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Article ID: 13855
Age Group: Adult
Posted: March 7th. 2010
Sacred Space Conference
by Caroline Kenner
Sacred Space Conference 2010: Celebrating Twenty Years
An illuminating light, a time of respectful sharing and thoughtful learning among various metaphysical traditions, spiritualities and esoteric religions: this has been the Sacred Space Conference for twenty years. With programming both broad and deep, Sacred Space is proudly eclectic and determinedly diverse. For the twentieth celebration of Sacred Space, the conference featured familiar presenters and new ones, a new site that is also an old site, and the usual feast of diverse classes and ceremonies beloved by the Sacred Space community for twenty years.
Sacred Space is held annually in February, in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area. This past February 19th through 21st, over a hundred eager attendees joined together in Timonium, Maryland, to learn about “The Other Witches”, the history, folklore and practices of the indigenous Witches of southern and eastern Europe.
Our focus on Eastern Europe began with a shiver Thursday night, when Judika Illes unveiled the folkloric roots of vampires in Eastern Europe, and compared the indigenous traditions to their literary descendants. So many of us Witches love vampires, it was an exciting way to begin our conference. Over the course of the conference, Judika also taught Hungarian and Russian folklore and magic, and Eastern European Faerie traditions. Judika wrote of the conference: “For me, as a presenter, Sacred Space offers a wonderful opportunity to get off the beaten track a bit and dig deeper into the mystic and esoteric than many other venues permit. The Sacred Space crowd is so intelligent, open-minded, and well read that they stimulate me—and the other presenters, too, I think—to really be at our best.”
Raven Grimassi and Stephanie Taylor were two of our featured presenters, and they taught a variety of classes over the course of the conference. Naturally, Italian Witchcraft, Strega, was an important part of their class about Witchcraft at the Crossroads. Their Oracle Decks, The Traveler’s Deck to the Well-Worn Path and The Seeker’s Deck to the Hidden Path, are another very popular focus of their teaching. Connie Miller, longtime local Pagan and Sacred Space treasurer, said, “We were led through a guided meditation to take us to the Tree of Hecate that sits at the triple crossroads. Hanging on the tree was a key, and we were to put our hand on that key. When we had finished the meditation, the students were called up one at a time to receive Oracle Energy from Stephanie and Raven, and we were each given a key as a token: now we are able to open the doors to the Oracle. I felt the impression of the key clearly when I did the meditation and I could definitely feel the energy flowing to me, much like Reiki energy. I really enjoyed that workshop.”
Raven is a veteran presenter, and Sacred Space is proud to have sponsored his teaching. Raven writes: “My experience at Sacred Space was among the most pleasant as a presenter at Pagan events. The welcoming atmosphere, the wonderful sense of community, and the friendliness of the attendees and staff was amazing. Overall the weekend was a great setting for learning, sharing, and discussion.” Raven’s wife and coauthor of the Oracle Decks, Stephanie Taylor, added, “The community came together to share, teach and celebrate our diversity, and created a perfect love and perfect trust atmosphere. It was an honor to be able to be a part of the conference and be able to present the "Old Ways" spirituality and techniques with embracing enthusiasm.”
One lovely symmetry of programming: Raven and Stephanie offered “Animal Totem/Animal Guide”, while our third featured presenter, Christopher Penczak, presented “The Witch’s Plant Familiar”. Christopher writes: “I had a great time at Sacred Space. It was my first time attending and presenting, and you know it's a good event when your biggest problem is trying to figure out how to bi-locate so you can simultaneously teach your class and attend another going on at the same time. There was a wide range of topics from both the local and national level. The whole event was both intimate and worldly, as I felt welcomed by a tight knit, cohesive community that consisted of many paths, many traditions and faiths. There was a great blend of some less experienced folks with those who were leaders and teachers in their own groups and communities, allowing me to unveil some more advanced material that I normally don't get to share at festivals and conferences. Everyone was quite willing to go with my experiments.”
Christopher’s Three Rays of Witchcraft class was particularly well-received by participants. The Three Rays workshop debuted some of Christopher’s newest work, with a book yet to come out. The Rays work has been informed by Christopher’s study of Theosophy.
Grandmother Elspeth came to teach a workshop on group solidarity and cooperation called “Some Sticks and a Pot of Soup”. “We were privileged to be part of Sacred Space for a number of years back in the beginning. It was a joy and a delight to again participate in this meaningful conference. We were especially impressed with the invited guests, and enjoyed visiting with them, as well as our many long time friends.”
Besides Grandmother Elspeth and Grandfather Nybor, there were other presenters at Sacred Space 2010 who have long tenure with the conference. Ivo Dominguez, Jr. is a perennial favorite presenter at Sacred Space. This year, we were happy to have Ivo teach three classes at Sacred Space, including his class on “Empowering the Magickal Voice”. Ivo writes: "This was Sacred Space's 20th year and I have seen almost all 20 years of this conference's journey. I am glad to be a part of the many ways that it touches individual lives and keeps a torch burning for magickal education in the Mid-Atlantic states."
Other notable presenters from outside the immediate area included Jane Sibley, with her Norse themed workshops, and Lyratah, an initiate of Shakmah Winddrum’s New Seed Sanctuary in Philadelphia. Jane has been a frequent presenter at Sacred Space since the beginning, so we were thrilled to have a generous sponsor for Jane’s programming during our twentieth celebration. And Sacred Space welcomes a closer collaboration with the New Seed Sanctuary, and we were grateful to receive Lyratah’s excellent classes. Michele Lessirard of Florida brought her shamanic skills and her artistic abilities to Sacred Space, and gave us a collage workshop as well as shamanic healing.
Nearer to home, Sacred Space included veteran presenters from our local community such as Rev. Charles Butler, who offered a folkloric re-telling of the story of Babalu-aye, the Orisha of healing, who is syncretized with Saint Lazarus. Eric Eldritch taught about the intersection of spirituality and sexuality, Angela Raincatcher honored the Hindu God Hanuman, Tigre Cruz improved our rhythmic groove with his drumming workshop, A’alyvyne Hartwood taught us about the Fae, A’alyvyne and Leah Moonrite brought us to a new understanding of the Dark Goddess, Michael Gryffyn led us to Sacred Fire, Lady Amber Dawn introduced us to the Lwa Agwe the Sailor, and Ketzirah Carly brought Magical Judaism to the mix. We learned more about the Parliament of the World’s Religions from Michelle Mueller, and more about trance from Cat Castells, Sabrina Mari, Laura and Kit. And we are indebted to Gordon and Catherine for helping us explore our Pictish selves!
For the last three years, Sacred Space has also featured a ceremony in the emerging trance possession tradition called Global Spirits. Originated by Firesong, this tradition welcomes the spirits of all traditions in a trance possession rite influenced by the religions of the African diaspora. Firesong’s Universal Temple of Spirits is one temple within the religion of Global Spirits. UToS Rituals are theme-based rather than pantheon-based, and incorporate what we have in common as humans: shared food, dance, song, drumming, art, and possession trance. For example, within the space of a few hours, Ellegua, the Thunderbeings, Cernunnos, the Virgin Mary, Freya, and Lakshmi may be called.
In addition to her work with Universal Temple of Spirits, Firesong is trained as a singer, and she knows many songs that call various Lwa and Orisha to possess their devotees. One of the annual ceremonies of Sacred Space is the New Orleans Voodoo Conjure Dance, a ritual taught to me by the shamanic teacher Sandra Ingerman. Firesong and I have presented this ceremony jointly for the past five years, with the help of Tigre Cruz, Michael Gryffyn and A’alyvyne Hartwood on drums.
The Conjure Dance takes as its ancestor Marie Laveau, the only truly American Lwa. The Conjure Dance is loosely based on reports of Marie’s own dances in Congo Square, New Orleans, before the Civil War. Some say Marie’s dances were designed to materialize an end to the practice of slavery, but whether that story is true or apochryphal, no one can say. It is certain that the Conjure Dance allows us to experience spirit possession in a safe atmosphere decorated with lavish altars to our many Pagan deities, along with food and drink appropriate to the Mardi Gras season. This year, the King Cake was especially delicious!
Also during the conference, we held a final farewell to our beloved Kay Donaldson, Cenn Ruadh, who was a constant guiding light for Sacred Space for many years. Kay served Sacred Space in many capacities over the years: as a former President and current board member, Kay spearheaded the current revival of Sacred Space. In her last years, Kay nudged, prodded and inspired us at every stage of the conference preparation. Even during her last weeks of life, Kay was involved with preparing for this year’s conference. We will miss her more than we can say. As Grandmother Elspeth writes: “The moving farewell to Kay was, for me, the most memorable part of the weekend. We will all miss her - though none of us would wish her trials to continue.”
Sacred Space’s merchant room was a treat this year. Both returning vendors and new ones made shopping extra-fun during the conference. Purring Banshee Studios and Saravati’s Call offered the best in handmade pottery and Pagan clothing, Nybor was selling his Tarot deck and his wonderful artwork, and Charles Butler offered a variety of fascinating items for sale. New Seed Sanctuary brought a large display including books, scents, clothing and artworks, and Susan Raleigh offered handmade jewelry. Many conference attendees were riveted by the unusual jewelry from Valley of Gems. Between the stunning blue Kyanite and remarkable blue Rhodochrosite pieces, much less the Emerald and Mica or the dark Moonstones, there were a lot of happy women wearing new jewelry after the conference……and some men also.
Next year at Sacred Space, we will feature some new guests, and also some returning guests. Michael G. Smith, elder of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, writes "Sacred Space holds a special place in my heart, because Sacred Space 1994 was the first conference where I taught a pagan-themed class in a 'public' setting, and in 2011 I will be one of the conference's Featured Presenters. The Wheel Turns, and Sacred Space perseveres."
Another confirmed featured presenter for 2011 is trance specialist and Runemistress Diana L. Paxson. Diana writes: “I've been writing fiction with a strong Pagan element since the 80's, including The White Raven, the Wodan's Children trilogy, the Westria series, and the Avalon novels that began as a collaboration with Marion Zimmer Bradley. More recently I've been able to share some of my work as a priestess and Pagan elder in books such as Taking up the Runes and Trance-Portation. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to teach and learn from Pagans on the east coast at Sacred Space next year.”
Our 2011 conference will also feature protection magic mage Jason Miller. Jason is new to Sacred Space, and we are delighted to welcome him to our conference. Jason draws on his background in American Hoodoo, Tibetan sorcery and Western ceremonial magical in his teaching, so we believe Jason will fit right in with our eclectic community!
Judika Illes has agreed to return in 2011 so that we can finish her series of workshops on Eastern European folklore and Pagan traditions with a class on Slavic folklore. And Judika will curdle our blood with fearsome tales of the sufferings of Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countess of Hungary.
Byron Ballard, Asheville, North Carolina’s Village Witch, will also be joining us for Sacred Space in 2011. Byron will bring her family Goddess tradition to the conference, along with her training in Appalachian Hoodoo for our learning pleasure.
We plan to offer our usual mix of eclecticism in class and ceremony, and we hope very much that new conference attendees will come in 2011 as well as old friends. First time attendee Tracy, of the Coven of the Rowan Star ASW, writes: “This was the first time Michael and I went to Sacred Space and we had a fun, socially exciting and informative weekend. I especially loved the diverse class offerings, with three or four choices at each class period.”
We at Sacred Space hope that reading this article will tempt you to join us next year. Here are the words of Jesta Wolfesdottir, current President of Sacred Space, from the 2010 program: “So go forth and enjoy the Conference. Be the best teacher you have ever been, and likewise be the best student. Share who you are, and may your hopes for this experience be fulfilled. Welcome to our community. Welcome to Sacred Space.”
We’d love to welcome you personally to Sacred Space, starting Thursday, February 24th through Sunday, February 26th, 2011! Check our website at www.sacredspacefoundation.org for updated details as we get closer to our 2011 event!
Copyright: Caroline Kenner
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