Toronto Pagan pub moot celebrates 20th anniversary

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TORONTO, Ont. – For the past twenty years, the Pagan community in Toronto has gathered together on the third Monday of each calendar month to relax, socialize and network at the Toronto Pagan Pub Moot (TPPM). To celebrate the landmark 20th anniversary as the longest running pub moot in Canada, organizers Karen and Evan Dales pulled out all the stops to host a memorable event for the Feb. 15. moot.

Toronto Pagan Pub Moot organizers Evan and Karen Dales (courtesy photo)

Toronto Pagan Pub Moot organizers Evan and Karen Dales [Courtesy Photo]

Toronto is a large city, with a population of more than six million people in the metro area. It is the fourth largest city in North America, and stretches across the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, directly north of New York State. The Toronto Pagan Pub Moot serves the local Pagan community and also draws attendees from the nearby city of Hamilton, which is 59 kilometers ( 37 mi.) away, as well as others from small communities in the region.

The TPPM venue has changed over the years, but its most recent home has been the Midtown Gastro Hub, located at 1535 Yonge Street in the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood. One of the attractions of this venue is its private event room on the second floor.  The room is an all-ages venue, providing Pagan parents with the opportunity to bring their children along to the moot. This creates a community event for Pagan folk of all ages.

Usually the TPPM is a purely social event. But in honour of this special anniversary, Monday’s moot featured some special extras. Musician Andrea Hatala and award winning composer and healing musician Michael Moon entertained the crowd. There was a free raffle featuring jewelry by Salome Cordeiro and other fun prizes donated by community members. And, card games, organized by Karen and Even Dales’ 12-year-old son “The Bug,” proved to be another source of fun. Prizes were awarded to winners.

Performer Andrea Hatala with Evan Dales on percussion (photo by Karen Dales)

Performer Andrea Hatala with Evan Dales on percussion [Photo Credit: Karen Dales]

Despite the temperature hovering near the freezing point and snow falling outside, the TPPM bash filled the private room to capacity with standing room only. Latecomers were accommodated in the downstairs bar as they waited for space upstairs in the moot-proper to free up. Volunteers, who were comprised of moot regulars, were on hand to make sure guests were greeted and newcomers were made to feel at home. One such new face at the moot was Charles Gregory, a visitor from Hamilton, who observed:

I don’t think I have ever been to a Pagan gathering where the atmosphere was anything other than warm and welcoming. The people in Toronto go a bit farther, and actually have volunteers acting as “Welcomers” (that’s what it says on their name tags) so if a solitary Pagan arrives, they are greeted warmly, like an old friend, and introduced to people. Even though I really didn’t need this, I very much appreciated the effort to help newcomers alleviate that mild discomfort of meeting a large new group of people.

Gregory attends the popular HammerTown Pagan Pub Moot, in Hamilton, and appreciated the similarities between the two moots. He said:

In terms of “feel” the two moots were very much the same. Good people. Good conversations. A nice relaxed atmosphere. I was slightly surprised that the number of people in attendance was actually about the same in Toronto as I have seen at past Hamilton moots.

With the kind of people I see at both moots, I often wonder why these events don’t grow into massively popular community events. I can only guess that there are still many pagans who are concerned about being too open about their beliefs. But really, if you didn’t know who those friendly chattering people were on the upstairs level of the Midtown, you would never know they were pagans. As much as anything it’s good to come to these moots and just be “regular folk.

The Wild Hunt caught up with event organizer Karen Dales on the morning after the moot. Although she was recovering from losing her voice to the anniversary fun, she granted an interview.

The Wild Hunt: How long have you personally been involved in the moot?

Karen Dales: Evan and I are the founders of the Toronto Pagan Pub Moot, so 20 years. Before that time, there were no purely social events for Pagans in the Greater Toronto Area. We imported the idea from the UK where they multitudes of moots all over the countries.

TWH: How has the Toronto community benefited from this event?

KD: I hope that the moot has given Pagans and Pagan-friendly folks a place to connect with others of like mind and spirit in a safe environment. It’s also been a great stepping-stone for folks looking for groups to work and learn with, even networking to find out about what’s going on in the greater Pagan community. I’ve also seen many relationships blossom from folks meeting at the moot.

TWH: Do you have any favourite stories from past moots?

KD: Oh my goodness! There are so many stories over the years, but I think the best story is when my son was born. During my pregnancy, each month at the moot people would jokingly say that I would end up going into labour during a moot. I was horrified at that thought, but as my due date drew nearer I realized that it could happen so I had a couple of friends on-call to host the moot, just in case. One week after my due date, Evan and I were considering going to host the moot that night, but something said for us not to go. Good thing, too. That night I DID go into labour. If we would have hosted that moot, the prophesy of so many Pagans would have come true. The next moot, an anniversary moot, was my son’s first moot and he’s been coming to them ever since.

Michael Moon live at TPPM (photo by Karen Dales)

Michael Moon live at TPPM [Photo Credit: Karen Dales]

TWH: What has changed about the Toronto Pagan community since the moot began?

KD: It has definitely grown, and other moots and coffee socials have popped up and then disappeared, also helping with the expansion of connection. When Evan and I started the moot, the only other Pagan related event folks could attend in Toronto was the Wiccan Church of Canada. Since then we’ve seen other groups form and take up the mantle of running public rituals, Pagan Pride Days, etc. I’ve seen the enthusiasm wax and wan over the years, but through it all the Toronto Pagan Pub Moot has always been there.

TWH: What does the future of the moot look like to you?

KD: Honestly, I have no idea. Sometimes I’m surprised that Evan and I have done this for so long. We’ll keep going as long as we can.

TWH: What was the highlight of the 20th anniversary celebration?

KD: I would have to say two things: Michael Moon’s performance and the wonderful folks who came out and had a great time. We are blessed with an amazing group of people who come out.

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For many Pagans around the world, the tradition of the pub moot has become a staple event for their community. There are few moots that can claim the longevity and success that Toronto can boast. As TPPM attendee Brian Walsh explains, “I think that moots are vital to the health of the community. While there may be a workshops, rituals, and other activity that bring us together; it’s only during unstructured time, like moots, that we really get to know who is in your community. It’s also a place where ideas get shared and new plan can be creatively explored.”