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Article Specs

Article ID: 10845

VoxAcct: 118542

Section: festivals

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 4,980

Times Read: 15,962

RSS Views: 72,889
Canadian National Pagan Conference

Author: Samuel Wagar
Posted: June 4th. 2006
Times Viewed: 15,962
Sponsored by: Gaia Gathering -Canadian National Pagan Conference
Location: Halifax
Event Date(s): May 19-22
Attendance: 100

Reflections on a Journey to the East:
The 2006 Canadian National Pagan Conference – Gaia Gathering

To begin with, the CNPC is a conference, not a festival. It has a strong emphasis on discussion and networking, on panels and presentations by experienced and expert people rather than on drumming, dancing and dress-up. Both last year and this year, it aimed to draw experienced leaders from across the spectrum of Canadian Paganisms and across the country to discuss Canadian Paganisms at a fairly high level, as well as people that wanted the opportunity to learn from them and discuss their projects with them. It happens over the Victoria Day long weekend and this year that was afternoon of May 19th to afternoon of May 22nd in Halifax.

There were about 75 people in attendance this year, down from the 116 last year – the Maritime Pagan community is smaller and the economy there is depressed and so fewer local people were able to come and get involved. But there were people from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and PEI. There and Druids, Heathens, Baltic and Celtic Reconstructionists as well as Wiccans. And many of the people in attendance were significant leaders in their respective communities. As well, there was a good representation of academics, so the level of discussion was high.

The evening before the conference, Brendan Myers and Shelley Rabinovitch did a “meet the authors” event, discussing their recent books (Myers’ “Dangerous Religion: Global Animism/Global Responsibility” and Rabinovitch’ “An Ye Harm None: Magical Morality and Modern Ethics”) at a local coffee shop. A number of early arrivals plus some of the Halifax Pagans showed up. We then adjourned to a nearby pub, where we joined by many of the Halifax Pagans for conversation and a beer.

The next day, the conference officially began with registration and a coffee meet, supper break and the opening ritual. The Opening Ritual was a dramatic enactment of the coming together of the elements and the birth of our conference (with a very pregnant woman beautifully painted as Gaia labouring around the circle) and then into a spiral dance around the hall and into the centre. And drumming and dancing continued for some time afterward. A number of people headed off into the Druid Pub Crawl at this point, but my partner and I went to bed.

Saturday there were two substantial discussions: Brendan Myers talked about philosophical principles of Heroic Age Paganisms and how they might apply to our neo-Paganisms, and then there was a lively panel on Environmental Activism as Pagan praxis that was excellent (and contained Myers’ great line – when asked “But what can we say to people who believe that environmentalism is not a necessary part of Paganism?”, he replied; ”We can tell them that they are wrong. There’s nothing bad about making a judgement about right and wrong.”) . This was followed, after lunch, by Shelley Rabinovitch talking on “Wolves Among Us” and about the difference between community and communitas (‘community of communities’) and how we might avoid some difficulties by not confusing the two, and then another lively panel on “Towards Building Healthy Communities, ” with discussion of what state our various regional Paganisms were in and issues there.

These discussions were followed by networking panel and group discussion of Wicca, Druidry and Asatru/Heathenry. The Wiccan one, which I participated in, contrasted the Inner and Outer Court forms of Wicca and how we might ensure that both prosper and respectfully engage. No conclusions, some useful connections. The Druidry panel, followed up as well with other discussions and activities, however, was very fruitful – the Druids decided that there was a Canadian Druidry emerging out of this land and its powers that they could and should discuss together. So they are beginning to organize a Canadian Druid association/ discussion. It sounds very hopeful and a good start was made during the conference.

Dinner was followed by the authors’ panel, with [Lady] Susan Alabaster, Rabinovitch. Myers. And then screenings of short films on Canadian Paganism – “The Kitchen Goddess, ” and “The Dragon’s Path.”

Rehearsing for the recording session of original Pagan songs happened until later, but I missed out on that one.

Sunday morning the conference split into two intense workshops – the “Voicing the Divine: Song and Spirit in Our Communities” (basically song-sharing and rehearsal toward the recording of a benefit CD of original songs) and the “Beyond the Goddess, Beyond the God: Gender Issues In Paganisms.” I participated in the Gender discussion which was provocative and eye-opening, particularly with the substantial input from the Druids about how much of this stuff wasn’t an issue for them. Very interesting.

The late morning panel discussion “From Coven to CEO” got Pagan professionals and entrepreneurs together for discussion, while the other two continued until lunch

After lunch the three panels on “What to Do When the Social Scientist Calls, ” “Do What Thou Wilt – but what is the Law? “ and ”Guiding the Next Generation. ” The first presented the guidelines, both ethical and legal, governing social science research on living subjects through universities in Canada. The second was a panel of expects working with the creation of legal institutions, and dealing with charitable applications and other legal processes. The third dealt with Pagan children and the schools and supports for youth and children in the Pagan communities.

The stream of academic presentations began then and two more panels – “Pagan Education- Our Teachers, Ourselves” and “Pagan Business – the Enterprising Spirit.”

In the academic stream five papers were presented and there were entertaining questions and discussion after each of them. The papers were : Eugene Plawiuk “The Gnosis of Anarchy”, Jane Leverick “Institutionalised Witchcraft: Practice and Process of Organisation”, Nicholas Dion “What Exactly is a Wiccan Man Supposed to be Like?”, Sam Wagar “Theosophical Socialists in the 1920s Okanagan: Jack Logie’s Social Issues Sumer Camps” and “An Explanation and Understanding of Wiccan Ritual: Approaching a Deviant Religious Discourse in the Modern West. ”

The papers were excellent and thought-provoking. I was particularly impressed with Nicholas Dion’s thoughtful Jungian explanation of various male archetypes from a Wiccan perspective.

Then there was the banquet - $35 for a decent but not overwhelming meal! But we had the pleasure of songs being sung from each table – Brendan Myers’ fine rendition of a traditional Irish song, Tamara James’ version of “Heretic Heart” and the table-thumping version of “Hoof and Horn” from my table standing out in my memory.

After the banquet many of the people in attendance headed out to a local pub for an evening of local Pagan musicians. Excellent music, decent beer, and a good time – the cover charge going to support the local festival, Avalon East.

Monday, far too long Annual General Meeting. Two members of the Board were stepping down and so we elected two others to replace them and, as well, the outgoing bid chair and incoming bid chair were clarified. We elected John from Halifax and Shelley from Ottawa to the Board and they joined Gina from Ottawa, Kelly from Halifax, and Jane from Winnipeg. We also struck a committee, chaired by Charlene from Prince George and including Sam from Burnaby and John from Halifax, to examine the bylaws and procedures and suggest improvements for the next AGM, in Winnipeg in ’07. And then we decided that the Vancouver bid for 2008 would be accepted.

I spoke briefly outlining what was special about our Vancouver bid and promising that my first financial priority will be getting a scholarship fund to assist the travel of people from the east.

The closing ritual contained many words of thanks and appreciation for the workers and the outgoing Board. It was sincere but lengthy.

Some general overall impressions: The work done by the host committee was first-rate. They pulled it together, provided moderation, security, staffed the desk and made everyone from out of town feel completely welcomed. They also made considerable efforts to bring the benefits of the conference to their local community through the pub nights and the local talent night. The facilities were fine, audio-visual ran well, and the technical end of the conference was smooth.
The accommodations were adequate, but the conference attendees were scattered widely, some in different buildings, many on different floors, so casual friendly get-togethers in the evenings were precluded. The food services were expensive and the quality not great (cafeteria food) and not included in the accommodation fee, except breakfast. The University staff were friendly and helpful.

I had hoped for a larger turnout. It was more expensive to get to from here so fewer from BC, of course, but the local Maritime community was not there in the numbers I expected – the cost of the event may have been too high, as I am sure the banquet was. So there were about 30 fewer than last year. The event also had fewer panels and there was, I felt, more emphasis on the music sharing and the work toward producing a fund-raising CD than necessary.

However, the quality of the people who attended was first-rate, discussions were provocative and I believe that this conference marks a positive step in the evolution of Canadian Paganisms, particularly or the Druids.

And I am honoured to have been awarded the 2008 conference. Bringing these experienced leaders and organizers to Vancouver will do our local communities a great deal of good and will, I hope, introduce our particular communities to the rest of the country as well!



Samuel Wagar

Location: Edmonton, Alberta


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