversary of my father's death.  In many ways it's hard to believe it has been such a long time.  In other ways it seems like so much longer.  I can't begin to count the number of times I've seen or read something and thought how I would like to discuss it with him.  There are so many questions that I wish I'd have asked.  I miss him to the depths of my soul.

On the other hand, years ago he came to me in a dream.  My father's favorite pasttime was fishing and when he came to me we sat together in a small boat with lines in the water but no fish to be seen.  We talked and we laughed under clear skies on a still lake.  I awoke from that dream feeling warm and happy and knew that my sadness at his passing was because of what I was missing, not because something terrible had happened to him.  He has come to me several times over the years just to assure me that I need not mourn for his sake.

My father was a Cold Warrior.  He spent a lifetime in the US Air Force.  He sat on a frozen flightline in alert B-52s and flew to failsafe positions.  I asked him once what it was like during the Cuban MIssle Crisis.  What were he and his fellow NCOs thinking?  He told me that they were sitting there waiting to go bomb Russia - to destroy the world.  I could see in his eyes and hear in his voice something rarely detected in my father - fear.  He wasn't some brain-washed GI ready to kill for a flag.  He was a husband and a father who knew that if he ever had to complete his mission, it likely meant death for the world.

That was certainly not my father's greatest accomplishment, but some of his secrets are just for his family.  My father was much more than a man in uniform. He loved history. My first degree was in history - so was his although I didn't know that until my degree was complete. He also loved to whistle. I love to whistle too. I didn't know he whistled until after he died.  This Samhain, as I have for many years, I will speak to him again.  20 years?  It's hard to fathom because I frequently still hear his voice in my mind.  He fashioned my ethics and any time I am in doubt as to the right thing to do, I hear his voice telling me that I know the right answer.

There are many others who will be called this Samhain.  When the veil is thin our hearts can bridge the gap with ease.  I hope that you get to touch the soul of someone you love.  I hope that, for a few moments at least, you can share sacred space with someone you miss.  Be it the soul from a creature who walked on two legs or on four, call to someone you love during this season of Samhain.  A new year is about to begin so start it with those you love no matter on which side of the veil they stand.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cascadia-Willamette Pagan Pride Day

Finally, my first PPD in the PNW!  It was a crazy weekend, as I had been at the NW Fall Equinox Festival on the morning that this PPD was held.  So, I got up that Sunday morning, packed up my vendor's booth and campsite, crammed everything into my Saturn (and crammed is accurate), and drove from Silver Falls to Portland (with a stop in Salem along the way for gas).

When I arrived at Oaks Park in Portland, it was still a beautiful day.  It only took a moment to spot the large canopies that marked my first PNW PPD.  I found the information booth and asked where my workshop was to be held.  While waiting for the start of the workshop, I wandered around and visted with various vendors (including passing out a few samples of incense making kits).  I ran into a newly minted friend from NWFEF and helped her set up the 9 Houses of Gaia information table.

The workshop was a lot of fun and quickly turned into standing room only.  Making incense outdoors is always a challenge, but everyone handled it in stride.  One incense maker was not able to use latex gloves, and I was only able to find one that wasn't latex, and she solidered through making cones with only 1 hand - what a trooper!  Naturally, when I got home I found a dozen gloves she could have used, but they had been lost in the depths of my camping gear.

I hung around for about an hour after the workshop ended just to chat with a few people and to soak up the wonderful energy.  I love PPD and have always given my time and donated supplies to make each one special and fun.  I think it's an obligation for people like me to help make PPDs successful events.  We benefit so much from the community that we need to give back.  PPD is a great way to do that.  Only 2 weeks until my next one in Salem, OR!  I can't wait!!

NW Fall Equinox Festival

Last weekend I had the great joy of attending this festival and what a blast it was!  Held in SIlver Falls State Park near Salem, Oregon, it was a beautiful (and surprisingly isolated) location that blessed us with nearly perfect weather.  Shorts in the day and jackets in the eveneing made it as close to ideal as I could wish.

I was at the festival to vend, do workshops, camp, but most of all to finally start meeting large segments of the PNW Pagan community.  I was certainly able to accomplish that!  I arrived Friday morning and set up my vending booth atop the hill behind the building hosting most of the workshops.  After setting up the booth, I drove down to the "Fairy Fields" to set up my tent.  I was seriously disappointed that no flames were allowed of any kind - so I left my lanterns, stove, and heater in the car all weekend.  I was bummed out about it, but I do know when one comes into the forest to worship nature that disrespecting a red flag warning and burning down the forest would not be the best move.

The event was reasonably priced and well attended (120 people?).  Both of my workshops were nicely populated, although I wasn't sure about the Guardian Magick workshop at first.  It was scheduled to start at 9:00 PM (the latest I think I've had one scheduled) and I sat in the lodge until about 9:10.  Nobody had arrived so I headed back to my tent, mildly disappointed.  As I waslked past the picnic tables outside the lodge, someone said "there he is" and I discovered about a dozen people sitting outside waiting for me to show up, lol.  We went inside and had a wonderful discussion about the role of Guardians in the Pagan community, some basics as to how Guardian magick works, and swapped some stories of our Guardian experiences.  I was happy to see that the Guardian concept was not new to the PNW community, although some of my approaches and terminology were.  In fact, I struggled with terminology as well as I attempt to retrain myself to say "Guardian" rather than "Green".  I think the concept of someone standing watch over rituals was the most foreign of these, however, I did learn that I was not alone in this practice.

Satruday afternoon found me intercepted on my way to the showers by the impending Men's Mysteries.  I sat my towel down and joined in for a profoundly male ritual that raised some wonderful primal energy.  Since this happened on my way to the showers, I even smelled manly.  ;)  After dashing back for my shower before the start of main ritual, I changed clothes in my vending booth and was still braiding my hair when the conch was blown for the start of main ritual.  The ritual began with processions from the three altars established in the "villages" scattered around the campground, so by the time everyone had gathered, I was ready to go.

My thanks to the ritual coordinator, Char, for taking a chance and giving me permission to stand watch over the ritual.  She was unfamiliar with the concept of the Guardian but after a quick explanation and an endorsement from one of her peers, she gave permission.  I would never stand watch without permission, so I appreciate Char taking a chance on something new to her.

It was not the experience I had expected.  There were several organizational and physical things that were different than I was used to but that was not surprising considering how far I was from my Guardian training grounds.  No, those things were different but I expected them to be so.  It was when I opened myself up to the energy of the forest that I was shocked.  I have stood watch in many different places with lots of different geography.  I have encountered forest spirits of many shapes and sizes.  I still was not prepared for what happened.

It had been 4 years or more since last I stood watch over such a ritual.  Laying down low-levels of energy and opening up to forest energies are a normal part of what Guardians of my ilk do.  When I opened myself to this forest, I was nearly overwhelmed by the energy.  I actually had to shut the flow of energy off repeatedly as it nearly consumed me with its intensity.  I began an approach of touching the energy for a few moments then shielding myself in order to not be overwhelmed.

I had been in this forest before, but always with a big group including kids and some I would never feel comfortable around while doing energy work.  As a result, I had not opened myself so completely to the energies here.  Old growth forests filled with towering trees are simply amazing.  It was a taste of how our ancient ancestors must have felt when they touched the energy of their surroundings.  It was fantastic and I can't wait to do it again.

I truly enjoyed this event and look forward to next year.  I will be more practiced and prepared for the energies there.  I hope that the next ritual coordinator will be willing to allow me to work during that ritual as well.  I miss my Oklahoma family, but this weekend showed me even more reasons why I belong here.