Welcome back to Watery Wednesday, where we celebrate themes of community and cooperation around the globe. Join us this week as we talk about the community role of soul food, news about the Pagan Spirit Gathering, and the fight for justice within the Pagan community. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!
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"Twelve hundred years had not yet passed
When the land extended and the peoples multiplied.
The land was bellowing like a bull,
The god got disturbed by their uproar.
Enlil heard their noise
And addressed the great gods,
"The noise of mankind has become too intense for me,
With their uproar I am deprived of sleep." --Atrahasis Epic
It is hard to make your way in our modern world without at least cursory knowledge of flood narratives in some form--whether that is the story of Noah and the Ark, Gilgamesh, Atrahasis, Metamorphoses, or many others from multiple cultures around the globe. Indeed, there is an ongoing relationship between man and the divine that involves water particularly as a cleansing agent. This particular post is not going to delve into the deeper meanings of punishment inflicted on humankind by the divine use of water. Rather, I'd like to take a look at theological implications for the Pagan community in the aftermath of one of the most significant natural disasters of this decade.
I was a prime observer of the 2015 Pagan Spirit Gathering deluge. I showed up on Sunday afternoon, and after a harrowing few days evacuated the area on Wednesday afternoon after having drove thirteen hours from Maryland to get there. During that short time period I witnessed marvelous acts of sacrifice and kindness--the kind that inspires me to continue doing my work as a minister in training for Circle Sanctuary. There is no question in my mind of the bond shared by our community, or the significance this event personified.
First and foremost, I have participated in and been witness to multiple conversations on creating intentional community. Many of us realized having our spiritual and emotional cup filled only once a year is not enough, and have begun seeking out like-minded individuals to either purchase land to live on or start some other form of community with more permanence. In this way it is possible to draw upon narratives like the Jewish diaspora for inspiration (not that I am comparing the Pagan community to the Jewish community). Having shared this particular experience as a whole, we carry our own pieces and memories of the loss with us, using it to fuel our search for something more.
Secondly, we are beginning to see more attention being garnered for climate change and its effects. It is a bit of bitter irony that while I am up to my knees in mud and we are pushing cars out of a lake, that California and other portions of the nation are still experiencing intense drought. This is only one example of how our weather is shifting in many ways due to mankind's involvement--highlighting a greater need to discuss remediation with our planet.
Lastly--and I'm throwing a hurt feelings disclaimer out there--events like the one we just experienced have large scale implications for "culling the herd." In mythology it's called cleansing the sinful. In today's society it's called where your heart lies. This event will have turned many off to the idea that PSG is worth their time or their money. We will see the numbers drop, but we will also see a strengthening of existing bonds in ways nothing else could have accomplished. For better or worse this event, this flood narrative of our modern time, has marked us as a people who love and work and sacrifice for each other. So for that I am grateful. #wearetribe
Yikes! Pagan Spirit Gathering 2015 canceled in mid-run due to flooding and rainstorms past and predicted.
What's a pagan response? On the immemorial principle of do ut des, a gift for a gift, perhaps we need to begin our outdoor gatherings with an offering to the god concerned.
Well, you know gods. The answer may still be “no.”
But it never hurts to ask.
This is a photo of my campsite at Pagan Spirit Gathering in 2010, the year it was in Missouri. Pictured: my solar clothes dryer, strung between a shady tree and my truck, and socks that I washed in ice chest melt-water. That year, my book Asatru For Beginners finally had a print edition, after 8 years as only an ebook, so I went on a book tour.
I met a lot of wonderful people along the way. I had some truly awesome spiritual experiences at the festival, and some weird unplanned experiences too (one was: my truck decided I needed to be off the road at a specific place and time and broke down; the next morning's local paper showed a highway accident with a pickup truck exactly where and when I would have been.)
I spent a lot of time in the river at Pagan Spirit Gathering. I knew before I left that it was going to be hot, and I thought I was used to heat because I live in the Las Vegas valley. Ha. It is not the same at all. I started spending my afternoons in the river because of the heat, but when I took up current riding, it became something more. Current riding is floating down the river with no flotation device but my body, my lungs filled like a fish's swim bladder, arms and legs positioned to maximize contact with the water surface, which supports weight through surface tension. I learned what "going with the flow" really meant, both literally and figuratively.
I boondocked as much as possible. Boondocking is camping in a vehicle in an undeveloped area. Some of the vast tracts of empty federal land in the American West are approved boondocking areas. These can be located on maps by looking up boondocking. One of my planned boondocking overnights was the US Army mountain infantry winter training camp in the Rockies, which is approved for boondocking in the summer, but I ended up staying in a hotel in Colorado because of needing to fix my truck, waiting over the weekend for a part to be sent up from Denver. That was after the last stop on my book tour, and by that time I had totally worn out a purse, 5 hair clips (well, 1 of them I lost), a straw hat, 3 bathing suits, a tire, a camper shell strut, the truck's AC, and then, that part, too, all of which had to be replaced along the way.
I was on the road long enough to need to dye my hair again; I waited for one of my splurges on a room with running water to do that. No matter how tired I was when I stopped driving for the day, I always checked the truck's oil (to be checked with the engine hot) and checked the coolant in the morning (to be checked with the engine cold.) I carried hoses and belts with me just in case. For driving directions, I was depending on printouts from Google Maps that I printed before I left. I stopped and hiked in several places to take a break from driving and to connect with the land I was traveling in, and also did a lot of swimming.
People ask me once in a while if I was afraid to travel by myself because I'm a woman. Whenever I camped in the back of my truck, I was sleeping with my hand on the hilt of my Viking longsword. On my book tour stops, I displayed it as a heathen related cultural item, but I was fully ready and willing to use it for self-defense, too.
When I arrived at PSG, I built a small stone land spirit altar in my campsite, and managed to get along well with the local wildlife. I was there when Mama Gina wrote the PSG song. Lots of people attended my Rune Seminar. There was a ritual in which people were invited to honor the sun in the manner of their tradition, and I raised a toast to Sunna. Hearing "Hail Sunna" echoed back by what had to be a thousand people was one of the peak experiences of my life. Although I made a bit of a joke with this post by titling it "glamorous" and then talking about covering my gray roots in a motel bathroom before one of my public appearances, the spiritual experiences I had and the wonderful people I met on my trip were worth every moment of the not so great times.
This year I'm going on a book tour again, although with only 2 scheduled booksigning appearances. Tom N. and I are traveling to the last Ravenwood, a Northern California heathen festival we used to go to. I haven't been back since I moved from Sonoma to Las Vegas in 1995, and I'm looking forward to seeing old friends. I'll be signing my latest nonfiction book, American Celebration, as well as the new fiction anthology I edited, No Horns On These Helmets. I'll have copies of Asatru For Beginners along to sign as well, and some back issues of Berserkrgangr Magazine.
I'll be signing No Horns On These Helmets at WorldCon, the World Science Fiction Convention, which is in Spokane, Washington this year, where I will also be visiting family. My brother says he's going to rent a fog machine to hide his raspberry bushes so I don't eat them all. I told him I'll bring along a fan.
or...I was a PSG virgin.
Got back on Monday from my first sojourn to the Pagan Spirit Gathering, one of the largest and oldest Pagan festivals in the country. I've worked with Selena Fox, Dianne Duggan and Lady Liberty League for many years but this festival was simply too far away. Selena is very persuasive and my friend Oriana volunteered to drive, so off we went....
Sunday, June 22nd:...