What is it about hanging around a fire, singing songs, telling tales, and having long discussions into the dark hours of the morning? Nearly every Pagan gathering I have been to has its own version of this. Sometimes, the gathering even changes the time frame of an event like this….other times, there’s no fire (aside from one in a fireplace in the hosting hotel in San Jose, California) – regardless, there is that moment, that location where folks gather to be with one another. And those particular moments, are often some of the most powerful, most intense events of the entirety of the gathering.
This year, two community fires provided strong, powerful, and odd moments for me. In the morning lobby of a hotel, later in the Summer, another of those moments arose. Granted, I am not the most social animal there is in the world. My first year at Pantheacon….now two Pantheacons ago….I spent the majority of my time in the back area of the hotel, where many of the crowds were not. I was connected with work a few times, trying to sort out issues long-distance, but I still managed to connect with a few people. At one point, there were ten of us there – none of us knew any of the others, and here we were, spontaneously discussing our own perspectives of our individual spirituality. We lamented issues that we all felt were common to Pagan communities from the various places we came from (me, in north-central Texas, was the furthest eastern member of the contingent). The act of gathering together, and discussing our common threads just seemed – well, natural. Even for a classic introvert such as myself.
With each gathering that I attended since then, no matter how large or small – I have found myself gravitating to areas where discussions are had. And each successive moment, I find myself stepping forward and sharing part of my own story, part of my own perspective, part of my own understanding. And again, I must note – it feels natural.
The photo above – and the “featured image” for this blog post – comes from the 2015 OBOD East Coast Gathering. The moment in this photo is as close as I got to an evening fire the entire time I was there. Instead, I chose to be closer to the main house, and have discussions in the dark with the few that managed to discover where I was. But mostly, I sit in the dark and listened. Because it felt right and natural. Yes, that is Damh the Bard serenading the folks with his music. And later, I got to meet him and get an awesome hug from him. But this was also my first time at East Coast Gathering, so I was in hermit crab mode too. I still managed to sit and talk with people about beliefs, how we approach our Spiritual practices – the similarities, the differences, the ideas that we had never considered previously.
But at each of these gatherings, I have known someone there. I was never truly a stranger. Until I attended Many Gods West this year. I knew three people there – and all three of them, I only knew from online. Yet, I came away from this event with lots of great discussions under my belt. In the panels, we all talked about our own approaches to polytheism, how we dealt with some of the obstacles of worshipping non-Judeo-Christian Gods and Goddesses, and just about any other topic under the sun. One particular evening, I had an awesome baseball conversation in the lobby with one person. I came home with blog posts to write…my journal was full of newly written topics and concepts. That social aspect had been satisfied, mostly, in the lobby of the hotel. No fire to gather around, just a coffee pot in the corner that was drained nearly every afternoon. I was tired by the time I made it back to SeaTac airport and boarded my flight home.
Interestingly enough, each time I have managed to make a gathering, and have these talks – the time before I feel a deep need to make another is shorter than before. Perhaps, all the talking is pulling me out of my introverted reasoning…maybe. What I do understand is that all the talking has helped me to understand one fundamental aspect of who I am – I learn best from talking about issues, concepts, and ideas with others. There is still a part of me that deals with the horrible aspects of being an introvert…such as not showing up at some places or gatherings. Certainly, a personal character flaw that I will need to repair….and at the moment, I am not sure how. But, I will need to get beyond it, so that I can make those gatherings that are closer to me. So that I can make those connections there. So I can participate in those discussions. So I can learn. Because I do need those discussions to learn, to grow, to help evolve myself into the person I need to be, and the Priest I am being asked to become.
Time to find those fires, and talk with those people. Because they have stories and tales to regale into the dark hours of the morning too. And I would like to hear them….