The Pagan Square Mile

Some of the things that I noticed while at Pantheacon – the people were all smiling, talking, discussing things and having fun with one another. The smiles were real, the laughter not faked, the hugs were loving and kind, and the fun was authentic. Its such a different experience from daily life. Where people that work together, find reasons to barely tolerate one another. Where everything is a competition as people climb the corporate ladders of their lives. All hell-bent on getting bigger paychecks so that they can spend more in a consumer-driven society where over-consumption is the name of the game.
I ddidn’t see that among the folks at Pantheacon. While I was an outsider here (this was my first time here), people were friendly. Willing to converse about who they are, what they believe, why they came here. They were not guarded in their responses. They didn’t couch their language in generic language, letting the listener decide what things may mean for themselves. No, here people shared freely, openly, with no free of rejection. Pantheacon is a safe zone for discussions such as this to take place. I wonder how long it would take for the rest of the world to act this way?
Or could the rest of the world get to this perspective? It sometimes feels like the rest of the world SHOULD be able to get to this perspective fairly easily. But, there’s also the acknowledgement that not everyone will ever accept that every human being has a right to their own beliefs. Just as there will always be people who believe that blacks will always be the inferior race, even after they are shown that pigmentation is more generated by where your ancestors came from – its a matter of adaptation to one’s environment rather than something that seperates human beings into different subsets that are inferior or superior.  But I digress (as I often do).
Can the rest of the world come to a point of acceptance of everyone else’s faith? Can we eventually get to a point where people are not defined by what they believe, and are instead defined by their actions and deeds? To be honest, I may be the wrong person to answer this question. Looking forward into the future, trying to divine how human beings I have never met will respond to such a difficult issue….that’s really not me folks. I have a hard time planning for anything further down the line than a year from now. And even then I get nervous about doing that. But then again, maybe I am the right person to answer this question.
Or, if you prefer (and I do), maybe I am ONE of many people who are the right folks to answer this question. During Kristoffer Hughes’ talk on Welsh Gods and Goddesses (and again during his “Cauldron of Transformation” presentation) he made a notation of how each of us is responsible for our own individual “Pagan Square Mile” (I am paraphrasing here). Each of our single square miles are ours to handle and maintain on our own. If we approached issues that affect us on a global, social scale – if we approached those from the same perspective, we can effectively spread ideas such as these as a united core of individuals. And in this manner, we can effect change…even on the most difficult issues. Because the united voice is louder than the divided voice.
Seriously, what I witnessed at Pantheacon was incredible. Just as incredible as what I have learned from the various panels I attended. The people here at this convention were nothing short of amazing. And they are only a small part of our entire world-wide Pagan community. There are many others out there that cannot attend. That doesn’t make them any smaller than the folks here – it makes them no different than the folks here. All it states is that those folks didn’t have the means to get here. But they are a part of the conversation too. They are a part of the equation of change too. To ignore the point that their voices matter in this would be the wrong idea.
We certainly have a lot of minds to change. Most of the Christian perspective gets taken up by the very loud, very small Conservative, Ultra-Right folks say. Theirs is a perspective of hate. Theirs is a perspective of gaining power over others – particularly those whose religious perspective does not match theirs. And while they are small in numbers – they are very loud, and hard to ignore. Even more so, they will be difficult to win over. Sure. It looks nearly insurmountable. We aren’t going to change their attitudes or their perspectives. Not right now. But patience will win out. Its not a matter of “winning” the battle – rather its a matter of changing their perspective. Helping them to understand that everyone has the right to choose how they believe, what they believe. They won’t change their attitudes over night. That doesn’t mean we should stop. Nor does it mean that we resort to their level of decorum either.
Grateful Dead - Fare The Well - 05July2015How do we solve the world? Not sure there’s a way to solve, but the start is certainly found in a statement that drummer Mickey Hart made during the Grateful Dead “Fare Thee Well” concerts in July of last year. “The feeling we have here — remember it, take it home and do some good with it. I’ll leave you with this:  Please, be kind.” This morning, those words echoed in my mind the moment I woke up, and that is not something that happens often. When phrases stick in my mind the moment I open my eyes, I pay attention.
My two phrases were:  “How do you solve the world? Through patience, kindness, and understanding.” and “What drives that solution? Determined, deliberate action.” I am starting to see how I am going to cultivate my Pagan Square Mile. How about you? Have you given thought to that yet?

Changes, Mythology, Storytelling — My Three Themes at Pantheacon

I’ve now been at Pantheacon for two-plus days. I only have a partial day left and then I wing it back to Texas on a Southwest Airlines jet taxi. I have met o many lovely and wonderful people here. Most by just sheer coincidence of being in the same room for a panel or presentation. A few of them are presentators that I specifically came here to meet face-to-face. Tonight, I happened across Selena Fox for just a moment – but it was long enough for me to thank her for all the help that Circle had done for us in the miltiary when we were petitioning the chapel for worship space at Ramstein Air Base. She may never remember that twenty second conversation, but it meant the world to me to thank her.

Oddly enough, like so many things in my life, Pantheacon has had three rolling themes throughout the entirety that I have been here. And its not the themes that the Con has had – if they have even had any, I’ve never been aware of that. These themes seem to reflect more of what’s going on directly with me. ::sigh:: Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

At some point last year, Crow hammered me in the head, pointing out that I needed to get out of the shadows and step out into the open. This particular convention immediately came to mind. Somewhere, I cannot recall exactly where, I made my intentions known publicly and started lining up my crows and starlings (so to speak) to come out here. Then John Beckett mentioned that he was going as well, and offered to partner up with me in getting through the entire process (as well as sharing a room – which I am thankful to him for that offer). If that had not happened, I would have been at this convention on my own – and totally freaked out. Once I committed to this with John, there was no backing out for me.

I don’t do very well in large crowds, so I knew this entire experience was going to be a challenging process for me. But I managed to find a few spaces on the edges, where I could people-watch. And that helped. But then, as I started attending the panels – three themes started to leap out at me. In Shauna Knight’s panel on “Finding Your Personal Magic” there were undertones of looking at your journey, finding how your story was unfolding – your own personal story. That committment has consequences to it, just as any choice does. It was the first step in the process. It was my second panel of the day, and an excellent starting point.

Saturday, I spent most of the day people watching. There were smiles everywhere. People laughing, enjoying themselves, enjoying the company they were in. I noticed the young ages of many there (I’m 50 – most people are “young” to me) I sat and wondered what their stories were. What journey brought them to this hotel, here in San Jose, California? And how did they step on to this Path of Paganism? Where were they destined to go with it? There was that under-current of storytelling again. This was further reinforced by my second panle of Shauna’s which was on Chanting, Trancing and Storytelling. There are stories everywhere – you only need to look a little to find them, hidden in the bushes and trees at the side of the Path. Stories are everywhere. Tales, epics, serial episodes – its all imprinted in our being.

Today’s panel on “Morphing the Myth” and John’s talk in the ADF Hospitality Suite only reinforced this even more. As john noted “who is writing your story?” Indeed.

Coming out here, I understood the thematic that has been running through my life since my return from England in early January. Change. Life will be about change on many different levels for me. I understand and accept that this is coming. But Mythology and Storytelling have now joined that mix. I comprehendd some of what that *may* encompass. There’s a lot to think about there, but I certainly see some of the framework behind the concept. Its also had me thinking about how mythology can relate to programming, but that’s definitely for a different blog post.

Where does it all go from here? I honestly have no idea, but I am certainly excited about it.

1.5 Days at Pantheacon – the Pagan Future and Leadership

Well, Pantheacon 2016 is certainly everything that it has been made out to be…and much more. There are Pagans and Pagan-friendly people EVERYWHERE in this hotel. And its not a small hotel either. There are Pagans of all types here, I’ve met folks of neaarly every Spiritual stripe, and there’s no need to get into sexual orientation, skin pigmentation, hair color or eye color. Because all of that obviously does not matter. Everyone is friendly, smiling, and having fun. And for a people watcher person like me – its an awesome site to see and comprehend.

Seriously. Many people discuss this place like its a wild circus or something. The closest thing that has happened to that – the Krampus revellers that passed by me on Friday night. They were loud…and HAIRY. But it was a seriously fun moment for me. It caught me unawares, while I was eating dinner in the lobby area – and it was just a moment that was out of whack. Flat out fun.

But the one thing that has seriously impressed me is the number of young folks here. And when I mean young people, I mean people below the age of eighteen (or at least seem to be that young). Seeing young people getting involved in their Spirituality, and taking it seriously is heartening to an old fart like myself (who is a spring chicken at 50 when compared to some of the other attendees here). I can definitely see that the younger generation of Pagans are looking for ways to build upon the Paganism that is being offered to them by the older generation (myself included).

And I have met other folks as well. One of the panel security folks that I talked with on Friday night was a former military member – and joined the military after I got out. We talked about how Paganism has been in the military during his term. It was seriously awesome to hear how the military has expanded its awareness of who and what Pagans are – and to some degree have become a little more accepting of this. Essentially, what I was getting a look at was how things have been built upon from the work that I (and others) had done when we were in.

Its that utilization of the building blocks of the Past by those in the Present that really tugs at my heartstrings. These folks don’t have to piece together a Past to build for their Future. They can mold and shape what is already there. And it totally freaks me out to think of myself as an “Elder” or even as a “Leader” of anything. And yet, here I am starting to realize that I am both of those – regardless of what I think.

IMG_0180So far, I have sat in on a few panels. Each presenter has provided their points of view with interesting clarity, sometimes punctuated with bawdy and somewhat irreverent humor. But everyone has been spot on with their messages. From the darker aspects of Druidry to Finding One’s Personal Magick to an academic (and fun) exploration of the Dagda to a wonderful talk on the Welsh Gods and Goddesses, the underlying message is clear – Paganism is alive and well in our modern world society. For some it may not be growing fast enough (or at all) for where they live, for others it may not be growing quite the way that they would wish it to…but rest assured it is alive and well.

That means that some of us (particularly myself) need to get off our asses and step into roles of leadership. That’s a particularly difficult perspective for me – an INFT on the Briggs/Meyers test – to assume. I’m a naturally introverted individual, preferring to handle aspects of my Spirituality as a solitaire practitioner. But, as I am learning – being a leader does not mean that I would be leading rituals.

Let me be honest here, I SUCK at leading rituals with others involved. I am not the greatest at facilitating for others. And I know this. It is something that I will have to work on. And there are two workshops that I chose at this convention that are my first baby-steps in that direction. But there are other ways to be a leader or even a mentor. I can talk with folks that are new to their Path, reassure them that their new found connectedness to the world around them is not some form of mental illness. I can talk about some of the missteps and pitfalls I have encountered on my long strange trip (that its been), and commiserate with those that have stepped in dog-shit elsewhere on the field. I can continue to talk about my Paganism, and my Druidry here on this blog – where others can read it. I can continue to bring the stories of others to the podcast – so people can see that they are not alone. And most importantly, I can stop running from the concept of leadership…I don’t have to be the captain of the boat to be a leader.

I heaar the heavy breathing of the Wolf by my side. I feel the strong grip of the talons on my shoulder. I hear the laughter and sweet whisper of Fliodhas coming from the edge of the forest, enticing me to come and wander through the trees hand-in-hand. But I also grasp the undercurrent of what all three say from time to time – stop hiding in the shadows. Step forward and be what you are supposed to be.

Whether I like the idea or not, I am a leader in this vast Pagan community. And while I have not noticed the younger generation coming to the fireside over the last few years – they are here. And they are watching. And learning. And growing in their Spirituality. My time of resting and being stagnate is over – I either step forward or get out of the game. Stepping forward is where I am headed. What about you??