Sacred Space Conference
Article ID: 15381
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,559
Times Read: 11,620
RSS Views: 13,881
Author: Caroline Kenner [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: March 24th. 2013
Times Viewed: 11,620
Sponsored by: Sacred Space Foundation
Location: Holiday Inn Laurel West, Laurel, Maryland
Event Date(s): March 7th through March 10th, 2013
Sacred Space 2013 was a conference caught fire, with record attendance and rave reviews across the Pagan blogosphere. Despite snow on Wednesday before the conference on Thursday, and being scheduled during a Mercury Retrograde, 2013 was a splendid success.
Like all Sacred Space conferences, the 23rd conference was a place and time of respectful sharing and thoughtful learning among the many rich and varied traditions, beliefs, paths and organizations found in the DC/Baltimore metropolitan region, the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area, and the world. It is our hope that through this conference we will increase understanding and religious tolerance between the many traditions within the esoteric community, as well as within the public at large. We on the Board uphold this mission in the Names of our Matron Athena and our Patron Tehuti, aka Thoth.
Our featured teachers in 2013 were Christopher Penczak, Paul Beyerl and Luisah Teish. Neither Paul nor Luisah had ever taught in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area, which was a huge thrill for those of us who have read their books since the 1980s.
Paul brought his delightful husband Gerry with him, and wrote, “I was new to Sacred Space, but so warmly welcomed and enjoyed so many personal conversations with people that within just three days leaving to come back home was like leaving some of my most-loved family. I would give Sacred Space as many stars (pentagrams all) as any rating system would allow, and then add a few more.” Paul’s teachings were very well received by attendees, and we are longing to learn more from him.
Several of us in the Washington, DC and Baltimore Pagan communities have been working with the African diaspora material for many years. Thus, it was an honor and a privilege to host Luisah Teish at Sacred Space 2013. Teish wrote, “The conference was well organized, ran smoothly, and offered a nice variety of presenters. I was happy to see and meet several people of color who are connected to that community. I had a wonderful time, delicious dinners, and practice with disciplining my lust for beautiful things every time I walked into the vendor's area. The people who attended my workshops were attentive, respectful, and responsive. It was very encouraging."
Christopher Penczak has taught at Sacred Space twice since the most recent revival of the conference six years ago. “Sacred Space is the perfect mix of factors for an esoteric conference. The size creates a strong sense of community but it is not so large to be overwhelming. You get a chance to really talk with people. The classes and presenters were great. I went to many events with local and featured presenters, and got a lot out of the presentations. There is a good mix of clear, well-researched material with the experiential. And the Conjure Dance brings together many traditions and pantheons in one celebration, unlike anything else I experience. I look forward to it when I come to Sacred Space. I was really inspired by how many people there are walking their talk. I appreciate the role models and elders around me when I visit, and I’m happy to offer whatever I can to the community.”
The New Orleans Conjure Dance is my own contribution to Sacred Space. My teacher Sandra Ingerman taught me the ceremony during a two year long shamanic teacher training program. It is a trance possession ritual based on African diaspora ceremonies, with the innovation that all the Spirits are invited to attend, as long as They can behave within the guidelines of hospitality.
A team of us sets a series of altars the Goddesses, Gods and Spirits, ranging from an Ancestor altar to altars for the Orishas and the Lwa, the Egyptians, Hindus, Greeks and Romans, Norse and Celtic deities, humanity’s Ancient Mother, the Nature Spirits and the Fae… it is a powerful experience to see so many of our beloved deities and spirits honored in one ceremony. We provide a variety of snacks and beverages to use as offerings: either to leave for the deity, or to dedicate to the deity and then consume. (I always include marshmallow Peeps chickies as symbolic chicken sacrifices.)
Cat Firesong of the Universal Temple of Spirits has a gorgeous soprano voice, and she sings a series of traditional songs at the Conjure Dance that bring on possessions in many cases. The Dance also features a great group of drummers, including Gryffyn Moonrite. This year, my most profound possession was Kali. Diana Paxson, joining us as a sponsored teacher, was possessed with Odin for a very long time, to the enjoyment of all. She came prepared with an eye patch to wear during the possession. We closed the Conjure Dance with Coyote. He is simply too wild to invite anywhere but at the end of the ceremony.
Blogger Colleen Beaty, of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, wrote, “...the Conjure Dance was a powerful ritual of joy and connection to the Divine. I danced almost the whole night, through pain and exhaustion that I only partly felt, in worship of the gods that I work with and the other Spirits present at the dance. I saw some powerful possessions that night, and experienced some light possession by several Spirits. My goddess Rhiannon had me laughing when she joined me in the dance for awhile, and was very insistent that my dancing be graceful and lady-like - no getting down and funky for her!”
But the evening programs at Sacred Space are not the focus of the conference. Workshops and ceremonies are the main event at Sacred Space. Blogger Literata writes, “When Sacred Space Board member Gwendolyn Reece presented on Athena, for example, her strong grasp of the ancient texts was synthesized with her own perspective through Kabala, resulting not just a skilled retelling of some of the myths, but some interesting suggestions for alternative possible meanings. She took care to differentiate one from the other………most presenters at Sacred Space have a richness of experience measured not just in years of practice but in the ways they’ve put their ideas into action in the world.”
Irene Jericho, a first time attendee to Sacred Space, said: “Specifically aimed at intermediate to advanced practitioners, Sacred Space draws together a truly gifted group of presenters. They come from an impressively varied background–we have established authors who are bravely breaking new ground, ritual practitioners from every path imaginable (Reconstructionist, Shamanic, British Traditionalist, Chaos Magick…you name it, it was probably there) , and luminary Priests and Priestesses who have sought out new connections to Spirit and brought that knowledge back with them. The only downside to the conference is that I do not own a time turner! There were several times during Sacred Space when I wished to be in more than one place at one time. The bevy of fascinating topics was almost overwhelming. I will definitely go back next year, ” Irene added.
Irene came with her friend Robin Masnick, also a first time attendee:
“I arrived at Sacred Space, already a Christopher Penczak fan as I've been studying his works for quite some time now, and discovered a whole new world in Luisah Teish. I was so impressed, I immediately ordered her books as soon I as returned to my room!”
Maria Aquila, of the Open Hearth Foundation and Central Maryland Pagans writes, “I knew of Luisah Teish mostly through my teacher Katrina Messenger and my fellow students in Reflections Mystery School and was looking for her sessions. At the conference, several other teachers I had worked with in the past were equally excited to meet and learn from her, and her lectures and rituals were amazing. My favorite moments were watching teachers that I respect and admire learn from people they respect and admire. One of the things I love about the teachers and elders I have chosen to learn from is that, though they are teachers and elders, they still consider themselves students. One referred to herself as Luisah’s Fan Girl, and while I did not witness her jumping up and down “squee”-ing, I’m pretty sure she was on the inside.”
Sacred Space provides a crossroad for meeting old friends from distant places. Tasha Halpert came south from the Boston area for the conference, and she writes, “My husband Stephen and I had a fabulous time at the Sacred Space Conference. We especially enjoyed Paul Beyerl, with whom I have been in correspondence for thirty years or so; he has published and continues to publish my poetry and stories in his newsletter. We found Aeptha, as well as Diana Paxson, not to mention Christopher Penczak, of great interest. Yet every lecture we attended was informative, and it is difficult to praise one without another being as good and as deserving. The organizers were tireless and attentive, seeing to the welfare of everyone so nicely. We both were extremely impressed and appreciative of the hard work they put into the conference.”
At Sacred Space, we enjoy offering rituals honoring specific deities. Tom Crepeau, a longtime attendee, writes, “Maggi Setti’s rituals could leave some beginners dangling, but for those who can fully participate, the rituals evoke deep communion with Deity. Last year, Maggi's Morrigan ritual was spectacular. This year, her ritual on Brigid's Lustral Fire was incredible both during, and after. I'm not entirely sure what happened or how, but after the ritual I spent the evening and night awesomely, totally drunk, without benefit of alcohol. I fully expect that inspiration to prove extremely fruitful. Thank you, Maggi. I do not expect to ever forget that ritual! By the time dawn came, I successfully returned to a more sober state of mind.” Tom concludes, “And now I'm going to wreck my budget acquiring more of Christopher Penczak's books than I can truly afford...”
As one of the organizers of Sacred Space, I am always running around and have inadequate time to attend workshops. But because of its utility in my shamanic healing practice, I made a point of attending Monika LonelyCoyote’s excellent workshop Boundary Issues: Recognizing the Difference between Spiritual Experience and Mental Illness. Monika is a psychologist who manages a treatment facility for people with serious mental illness. Since I never took any college courses in psychology, the material Monika presented will be extremely helpful in my shamanic healing work. Frankly, this would be a practical workshop for any Pagan leader to take, considering how many people come to us for help processing unusual experiences.
Despite our best organizational efforts, when Mother Nature threw us a curve ball on Wednesday night before conference began on Thursday, we did have some last minute programming changes. Attendees from the north, east and west were fine after Wednesday’s snowstorm, but it created a state of emergency in the mountains of Virginia. Sadly, the snow caused Kala Ambrose to email her regrets. We were so looking forward to her presentation on Awakening the Aura, but it simply was not possible for her to attend. Similarly, Diotima Mantineia dropped out of our presenter line-up at the last minute, coming from the same southerly direction as Kala. Both presenters were sadly missed, and we hope to see them at future conferences. The Board of Sacred Space would like to thank Irene Jericho, Robin Fennelly, and Diana Paxson for filling programming holes due to weather and illness with excellent alternative workshops, literally at the last moment. Gratitude and blessings to you.
And so we concluded the 23rd iteration of Sacred Space in excellent form. Like Brigadoon, the Scottish village caught in a time loop, Sacred Space only comes to life once a year for four days. The rest of the time, the egrigore of the conference lives in an amulet shaped like a chrysalis, on an altar dedicated to Athena. The conference is sleeping now until March 13th through 16th, 2014. Please consider joining us then, with M. Macha Nightmare, Selena Fox and Orion Foxwood as our featured guests.
Irene Jericho gets the last words: “I feel like the new-turned earth in my garden–ready to grow green as the light returns. And the hand that did the turning? That was Sacred Space, and the incredible group of people who came together to present it, the people who came together to learn from it, and the people who left on Sunday with eyes full of fire for the coming season. Gratitude seems a poor word, so I’ll say this instead: It’s ***ing amazeballs. You should go next year.”
Thank you to these bloggers for permission to quote their personal reviews of Sacred Space:
Irene Jericho: http://pinkpaganpriestess.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/sacred-space-conference-breaking-through-the-wiccan-wall/
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Website: http://www.mythkenner.com and http://www.gryphonsgrove.org
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner trained for twelve years to become a shamanic healer, mostly with Sandra Ingerman and Michael Harner. Caroline is an initiate in two branches of Wicca, and has been practicing Paganism since 1984. She has received various ceremonies and empowerments in Cuban Santeria, and in Tibetan Buddhism. Caroline is one of the usual suspects in the Washington, DC/Baltimore Pagan community. She has held board positions in five different mid-Atlantic Pagan organizations since the early 1990s. Currently, Caroline helps produce Sacred Space, an annual conference in its 23rd year. Caroline has an international shamanic healing practice, and teaches her craft through the Gryphons Grove School of Shamanism. See www.mythkenner.com and www.gryphonsgrove.org for more details.
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