Caroline Kenner to retire from Sacred Space conference

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HUNT VALLEY, Md. –When the doors are opened for this year’s Sacred Space conference on the ides of March, it will be the last time Caroline Kenner attends the opening ritual as a board member. Kenner helped relaunch and re-imagine the conference after it spent time in “dry dock” last decade, and she is the last of that group to remain involved.

Her retirement quietly closes a chapter for the Sacred Space Foundation, the nonprofit through which the conference is organized, but her presence will remain: all but one of the remaining board members have been her students.

Altars at Sacred Space.

Altars at Sacred Space [courtesy].

There is a long tradition of esoteric gatherings in the shadow of the nation’s capital. Well before the turn of the century, Ecumenicon was the place to be; Sacred Space was hived from that conference, and it was rebooted after hiatus because it, too, was missed.

“We started with several boxes of moldy t-shirts from a previous organizing team, $800, and my credit card,” Kenner recalled.

From her own pocket she paid several of the speakers who headlined Sacred Space until there was enough money in the bank to make the event sustainable. She credits Marcia Colling with establishing protocols for financial responsibility; Kay Donaldson and Connie Miller filled out that organizing team, with Ivo Dominguez, Jr. playing a vital advisory role.

Kenner writes in this year’s conference program: “Ivo and the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel outright saved Sacred Space several times before our board’s tenure. They have helped us a great deal throughout the years.”

During the past dozen years, Kenner has helped build Sacred Space from a conference with strong local appeal into a long weekend centered around advanced magical education. “Sacred Space has no 101 classes,” she said.

Having been a practicing Pagan since 1984, “That would just bore me at this point. No one will wow me with a 101 class anymore.”

Kenner found a kindred spirit seeking advanced classes in Gwendolyn Reece, who joined the board not long after the conference was rebooted. Together they sought to create something of a four-day excursion to Hogwarts, “a precious time of learning that refreshes and enriches our magical practices for the rest of the year,” Kenner wrote in the conference program.

Advanced teaching is important to Kenner. She founded Gryphons Grove School of Shamanism “We omitted the apostrophe because people can’t handle them anymore” to transmit her shamanic knowledge to others; she closed it down last year.

She considers Pagan traditions not just broken, but “intentionally obliterated,” and believes strongly that repairing them cannot be done solely through studying books and interacting online.

“People can only learn by going to class,” she said. “Self-education only goes so far.” Sacred Space exists to help with that.

Caroline Kenner [courtesy].

Looking at her tenure on the Sacred Space board, Kenner wrote, “In my proudest personal moment, Sacred Space hosted Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki as a featured teacher in 2015, the year we held a joint conference with Between the Worlds. That conference was a milestone in Pagan coalition organizing, quite apart from the delight of hosting Dolores.”

On the horizon for Kenner is a likely move; she and her husband Jason are considering the Seattle area since “I’m bio-engineered for the Celtic realms,” and after nearly 60 summers near the Mason-Dixon line, she’s had enough.

Retiring from Sacred Space and closing her shamanic school are part of her preparations for that migration. As her husband is a computer programmer — together they run the Fool’s Dog suite of tarot apps — he can work from anywhere. As for her own time, Kenner said, “I’ve never had the time to write the two to three books that I want to.”

She could have some interesting stories to tell. Kenner’s first teacher was Andras Corban-Arthen; she studied under Janet Farrar, and is an initiate in La Regla de Ocha de Lukumi, Cuban Santeria. In addition, she received the Kalachakra initiation from the Dalai Lama during his 2011 visit.

Kenner also organized rallies to support the veterans’ pentacle quest and raised funds to open the New Alexandrian Library.

Despite her list of experiences and accomplishments, her own evaluation of the newsworthiness of her leaving Sacred Space behind was thus: “It’s a transition with no one stamping off mad. This is the fifth board of a Pagan organization I’ve sat on, and the others were learning experiences.”

Her presence in the Washington area will no doubt be missed, but Kenner’s aura will continue to shine as she begins the next adventure.