I practically live for September. September, in the Pagan world, is Pride Month. That's the month when festivals are held all over the country where we come together, sell our wares, buy supplies, teach and learn in workshops that pertain to our various paths, and enjoy the company of like minds. For many Pagans that's the only time there is any sense of real community. Many Pagans don't get the chance to interact with other Pagans throughout the year, so September is that one time to actually be face-to-face with "our kind."
I'm sad to say I'm a little disappointed in this year's festival at Rochester. I missed out on last year's events due to my work schedule so I was really anticipating this year, but the festivities fell a little flat. I don't know if it was a lack of organization, lack of organizers in general, community politics, shortage of volunteers, or leadership changed hands. There were some very good workshops that I enjoyed, but there weren't a lot to choose from.
The first workshop of the day was an introduction to Voodoo. I was expecting something a little different than what I got, but in a good way. Being a New Yorker, obviously I don't have many opportunities to interact with any Voodoo practitioners, so having this different "flavor" at our event was a treat. The presenter of the workshop, Witchdoctor Utu, a white Canadian (who has totally earned his stripes in the Voodoo community,) really shattered a lot of my misconceptions of the path. Even I, a fellow Pagan, had some prejudices toward it. I'm not ashamed to say so because I was willing to challenge them.
Of the things I learned from Utu's presentation, was that there were many influences in the North American Voodoo path. The original roots are indeed African, but were later blended with Native American, then European (mainly Irish folk religion) and later French influences. Some Voodoo practices were also further influenced by Catholicism. It's a very ecclectic blend. I think one of the highlights of the workshop was how practitioners of Voodoo "feed" their tools, drums and other sacred objects with rum, by blowing the rum into or on the tool- thus also feeding it with their breath. It's sort of a blessing. When an object is fed it will perform well for you. I'm thinking there are ways I can incorporate this into my kitchen witchery. Now, I'm not going to start spitting rum on all my utensils, however when you "feed" a cast iron pan with lots of yummy fat, it does perform VERY well for you! Perhaps just the act of seasoning my pans can become a more spiritual task. A little reminder to always be mindful of the magick I'm creating.
Later I attended an introductory workshop on Native American traditions where we learned about the directions of the medicine wheel, the deep sacred meanings of the peace pipe, and some of the social dances associated with some Native American traditions. I really appreciated the various stories associated with different aspects of Native American religion. They have a very coloful mythology. A lot of emphasis was put on the sacred nature of tobacco- not something I especially care for- but it was interesting still. Of course "The Three Sisters" were included in the workshop. Beans, Corn and Squash. I wouldn't make a very good Native American with my Primal diet, I decided.
At the closing of that workshop we all took a card with an animal totem on it. I'd half expected the coyote, which has long been one of my favorites and an animal I feel especially close to. Instead I drew the fox. It's a close second favorite. According to fox wisdom, I should blend in and not be the center of attention, and be protective when needed. I'm still not sure what that means, but I'm sure I'll find out eventually.
Other workshops included one that focused on practical magick. I was surprised to realize just how "experienced" I am in my path, and it didn't strike me until the ride home that it's this month that I've been practicing exactly 10 years. It sort of took me unawares. I guess part of me just... not really takes it for granted. I guess it's just so intertwined to my life and what I do, that I don't notice when I'm being "Witchy." I guess it just IS, and that's really what it should be, shouldn't it?
I never questioned the concept of teaching a workshop on making magick practical, and even this workshop didn't REALLY do it. It did give new-ish Pagans a good idea on how to create a spell that works for them, but not a whole lot on making it "practical" per se. I think that's just something you learn, with time and practice. It's really a lot like cooking. When you're new and young you follow the recipe exactly. As time goes by you learn to eyeball it and improvise. Use what you have, make it a part of your daily life. In an odd sort of way you could compare magick to an old pair of sneakers you've worn a million times. After a time they're just so comfortable and broke in that you sometimes forget that you have them on.
The last workshop wasn't so very "Witchy" but it was immensely helpful. It was a workshop on permaculture, using magick in gardening, and edible forest gardening. It gave me a lot of really great ideas for creating an edible landscape that will feed me for seasons and years, and work in better harmony with nature than the typical (and as it seems unsuccessful) potted garden. Again I was surprised by just how much I know about certain topics, and now I find myself toying with the idea of presenting a workshop myself!
There's a lot to permaculture, but I love the concept. It's about creating a habitat for vegitation, and just letting it go. Nature does the work, and the plants interact as a community. Polyculture rather than monoculture, and making the very most out of the least space, as nature is so good at doing. If you're interested in permaculture, here are a few really helpful links that I picked up...
Web Resources:Alternative Nature Online Herbal - http://www.altnature.com/
Edible Forest Gardens - http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/
Apios Institute - http://www.apiosinstitute.org/
Finger Lakes Permaculture Network - http://flxpermaculture.net/
Books: Bud, Blossom & Leaf: The Magical Gardener's Handbook by Dorothy Morrison
Edible Forest Gardens volumes 1 & 2 by Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier
Gaia Garden: A guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway
Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren
Perennial Vegetables by Eric Toensmeier
I hope you find these resources helpful. I'm still looking through many of them myself but this is a subject I'm quickly becoming interested in. I would love to hear from folks who are already working on their own sustainable gardens and how you went about it.
In spite of the smaller turnout and the limited workshops available, I had an enjoyable time. It got me thinking a lot about my path over the last 10 years- from growing up Pagan, becoming a new "fluffy" Wiccan, to dedicating myself to Artemis, Religio Romana, and now flowing into a Kitchen Witch who just does what she does and hopes for the blessings of the gods... and lots of wondering where my path will one day lead.
One thing I learned is that you never stop learning, nor should you. Life is a journey, a process, ever changing and flowing. Just when you think you've got a handle on where you are and what you're doing, it's time to change again. Sometimes it happens without you even realize it. Other times it's forced upon you against your wishes. In either case, it's usually for the better in the long run so you might as well enjoy the ride.
This coming Saturday's festival is in Syracuse, and it looks like there are a lot of great workshops scheduled. I'm excited to get up there and see what else I can learn.