Saturday, August 8, 2015

Many Gods, Many Minds, Many Truths

It's been a week since I attended Many Gods West in Olympia, WA.  I thought about doing a write-up immediately after, but I realized I was mostly wearing my producer hat.  I needed some time to consider the depth of my experiences, and leave the technical notes aside to send along later. (The producer mode is all about "how do we make this better on a technical level for next time" regardless of whether it's my event or not - and it's very hard for me to turn that off. It also means I tend to be thinking about things differently than regular participants - either way, I'll save those notes for the folks whom they pertain to.)
I'm going to travel through this post first via the timeline and facts, then by thoughts/experiences.

I don't remember how I first heard about MGW, but from the start I knew I wanted to go (especially since it was fairly local and low-cost since we have family there to stay with) - and when Anaar told me she was coming up for it, that sealed it.  We sent in several proposals for programming, and the band was selected to perform on Saturday evening.  There would be no vending at the event this year, which presented me with the rare opportunity to be able to actually attend other programming.  Normally my convention/festival experience is split between presenting, performing, and vending - and despite desires to attend other things, it rarely happens. (Note: I need more minions.)

We got stuck in a crazy amount of traffic that was relentless the whole drive down, causing us to arrive much later than expected. After dropping off equipment that couldn't sit in a hot car (it was also in the 90's), we were desperately hungry - and ended up missing the opening ritual in favor of physical nourishment. (No one wants a traffic-ravaged, hungry Tempest in their rites, trust me.) We did make the first set of panels (Seb Barnett's "Androgynous Spirits and Gender-Bending Deities"), explored the local shops, and attended Morpheus' keynote address.  Then promptly crashed out for the night.

Saturday started off bright and early with 9am panels, and four hard choices reduced to two because the presenters of those were unable to make it.  Which was disappointing at the time, but also fortuitous because we were able to make it down to catch most of Gwion Raven's presentation on Ceridwen. After that, we attended "Anonymous Spirits" with L. Phaedrus, who currently hails from RI, but I think arrived well past the time I was active there.  Didn't attend the post-lunch panels as we needed to head back to pack equipment and get ready for the evening's performance at Obsidian.

Obsidian is a very cool venue in terms of space, offerings, and vibe.  However, it was not equipped for the unusually high temperatures, which made the space quite hot already before you added in lights, sound, and a roomful of bodies.  Anaar and I opened up the evening with an improvised ritual dance, and there were a couple of other performers before the band went on (Attila - a rapper from the Bay Area and Weather Veins from PDX) - and alas, during that time, the black box room only got hotter, which wore folks out.  But despite the heat, when the Nathaniel Johnstone Band hit the stage, there were quite a few folks up and dancing - and many more enjoying the music from the cooler room just beyond.

I had intended to attend a 9am panel on Sunday, but we got in way too late after breaking down and loading out the band the night before.  I was able to attend Jason Mankey's "Wiccans are Polytheists, Too."  My initial response to the title was "well, duh, of course they are" - but having met him the day before and hearing his name around on the net since PantheaCon (remember, I've been in a Pagan bubble for a few years), I wanted to hear him speak - and I quite enjoyed the panel. Oops, I'm pushing past the timeline into experiences....Then I sat in on Anaar's "Feri & The Mighty Dead" - because in all of the years I have known her (over 13 now) and all of the things we have done together, I have never heard her give a formal presentation on Feri. (As to why, go back to my earlier point of what happens when I normally am attending an event and doing all the things.)

After that, we were all exhausted - and being concerned about traffic heading home (and the cats being in a hot house), we headed back home to Seattle, unfortunately missing the last presentations of the day - but very happy to bury ourselves in good food and drinks at our favorite local dive bar, and in bed by 9pm.  Because that's how we roll.

So now for the thoughts.

Overall, I enjoyed the conference very much.  It was an interesting gathering of people on a nice scale (just under 200), and I'm very glad to have met some really wonderful people and get to know others better. Many of the best, long-term/on-going relationships in my life have come through the Pagan side of things, and I can see more developing. I often find it hard to engage with people and make new friends, but somehow, on this path, people just amble in and join me, like they've been there the whole time.

I found all of the panels/activities inspiring on different levels. I took notes in two formats: drawing and actual written notes.  Drawing may seem like "doodling" - as in not paying attention - but I actually listen very well when I draw, and it helps me think more deeply.  (I often listen to podcasts and radio programming when I work on art, versus music.).  The images in this blog post are all from MGW:

In writing notes, I often found myself writing down more questions and thoughts in response to what was being said, versus making note of what was being said (though that did happen too!).  Some may take that as meaning I didn't like those panels, but that's not it at all.  It is not until we hear the thoughts and positions of others that we are more able to determine/articulate more clearly our own.  That's the beauty of diversity - that we can see the differences, respect them, and learn more about ourselves in the process.

Other thoughts:
-There is a lot of new vocabulary that has cropped up over the several years (while I was "away") that I need to familiarize myself with - as well as new names/faces.

-There is a great deal of thinking and intellectualizing going on in the community.  This is good news overall, but we also need to be careful of being too much in our heads.  There is going to be a need to balance it with the arts and the body.

-I am endlessly amazed at the amount of parallels between my Tradition and Feri.  We may have different words and stories for things, but the concepts are very much the same in many ways.  Also, Anaar and I don't get to spend enough sans-event time together. We got much plotting done during her visit.

-It is important to realize and acknowledge that our experience is just that - ours. Our relationship with deity is first and foremost between us and the Divine.  Others will have relationships as well, but they will differ.  The differences do not invalidate your experience or relationship - or their's. We are all with our hands on a different part of the Giant Cosmic Elephant.*

-I am looking forward to the next MGW! For a first time event, the producers did very well, and I expect to see more good things in the future.

(*By making Elephant singular, I am not saying all gods are one god, but rather we ALL have a common source of stardust.)