I arrived home safe and sound early Monday morning from my week of camping at Between the Worlds in Ohio. I'm still adjusting to "the real world" (whatever that means) but I wanted to take a moment to chronicle my feelings and experiences at the event.
I originally had some feelings of trepidation surrounding my attendance at the event. My experience with large groups of gay men (there were about 90 in attendance) have not exactly been all that kind; usually centered in places of addiction (i.e. bars) or basically focused on inflating some already over-inflated egos to the extent of coldness and cruelty to others. Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm one of those people that feels that people should actually be nice to each other. Or, as carnivalia once put it, "You're one of those who actually believe what they taught you on Sesame Street, aren't you?"
My stress soon melted away as I arrived at the land: 625 acres of reclaimed land that as recent as 20 years ago had been decimated by strip mining. Today it is beautiful; paths and trees, and meadows... simply gorgeous, and a symbol of hope in a world that continues to exploit and destroy our natural places.
Whatever feelings of social anxiety I still had were alleviated as I met the individuals involved in the event; so caring and genuine. They put me at ease with their compassion, their laughter, and their fierce commitment to building a healthy intentional community. Never before have I experienced such a sense of profound love and acceptance, so much so that I was, at times, overwhelmed. My only other experiences with Pagan retreats have been the two Feri Camps that I have taught at, and one Feri Initiates gathering and while I found them all to be very powerful, transformative, and full of connection, it was BTW that spoke most directly to my heart and soul. I have felt that certain individuals in the Feri community have been my "family". At this little temporary mystical village in Ohio, I felt a profound sense of familiarity even though I had not met most of them before; as if I were truly "coming home" to a family that I had not even known that I had forgotten.
One lesson that I learned was just how much of my power leaks away by living in a straight society. When I go to the grocery store, or walk down the street, I do not feel comfortable showing any level of affection for my husband or lovers unless I am in a queer specific place or a private setting amongst friends. It's an issue of safety, as I have been in situations in which I have been attacked and threatened for my sexuality. Until I got to BTW I had no idea how much of my attention and power is devoted to not showing public affection or being too "animated". It was an important lesson for me to experience, and I am working on incorporating this insight into my current practice.
There were a lot of inspirational experiences at this event. Between the workshops, rituals, intense conversations, and even a surprise heart-connection that swept me off my feet, I feel invigorated to take my practice in a new direction. Certainly one of the very first things I will be doing is returning to the book I have been writing about Witchcraft for Gay men.
I had an opportunity to teach a workshop ("The Amethyst Pentacle") which ended-up beginning with a little introduction to the Feri tradition. I received some good feedback and am honored and touched that so many people seemed to have gotten something positive out of it. The rest of the time I was simply attending other's workshops and basically "smoozing" which allowed me to meet and get to know some amazing people.
I had an opportunity to hang out with Christopher Penczak (torcboy) and his husband Steve Kenson (xomec). They are both really down-to-earth and talented people. (And very geekish, which of course is sexy to me.) ;)
I also got to meet Doug and Joe from Otherworld Apothecary. They are both initiates in a branch of pre-Wiccan traditional witchcraft, and are ecologists to boot. I took their class on Land Based Craft which really opened up some stuff for me (and truth be told, kinda scared me a little, which to those of you who really know me will know that I then found it potent and cool!) I found their overall approach to be "very Feri" in places, or at least in what I was taught (as opposed to a lot of the public Feri stuff which has incorporated elements of Wicca and Ceremonial magick.) If you get a chance, go to their website. They not only have the finest quality traditional magical oil and herbal blends that I have found, but their bottles and labels are both beautiful and exquisite. Chas and I will be carrying as much of their products as we can after we take over Dolphin Dream in November.
The musical guest was Jeffrey Altergott, and if you are not familiar with his work then you owe it to yourself to check him out. His presence was soft, warm, and his talent is considerable. I didn't get much of a chance to speak with him, but I am hoping to remedy that next year. And I just saw that he friended me here on LiveJournal! Yay!
The keynote speaker was Sparky T. Rabbit. This was of particular importance to me, as it was his work with the Pagan band Lunacy that really paved the way for me to embrace a Queer Pagan path back when I was just a witchling. I made the point of letting him know, since I think it's very important to honor our elders, as they have provided the foundation for us to live and practice as we do.
There were so many more that made this event such a magical one and I would be hard-pressed to mention them all. Many thanks to lonespiritwolf2 and to technocowboy who have been trying to get me to this event for the past several years. I will indeed be going back and am already making my list of what offerings I'd like to present.
Now, I am getting ready for the next . I leave in two weeks for Massachusetts. I'm really looking forward to it. I even have a few new techniques to incorporate into my offerings there. It is promising to be a powerful event.