Meeting the Pagans

Stacey Lawless —  February 14, 2013 — 8 Comments

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in four years. She moved up north for a while and we fell out of touch, so when she moved back we had some catching up to do. The last time we’d seen each other, I was calling myself Heathen and thought that I might become a Freyrswoman. Needless to say, I had to explain that my spiritual journey had covered some ground since then. The strange thing was, as we talked, I realized that it felt like far longer than four years since I last lifted a horn in blót – even though I never lost contact with my local Heathens, and attended a blót as a guest only a few months ago. I also told my friend about getting ready for PantheaCon, and the contrast between how I felt about PCON and how I felt about my own Pagan past gave me some food for thought.

The road to PantheaCon opened for me in December, just a few weeks after my rayamiento. My Tata (Palo godfather) announced that he was going to be on a panel about minority religions and the media (“Setting the Record Straight: Pagans and the Press”), and checking the schedule, I saw that Jason Pitzl-Waters was also on that panel. I wound up getting into an online conversation with Jason about PCON that left me thinking I just had to try to go. Crowds aren’t my favorite, but I was thrilled about the Giant Pagan Event, plus I had the sense that here was a door that I had to try to get through. When my boyfriend agreed that yes, we should go, I was stunned (he’s so much more of a hermit than I am). We bought the various necessary tickets and made the plans and I’ve been thoroughly excited since . . .

But the funny thing is, I can’t quite figure out why I’m excited. I mean, it’s great to be stepping out, finally, into the wider world of Pagandom, meeting people, experiencing different traditions, and delighting in the gathering of the tribes. I find it very ironic, though, that I’m entering this world not as a Pagan, but as a Palera. For whatever reasons of destiny or personal quirks, I never found an expression of Paganism that resonated well with me, or provided a good vessel for my hopes, fears, personal growth or spiritual yearnings. I confess I got rather frustrated with the search, too, and there were more than a few times when I was tempted to write the whole thing off. And apparently the process left a few scars, because I realized the other day that although my identity is still oriented towards Paganism, in a general way, I think of you guys as “you guys” and not “us.”

This is an uncomfortable thing to write, not least because I’m writing it here on The Wild Hunt. The flip side, though, is that I am writing about it on The Wild Hunt, at the same time I’m talking about heading out to PantheaCon. Clearly, those scars don’t run all that deep. And I suppose this could mean that I’m going to PCON to find out why I’m going to PCON – that this is the part of my journey where I get to discover what Pagan things are like outside of my little corner of the Southeast.

There are definitely worse quests to undertake. And I do have some concrete goals and desires for PantheaCon which will keep me busy. There’s the glorious opportunity for networking, for example. I think Pagans and the African Traditional Religions are, or at least should be, natural allies in the contentious religious environment of the U.S., and I hope I can accomplish a little work to that end, even if it’s just swapping a few email addresses. Given that I’m going to meet the redoubtable Wild Hunt-ers in person, I anticipate this will be pretty fun and effective.

I want to see how the other ATR practitioners on the schedule present our religions. And, speaking of events on the schedule, I’m hoping to learn more about how different Pagan groups are doing Ancestor veneration and spirit-work. (Healing the dead, and healing with the aid of the dead, are old interests of mine that I now have the tools to pursue in earnest – and I may be on the verge of becoming something of an evangelist for Ancestor veneration. But that is definitely a topic for another post.) The Circle of Bones ritual, in particular, looks intriguing.

I’m completely stoked about the fact that I’m finally going to be able to meet friends in person who I’ve only ever known online. Also, this is the big opportunity to introduce my boyfriend to my Tata and some of the other folks in my Palo community, which is a small triumph considering we can’t afford to travel to the West Coast very often. And, of course, there’s that  one panel I simply must attend . . .

Roads opening, doors to walk through, quests to undertake. That does sound kind of Pagan, doesn’t it? I’ll be making notes on the journey, and will no doubt write about the adventures when I return. If you’re going to be at PantheaCon too, look for me – my hair’s not blue anymore but is still spiky, and you can’t miss the spiral tattoo on my neck. Come on over and tell me your story. I’m here for the gathering of tribes, after all, and I do want to meet you.

 

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Stacey Lawless

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  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “Roads opening, doors to walk through, quests to undertake. That does sound kind of Pagan, doesn’t it?”
    Not really. Sounds like just about any path a person treads. The only people not on a path are the dead and, even then, I am not sure about that.

    It is good to hear you are going to this thing. I think more people need to realise the important of stepping outside of their own faith in order to experience the spirituality of others. Too often, there seems to be a big thing about seeing ‘other’ as something to be wary of.

    Hope you enjoy it all and that all your plans go well (even if not as intended.)

    • Stacey Lawless

      Gracias. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

  • cernowain greenman

    Stacy, I am hoping that, as you encounter the diversity at PCON, you will find some folks there you can call “spiritual family”. That is more important than whether you accept a label or not. Bright blessings to you.

  • Kilmrnock

    Wished i could attend but my funds are in dire straights at this time , can’t afford such things . Couldn’t even attend a local Robert[ Rabby] Burns dinner this year,tis a Scottish thing .We even had the Between the World gathering this year , couldn’t afford that one either it’s local as well.One group i may suggest looking up is Recon Groups , I am a Celtic Reconstructionist , CR for short , myself . These groups are the closest to Theodism in structure and belief . We venerate our Gods and Ancestors . On the topic you mentioned though, we do work with our ancestors for blessings and guildance. The only difference i see is we will more us a God/ Godess for healing spiritual, physical, and mental.From what i’ve read ATR and many recon faiths have more than a little in common as both are based on Traditional Pagan ethnic beliefs.But don’t forget to enjoy yourselves , i’ve found at large events it’s to easy to get wound up in trying to do to much and forget to have fun , run around too much.

  • Cat C-B

    Stacy, it’s not as if you need my permission, OR that I qualify as any kind of Pagan pope.

    But as far as I’m concerned, the distinction between Paleros (or other members of African traditional religions) and p/Pagans is self-definition… Meaning, to those in ATRs who feel that your practice is wholly apart from what modern Paganism, I fully recognize your authority to define yourself in that way… but if you ever do find yourself also feeling part of the Pagan tribe, you are fully welcome under my corner of the tent any time.

    Identity is complicated; I don’t mean to oversimplify anyone’s quest to understand their own and that of their tradition. (Hell, I’ve got a whole blog, Quaker Pagan Reflections, dedicated to me exploring my own.)

    I will say, though, that’s one of the things I think we share, and one reason I’m glad you’re at least cross-pollinating with the wider Pagan movement. I’m delighted you’re feeling a tug of “evangelizing” around ancestor veneration among us; I think we could have a much richer community, and richer spiritual traditions, if we explored that side of our religious movement more seriously, and I can’t imagine many better sources of instruction than the ATRs.

    I am someone who wonders also if there aren’t ways of sharing riches from one of my tribes with the other. (For me, it’s the nourishment and accountability Quakers give to living elders and teachers that I want to transplant.)

    And beyond the quest for identity that involves drawing boundaries around In and Out, there’s always my sense that the richest places in any ecosystem are where two biomes meet, two ways of life, enriching one another’s habitats. The sea does not become the land, and the land need not become the sea for a salt marsh to be a place of powerful life.

    I think the places our communities touch and overlap with one another can be a lot like that, if we let them.

    Enjoy PCon!

  • http://profiles.google.com/bethnin Beth Winegarner

    Yay! I’m moderating the panel and it’s delightful that you’re close with two of the panelists. I hope you’re able to come check it out and say hello. :)

  • Stacey Lawless

    Beth, I’m definitely planning to be there! And thank you, everyone, for your advice and thoughtfulness. I am very much looking forward to PCON!

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    The important thing is that you found your path It does not matter what label it has or even if it has a label. Enjoy yourself and just being you