Cairril Adaire Dagonet
Dewr Elizabeth Barrette "Summit Up"
Diana Paxson Elizabeth
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.
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
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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I'm just in the door from this weekend's
Pagan Summit, and all I can say is:
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 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.
Back to top
We came by ones and twos and threes,
And then we came together,
All our sand poured through a single glass.
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
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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Notes and Observations
Purpose: to share values and goals, not beliefs
create a meta-movement based on shared needs and concerns
Areas to Explore:
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?
rather than prescriptive definition
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?
If we don't
hang together, we'll all hang separately
a herd of cats
is a pride
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
oath of non-replication
Legitimacy, credibility, validation
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?
Work with URI
and other interfaith groups
- media relations, PR
educate Civil liberties organizations
community activities & charities
funds for NPR drive
academic Religious Studies
fund a Pagan
lobbyist in Washington DC
put Pagan movement
in context of US religious history
and collect books to put in public libraries
businesslike and professional
set up Legal
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?
planning, develop long range goals
More and different
kinds of education
and referral for newcomers
"corporate" culture & integrating people into the community
development, accounting, cooperation skills, computer skills organizing
events, publicity and PR, proposal writing
"feminist" approaches rather than getting caught by old hierarchical models)
- professionalism without authoritarianism
for Pagan parents, children's programs
What resources do we already have? What resources are we not using effectively?
How can we share resources?
website, web links
of what we've got already- don't reinvent the wheel
share resources in areas such as clergy training, prison ministry, death
from larger community: SCORE, Toastmasters, legal aid, community college
resources - endowments, wills, matching funds, Foundation Center
Set up Pagan
Council of Elders
- train your replacement
communities regarding cost of activities and need for support
is no such thing as a free lunch" Robert Heinlein)
Coven of Colonies
- religious minorities and wierdos who only survived by tolerating each
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
Areas in which I have materials to share:
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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.
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
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
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.
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"Ô 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
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
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.
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
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
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"Ô 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
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
Hearing Macha NightMare's unparalleled, archetypal cackle during the group
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
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.
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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