Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pagan Pride Day 2017

Two Sundays ago, my circle and I had a presence at our local Pagan Pride Day!  It was an eventful day talking to tons of people who dropped by both my circle's table and the one for my blog.  Congratulations to Emily for winning the Community Service Award and to my circle for winning the first annual Harvesters Food Fight by donating over 270 items!  Being asked to participate in the closing ritual as a community leader was an honor.  Here's some photos from that day:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Gaea Goddess Gathering 2017: My Thoughts and Experiences

This past weekend, my circle attended Gaea Goddess Gathering, held at the Gaea Retreat Center in McLouth, KS, for the first time as a group.  A few of us had been before but, for the majority, this was our first time attending.  While some see GGG as a vacation and escape, I was happy to volunteer and work my tail feathers off for it. It was exhausting and stressful at times but I don't regret my choices.

Phaedra and I loaded up the van and my car Wednesday afternoon, heading out early so we could assist with setting up the temple of Demeter.  In retrospect, Phaedra and I doing the heavy lifting is not the best plan.  Phaedra was already flaring before we headed out, which put the majority of the loading and unloading on me.  Despite hurting, I have a "it has to be done" attitude, so I worked until I blew blood vessels in my arms from carrying things.  Next year, I would like to have at least two other able-bodied circlemates with us on the trip down so that I don't utterly exhaust myself within the first hour of being there.

It also didn't help that I woke up sick on Wednesday morning - and volunteering for temple, doing a workshop and leading the main ritual meant I couldn't miss.  I downed a bunch of meds and made do with what I could.  Fortunately, the cold was light but it was an added frustration and energy drain to the trip.

This was Cheryl's first year coordinating temple and many of our first years attending, which set up a bit of a stressful situation - but it worked out in the end.  With a lot of elbow grease, I and my circle put together a beautiful temple.  Cheryl grew a number of gorgeous plants which were then auctioned off to help GGG and ran for a few supplies we were missing.  Phaedra and I got up early on Thursday morning and spent a couple of hours shuffling things around in temple before Cheryl returned around 2 with the rest of the supplies.  My circle was then on temple like ants, rearranging and decorating before it was completed by 4 pm.

By Friday, everyone who was joining us for GGG was in our cabin.  I'm so glad we rented one.  At $10 a bed for the weekend, it was a steal.  Plus, there was no mistaking which bed was mine:

I dressed it in my favorite color!  Though the cabins were a fair walk from the main area, it forced me to get out and do some much-needed exercise.  The stairs were my toughest obstacle and I forced myself to take them a number of times. To give you an idea, you cannot see the top of the stairs from the bottom, nor can you see the bottom from the top.  They're massive.

Thursday night was opening ritual, where Beth offered an amazing talk about love and unity.  Afterwards, I was told that there would be an opening blessing for temple!  I was certainly not aware of this, so I had to create an impromptu calling to Demeter and blessing for the temple.  It was short and sweet, but I think it did the trick.  Talk about nerve-wracking!  Afterward, everyone who participated in the blessing walked through the temple and paid their respects to Demeter.

On Friday, I taught a Familiars 101 class that went splendidly.  There's no way I won't sign up for a workshop next year.  This was one of the absolute highlights of the trip.  I was able to discuss what denotes a domestic familiar, how they assist with your craft and what they do in ritual with a variety of like-minded women.  I also had each person create a sigil that represented their familiar to either call it to them or protect it.  They put those sigils on tags and strung them with string.  So everyone walked away with something from my workshop as well!  My favorite part was sitting and chatting with everyone afterward.  Just being able to discuss familiarship with people who had the same experiences I did was amazing.  And knowing that someone came to GGG just to hear me talk was absolutely breathtaking.  My heart is so full.  I can't wait to do something like this again.

I spent the rest of Friday with Luna's bird, Gilbert.  He's a quaker parrot, incredibly smart and intuitive, and we had a wonderful time.  Luna's mother knitted him a harness and he had a leash to go along with it.  This allowed me to walk around the campgrounds shopping with him on my shoulder and no fear he would fly off - which he never attempted to anyway.  Spending time with Luna's baby reminded me of just how much I truly want a bird.  I had a cockatiel and a parakeet when I was younger.  The cockatiel, Cy, was my grandmother's that ended up in our care when she moved into a house with cats.  Cy was the sweetest bird ever.  She would nestle into my neck, groom my hair and chirp for me when I came home from school.  She died Christmas Eve of a heart attack and I did not handle it very well.  I have wanted another cockatiel, cockatoo or parrot ever since.  Luna gave me hope: She has three tomcats at home, all of which either get along with or tolerate Gilbert.  With my cats being familiars and with the proper introductions and training, I believe a bird is definitely in my future.  I'm thinking next fall, I'll look into adopting a rescue bird so that I have the late fall and winter, a time where I don't work nearly as much as I do the rest of the year, to introduce and train the cats and the bird in the process.  I need a bird in my life, guys.  I need it.

Friday night's bonfire was an absolute blast and I'm so glad I went.  I hung out with the ladies of Lushede, got absolutely sloshed by passing around a variety of wine and liquor and stumbled my way back to our cabin arm-in-arm with circlemate Abby, who was wasted before she even got to the party.  It was an incredible time partying with some of the most amazing women I know and sharing in womanhood.  Hands down, the most fun I had all trip.

I am literally in the process of stubbing my toe in this photo.  Whoops.

I am in so much pain in this picture from stubbing my toe in the previous one, lol.
Saturday morning, I led the morning meditation for temple.  Once I was relieved from temple duty, I went back to the cabin to soak my aching feet and relax until main ritual.  Or rather, I tried to relax.  Saturday was a high-stress day for me and I struggled with anxiety for the better part of it, even when I had no real trigger to do so.

Saturday night, I led the main ritual for GGG 2017 honoring Demeter as a protector of sacred law.  You can read more about that here.

We had some hiccups but it's inevitable with such a large event.  The speaker wasn't as loud as I anticipated for the song despite testing it twice at home.  The circle was off balance with a very large group on one side which caused my ritual assistants to have to go across the circle once they were finished on their sides and caused me to have to cut out some background music.  It also gave its way to pauses in the ritual that I worried affected the sacred space.  When you hear people chatting, it's never a good sign.  There were some issues with the camera being present despite being up-front about it and not taking pictures of any one specific person in the crowd, and some issues with my colloquial "you guys," for which I deeply apologize.  A couple hard scoldings after ritual triggered a massive anxiety attack that I took back to the cabin.  After a lot of hyperventilating and some heavy medication, I finally passed out.

I guess in the moment, I felt like I failed everyone.

When I woke the next morning, I felt very different about myself and main ritual.  Because that's the thing about anxiety: It's not personality but rather a medical state.  Between loading and unloading supplies for eight people on Wednesday, some issues with temple set up, the impromptu ritual on Friday night and being sick the entire time, I was utterly exhausted.  Running my fuel tank on E can trigger massive anxiety attacks. On Sunday morning, I felt like the ritual was as strong as it could be given the circumstances.  I couldn't control the speaker, the gathering of the crowd or the issues with the camera.  I could have controlled my language but the colloquial you guys only slipped out because I was trying to fill the void while things were being handed out. And honestly, NONE of it ruined the ritual.  I don't know why I felt like it did Saturday night. But hey, that's mental illness for you.  It'll lie to you, make you believe those lies and then send you on your way.  Thank god for an amazing circle who knows anxiety is not who I am, it's just something I have, and who helped me to fall asleep Saturday night.

I woke up every morning on the trip at about 5:30 am.  On Sunday, I didn't get up until 10:30.  When I finally did, my circlemates had already taken down temple and packed my car.  I can't tell you how appreciative I am.  I don't want my circlemates to ever have to take care of me; it's my job to take care of them.  But there are times where I have to be on the receiving end and they certainly didn't leave me hanging.

A few special thank yous on the wrap up:

Thank you to Barbara, Ripley, Antha, Vickie, and a whole slew of other women who make GGG possible.  They volunteer an immense amount of time, money, stress and involvement at a level of which I'm sure I can't even fathom. Everyone who made the weekend possible, from shuttle service to the dining hall to the cafe and more - I just can't thank you enough. There are no words that will adequately express my gratitude.

A huge thank you to Phaedra for supplying the food for our entire circle for the weekend. Feeding 8+ people every day is no small feat, especially when factoring in all of our heath problems, allergies and food intolerances. Also thank you to Andrea for taking over cooking duties when poor Phae couldn't thanks to one hell of a crappy flare week.

Also, thank you to Abby for being the booze fairy and to Andrea for making sure we were in no short supply of cleaning and medical supplies.

My husband held down the fort here like a boss. He pilled the pets, cleaned the house, fixed a plumbing issue and replaced our vacuum. I came home to all of the laundry clean, all of the floors cleaned, my desk cleared off and the comforter and sheets freshly washed. How did I find this man?? He's absolutely amazing and the stable rock I need in turbulent times. I love him with all of my heart. Thank you Aaron.

And last, but not least, thank you to my familiars for dealing with an absentee fur mama. My dog literally screamed when I pulled into the driveway and offered me frantic kisses and pawing at the top stair. I would have taken him with me if it hadn't been so hot and he spent the majority of my time at GGG moping in the front window and waiting for my return. Little dude puts up with so much. The cats and Artie all piled on me on the couch the minute I sat down and it was a wonderful welcome home that was incredibly needed. They also all joined me for a surprise six hour nap today. I'm absolutely blessed by them.

Despite some stress, I'm absolutely looking forward to next year.  I would love to volunteer for temple again (now that I know what I'm doing) and can't wait to present another workshop!  And Artie has made it clear to me, under no circumstances am I to leave him behind.  I may have to figure out if I can get a portable AC or something for him for the next year - because he must come.  It would be far less stress for the both of us.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Temple of Demeter (Gaea Goddess Gathering 2017)

Every year, Gaea Goddess Gathering selects a goddess to honor.  This year, Demeter was the choice for the mother cycle of life.  Over towards Sunset Ridge, a temple is erected in the goddess's honor.  I had the privilege of being on temple staff this year and assisted with the creation and maintenance of the Temple of Demeter.

Temple was created under two tents and formed into a U-shape for attendants to travel through.

The entrance was marked by a gorgeous structure and green drapes.

The first thing you might notice is the immense number of plants, grown by the temple coordinator, Cheryl, and placed in the silent auction to raise funds for GGG.  These plants marked the "summer" portion of the year, a time where Demeter is peaceful and calm.

One table in the summer side was an altar of offerings to Demeter.

The other side?

A cleansing station.  Attendants were asked to use the wheat to sprinkle cleansing water onto themselves before entering the next part of the temple:


This side of the temple represented the time when Demeter lost Persephone to Hades and was decorated with dying plants and pots of dirt.  We asked attendants to think about a time in their lives that they felt extreme grief or hurt.  Think about their darkest moments, their struggles, their hurt.

The attendants would then end their walk at this table.  Here, they would inscribe and anoint a tealight candle so that they could use it to the light the way the next time they face the darkness.

The anointing oil was a blend of herbs and oils that represented calming, self-love and affirmation.  I created this blend as the last project in the temple while setting it up.

They would then exit the winter portion into spring, where smaller plants and garland decorated the last portion of temple.

Attendants were asked to think back to the pain and grief of their winter walk and write it down on a piece of paper as an offering to Demeter.  This box, you may remember, was used in the main ritual I led.

Attendants were then led to a meditation area where they could speak with Demeter and think about what they had experienced in the temple.  This is also where we held morning meditation.

Across from the meditation area sat another altar to Demeter where offerings were brought.

The mirror on this altar was offered for scrying and meditation.

Lastly, attendants were offered bookmarks with detailed information about Demeter and seeds as a gift from the goddess on their way out of temple.

Though I am nontheistic, temple was truly a spiritual experience for me.  I was able to help ladies who attended GGG connect with the goddess - be that Demeter or their own personal inner goddess - and that meant the world to me.  I led Saturday's morning meditation which involved looking within to find our protector side.  I also led a short impromptu ritual blessing the temple on Thursday night.  

The Temple of Demeter was certainly a learning experience for me and I hope to assist with the temple next year as well!