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Women’s Herbal Conference, Glastonbury Goddess Conference, West Kentucky Hoodoo Rootworker Heritage Festival, and other gatherings.

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Size Matters

The Pagan Unity Festival was about ten days ago and I had the honor and the pleasure to teach some classes there this year. I've taught at this festival for several years and the people who attend the workshops are attentive and curious--what teacher could ask for more?  I taught a class on Basic Practical Magic, another on Healing Magic and a late night session on banework.

Before we went out to the CCC-built state park that houses the festival, my friend Star and I went to the Parthenon.  I'd been there a couple of times before and always enjoy the thrill of it all--the Parthenon in Nashville. It's also fun to watch the other visitors' reactions to the Grey-Eyed Protector of ancient Athens.

I always weep, of course. This time was no exception.

A very helpful security guard noticed us immediately and, Mercury-like, took us swiftly to the seat of power, warning us that buses loaded with school children were--even now--approaching.  Fly!  Go directly to the Hall!  Do not dillydally!

She was a mysterious delight.

I like the gilding, though some people do not.  I don't like the modern proportions of the statue but am terribly grateful that money and talent and opportunity came together to seat this Colossus only a few hours from my Appalachian home.

We left as the school hordes arrived and we went to the lovely park. I we swept the mouse droppings out of our cabin, unloaded the car, all those things that make a home away from home.

But I couldn't get Athena out of my head, or my heart. And the first real conversation I had at the festival--other than the hugs and how-are-yous, was with a Heathen friend. And we sat quietly, talking about the gods, the Divines. We have different pantheons and we approach veneration from different pathways but our reverence and love for the Divines was palpable.

(Which is one of the best parts of Pagan festivals, in my opinion--the opportunity to sit with colleagues old and new and have serious conversations about the nature of the Divines, the fragility of the community, the work yet to be done.)

I was struck, as we spoke, by a new impression--made manifest by the sacred Hall in the Parthenon. For so many modern Pagans, the Divines have become too small. Pocket-gods with whom we have a personal relationship. Or amorphous "Spirits" that are more like us--and less like Them.

I want more giant statues of the Divines. More!  I want to walk into a temple that's an actual temple, where my breath is taken away by the sheer size of the depiction of whichever Divine is seated there. I want the faint scent of old incense, the soft light of wax candles, songs of glory and love and communion. I may even want the faint smell of the morning sacrifice.

I want depictions of the Divines that match what they mean to me and reflect the possibilities of my own growth, as I strive to match the image I see before me. I want the gods to be larger than life, larger than me, colossal, extraordinary.

My friend and I chatted a while longer before our respective chores called us away. We dreamed of long houses, halls for feasting and worship. We brought into our souls' eyes lofty Inanna, cloaked Odin, golden Selu, Lakshmi seated in a cool pond of lilies and silvery fish.

(The picture above--the toes of Athena. Enormous, golden, not human at all.)

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


  • Elizabeth Kleine
    Elizabeth Kleine Friday, 29 May 2015

    I could not possibly agree more.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Friday, 29 May 2015

    Have you seen it, Elizabeth? If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend it. Obviously.

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