Saturday, February 28, 2009

Which PantheaCon Did YOU Attend?

After reading a few blogs about various people's experiences at PantheaCon two weekends ago, I realized our experiences are so vastly different that they might have been experiences of different events. Of course, each of us has a different experience in the very same space at the very same moment, but there was so much going on at PantheaCon that many of my friends and I barely crossed paths.

The CHS Winter Intensive kept me busy all day Thursday, the day before PantheaCon itself began. We had a full room, and I'm relatively confident that Jim Bianchi, Patrick McCollum and I gave attendees some notions worth pondering, and then, hopefully, using.

Thursday evening CHS had a meet-and-greet at the bar area. Many people who'd come from the East Coast and Midwest arrived the evening before, so we had opportunities to catch up. Notably with Jerrie Hildebrand, Holly Tannen (a West Coast friend), Ruth Barrett and Falcon River, and several other fun Pagans.

For me, this was a year of rituals. Three strong rituals in three days (two back-to-back on the same evening) gave me plenty of stimulation.

Trying to choose just which event one will attend in each time slot -- assuming one even attempts to do something in each time slot, which is kinda nuts -- is difficult. I was definitely drawn towards Sam Webster's talk, "What Is Evil?" I figured Sam is local and he's my friend so we can chew over that perennial question more at leisure another time. Also competing for my attention in this time slot was Raven Grimassi's "The Evolution of the Witches' Sabbat"; I'm keen on Pagan history. Instead, with friends Holli and Freyja, I chose to attend "Egyptian Journey with Sekhmet & Hermes-Thoth," conducted by CHS teacher Michelle Mueller, M.Div., and Ivo Domínguez, Jr. I have a strange relationship with the goddess Sekhmet (see description in my book Witchcraft and the Web), plus the intellectual side of me has always been drawn to Hermes-Thoth. An oracular ritual, Sekhmet encouraged my work but said She wouldn't make my burden lighter.

Friday evening I was tempted by Luisa Teish's "Silk & Honey: Erotic Tales form the African Diaspora," since I know what a great story-teller Teish is, and also tempted by "Pagan Humor (Or Why Are the Gods So Fond of a Joke?," but I had a date with my friend Sabina Magliocco for our annual Friday night dinner at PCon. We always have fun together.

After dinner I was again conflicted about whether to go to the "A Fool's Journey" ritual put on by my local "Remaining" friends, or to try to make it to Orion Foxwood's "Journey to the Enchanted Tree." I seldom get a chance to hear Orion speak. I ran into Amadae, who said she was feeling a bit alienated, so I invited her to come to Orion's with me. She had never heard of him. In addition enjoying Orion's kooky personality and wisdom, I was fascinated watching the ASL interpreters trying to sign his puns. Puns aren't really translatable into ASL. Kevin Roddy, who was liaison between the Con and the signers, wore a look of distress. Regardless, Amadae loved Orion's talk and no longer felt out of place.

Clifford Hartleigh Low's Green Fairy party is one I don't like to miss. For some reason, this year it was on the second floor, a more public venue than its usual location on the ninth floor. Fun though it was, it didn't have quite the ambiance it's had in past years. Plus dress and Kala weren't there, at least not when I was. I chatted with Grant Potts, another CHS teacher, and Paul for a while, then returned to Orion and CHS Board member Tony Mierzwicki and the women who were hanging with them. One of these women, of Orion's line, had thought, from my name I guess, that I was a 20-something Goth woman. What a hoot! Another was originally from Santa Rosa, where she'd skated competitively. She planned to return to the sport, of which I am a huge fan, so I'll be looking to see her when I watch televised figure skating competitions.

Late that night I managed to get a half hour alone with Orion, affording us a much better opportunity to catch up with each other. Meaning that I ended up blowing off the "Pomba Gira Masked Fete!," even though I'd brought a red dress to wear to it.

Saturday morning I had a breakfast date with Kevin from Hawaii, only since he got deep into some processing with the deaf Pagans he'd helped get signing this year, he missed it. (Kudos to Glenn for seeing that our deaf colleagues got the opportunity to immerse themselves in this huge event!) Fortuitously, along came Ivo, ready for breakfast, giving us a chance for a good one-to-one visit. Kevin and I rescheduled for the next day, with Anne Hill too.

Breakfast made me too late for Michelle Jackson's "Create Your Own Tarot or Divination Deck Using Collage." At 11:00 rushed to Christopher Penczak's closed presentation called "The Seven Gates of the Goddess Ritual Pathworking" on Saturday morning, but alas arrived after the doors had been closed. Instead of trucking on over the the "Lost & Endangered Religions Project (LERP)" presentation by Don Frew, Dr. Layne Little, and Dr. Archana Venkatesan, I got to schmoozing and checking out the vendors' wares. Gus diZerega blogged about LERP on beliefnet. Again, since Don is local and is a friend, I know I can learn lots about LERP, already have, in fact, when not at PCon.

Corby came down for the day. Lots of folks wanted to hang with him as well. Despite other presentations calling me, I didn't manage to get to another one until Corby and I went to Dr. Little's "The Secret Masters Behind the American Superhero." He had assembled an amazing collection of pulp fiction and comic books from the early 19th Century to the mid-20th, mostly from Western Europe and the U.S., but with themes from the "exotic Orient" into a Power Point Presentation. This is an area about which I know next to nothing, so everything was new to me, and well worth my time.

Attending Layne's presentation meant that we didn't make it to Max Dashu's "Goddess, Snakes & Chimeric Beasts of Iran." If you check out this blog more or less regularly, you know I'm a big fan of Max, and attend as many of her local shows as I can. This was one I haven't seen, but I'll keep my eye open for a local showing.

We went to the Pagan Alliance suite for pizza night that evening.

We missed "Oracle of the Living Tarot" that evening, [photo on right is Origynal Sinnerjee as The Hermit card, the one pulled for the coming year] Prudence Priest's "Baltic Paganism," which Victoria said was excellent, and Holly Tannen and Ruth Barrett's concert. We hung around the bar and lobby playing with Oak, Judy, Denise, and others. This year also seemed to be the year of open secrets. Had some enjoyable heart-to-hearts with Ron Dickinson.

When time for "Kali Puja: Worship of Goddess Kali Ma," my matron, came around, I was too tired.

Sometime during the weekend I dropped by the CoG suite to view the video Greg and Rachael made about the People of the Earth event I participated in at the Interfaith Center of the Presidio last April. Rachael gave me a copy, but I need to get another one in a more universal format. Each participant will get one. They're doing a follow-up gathering this coming Saturday, but I and some other participants from last year have scheduling conflicts and won't be able to make it.

Since I'm not an earlybird, I entered Patrick's talk, "The Nature of Magic: Goddess Myths & Witch Thealogy" a bit late. Patrick and I talk about this sort of thing a lot. I sat with Kevin behind Ocean, a deaf Pagan for whom Patrick's talk was being signed, and watched the signers taking turns. They can only manage about 15 minutes at a time before they switch off. Kevin helped me read the ASL a little bit. Attending this meant I missed Don Frew's "Gobekli Tepe: The World's First Pagan Temple." I've seen his slides from this particular trip at his house, but without the formal commentary. I'm promised another chance to see it.

One of my bigger choices meant that I missed "Folklore as History? The View from Colleges & Cauldrons," with Raven Grimassi and Sabina. I knew it would be interesting and well done. But I just had to go to "Writing Pagan Songs & Chants" with Holly Tannen and Ruth Barrett. It was fun. We each wrote a new verse for "Old Time Religion." Mine was:

There are those who worship Kali
She is fierce and She is poly.
She's a bloody, red-hot dolly,
And She's good enough for me.

Gimme that old time religion.....
At 3:30 I had wanted to attend Steve Blamires' "The Faery Tradition of Fiona Macleod" -- I haven't seen him in years, since he moved from Sonoma County to Alaska -- or "The Non-Dual, Polytheism & Contemporary Magic(k)" panel, which I would have loved to be on. All reports indicate it was wonderful

Instead I ran into my old friend Brandy Williams autographing books. We haven't chatted in about eight years and had tons to share. Evidently her presentation "Seshat -- Ceremonial Magick for Women," scheduled the same time as Folklore and Writing Chants, was well received, and she's working on another book, an anthology. Also spent some fun time with her husband Alex, Kat Sanborn, and others.

Sunday night was my biggest challenge when it came to where to go. I was tempted by two presentations because they sounded fun: "Divining Your Deity" and "Those Who Have Gone Before," as well as "Druid Ritual with Danse Macabre" that Jim was part of. Alas, I had kin to support, and they were doing something really provocactive. Besides, Beau Caughlan was my date that evening and we both wanted to go to "Dearly Beloved... An Ol' Time Feri Tent Revival." With a rousing gospel choir at the far end of the room as you entered, the room was jumping before the ritual began. It was so strange to hear scores of people reciting Feri liturgy together as we began the ritual, called the quarters, and off and on throughout the ritual. Medusa and Jenya did great jobs. I don't know the man who 'preached,' but he was cookin' too. Veedub and Ron were part of the choir. Unfortunately, the ritual was so popular and the room so crowded that we didn't get a program. I have to get a pdf from veedub so I can review it in my mind. One thing I loved most about it was that it lacked the pretension one often encounters when groups of Feri folk get together. [ducking]

Afterward we dropped in on the Green Egg Omelette launch party, where I picked up my contributor's copy, autographed a few copies, got some autographs, posed for a few photos, etc. I'd have enjoyed staying longer, but Beau and I were headed for the Queer Gods ritual that Origynal Sinnerjee got me psyched to see. No disappointment there.

The ritual was entitled "Yes They Are! Meeting & Greeting the Queerest of the Gods." The quarters were saluted with singing by a beautiful basso who sings with the SF Opera. An array of gods from various cultures and times regalled us with stories and 'tude. Among the, Gwydion of the Cimry, Quan Yin from the Orient, and Pan from ancient Greece. Best, to me, were Aphrodite with Her laptop open to Craig's list personals; Gary Suto strutting a biker bear Apollo; JoHanna's Sedna; Amara personifying Erishkegal, complete with red patent leather bustier and meat hook. Over the top, as always, was Hapi, god of the flooding Nile portrayed by the one and only joi wolfwomyn covered in green glitter, with her green dreads spilling from a topknot, wearing something that looked like a hula skirt made of rubber tubes, and an enormous green glitter penis -- and nothing else.

My absolute favorite was Origynal Sinnerjee's Loki, hands roped together, head partially shaved, white painted face, and gag. Once the gag was removed, there was no stopping him. He even drummed for Aphrodite's unrobing of the beautiful ones and for Pan's mock copulation with his hands tied together. Man, that fellow knows how to shape the energy!

I'm trusting that he won't mind my posting here his notes about how he portrayed Loki [WARNING: The following may be offensive to some.]:

As Loki, I shaved off all my facial hair (including my eyebrows since Loki had warned me that he would burn off my facial hair if i didn't remove it) and wore only clown white makeup (Thanks Pi!) so my face would be a blank canvas except for a bindrune of the runes lagaz, othel, kenaz and isa drawn in red lipstick on my forehead. I wore a black fishnet shirt (made by Yahroe! from Bumble BE) with a black leather harness and boots (Thanks Marcus / Pan), Silver metallic tights (Thanks Rio), black go-go shorts with metal buckles (Thanks suppervision) a chain collar (Thanks Tigger Bouncer!) a blue ball gag and black and red flogger (Thanks Sheila!) My hands were bound together at the wrists in front of me with rope by Silverfang / Hapi. Extra special thanks to Piwaket / Quan Yin who helped me shave my mohawk and get undressed and dressed in between scenes. Here’s my Loki scene! Enjoy!

Kore-Erishkegal exits. Dionysus places a purse down next to altar and walks away. Loki, seated in audience, disguised in full length, hooded black cloak kicks the purse into the center of the circle. Dionysus glances over, turns away. Loki begins howling and stomping his feet, knocks his chair over and crawls over to altar crashing into the drums and basket of rattles. Dionysus rushes over and removes the hooded cloak to reveal Loki, seated with hands bound in front of him with rope, a ball gag in his mouth, and a furry set of ears on his head. Loki shifts to kneeling position, pulls out a business card and wiggles it. Dionysus takes the card and Loki beats out a drumroll to announce himself

Dionysus: : “Loki, Scar-lip, Sky-walker, Sly-One Laufeyson. Subversatile Wizard of Lies.”

Loki: “Aaaaah!!! “Thank you very much, you wonderful Womanly One! I gotta tell ya I just looove your work! All those brilliant ads for liquor you see everywhere at Pride Parades, ‘You’re here!! You’re queer!! Drink booze, wine and beer’!! May I?”

Dionysus: “If you’re lookin’ for Kore-Erishkegal, she went thata way!!”

Loki: “She reminds of my daughter Hel—rotten bitch hasn’t called or tried to visit me since she became Queen of the Underworld!" "She’s ashamed of me—afraid that if she hangs out with her polymorphous perverse papa that she’ll become a target of violence—after all, we are far-too-frequently battered and banished, beaten and bound by the assumptions and expectations of others. And as soon as we get free, my kids and I are goin’ kamikaze on your asses! Hahahahahaha! Ragnarok’s gonna be da bomb, baby!! Look at this shitty-ass world we live in and tell me you really want a bunch of war gods running the show!! Those horny-helmet-wearin’ buttsuckers disembowled my son, tied me up with his fuckin’ guts, then abandoned me in a cave without a goddam safe word!"

Dionysus: “Hmm, sounds like something my Maenads would have done back in the day.”

Loki : “My ‘nads indeed!” “Speakin’ of which. Well hello there.” “you havin’ fun tonight? Are you by chance circumcised?” “I know, how rude of me… We’ve only just met.” “And yet, folks who are transgender often experience people we barely know asking: ‘So, are you ‘pre-op’ or ‘post-op’? As if my package were any of your goddam business!!! Perhaps one of the best things about being a shapeshifter is that I can instantly change my sex without having to spend thousands of dollars and hours upon hours gettin’ judged by shrinks for my little ‘gender identity disorder’! What does it take to pass as a ‘real man’?" Loki: "And what makes me ‘feel like a natural woman’? Is it hormones? The clothes I wear, how I style my hair? How I walk or talk or rock around the clock? Gender is the great cosmic joke, a ruse I use to get whatever I want and sometimes more than I bargained for!! Loki: "Like that time we had a bet on a building project with this shitass giant, but his stallion was the one doin’ all the work. "So I turned myself into a mare to lure his horse away from the job! "That’s the last time I let a stud fuck ME without a condom!!" Loki: "Seventy-four hours . . . of gut-busting labor . . . with an eight-legged colt . . . bucking and kicking inside of me!!! I was sore for months!"

Loki: "Those old stories they tell about me reveal more about your fears and anxieties—that transgender folks are tricking you, deceiving you, that we’ll seduce you with our little secret and you’ll find yourself in a scene out of ‘The Crying Game'." "After all, if I can change my gender whenever I want and you’re attracted to me, then what does that make you?" Loki: "Bisexual? Trysexual?? You name it, I’ve tried it. Hel! I invented all the fun shit!! Fishnets and fetishes! Bondage and discipline! Sado-masochism! Turnin’ tricks! Cheatin’ on your partner! Lewd jokes! I once played tug-of-war with a goat tied to my cock and balls!!!"

Loki: "Show of hands! How many people here tonight actually call yourselves ‘queers’??... And ya wonderwhy so many people out there think you’re too weeeeeird to get married?? Well I got me a wife and let me tell you Sigyn’s the most devoted partner—devoted to naaagging me every waking minute about all my extra-marital affairs, all my illegitimate children…. Come to think of it, the only good thing about getting’ hitched is the ginormous party you get to throw the day it happens. My favorite was when Thor’s hammer got stolen by this shitass giant who would only trade it back it for that brotherfucker Freja’s hand in marriage. Even though he’s built like a brick shithouse Thor still managed to squeeze his big ass into Freja’s wedding gown." Loki: "I of course was the matron of honor! After Thor smashed that jismface giant's skull open, I figured hey—we got a professional wedding photographer, and Thor in drag totally hammered on gallons of mead"— Loki: "Well! Why not tie Thor’s drunk ass up and shoot a bondage scene for Gowned and Bagged magazine?? Thor puked and pissed all over the wedding dress! Hahaha! When he sobered up, Thor was really pissed!! Like that time he found out I’d been bangin’ his cum drunk slut of a wife Sif. Thor would have cracked MY skull open if it weren't for....”

Hapi: “That’s enough!”

Beau and I joined the rehearsed participants and other celebrants in the Pagan Alliance suite afterward. The last I saw of Beau, he was in a liplock with a handsome black fellow in a skin-tight Wonder Woman shirt.

I managed to squeeze in a brief interview with Don Lewis of MagickTV before he had to catch a plane out of there. It's now on YouTube here.

Talk with journalist Michael Night Sky, who's been conducting an ongoing interview with me for PanGaia magazine.

As you might imagine, by this time my mind was saturated with so much input and I craved some time to sort, assimilate and integrate. Nevertheless, I stayed to the end.

Again, I was conflicted about which workshop to choose. I know that Victoria's "Our Grandmothers as Goddess" would be great, as are all her offerings, but it was at 9:00 a.m. At 11:00 there was "Sacred Circle Dance" which I've gone to before with Kevin and really, really enjoy, there was Angela and William's "Intermediate Wheat Weaving," for which I don't know if I have the necessary skill level, and a panel called "Pagans, Interfaith & the International Scene." Since I do plenty of interfaith work and was not invited to be a panelist, I was free to attend Ivo's "Divine Embodiment: Assumption, Drawing Down, Aspecting, Possession." This was the first chance I'd had to hear one of Ivo's talks since we were both guests at Sacred Harvest Festival in Minnesota back in 2004. Based on his latest book, Spirit Speak, his talk was rich, informative and thought-provoking.

Beau and I had hooked up again Sunday morning. While he went off to another workshop after lunch, I went to Freyja's workshop "A Pilgrimage: Circling the San Francisco Bay." For being so late in the Con when lots of folks had already left for home, she had a fine turnout, mostly people from Northern California. Part talk and part experiential ritual, this workshop got everyone thinking about the many divine and magical places and forces in our unique bioregion. Freyja, who has traveled widely learning about our Earth and working with native shamans, has written an excellent book called Circling San Francisco Bay.

That's more than enough about my time at PantheaCon. Whew!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Swan Lake

Last night my friend Victoria took me to see Swan Lake at the San Francisco Ballet for my birthday. I don't think I've ever seen a full ballet before, except The Nutcracker and the wonderful Dance Brigade's Revolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie. This was a brand new production choreographed by Helgi Tomasson, with sets and costumes by British designer Jonathan Fensom. We had good dress circle seats and she brought opera glasses. I was able to see the whole stage and look closely when I wanted to.

My experience was enhanced by the fact that balletomane Victoria explained lots of things and gave me back stories on dancers, other productions, ballet in general -- although I do have a basic ballet vocabulary from dance lessons nearly 60 years ago -- and this ballet in particular.

Both of us were blown away by the corps de ballet of swans. More than 30 dancers swept the lake surface with grace and precision never missing a step or formation. Plus, sometimes they had to hold what looked like difficult poses for prolonged lengths of time when other dancers were being featured. Victoria said Tomasson's choreographic vocabulary was limited, but that it was superbly executed, and he kept in the best of this ballet's traditional choreography. (She'll correct me if I misstate her.)

Most of the costuming was cool, except that Odile in her close-fitting black feather headdress looked like Liza Minelli in Cabaret.

We both liked the 'social' sets, especially the stunning ballroom set, which reminded me of the best of Hollywood's Busby Berkeley, Mitzi Gaynor (trained by acclaimed ballerina Madame Kathryn Etienne), Fred Astaire, and tap geniuses (genii?) such as the Nicholas Brothers. But the lakeside set was pretty corny. It consisted of a big black plastic rock and a dry-ice-enhanced lake. (I'm assuming high culture folks who follow ballet won't be offended by my comparisons to pop dancers. I think they're all amazing.)

I guess I should mention that Odette/Odile was danced by Tina LeBlanc, soon to retire from performing, and Prince Siegfried by Cuban-born Joan Boada.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm back

Readers, please excuse my long absence. I've been under a dark black cloud for many months. I can see rays of light piercing the rains we here in California have finally been blessed with, and with the return of Brigit, my spirits are lightening.

My sister Catherine is doing a fundraiser for a most worthy cause, Shakti Rising, a rehab facility for women in San Diego. Details here. If any famous person is reading this, please consider contributing a doodle. The date is nearly upon us. Thanks.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Poem for Brigit's Day

Joining in the magic Oak is generating, I offer the following poem, one of my favorites by one of my favorite poets, imagist Amy Lowell, for Max and Nava:

A Decade

When you came, you were like red wine and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour,
But I am completely nourished.