MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – While the official theme of Paganicon 2017 was A Journey into the Underworld, a sub-theme of healing ran throughout the entire Midwest 3 day conference. There was, of course, the expected workshops covering such things as Reiki, but there was also a class on healing through movement, a round table on Pagans with cancer, and a room set aside specifically for healing work. The unofficial sub-theme theme wove its way through the art selections in the gallery and the songs sung by musicians.Paganicon Director of Programming and Entertainment, Becky Munson said the healing sub-theme wasn’t created by design, “Everything happened pretty organically; everything that was presented was submitted in the public call for submissions.”
Ms. Munson says each year there are submissions for presentations that seem to cluster around a topic that is simmering in the community consciousness.
“I think it’s a by-product of what’s going in in our society right now,” said Munson. “There’s so much pain and discord. Our community is looking for ways to heal each other in an empowering way.”
How do Pagans heal?
Some Paganicon attendees were able to find personal healing through taking a workshop called, Voice and Movement: Healing and Transformation. Rae Eden, one of the presenters for the class, said the purpose is to blend song and dance to transform, “This transformation can then manifest in healing the body or mind.”
Eden’s presentation partner, Song, said the class is accessible to everyone, even those in wheelchairs, “If you put your hand over your chest and sing the word ‘voo’, your chest vibrates. That is both song and movement.”
The duo said that they learned this type healing from Donal Engsrom-Reese and that it is called the Seven Sacred Voices.
Class participants would change the volume and tone of the word they sang, along with corresponding body movements, and see how the differences elicited different responses in their body and how they felt.
Analee, one of the partisans of the class, said, “I felt really self-conscious at first because I don’t like to sing in front of people. Then I felt it lift, along with heavy feelings of sadness and worry. I feel amazing.”Other Pagans sought relief from healing specialist Deneece Lacy. She was set up for the weekend in a room devoted to specifically to healing services and practices. Lacy said that she used to vend at Paganicon until she learned crystal therapy. She started the healing room at last year’s event. In addition to crystal therapy, Lacy offered Reiki and tuning forks, which she said are better for localized pain.
“People are coming to me for help with physical pain, some emotional pain, but mainly stress relief and relaxation,” said Ms. Lacy.
Her sign up sheet filled up quickly. She said that she’s been very busy this year, especially with presenters as her clients. She plans to offer her services again next year, and says healing is what she’s drawn to do.
The tough stuff
In a recent blog post titled “Spiritual Treatment is no Substitute for Mental Health Care,” Druid John Beckett says, “If you’re physically ill, work your healing spells, but also see a doctor. If you’re mentally ill, draw on the power of your spiritual and magical traditions, but also see a mental health professional.”
This advice was echoed in Paganicon’s Pagans with Cancer round table event. Three Pagans who are going through chemotherapy or have just finished treatment spoke of their experiences, as Pagans, in seeking healing from a life threatening illness.
“We don’t see illness through the same lens as society,” said Jane Hawkner. She noted some of their methods of healing are different, even while undergoing traditional western health practices.
Hawkner added that Pagans need different support, “We don’t fit into monotheistic support groups. There’s so much ‘Praise Jesus’ in these groups.”Yet, Pagans who aren’t familiar with these types of illnesses can sometimes offer support that is hurtful or damaging. Hawkner said, “There’s this feeling of Pagans trying to shame you when you’re ill. They’ll say ‘Let’s talk about why you have cancer’ and that can quickly devolve into blaming you for your illness.”
She said a number of people offer lifestyle or nutrition advice without asking her if she’s already doing it, leaving her with the underlying feeling of that they assume she isn’t doing the right things already.
Ms. Hawkner said that she has had to set up boundaries for people, to let them know she had already done the research.
In addition to traditional medicine, Hawkner has set up a healing altar, had Reiki sessions, journey work, sacred drumming, met with a Zen priest for meditation, and has even worked with Yew runes since one of her chemotherapy drugs was based on a yew tree compound.
In addition to all that, Hawkner created a Facebook support group specifically for Pagans who have cancer. It’s a small group, but she hopes it provides the kind of support Pagans are looking for as they take a more integrated approach to healing their bodies.
As Munson noted, the pronounced interest in personal healing was not at all planned as a Paganicon theme; it became one organically. The submitted presentations along with the art and the healing room centered on the topic – one that, as Munson suggested, may be “simmering” in the larger community consciousness.