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Guide to Organizing and Hosting Summits

Personal accounts
Cairril Adaire   Dagonet Dewr   Elizabeth Barrette "Summit Up"
Diana Paxson
  Elizabeth Barrette

The Summit site gives an idea of topics covered and how the agenda was set, but I'm also including some personal accounts in order to give the flavor of how the Summit actually felt.

Cairril Adaire, Summit organizer
I had originally intended to give an "organizer's view" of the Summit, but what I keep writing instead is a collection of odds and ends and post-Summit impressions. While this may be a little disjointed, I hope it will give a sense of what the Summit gave me.

I learned so much. I learned about myself: my strengths, my weaknesses, my areas of improvement, my needs, my hopes, my desires. I learned about the movement: its strengths, its weaknesses, its history, its potential, its structures, its hope. And I learned about these amazing, gifted, beautiful, and dedicated people: their strength, their weaknesses, their incredible dedication, their ability to move beyond ego needs, their wonderful sense of humor, their passionate sense of justice, their desire to play and be heard and to listen. Saturday night as I was trying to fall asleep I kept jerking awake with one word in my mind: "Wow." Over and over. Something large was happening here, something desired by the gods and blessed by them.

The most valuable thing which came out of the Summit from a "business" perspective was, for me, greater clarity about the shape of PEN's organizational structure. I have had many questions and vague ideas for some time about my role as National Coordinator, the role of Board members, how leadership is demonstrated, etc. But as I listened to others talk about their own organizations (both their successes and the areas where they wanted to improve), my thoughts gained greater clarity. Am I providing effective leadership to the organization? What is "effective" leadership? Do members feel a part of PEN's vision? Do they feel they receive value for their money? Do we have sufficient financial transparency? The conversations on these and related issues helped me re-think my approach to PEN and start to investigate ways to improve it.

I experienced an emotional and spiritual renewal in regards to my Pagan service work unlike anything I've felt in years. I had run so dry that in January I had decided to move out of Pagan leadership altogether. I considered the Summit my swan song, but kept the news to myself and a handful of others. I am a solitary and do most of my organizing long-distance, through the Internet or through PEN's organization. While I've attended a handful of events (Bloomington, Chicago, Cincinnati), the "Pagan movement" has been a pretty abstract concept for me. I have found, in the past year or so, that my reasons for founding PEN have not sustained me along the path of actually leading PEN. What I felt throughout the Summit was that I had finally found new reasons. I could finally see where I fit into the larger picture. What I do does make a difference. And these are the people I want to walk the road to freedom with. This is a movement I am proud to be part of.

On a very personal note, I have never felt so safe around a group of men as I did at the Summit. That is the greatest compliment I have to give the male sex, and I am grateful to be a part of a community that encourages healthy boundaries and respect.

Saturday's discussions were tremendous. Respectful, content-rich, and bold. I felt like an enormous sponge, soaking it all in. It was Andras who first mentioned why this felt so good to us: it was the first time we had been in a meeting of peers. These were people who had worked together online for years, who had struggled to build their organizations, who had survived countless witch wars and personal attacks, and who had kept on serving their communities. We had never experienced such a thing, and it was inspiring.

Saturday night's ritual was a moving, deeply felt experience. Our ritual team represented the main faith traditions present: Asatru, Druidism, and Wicca/Witchcraft. Susan Granquist led us in while carrying a Thor's hammer and welcoming the spirits, Skip Ellison invoked Mannanan mac Lir, and Owl and Moose welcomed the Goddess and God. We held a water sharing, where each person added water from their local community to the cauldron, saying a few words about where it was from or what it meant to them. I was honored to be asked to stir the waters in the cauldron, in part because some of my most precious spiritual visions include this act. I don't remember exactly what happened in ritual space, but I was open to the gods and the ancestors to come through. What people experienced was the Divine coming through me as I signed them individually with the water. I sang, our drummers drummed, we danced and wept and moved the energy. It was exquisite.

As I listened to the commitments each person made on Sunday morning, I felt a chill up my spine as I Saw the "ripple effect" of this event. It is an awesome thing to realize we have the power to manifest our vision. We shared a deep sense of renewed hope for ourselves and for our people, and believe we must build on this momentum to create that bright tomorrow.

My personal spirituality is rooted in my connections to the ancestors. I often feel that I am an extension of their hopes, fears, and lives. I feel them walking on the bridges into my back. Throughout the weekend, I had the distinct sensation of the ancestors peeping through my eyes, looking joyfully on this "gathering of tribes." I felt a profound sense of reciprocity throughout the weekend, that the Summit was our gift to the gods and it was their gift to us. That we in the present were a manifestation of the past and a link to the future. I had an intense sense of history throughout the weekend, that all the history of the northern hemisphere, with all its joy and sadness, was bound up in this moment. And that we were only a small slice of history, and our actions would have consequences far into the future, far beyond anything we could imagine.

It is time for this. We want to come together. We have had three decades of individualistic exploring. It is now time for building bridges; building coalitions; building a common, sustainable future. Not a future of shared or imposed beliefs, but a future of shared freedom based on embracing both our differences and our commonalities. History is on our side. We will achieve religious freedom. But we want more than that. We want a safer, saner, healthier world which we can proudly pass on to our children. We have the vision. Now all it will take is the discipline, solidarity, good humor, and hard work to make it manifest.
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Dagonet Dewr
I'm just in the door from this weekend's Pagan Summit, and all I can say is:

Wow.

In the words of Charlayne Denny, the Idea Hamsters were off and running, and a lot of real concrete progress came out of this weekend, as well as some potent visions for future effort. First, the visions. The Summit's members' visions were happily (and oddly) synergetic and similar. It was generally agreed that there are many challenges facing organized Paganism. The most important ones? Questions of increased leadership and pastoral training for our clergy (practical matters such as information on pastoral counseling and infrastructure), professionalism and accountability, fundraising and financial matters, avoiding duplication of effort, and our relations with the non-Pagan community (including interfaith, media, politics, and business) were all considered to be top priorities, and many ideas were shared.

I will also mention the sheer power and vision that seemed to guide us this weekend. The ritual on Saturday night was incredibly powerful, and the sense of Presence stayed with us all weekend. I really felt like we were doing something we were supposed to be doing; we never forgot we were there in service to our communities and to the Gods as we saw them, no matter what path we follow in our personal spirituality.

Members of the Summit also agreed that we need to carry these ideas and enthusiasm down to the regional and local levels, and we all hope to communicate our ideas and proposals to our local communities, even to the point of holding regional and local summits of our own. More on that as details become available. We also hope to, if possible, continue this weekend's communication, planning, and execution, and to add additional community leaders to the community we created this weekend.

Finally, the concrete projects. Out of this weekend's summit has come the following:

The Pagan Portal Project -- this team of volunteers has committed themselves to creating one central point on the World Wide Web designed to be the 'entry' into the web of pagan websites out there. Towards this goal, we have committed ourselves to gathering every pagan online resource we can find and inputting links in an organizational structure by region, by topic, and by focus. We then hope to ask others to carry that information back to those in the Pagan community who are -not- linked to the Internet. Project team members include Moose and Owl of Ozark Avalon; Larry Cornett of the Sacred Earth Alliance; Marilyn Dillon of the Council of the Magickal Arts; Azrael Arynn K; Phaedra Oorbeck of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans; and Dagonet Dewr of the Pagan Pride Project. We hope anyone with an interest in this project will contact us; for now, use my email at Pagan Pride, but we will soon have a central point of contact.

National Pagan Prison Ministries -- Patrick McCollum of Our Lady of the Wells is intending to widen his already-extant Pagan prison ministries, and hopes to have more information for the community very soon.

Seminaries and Leadership Training -- Several people expressed intentions to start or extend formal training programs, among them Charlayne Denny of CMA, Amber K, and Pete Pathfinder Davis of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church. More information on this will also be forthcoming.

Pagan Press Networking -- A mailing list and networking organization is being put together for Pagan press organizations and publications. If you're interested, mail me off list; I'll get you contact information.

Finally, many other think tanks and small groups were created to brainstorm other topics. As more definite plans of action and projects become available, they will be announced to the larger Pagan public.

A final, and personal note: Cairril Adaire of the Pagan Educational Network has taken a lot of grief for putting together this Summit. I'd like to thank her, personally, for the most magical experience I've ever had. In a final summary, the one thing that all of us felt we took back with us was hope. Hope for a better future, hope for more coherent and cohesive efforts to benefit the Pagan community, hope that we could, after all this, make it work. It's always easier to not hope. But as Pandora found out, sometimes hope is what we have to work with. I'm sure the few naysayers will scoff at what I've written here, and what we've done. I hope the rest of you take hope in this. Summits are mountaintops, yes, but there's more than one mountain in the world, as Diana Paxson said this weekend. The more you climb, the better you get.
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Elizabeth Barrette
"Summit Up"

We came by ones and twos and threes,
And then we came together,
All our sand poured through a single glass.
We learned
That there is always another goal,
That we all belong here, each in our own way,
That the light at the end of the tunnel is a torch we carry,
That a herd of cats is a Pride.

It is not his to boast, who has climbed the mountain;
But his, who has seen a range of peaks and vowed to try them all.


We lifted our voices, and slowly
Solos became chorus
Became concert.
We found our common ground
And began to build upon it,
Setting a stone upon a stone upon a stone
In search of the sky.
We reached in, and out, and onward.

It is not hers to boast, who has climbed the mountain;
But hers, who has helped others to do so.


A circle formed from hand to hand,
 From heart to heart --
A grove of tall trees ringing the mountaintop,
A crown of tall trees growing together.
Roots and wings, fur and feathers, scales and skin:
We are brothers and sisters now, one family
Living unity in diversity, and we
Are not afraid to look down.

It is not ours to boast, who have climbed the mountain;
But ours, who have grown wings to fly.

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Diana Paxson
Notes and Observations
Purpose: to share values and goals, not beliefs
 to create a meta-movement based on shared needs and concerns

Values:
 inclusiveness
 respect
 tolerance
 diversity
 confidentiality
 integrity
 responsibility
 professionalism
 liberty

Areas to Explore:
Identity
Concerns:
Who are we? What are we? How many are we? How do all the different groups and solitaries relate to each other? What is the difference between a movement and a community? What are the qualifications for identity? Is "self-identified" a perjorative or qualification?

Responses:
Pagan Census
descriptive rather than prescriptive definition
support Pagan magazines
publish and publicize standards

Solidarity
Concerns:
Why do we so often put our energy into attacking rather than supporting each other? How, or should, we police ourselves? How do you herd cats?

Responses:
If we don't hang together, we'll all hang separately
a herd of cats is a pride
establish neutral grievance committee
learn conflict resolution techniques
find out how the Polish "Solidarity" movement did it!
travel - give workshops around country, talk to different communities, get to know each other at top level
annual national leadership conference
teach tolerance
oath of non-replication of rumors
Regional Summits

Legitimacy, credibility, validation
Concerns:
How do we establish ourselves as a legitimate, accepted part of the North American and world religious community? We know that we are protected by the Constitution, but does everybody else? Should we oppose the "faith-based" initiative or try to infiltrate it?

Responses:
Work with URI and other interfaith groups
Public Education - media relations, PR
support and educate Civil liberties organizations
visibly support community activities & charities
offer matching funds for NPR drive
outreach to academic Religious Studies
fund a Pagan lobbyist in Washington DC
put Pagan movement in context of US religious history
raise money and collect books to put in public libraries
Become more businesslike and professional
Pagan Public Service announcements
set up Legal Aid fund

Growth/evolution
Concerns:
Do we really want to grow? Why? How? What skills do we need to grow? What organizational changes are implicit in different population levels? Will we lose our identity if we grow too quickly? Can we be "out there" without "outing" those who need privacy? Will greater visibility put us in more danger? Will tighter organization stifle consensus and creativity? What does it mean to think like a Pagan, and how do you learn? How can we avoid the dangers of institutionalization? How do we teach our children?

Responses:
do strategic planning, develop long range goals
More and different kinds of education
-- orientation and referral for newcomers
teaching the "corporate" culture & integrating people into the community
--executive education
organizational development, accounting, cooperation skills, computer skills organizing events, publicity and PR, proposal writing
(explore new "feminist" approaches rather than getting caught by old hierarchical models)
clergy training - professionalism without authoritarianism
develop materials for Pagan parents, children's programs

Resources
What resources do we already have? What resources are we not using effectively? How can we share resources?

Responses:
 Summit website, web links
 List of lists
 survey of what we've got already- don't reinvent the wheel
identify and share resources in areas such as clergy training, prison ministry, death & dying
Use resources from larger community: SCORE, Toastmasters, legal aid, community college business classes
explore financial resources - endowments, wills, matching funds, Foundation Center
Set up Pagan Speakers' Bureau
Council of Elders
apprenticeships - train your replacement
educate our communities regarding cost of activities and need for support
TINSTAFL ("There is no such thing as a free lunch" Robert Heinlein)

Metaphors:
Coven of Colonies - religious minorities and wierdos who only survived by tolerating each other
biodiversity
the mountain:
A long time ago we stood on the plain and saw a beautiful mountain. Many of us began to climb it; some found good resting places and stopped there, others stopped because the wind was cold and it might be dangerous. Only a few of us made it to the top of the mountain. And it is cold up here, and dangerous, but if we stand together we can help shelter each other. But the view is wonderful. And even if what we see is only another mountain, we can gain comfort from the knowledge that we don't have to tackle it alone.


Areas in which I have materials to share:
Clergy Training
Prison Spirituality
Festival organization

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Elizabeth Barrette
This event began as a shared dream, and turned into one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was one of the first batch of invitees, and promptly volunteered to help Cairril Adaire organize it. I didn't expect to wind up as the Pagan Press coordinator -- but it was such fun! My partner Doug was gracious enough to drive me over to the event and provide backup support even though he wasn't among the attendees. So here's how it went.

Friday Activities
The first official activity was the social at Laughing Planet Cafe, open to everyone from attendees to entourage folks. Cairril passed around some pens and sticky nametags so we could all identify each other, which resulted in frequent peering at chests ("Oh, it's you! Hello!" followed by much huggage) and other humorous anecdotes ("Doug Edwards -- with Elizabeth" -- and people recognized him as such!) throughout the evening. We pretty much took the place over, pulling about a dozen tiny little tables together to make one long L-shaped eating space. Doug and I found the food there quite tasty, mostly Mexican stuff with options for both vegetarian and omnivorous diners. Were we having fun yet? Oh yeah! This was the first chance most of us had to meet folks we've been working with online for years, or had only read about in books and magazines, or had seen from afar at festivals, or whatnot. We also got to touch base with closer friends we don't get to see often enough. The social proper ran from 7:00 to 9:00 P.M.

Around 8:00, we gathered the sundry representatives of the Pagan Press including myself (for PanGaia and SageWoman), Aranea (PagaNet News), Charlie Denney (Accord), Khristine Annwn Page (Crescent), Marilyn Dillon (Accord), Oberon Zell- Ravenheart (Green Egg), and Selena Fox (Circle Magazine). Several other folks drifted back and forth, since several of the periodicals had more than one person representing them. We talked about various resources we had to offer and jotted notes about who wanted what. I think all of us brought submission guidelines, sample issues, or other handouts to put on the freebie table later. We also chatted about the techniques of running a Pagan periodical, the state of the Pagan publishing world, and related interests.


The staff of Laughing Planet politely shooed us out when the cafe closed. Several of us stayed behind to put tables and chairs back where we found them. Most of the party wound up going downstairs to the coffeehouse portion of the establishment, which was still open, because we weren't ready to call it a night. We milled around, elbow-to-elbow in the small space, getting to know each other. Further delights included the selection of beverages and nibblements offered, most notably shortbread cookies and the apple-pear-ginger juice that Doug surprised me with, which had more kick than Jamaican ginger beer.

Finally people started drifting away. Some of us then went back to the Union where we were staying, and gathered in the room occupied by Selena Fox and company, because we still weren't ready to call it a night. (Helpful hint for organizers: You know it's a great event when nobody wants to go to bed because they're having such a fine time!) We crowded into the chairs and onto the beds and even onto the floor; about a dozen of us, I think, with some coming and going over time. We talked mostly business -- about our special interests in Pagan leadership, and what we hoped to accomplish over the weekend, and how utterly wonderful it was to be here in this company -- sprinkled with enough personal information and anecdotes to break the ice. Charlie Denney described the color-code of glowy necklaces (red for teens, green for guardians, etc.) used at Council of the Magickal Arts festivals. Susan Granquist raised the issue of conflicts in the Pagan community, with examples from her Asatru experience. Selena and the other Circle Sanctuary folks shared news from their organization. There is something sweetly and subtly magical about being in a room with so many interesting people, talking about such interesting things, all in a very cozy and casual atmosphere.


Presently I suggested a benevolent conspiracy to give Cairril something in recognition of all her hard work. Since everybody knew what it was like to do a thankless but crucial job, this met with much approval. Several ideas got proposed and bandied around. Then Charlie remembered that she had brought along a brand new, unopened, unconsecrated chalice for the water-sharing (scheduled for the Saturday ritual) and which she offered as an ideal choice. This satisfied everyone, and on that note, Doug and I retired to our room.

So what are they like, all these Pagan leaders whom most people know more by reputation than personal acquaintance? Ah, they're splendid folks! Some are quiet, tranquil, spiritual people who manifest an abiding peace like a pool of still water. Some are loud, frisky, spiritual people who manifest an abiding energy like a mountain stream. Some are reverent, others irreverent. Some are witty, others profound, and many frequently both. Like cats, some are cuddly, others reserved. Some are whimsical, others dignified. Some are older, some younger, others in between. Some look about like I expected, others very different. They come in all body shapes and sizes, draping themselves over the furniture and sometimes each other with casual ease. They dress in a dazzling array of clothing, from the most sedate business suits to the most flamboyant skirts and scarves and tunics and ornaments.


Trickster, Mother, Warrior, Maiden, Sage, Priestess, Lawgiver, Hag, Bard, Seeker, Priest, Magician, Rover, Guardian -- and so on and so forth, all down the long list of archetypes, for I can't think of a single one I didn't see reflected in someone's face this weekend. We are truly blessed, and the well of talent in this community runs deep indeed. While I inevitably felt a stronger connection to some people than others, I enjoyed everyone's company; I can't think of anyone I'd choose to avoid at future events, and many folks I'd go well out of my way to meet again. I think the last time I made this many new friends at one time was at my first science fiction convention.

Saturday Activities
Only after we got up this morning did Doug and I find out that the Burger King in the Union was not open on Saturdays, so we had to dash out and find breakfast elsewhere. We made it back just in time for the registration, opening at 9:00 A.M. in the Georgian room. I picked up my name badge and signed the guestbook. (There were special "No Photos" badges available, but as far as I know, nobody took one -- quite an encouraging sign, I think.) A handout table was already up and starting to accrue goodies. Doug brought down the big box of sample issues of Blessed Bee, Inc. magazines; I set out two hefty stacks of PanGaia, along with some SageWoman and The Blessed Bee as well. I also picked up a bunch of flyers and sample issues and stuff that other people had set out, and stuffed those in my Siegling's bag.


With a few minutes left before the meeting proper, I pulled a few books from my bag and went hunting autographs; I managed to catch most of the folks for whom I'd brought something to sign. Isaac Bonewits was surprised and amused to see me pull out a copy of "Authentic Thaumaturgy" (which is a roleplaying game guide, rather than a regular magical text) for him to autograph, and I got a kick out of his reaction too. M. Macha NightMare thoughtfully pointed me to several other folks with entries in "The Pagan Book of Living and Dying" which I'd brought for her to sign. Then I hit on the idea of having as many folks as possible sign my program guide, and that kind of sparked a rush as others grabbed theirs and passed them around for everyone to sign too. I know I didn't get quite everyone's signature, but I got a lot.

Cairril Adaire opened the Summit proper at 9:30 A.M. with a presentation on purpose and structure thereof; we also went around the circle and introduced ourselves by name and organizational affiliation. Then we did the first breakout session from 10:15-11:45 for which we divided into three small groups (named for Land, Sea, and Sky) each with its own facilitator. For this session the topic was the Pagan movement's highest-priority needs for 2001-2002.


I wound up in the Sky group at the Sassafras room, facilitated by Selena Fox. She led us in a very nice group meditation, and we jotted down some of our ideas. Then she had us go around the circle and each say one thing to write on the big notepad. (You can imagine how much focus it took to facilitate this: one thing each, with no discussion.) Next we shifted to a looser form to discuss the items already posted and to propose more. We noticed that the same ideas showed up on more than one person's list, which saved us some time. We also got ahead of ourselves, already starting to throw out ideas for solving some of the problems raised! We came up with a total of 42 (what else?) concerns.

For lunch, I tagged along with a crowd of folks heading down to the Union foodcourt, where I found myself a turkey-and-swiss sandwich and some fruit juice. We sprawled across a bunch of tables. Folks nearest me included Isaac Bonewits, Patrick McCollum, Phaedra Oorbeck and her husband Keith, Selena Fox, and Patrick Price if I remember right. (Doug was out browsing campustown for used books, CDs, antiques, and other attractions.) The lunch conversation rambled over subjects of Patrick McCollum's prison ministry, governmental oppression, writing for Pagan markets, Isaac's wacky feline literacy essay, Selena's experiences with hosting Pagan festivals, the quality of food at various restaurants proposed for supper, and sundry other stuff.


The Summit reconvened after lunch for a large group recap of the small group discussions, from 1:45 to 2:15 P.M. Here we discovered a number of interesting things. First of all, the three groups had -- quite spontaneously -- manifested the qualities of their titles. Sky put forth the most points, a vast sweeping flock of ideas in no particular order. Sea had somewhat fewer points, with a bit more focus, on pages that flowed like the tides: some neatly calligraphed, others scrawled so much that the original author had to come over and read those parts. Land offered but a single page, with such tight focus that this became the core of the unified outline issued as a guide for the next session. We gathered all the pages together and spread them around the central altar as a focus. Secondly, certain issues came up in all three groups, even expressed in the same words. Other issues appeared in only one or two groups. We were intrigued to find such strong representation of both unity and diversity in our work. So we talked for a while about what all this meant and where we wanted to go with it.

Next we went into the second breakout session, from 2:15 to 3:45. Again Selena led us through some very satisfying group exercises before we launched into a bouncy brainstorming routine on how to meet the needs identified in the morning breakout session. We had an outline compiled by Cairril and the facilitators, which merged the points raised by all the groups. This divided into two sections: issues within the Pagan community, and issues with the mainstream. We discussed the Pagan issues first, then the mainstream ones, and came up with a plethora of ideas (some excellent, some rather flaky -- it was a brainstorming time, after all, so we didn't stop to critique details) on how to proceed. Already people were sorting themselves out into little subgroups based on interest in the same projects/issues, a trend destined to continue throughout the Summit.


A fifteen-minute break gave us time to grab a quick drink at the water fountain, mob the bathrooms, and chatter like magpies as we drifted back to the Georgian room. The large group discussion ran from 4:00-5:00, during which we all worked on coordinating efforts. Again our facilitators presented ideas from each of the small groups, which we then mulled over en masse. During this time we also touched on ritual plans and other scheduling tidbits for the remainder of the weekend.

Throughout the event, I found myself continually impressed by everyone's ability to stay on topic (or at least return to it when herded back by the facilitators), to address issues in a direct and effective manner, and generally to keep a congenial atmosphere of interaction. As Keith Oorbeck and Isaac Bonewits observed, this Summit brought together "so many alpha males and alpha females, with hardly a snap or a snarl or a growl to show for it." That's a fair way of describing it. A few times, I saw the start of what could easily have become major screaming battles -- but invariably the facilitators, or even just the nearest two or three bystanders, stepped in to cool things down to a reasonable level. And the arguing parties in each instance allowed themselves to be nudged away from the fray, rather than insisting on a confrontation. It was the most remarkable display of maturity that I have yet seen from the Pagan community and stands out admirably on the scale of my entire experience in this regard.


Supper break lasted from 5:00 to 7:30. I dashed up to our room to meet with Doug, who showed off a stack of nifty CDs that he'd found for himself and a terrific book on Gay mystics that he'd bought for me, and then we went to eat. The group had decided that it would be fun to descend en masse on a single restaurant, at least as many folks as we could convince, so we settled on Ryan's. Doug and I followed Steve Foster there, and we met Patrick Price going in; the four of us turned out to be the first arrivals. We got a table for four and let the staff know there would be more folks coming from the same event who would appreciate being seated in approximately the same area. Hard to tell with all the coming and going, but I think we racked up between one and two dozen people there. The food was tasty enough. Then we had to dash back to our room to change clothes for the ritual, which being at a different site made us a bit late.

Scheduled for 7:30-9:30 at the Harmony School gym, the ritual got off to a slightly late start because not everyone managed to get there quite on time. However, we did a lot better than the "Pagan Standard Time" common to many festivals; most Summit events started and ended within a few minutes of the target time. Another encouraging sign. The ritual design team consisted of Rose "Owl" Wise, Tom "Moose" Dixon, Susan Granquist, and Skip Ellison -- and they did a splendid job. Cairril's part was largely spontaneous, the singing and invocation in particular unscripted and inspired by the moment.


Also, the advance notices said "full ritual garb appropriate" so most people came dressed to the hilt. Any Pagan ritual tends to be visually impressive in this regard, but when you fill a room with people who are mostly the High Priest or High Priestess of their respective groups, the results are downright dazzling. Flowing robes of all colors, of cotton and wool and silk; embroideries Celtic and Norse and leafy and flowery; circlets, crowns, headbands, horns, and one honest-to-goddess black pointy Witch hat; bells and bangles and beads and sequins and little shimmery disks sewn on scarves -- and what scarves! Red and black and silver and gold printed with prancing animals or whirling stars or strange geometric patterns; bare feet and sandals and embossed boots; rings and necklaces and bracelets and earrings of amber, jet, bone, claws, teeth, onyx, jade, quartz, opal; pentacles and faery stars and Thor's hammers and other symbols of religious affiliation in gold, silver, copper, bronze; men and women both with hair flowing long and loose, or braided into intricate patterns. (For the curious: I wore an embroidered white chemise, gray and white skirts, belted with a teal sash, and with a teal robe over all; my hair mostly loose but two braids pulled back and tied with a macaw feather ornament.) Such a spectacle! It would have made George Lucas blink and rub his eyes and look twice.

It all started with a fantabulous altar in the center of the gym, bedecked with bright draperies and all manner of tools: candles, feathers, crystals, stones, god and goddess statues, chalices, you name it and it was probably there somewhere. Each person was invited to bring an item to lay on the altar. Chairs set in a ring around the ritual space provided seating. Moose provided a quick description of the ritual outline, and then we all filed out. The procession back in included a stop at the door for smudging with sage smoke. Moose and Owl invoked the Goddess and the God. Quarters were called by the people who had traveled the farthest from each of the four directions -- a truly brilliant and effective idea, which Moose says is a popular custom, especially for online rituals. The Druid-style "Opening of the Gates" likewise impressed me; I've heard of this but never witnessed it before.

The main body of the ritual consisted of a water-sharing. Cairril knelt at the altar and stirred the cauldron as people came up by ones and twos to pour their offerings in, each saying a few words about the water we brought: where it came from, or what it represented. That image, of the Goddess at Her cauldron, is one of the images that stands out most strongly from the whole weekend; everyone seemed completely captured by it. After all the waters had been blended, Cairril filled a bowl from the cauldron and walked around the circle, blessing each of us in turn -- and the touch of those cool, wet fingers made the divine manifest with a shivery frission of mystery. Finally, we went back in turn and filled the same containers with the blended waters to take home again. My oh! But dipping hands into that much sheer unadulterated magic was a rush to be remembered. This, too, was a ritual motif I've heard about but never previously experienced; in the future, I'll keep an eye out for water-sharing because I found it so profoundly moving.


The ritual closed in the reverse of its opening, with the hail-and-farewells done by the same people. We filed out in procession. Then we went back into the gym to wrap things up. The drummers played, and several of us into Middle Eastern dancing got up and shimmied around, to much snapping of pictures and clapping of hands. Cairril was presented with a marvelous little toy, which looks a bit like the Statue of Liberty's torch, only it's full of glitter and it lights up in several changing colors. (Long about then, word came around that we'd managed to knock over the tea lights and spill wax all over the floor, and would people please come take a turn at scraping it off with credit cards. I was gratified to see that in this crowd, there was no question of leaving the difficult jobs to one person; almost all of us helped get the wax loose, and it was quite amusing to see the various Pagan "heads-of-state" scrunched together scraping the floor. Next time, candles go on broader pieces of cardboard, and farther back from the traffic lanes.) Yet again, nobody wanted to go home! We finally agreed to reconvene in the Georgian room for more after-hours socializing.

This time the conversations tended to be less business-oriented and more personal. We shared stories about our own births, our children, our siblings, our houses, our pets, our day jobs, our hobbies, and sundry other facets of our lives. It was great fun to relax, kick back, and simply hang out with such fascinating folks. We just plain like each other. Doug brought the massage table down, set up the portable blackboard as a privacy screen, and offered bodywork to anyone interested; whereupon several folks took numbers and got in line. So this was a terrific opportunity for us to get to know each other, drifting into various smaller groups in the spacious room. I finally called it quits at midnight, because the programming for Sunday started early and I needed the sleep.


Sunday Activities
The schedule for this day got rearranged. It was supposed to start with a large group recap of the previous day's work, then a breakout session, another large group sharing of action plans, and finally a closing ceremony. The first thing we realized was that some people needed to catch the noon shuttle to the airport, and the closing wasn't supposed to end until 1:00 P.M. So we decided to move things up and close by noon, so that everyone could enjoy the closing ceremony. Then we got into the large group session -- and discovered that nobody wanted to split into smaller groups. A few people started talking about projects they wanted to launch, and we found it so valuable to be in one big circle where we could hear everyone that we put it to a vote (after some wrangling over points of process, straightened out by our facilitators) and agreed to stay.

So we went around the group, using a "talking umbrella" to pass speaking rights from one person to the next; and everyone gave their name and listed what project(s) they wanted to help with or organize. Some of us jotted down the results of this, compiling lists of people per project and vice versa. Then we broke up the circle to give us a few minutes to mill around and settle into project clumps so that we could swap contact information and do a little planning. There were some other tidbits in here too; we sang a round, and we put out a coffee can to collect donations "because no one person should have to pay for all those donuts!" It was effective. It was fun. We had a great time. Meetings should be exciting like this, instead of boring.


For the closing ceremony, we returned to the circle. A small altar was set up with a bowl of flowers floating in water, and another bowl of spirit bags from Circle Sanctuary, and the huge note pages from Saturday on the floor in a ring around it all. Charlie presented Cairril with a beautiful silver chalice (which we then passed around so everyone could help charge it -- another awesome example of magic in action) and a red carnation from the bowl. Then each of us went out in turn to take a flower and a spirit bag, stating what we were going to take away with us from this weekend. (For my part, I took home the pleasure of connecting with many new friends, confirmation that I'm not the only person who aspires to a high standard, and absolute proof that Pagans can come together to achieve important things; that, and a spirit bag for my altar, and an extra one to send to another friend who couldn't attend due to last-minute disasters.) The assorted declarations included some of the most moving speech of the whole event.

We ended the ceremony by linking hands one last time. We brought the energy up, and down again, and around the circle from hand to heart. We hummed together -- and if you've never heard it before, you can't imagine the beauty of dozens of human voices rippling into harmony. And then it was done, ended all on one bright note, and the people who needed to catch the shuttle scurried off to do so. Those of us who could afford to stay longer, milled around in the room saying our goodbyes, picking up a last handful of literature, and so forth. I left around 1:00 when Doug came down to find me.


Agendas, Issues, and Ideas
Attendees came to this Summit with the intent of pooling our experience to identify the key needs of the Pagan community over the next year, and farther into the future. First we assembled in one large circle to go over the basic outline of the event, then we divided into smaller groups for more focused discussions, and went back and forth several times between the two modes. We also had plenty of time to mill around and talk with each other in more freeform private conversations. Points regarding solidarity, efficiency, accountability, quality standards, and training came up repeatedly. Here are some of the things we covered.


Just about everyone expressed a desire for more events like this Summit, where leaders can gather to exchange information and strategize, so expect to see more of this in the future. (A guide for organizers of leadership-oriented events is already in progress, based on the experiences and lessons and feedback from this one.) We want to document and preserve our cultural lore, which includes efforts to archive Pagan literature, work with the media both inside and outside our community, and produce some of our own documentaries. We want to raise the level of professional courtesy and credentials across the board, from writers to public speakers to ministers and so forth. We also want to make training available to people interested in developing their leadership, writing, counseling, and other skills for which we already have experienced teachers. Likewise, we acknowledge the vast commitments of time and energy our leaders have contributed to the Pagan community, and we want the general Pagan populace to understand the need to support and appreciate these leaders. To achieve this, Pagans need to realize that money and organization are not evil and can produce marvelous results when applied responsibly. We can accomplish these goals by drawing on resources within our existing community.

Some topics extend beyond the Pagan community. Many people expressed concern about the government infringing on religious freedoms and civil rights, so we see a need to protect ourselves in that regard. We also want to reach out and educate the mainstream media and populace about who we are and what we do, something that many groups already do. Conflict resolution, both internal and external, came up several times; we also discussed interfaith work and the need to make ourselves known to area officials before something goes wrong.


Plenty of ideas and solutions for these issues arose in later discussions. We proposed establishing organizations for Pagan press and public speakers, for officers of 501(c)3 groups, and other affinities. This was just one aspect of Pagan infrastructure; we also talked about seminaries, land sanctuaries, public temples, charities, and the like. (These infrastructure activities are another sign of our community's growth and maturity -- it's taken us a while to get where we could do such things, and now we're seeing serious results here.) We brainstormed many techniques for fundraising, because most projects require money. We covered the need for diplomacy, positive media relations, patience, and other personal skills -- some of which benefit from training, and for which we already have teachers available. In developing projects, we need to tell Pagans and mainstream folks alike exactly how and why what we're doing will benefit them.

One especially popular project is the "Pagan Portal" which will be a Web site with helpful content on various topics, links to all the Pagan resources we can find, and which will probably serve as an umbrella project to gather several others like the email lists for professionals. Another is the prison ministry; experienced people here also mentioned hospital chaplaincies and other opportunities to support Pagans and educate non-Pagans within institutional venues. Two large-scale projects were proposed: taking out a full-page ad in a major metropolitan newspaper to describe Paganism and one of our major holidays, and hiring a reputable firm to conduct a Pagan census. People have since discussed a billboard project too.


Many attendees are writing up their personal notes, and Cairril is coordinating the Website updates. In addition to the official post of cumulative notes from the event, personal accounts and event reports and other material will also go up. Official photographs are cleared for publication in Pagan periodicals to accompany articles about the Summit, and some folks are posting their personal snapshots in various places as well (with the permission of everyone visible in the photos). You can read more at the Summit Website.

Some Personal Highlights
Certain activities, humorous interludes, and transcendent moments stand out in my memory as highlights of the weekend and I'd like to share those with folks. These include:
The apple-pear-ginger juice at the Laughing Planet coffeehouse, which I recommend most highly to anyone who gets a chance to sample it.

Drawing on my modest skill with the Russian language to read the Cyrillic lettering on Cairril's awesome black coat, which I suspect may really be a Russian hand-me-down, given the appearance of the patches and the guy's name on the inside.


Hours and hours of firsthand experience with Selena Fox's firm, respectful, invigorating, and effective facilitation techniques.

Multiple experiences of humming, singing, holding hands, meditating, and otherwise working in concert with a whole roomful of people who are extremely skilled in matters magical and spiritual.

Listening to Isaac Bonewits read out loud, from a handwritten theme book no less, his draft of a hilarious essay on cats and literacy.

The incredible level of magic at the Saturday ritual, especially the Opening of the Gates and the water-sharing.

Cairril jumping up and down when presented with the glowing, glitter-filled gizmo after the Saturday ritual.

Patrick Price's eloquent description -- and demonstrations -- of the "nonanxious presence" ideal.

Hearing Macha NightMare's unparalleled, archetypal cackle during the group photoshoot.

Lunch on the way home -- Doug and I stopped at Anyetsang's Little Tibet restaurant and got our first experience with Tibetan food, which we found scrumptious.


Location, Location, Location
It wouldn't be fair to discuss the who and the what without also giving a nod to the where. I want to thank the nice folks at the Indiana Memorial Union for providing most of our function space (for meetings) and accommodations (for those of us who stayed in the hotel section of the Union); and Harmony School for letting us use the gymnasium for our Saturday ritual. I also want to say that I'm thoroughly impressed with the city of Bloomington, Indiana. When my parents heard where I was going for a Pagan Summit, they kinda freaked -- their experiences and memories of Bloomington were, shall we say, much less congenial. I'm happy to report that the place has mellowed out considerably over the last twenty years; as far as I know, nobody got hassled for being Pagan and almost all of us sported pentacles or other emblems of affiliation.


So I'll just take a moment here to highlight some favorite stuff. The Indiana University campus is simply beautiful -- lots of trees and creeks and little gardens and gorgeous stonework everywhere you look. It also has lots of stairs, which makes it hard for me to get around, but I managed; the Union has convenient elevator and escalator service. The stoplights at the crosswalks have the most clever configuration: the "walk" emblem has a timer beside it so you can see how many seconds before the light changes, and there's also a bird noise (either a chirp or a cuckoo, depending on which street you're crossing; the sound is different for east/west or north/south) that sound when it's safe to cross. There are many fascinating shops to browse -- bookstores, music stores, antique shops, specialty shops, homemade ice cream parlors, you name it. I was particularly intrigued with Athena's, a Pagan store that I didn't get into this time, and the bead shop Boca Loca Beads, which I did get to stop at and where I spent a good deal of my pocket money. Fountain Square Mall is really cool also. On the way home, Doug and I ate lunch at Anyetsang's Little Tibet restaurant, our first experience with Tibetan food (both of us are diehard fans of ethnic cuisine, and gleefully pounced on the chance to expand our range) which turned out to be most excellent. We wanted to catch the other Tibetan restaurant, Snow Lion, which came highly recommended and had a very enticing menu posted on the door -- but alas, they weren't open for lunch on Sunday. Overall, I was sufficiently taken with Bloomington to declare it as the destination for my birthday celebration in April, with plans including a day of shopping followed by a Tibetan supper. For Pagans and other folks traveling in the Midwest, I'd say this town is well worth your attention.

Conclusions
I found the Pagan Summit both effective and enjoyable. We accomplished an awesome amount in a very short time, although of course we couldn't pack everything into the space we had. The event has spawned many ideas, projects, plans -- and friendships. I really look forward to working with these folks in the future, and hopefully some of us can meet again at other events. It is an honor and a pleasure to be counted among such peers.

For those of you who couldn't make it to this Summit, don't worry: plans are already in progress for more leadership-oriented events, both ones like this for experienced leaders and ones intended to foster leadership and other skills in the general Pagan populace. As the special projects develop, there will be plenty of opportunities to volunteer there too. We've got something for everyone. Nor are these "secret" proceedings -- watch for reports in major Pagan periodicals, at festivals, in organizational meetings, and many other venues. What we did this weekend was start a dialog on topics of importance to Pagans everywhere. Where it goes from here remains to be seen!

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