It's taken me a few days to sum up enough clarity to be able to chronicle my experiences at this year's Pantheacon. Things have been rather busy for me this month... a major business trip right before the con... getting sick right after returning... the con itself... performing my first Feri initiation... and then getting sick all over again! I'm still pretty tired, but I wanted to make sure to at least jot down some bullet points of the major experiences that I had at the con:
- The Feri Ethics panel
Friday night we had a panel on magickal ethics as seen by various initiates from different lines of Feri. Panelists were Morpheus Anima (heartssdesire), Michele Jackson (mrj15), Thorn Coyle (yezida), Deborah Oak, Valerie Voight, and myself.
Some of the issues that were addressed included the supposed amorality of Feri, and the difference of morality (an external code of conduct to be applied evenly to every situation) and actual ethics (an internal relationship that is forged over time that can change and adapt depending on the situation; which I believe encompasses the warrior ethic of our tradition.)
One of the major points that I expressed was that religion doesn't have ethics, but people do. Sometimes people become distressed that Feri does not hand out a pre-conceived set of ethical guidelines that everyone must follow, to which I drew inspiration from something that Kathy Griffen said about Madonna on her show My Life on the D-List; when talking about her involvement in Kaballah, Madonna recited a version of the Golden Rule, talking about how whatever you put out in the universe comes back to you which is why you should be kind to others... to which Kathy replied something to the effect of, "You shouldn't need a religion to teach you not to be an asshole."
Some very profound things were said by the participants on that panel. Morpheus talked about ethics in connection with the teachings of folkloric Faery teachings; most notably the lore of the three roads as revealed to Thomas the Rhymer. Deborah Oak talked about how in Reclaiming Feri, they incorporate the Three-Fold Law of Wicca (something that most Feri don't connect to, but it was nice to hear another perspective) and Thorn talked about the necessity of being in alignment. I also revealed that --while there are many differences in practices throughout the larger body of Feri-- that there does exist a central Feri ethic which is: Shut the fuck up and listen to your Godself! ;)
- Ascension Magick with Christopher Penczak (torcboy)
Christopher's class was pretty powerful for me. As many of you are aware, Chas and I bought a metaphysical supply store here in the Bay Area last November, currently named Dolphin Dream (end shameless plug!) I found Christopher's class to be very helpful in coming to terms with some of the concepts of the "New Age" movement, such as the "Ascended Masters" which he expertly compared to the witchcraft concept of "the Mighty Dead". This also included a discussion of "the Seven Rays" (which even after having worked in a New Age store for 10 years I still erroneously equated to the chakras) as well as a powerful meditation to connect with them. Very potent stuff and now I have to read his book!
- Feri Ritual: Catching the Promethean Spark
I am very pleased with how the ritual unfolded. It was definitely a powerful rite, and one that was designed to help each participant cultivate a personal relationship with that spark of divinity within us that is the gift of the Gods. It began with a storytelling by Medusa, who expressed the story of how the Nephilim came from the four directions to grant us the gifts of civilization and magick. From there I led a trance in which we connected to those gifts by invoking the sacred crossroads into our own centers, and then we danced that Promethean fire into a frenzy (led by Thorn, Anaar, and Morpheus with sacred bellydance) taking it inside ourselves so that we can then pass it on to others, making sure that these teachings are shared widely to assist in the spiritual evolution of the world. Once again it was a very powerful ritual, and I am already hearing stories of powerful transformation that has been happening as a direct result of it.
- Self-Possession and the I AM with Thorn Coyle (yezida)
A more recently talked about aspect of Feri witchcraft is the idea of self-possession. Thorn talked about this particular aspect of spiritual practice and led a powerful meditation of soul alignment involving voice work, from her upcoming book Kissing the Limitless. Very good stuff!
- The Guardians of the Feri Tradition
I was very pleased to offer my very first presentation at Pantheacon. In it I talked about my connection to these powerful beings, as well as passed some of the lore that I have received about them. Then we invoked them in order to have a personal relationship with them. I've had some good feedback about it and look forward to seeing how this work develops for some of the participants in the future.
- The Spiritual Birthright of Men-Who-Love-Men with Hyperion (revhyperion)
I was very pleased to have finally met Hyperion, whose work I have been aware of for awhile. He gave a wonderful talk and simple (yet powerful) ritual for connecting to the Ancestors of Men-Who-Love-Men in a framework of an ancestrally revealed practice that he calls the Unnamed Path. We descended into the Underworld in order to search for the ancestors --not of our specific bloodlines-- but instead those of our sexual family; the ancestors of Men-Who-Love-Men. When in communion with them several of us received messages from these ancestors and we shared them with the rest of the group. In general they seemed to want us to live our lives to the fullest, and I was touched by both their deep wisdom, and fierce compassion. It is definitely work that i would recommend that gay, bi, and queer men look into, and you can listen to Hyperion's podcasts on the subject by visiting his website.
I was also struck by his process of creating sacred space, which is not "casting a circle" (which tends to be a type of container or barrier) but is instead "Raising the Great Crossroads" which is practically identical to what I was taught in my Feri training (without it being called that). (In a nutshell, I was trained to orient myself to the six external directions, taking their powers and gifts inside me to find my own center, the 7th direction.) Chas and I have been talking about and working with this recently as a ritual alternative (or at times a "supplement") to casting the circle, as the Crossroads construct is more about connection and orientation to the various worlds in which we walk as witches and warlocks. It was striking to hear how similar Hyperion's practice was to our own and I am looking forward to connecting more with him and his work in the future.
- The GLBT Hospitality Suite
Another high point was the GLBT suite in which the promo video for this year's Between the Worlds was unveiled. I am both proud and humbled to have been chosen to be the keynote speaker there this year and was happy to meet this year's musical guest, Mac Apodaca of Sevenrepeat. He was a sweetheart and I'm looking forward to seeing (and hearing) him at the retreat.
The GLBT Suite was a welcomed safe-space and retreat from the intensity of the con... a nice place where we could all just hang out... get a drink (or a few)... and maybe kiss some hot men. I found myself there every night of the con and only got slightly scandalous. ;)
- And last but not least, Shopping!
I found some really incredible finds this year. It was extra fun because I was not only searching for pretties for myself, but also for our store. I found some great jewelry, some great clothing, and these really wonderfully carved wooden staffs. I purchased a large one that is carved in the form of a ram's head, and Chas got a smaller one carved like his raven totem. We also got some fine handcrafted leather masks and bracelets and are looking forward to being able to purchase some for our store.
There were also some things that I wanted to go to but couldn't: Morpheus' talk on the Three Souls (which happened right as we needed to check-out of the hotel!) and Valerie Walker's (veedub) class on the Iron pentacle, which coincidentally was at the only time that I could meet with my own students for some much-needed face-to-face time. I heard that it was great, though.
All in all it was a great experience. It was the first time that I have been able to be there for the whole time, and with Chas, no less! We both had a great time hanging out together, and we celebrated an early 15th anniversary there (which was lucky, since on our actual anniversary we were both sick!)
I was very happy to see some old friends, and to make some new ones. It is certainly an experience that i would recommend to everyone who is interested in Pagan spirituality, as there are so many different types of people and presentations there that there is certainly something for everyone. I already can't wait for next year.
But for now I am tired and am going to bed... for all of those whom I saw at the con (and probably didn't have near as much time to hang out with as I would have liked): I miss you already.