Last weekend I attended my fourth major pagan event ever, my second year at ConVocation and my second time altogether staying the entire weekend for a festival. Most of the weekend I had this little girl voice in the back of my head, repeating in a hushed, awed voice, “This has been going on the whole time????”
I’ve been Wiccan for 23 years now, but I’ve always been a solitary. This hasn’t really been out of choice. I’ve tried to get in touch with others, to find a group, a coven, someplace where I wouldn’t be alone anymore. I found egomaniacs looking for disciples. I found the male equivalent of Crazy Cat Lady, who just wanted validation by having a student. I found disorganized collections of random pagans who couldn’t manage to maintain regular meetups for more than a few months at a time. I always wanted to be part of a group. I just couldn’t seem to find the gods-damned groups! (On the positive side, this means I have had many years to become comfortable with my relationship with Wicca and my status as a witch and pagan before being exposed to “peer pressure” or lots of outside influences. I know where I stand, and I’m comfortable saying, “Eh, that workshop/class/practice is not for me.”)
Since being introduced to damn near every local pagan group at once one Mabon at a homestead outside Jackson, MI, I’ve discovered this incredible, vibrant, active community. There are more open circles celebrating each Sabbat than just the ATC church I work with. There are pagan-oriented charities, dances, picnics, Pride Days in both Lansing and Detroit…so much going on that I could never hope to attend all of it! What stunned me the most this weekend at ConVocation was the full realization that all of this has been going on for so long, longer than I’ve been in Michigan, almost as long as I’ve been Wiccan myself. Part of me is just swimming in joy at finding my group at last, and part of me is seriously grieving the loss of all those years spent alone.
Staying at any pagan festival, as I imagine staying at any convention hotel or campground must be, is like entering another world. For a time, everything from home is left behind, and you enter a new world full of kindred spirits. None of the things that make me unique or special mark me out here, at least not as anything more than an item of interest. There is no shunning, there is no in-crowd that I can feel. Everybody is welcome at every circle, every table, every dance group and every set of drums. Everyone is safe, thanks to the vigilance of the wonderful security team moving throughout the event. Even at Con, where we take over the hotel and therefore are dealing with the non-Pagan staff of the hotel, there is no animosity from them, no wariness. Everywhere we are surrounded by acceptance, from those of us who look like your average soccer mom to those of us dressed to the nines in leather, wings, cloaks and robes, makeup, gender-bending, pentagrams and mjolnirs, black, white and in between.
This was my first time teaching at such an event, and that was in interesting experience of its own. I have had occasion over the years to teach in other venues. I have taught music, history, and crafting to children not my own. I have taught some crafting to other adults. Workshops at a pagan convention rarely seem to follow such concrete, educational paths. Instead, they are more likely to focus on inner growth and development. I have never before taught such nebulous life skills, nor have I ever taught as large a group of adults as showed up for my first class. (And thank you to all who did!) Despite my nervousness going in, I found the experience to be fairly similar to teaching any other class, and for that I am grateful. I hope that I did at least half as good a job as my High Priestess claims I did on the class she attended (I feel like I have to discount that a little bit, it’s like praise from a mother or sister).
It was certainly interesting, and disconcerting, to encounter my students later on in the weekend, random encounters along the halls or on the dance floor. Unlike other classes I have taught, the workshops I ran last weekend pretty much required my students to reveal some pretty personal details about themselves. As teacher and priestess, I have to keep those details in confidence. It’s weird seeing these people who are essentially strangers, and yet about whom I know a little something here, a little something there. I can’t imagine what that’s like for the truly big-name presenters, who have hundreds of students and followers everywhere they go!
It also felt a little weird being a presenter who was not an author. This blog is pretty much the only outlet I have. I’ve considered writing a book or three, but really, I don’t have the time for that right now. I can’t even manage to get enough stuff together to justify paying for a vendor’s table! I felt like I must be the only presenter there who did not have a stack of books available for purchase and autographing!
All in all, it was a wonderful weekend immersed in a world I used to only dream of finding, and as before it leaves me longing for more, more time, more things, more events…more money to attend them all!!!