Wednesday, August 18, 2010

MerryMeet 2010 - Return to the Heart of the Mother

Since I arrived on the muggy heat of the night, after 1 am, I figured I'd tiptoe in our room and quietly unpack and go to bed, but to my surprise, my mates, Don Frew, Anna Korn, and Anith, all of us from the Northern California Local Council of CoG. What do you do when you get four loquacious, involved, activist Witches in a room away from home? You talk and talk and talk.

Our very full weekend began on a sad note with the news of Isaac Bonewits' untimely passing. Although I didn't arrive in Indianapolis in time for the opening ritual, those who attended told me that he was honored.

It was great to enter the meeting room and immediately be greeted with enthusiasm by my friend Lord Cuchulain of Everglades Moon LC in Florida, who introduced me to his student, and my new special friend, George. I also enjoyed getting better acquainted with their EMLC colleagues, Lady Bridget of Witch & Famous Coven. (I love that name!)

National First Officer Sylvia Webb opened Grand Council with an invocation of Coventina, she who is special to the Covenant. With grace and focus, Sylvia presided over a refreshingly cordial meeting. I think the years of working by consensus process, or at least trying to do it as well as possible given that different groups and individuals have had a greater or lesser grasp of how it works, and not necessarily much experience, is finally paying off. I am one of those sticklers who frequently harps about process. That role seems less and less necessary, I'm happy to say.

Cherry Hill Seminary's new display debuted at MerryMeet. I neglected to take photos, but I think it looked great and I know several people took flyers and signed the mailing sheet for our newsletter and occasional announcements. Taking a cue from Amber K, who immediately preceded my CHS report with hers on Ardantane, I passed a tumbler -- Amber had a cool copper cauldron to pass -- for donations. I know I should be doing this whenever I'm together with a group of Pagans, but I tend to forget. I'm grateful to the many CoG members who contributed.

After dinner on Friday, Don Frew, Rachael Watcher and I gave a presentation on interfaith. I'm hopeful that the interest expressed by those in attendance will result in a greater Pagan presence in more interfaith organizations in different regions of the country. I remain available for consultation should anyone wish it. If it should happen that local groups are reluctant to admit Pagans, I know that our experiences and friendships with other interfaith activists can often smooth that process. As Swiss Roman Catholic theologian Hans K√ľng said at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions:

There will be no peace among nations,
until there is peace among religions.
And there will be no peace among religions
until there is dialogue among religions.
Oberon and Banshee of Circle of Wondrous Stories designed the Friday evening main ritual. I really appreciated witnessing them working together, as it was obvious they shared a long magical working relationship. That's not something I see much of, and it's a pleasure.

After the ritual, I delighted in schmoozing with old friends Midwestern friends Gail, Ginny, and Magenta, Chamisa LC friends Amber & Azrael, local (to me) pal Prudence Priest, and the younger coveners of the Covenant of Gaia coven. I videoed Prudence doing her hilarious song about channeling in Enochian. Now I have to figure out how to upload it. I also requested that she be given the opportunity to do it at the end of the closing ritual, which she did.

Warrior Blessing Ritual

Various military Pagans, led by Dave Sassman of PEN (Pagan Educational Network), performed a Warrior Blessing ritual honoring all branches of the military and all first responders, both active and veteran. As soon as the flag-bearers entered the room bearing the colors, much to my surprise, I started to choke up. They marched briskly in a circle several times until instructed to present colors. There were at least five, maybe six, flag-bearers, all members of CoG and military vets

Now, the military is not something that plays any role in my life. I am not from a military family. Although I was born during WW-II, my father, working in the vital industry of agriculture, stayed stateside and civilian. I went because I appreciate those who serve on our behalf, and I wanted to give them my respect.

Further, I am not given to open displays of emotion. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been overcome to the point of tears by a ritual. I don't know where the tears came from, but I had plenty of company. Someone came around the circle with a box of tissues eventually. I was completely bewildered by my reaction.

There were several altars around the room, not just at the quarters. There was one for each branch of the military -- I confess I was not able to tell them apart unless I went up and read the badges -- one with a symbolic solitary meal. Several of the altars bore statuettes of Lady Liberty, which pleased me, since I consider her to be the goddess of the USA.

The quarter-calling featured military references and this was followed by a open call for deities, allowing several participants to name their own special protectors.

At one point we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, the pre-1954 one without the words "under God." Again, I'm not especially patriotic. I prefer to consider all of us citizens of the world, human inhabitants of Mother Earth.

Tears rolled down my cheeks throughout.

I am not a pacifist per se, although in general I am opposed to war as a solution and have put a lot of effort into either stopping or preventing the US from becoming militarily engaged. I have very mixed feelings when confronted with the reality of what happens to soldiers. I know one thing on my mind when I was weeping was the needless death and suffering, the sacrifice of the young and less privileged, the devastation of young lives.

The National First Officer of CoG presented the Order of the Pentacle medal to one of CoG's members who hadn't received it in earlier meetings.

At the end, we were invited to take ribbons -- enamel pins shaped like a map of the continental US painted with stars and stripes, with an image of Lady Liberty superimposed over all. The pins are attached to cammo-printed ribbons. I am happy to wear mine.

I tried to take some photos. Strange, there was a day when you would never even think of doing such a thing, and now there were plenty of cameras in action. It never even occurred to me to ask. There was a day when I'd never have made such a presumption. After the ritual, the priest asked those who'd taken photos and videos to provide him with copies, so evidently the practice was not only okay, but even encouraged in this particular situation.

I had begun taking photos, figuring that this particular ritual didn't hold a lot of meaning for me and that those involved would be glad to have them. The latter proved to be the case, but not the former.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thanks to CoG's interfaith fund, I am able to attend the AAR Annual Meeting in Atlanta, where I'll be performing a Samhain ritual on October 31 for the visiting Pagan scholars and friends. Eibhlean (Evelyn to you and me), Hawk, Lady Magdalena from Dogwood LC, along with Sapphire's coven, offered to help me with this ritual. They all agreed on a local Witch named Jason who's an accomplished ritual drummer whom they think would work with us, and have since provided us with a cyber-introduction. More about this when the times comes.

Dave Sassman of PEN showed me an album of photos that were taken at the Pagan Summit sponsored by PEN that took place in Bloomington, Indiana in 2001. What a treat! All of us who were there look so much younger, and only nine years have elapsed. Patrick McCollum's hair was dark brown and is now white; mine was (dyed) red, now grey. Among those assembled is the late Isaac Bonewits. I look forward to receiving scans of these photos.

Kathy Blizzard, one of the organizers of ConVocation in Michigan and a woman active in the Tempest Smith Foundation, supervised the tie-dying of squares that will be assembled into a quilt. The Tye Dye for Tolerance [sic]. She told me that my presentations at ConVocation two years ago garnered laudatory feedback. The organizers evaluate the feedback forms and then forward them to the presenter. Mine were good, but according to Kathy, the oral feedback she's heard since then has been outstanding. So I may be invited again. I hope so. I have lots of ideas of things I'd like to do.

Keynote Speech: Pagans and the New Media

By far the highlight for me of this recent gathering was Jason Pitzl-Waters' talk about Pagans and the New Media. Most readers probably know of Jason's superior blog, The Wild Hunt. He really fired up his audience, and I am ever so grateful. I hope that now we'll begin to see more evidence of the good works of CoG and other Pagan organizations in news media.

I know this sounds like sour grapes, but the fact is that I have been harping and griping and griping and harping about CoG telling the public what it's doing for at least 15 years. After a while the complaints of someone within the organization don't seem to be able to be heard. It takes a fresh, politically un-allied voice. Jason provided this in spades -- and much, much more. I doff my pointy black hat and offer a sweeping curtsey to the man of the hour!

After Jason's inspiring talk, some members approached me asking about Cherry Hill Seminary's Media & PR course. This has not been offered for the past couple of years because our excellent teacher, Victoria Slind-Flor, now works for Bloomberg News and her employer forbids her from teaching outside the company, and we have not found a suitable replacement. Now, however, we have renewed our search for the perfect teacher. And we've found one! Jason Pitzl-Waters will be offering a four-week online course exclusively through CHS. Watch your CHS Newsletter for further developments.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I want to take the opportunity to salute the dedication of Stachia and Jack, both of whom have held more than one national office and show no signs of flagging in their dedication to Coventina. I also tip my pointy black hat to Zenah, who as Pursewarden had to put in way more time than the job normally would entail in order to fix problems that arose from mistakes of some previous office-holders. All three live in Southern California. Zenah is proprietor of the Enchanted Crystal in Running Springs, bordering the San Bernardino National Forest.

I commend Co-Second Officers Ronda Dufour and Tony Branam of CoG's newest local council, Midwest Regional LC. and their staff for a job well done. Not only that, but the food was abundant and delicious!

Overall, I left this most recent Grand Council with the feeling that things have come unstuck. Obstacles have been cleared. The drain is clean and now flowing freely. The Covenant has overcome its constipation. I attribute this to several factors. One is the improved skill of members in the use of consensus process. Another is a lack of contention within the ranks over the past few years. A third is the realization on the part of more, if not all, members of the importance of interaction with the public, i.e., friendlier, fresher website; frequent press releases and reports on our activities and accomplishments.

I wish incoming National First Officer Peter Dybing the best. I pledge to support him in whatever ways I can. You will also begin seeing my interfaith reports on the CoG interfaith blog as well as here at the Broomstick Chronicles.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, Macha, for such a lovely report on Merry Meet!

- Oberon, Circle of Wondrous Stories

Chas S. Clifton said...

Good post. I downloaded Jason Pitzl-Waters' talk and now just need to listen to it.

Clare Slaney said...

It's great to hear about success, cooperation, progress, growth and reaping the work of difficult past processes. Thanks Macha

Vibra said...

Thanks for this really interesting account. It's great to hear that so many good things are happening.