Sacred Space Conference
Article ID: 15652
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,700
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Author: Caroline Kenner [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: March 23rd. 2014
Times Viewed: 11,079
Sponsored by: Sacred Space
Location: Holiday Inn Laurel West, Laurel, Maryland
Event Date(s): Thursday, March 13th through Sunday, March 16th, 2014
Here I was, in the opening ritual of Sacred Space 2014, listening to my friends and fellow board members invoke our Matron and Patron, Athena of Greece and Thoth of Egypt. We work all year to create Sacred Space, and now conference time was finally here. Gwendolyn Reece invoked Athena by some of Her ancient titles:
“Athena Glaukopis, Athena Boulaia, Athena Polias
Athena Promachos, Athena Alalcomeneis
Athena Soteria, Athena Pronaia
Athena Nike, Athena Polymetis
Athena Themis and Athena Columbia, Bright Eyed, Wise Counselor, Warder of the Gate of the Holies,
Divine Guide of Human Civilization, Great Protector, Shield of the people,
Savior who leads us on the path of apotheosis,
To Enlightenment, to fully realized Divinity
You stand first at the doorway to the Temple
And through You, Victory is inevitable!”
Michael G. Smith then invoked Thoth:
“Mighty Tehuti, Lord of Wisdom
The Mysterious, The Silent One
Bounder of the Temple, Maker of the Everlasting
Master of Writing and Scribe of the Gods
Counter of the Stars, Master of Papyrus,
God of Magick, Knower of Names
Lord of Time and Space
Cast your magick about this conference and its members. Walk beside these seekers after wisdom and knowledge, opening their minds to all that is shared. And aid them in sharing their experiences with one another in ways that help all to become wise.”
As I closed my eyes, in my subtle vision, I watched our astral temple blossom and grow, a foam of starlight extending around and over the entire hotel and parking lot. First I saw moving, colorful figures defining a doorway. Then Athena and Thoth became stone statues, flanking the single opening to our huge astral temple, guarding and guiding us during our four-day conference adventure.
2014 marks Sacred Space’s 24th year, an extravaganza of classes and rituals designed for an audience of intermediate to advanced magical practitioners. Each year, Sacred Space hosts national presenters as well as local teachers. This year, M. Macha Nightmare, Selena Fox and Orion Foxwood were our featured talent, and sponsored guests Jason Pitzl-Waters and Renna Shesso also joined us. We were delighted to welcome back Selena and Orion in particular: they both presented at the first conference of Sacred Space’s most recent incarnation, held in 2008. This year, we were able to give them a much larger and more vigorous audience for their teaching.
Renna Shesso is a shamanic healer, Tarotiste, and Pagan community organizer in Denver, Colorado. With two titles published by Weiser, Renna is a perfect teacher to spice up our Sacred Space workshops, and knit the Denver/DC Pagan communities together a bit. “This was my first visit to Sacred Space Conference, but I pledge it won't be my last. I arrived knowing just a couple of people, but the overall size meant that faces quickly became familiar. People were friendly, too, and this visiting stranger says Thank You!”
Renna continued, “I especially appreciate the level of the Sacred Space workshop offerings - let's say, "spiritually mature." As a sponsored presenter, I'd been encouraged to be as deep and esoteric as I pleased, since Sacred Space isn't designed to attract absolute newcomers. Hallelujah! With several decades of Craft and shamanism behind me, intro classes aren't what I'm hungering for. Workshop presenters dove in at the deep end and trusted their participants to follow. The same was true of the ceremonial offerings, which were especially impressive. That intentional willingness to explore deeply held true at everything I attended. And that was wonderful.”
Amy Blackthorn, of Blackthorn Hoodoo Blends, came to the conference from Delaware, “Here’s how I would describe Sacred Space Conference to someone who had never been: it’s a crossroads in the Mid-Atlantic, the intersection of advanced theory and practice, with all of the discussion and raucous dancing that entails. The really fantastic part: the different paths all coming together at this crossroads meant that people got a chance to sample the workings of different faiths and varying traditions. Big Name Pagans, local teachers and authors all teach in small accessible groups.”
Irene Jericho, yoga teacher, PinkPaganPriestess and vocalist for Cassandra Syndrome, writes: “The Sacred Space Conference, an amazing gathering of Tribe intended for intermediate to advanced Practitioners, has a focus every year, and every year that focus, that theme, is different. This year's theme in a single word would be 'Heritage.' This year's conference featured Appalachian root workers, carriers of the only magickal tradition that is truly American. Orion Foxwood, Byron Ballard and Linda Ours Rago brimmed with the green pulse of the mountains, deep as the caves, dark as the dreaming stones, yet shining with life, with magick, with depth. And the overall message was one of deep love of and connection to the land, and to our blood.”
Irene went on, ” The other Path weaving its theme through the Conference was of the navigation through death. Our people do not have churches or synagogues, and our Tribe is young. Pagan Death Passages are still new territory for us, one being bravely explored. M. Macha Nightmare and Selena Fox led these deep explorations into the mysteries of our last mortal transition.”
Maggie Beaumont, former Dean of Students at Cherry Hill Seminary, writes, “Several people, presenters and attendees alike, commented on the existence of two 'topic tracks' this year. Both the Appalachian Magic track and the Death-and-Dying track received praise from several people in my hearing. I went to two of the four Death-and-Dying events. I was sorry to miss Selena Fox's presentation on the subject, especially as Circle Sanctuary has now started a Green burial site. Both Macha Nightmare and Byron Ballard provided deep, insightful education and ritual around the topic of priestessing those who are dying, making plans for having our own 'good deaths' eventually, and understanding our connection with those who are beyond the veil or moving more quickly in that direction.”
Jason Pitzl-Waters embedded the entire Appalachian Folk Traditions panel discussion on his website, and we give thanks. Should you wish to enjoy the entire hour and forty minutes, here is the link to find it: a http://wildhunt.org/2014/03/sacred-space-2014-appalachian-folk-traditions-panel.html. Jason was a sponsored teacher this year, thanks to Hecate Demeter and her work undermining the patriarchy, to be found at http://hecatedemeter.wordpress.com.
Here’s what Jason wrote on Facebook about Sacred Space: “I wish I could convey how special this weekend had been. I went in feeling very burnt out after doing two events right before. But I left with new friends, new perspectives, and wonderful new connections. I bow before you all. Much love.”
People who have served Cherry Hill Seminary abounded at conference this year. 2014 was Macha Nightmare’s first time teaching at Sacred Space. “As a first-time presenter, I felt welcomed and appreciated. The event ran smoothly, at least from my perspective, high on professionalism and low on drama. I had plenty of support, tech in particular. Presentations were timely, attendees attentive, and discussion substantive and sometimes lively. A sense of camaraderie prevailed. In other words, I loved it!”
If the classes are the head of Sacred Space, the heart and soul are in the rituals. This year, we hosted Selena Fox’s famous Brighid ritual, and Orion Foxwood’s Consecration of the Sacred Blood, among many others. Literata was joined by Gwendolyn Reece and a team of locals in a ritual honoring Columbia, the Matron Goddess of the United States of America, as Athena Columbia. There are a number of us locals involved with the worship of Columbia as a manifestation of Athena, with Her statue on top of the Capitol. We see a need to invoke wisdom and prudence in that spot!
Cat Firesong and the Universal Temple of Spirits presented a trance possession ceremony for Spirits of Healing on Saturday night. At Sacred Space, we have a longstanding commitment to trance possession rituals, a way of communing with the Gods and other spirits that is just now emerging into more widespread Pagan worship.
Cat Firesong and I have been working together on African diaspora spirituality and trance possession rituals for more than twenty years. Cat and the members of Universal Temple of Spirits meet monthly for trance possession ceremonies, with the March ceremony usually held as part of Sacred Space. And since I began presenting the New Orleans Voodoo Conjure Dance at Imbolc 2008, Cat has been in cahoots with me to bring that ceremony vividly to life as part of Sacred Space.
My shamanic teacher Sandra Ingerman taught me the Conjure Dance in 2007 and I’ve presented it annually since then. When I was a baby Witch 30 years ago, deity possession was still something done only occasionally in traditional Wiccan covens, and only by designated, lofty personnel. When Sandy taught me the dance, I was happy to find a trance possession rite that was more democratic, and more sacred dance oriented, than a Wiccan Drawing Down rite.
In both the Conjure Dance and the Universal Temple of Spirits rites, we call a specific guest list of spirits to join us, to ride us, to dance with and within us during the ritual. Cat and I have been called by many spirits from many pantheons, as well as the African diaspora spirits we love so much. And we have evolved parallel rites and practices to express that.
Arranging the Conjure Dance altars is a particular joy for me. This year, blogger Literata and Michael G. Smith, elder of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, helped me arrange altars to myriad Gods and Goddesses from myriad pantheons in preparation for the Conjure Dance. Literata wrote: “As we were helping set up for the Conjure Dance, Michael Smith and I were arranging the Egyptian altar. Caroline kept referring to each altar as a geographical location: "Ack! That statue doesn't belong in Greece! She’s a Hindu Goddess! Move Her to India!” In our Egypt, some deities have more than one statue, so we were discussing where to place the groupings. "The Anubii are over here, so where should the Osiri go?" Eventually we started inventing new collective nouns: a mummy of Osiri, a pride of Basts, as we arranged the statues artfully around a large gold Ankh amidst mylar palm trees.”
Just in case you are under the misconception that only high holy ancient Gods and Goddesses with impeccable pedigrees are guests at the Conjure Dance: some of the spirits called are real party animals, like Coyote. The song Cat found to lure Coyote into our heads and dance with us is in Lakota. Coyote also received an entire workshop honoring His healing abilities, Healing Through Laughter, taught by Monika Lonely Coyote. Here’s Monika’s experience at the Conjure Dance: “During the Conjure Dance, Coyote and I noticed that there were still lots of people, but too few were dancing. And so we grabbed the mike from Cat and instructed everyone to shake their butts and wag their tails! Once a bit of silliness happened, we were able to really get the energy flowing and silliness abounded! I saw many subtle healings, and essentially, Joy and Laughter was really pushing away blockages in the Power/Solar Plexus chakra, the main chakra He likes to work with! Coyote truly enjoyed the new friends He'd made, and hopes to be able to heal others with Laughter again soon!”
This year’s Conjure Dance was dedicated to healing our own community. We had several new elements: a fantastic interactive art installation brought by Aalyvyne Weaverwood and her partner Tintalle. Tintalle also painted during the Conjure Dance, joining Angela Raincatcher, who started painting at the Conjure Dance last year. Spontaneously, Ashley Bryner of ADF decided to join them. The works the three artists produced over the course of three hours were inspired and inspiring, as you see in the photo of Angela and her painting of La Sirene. We had more drummers than ever before, and were able to dance longer than in previous years.
Divine Possession is healing as well as ecstatic. Each year, the Conjure Dance peels away another layer of wounds, limitations and resistance within me as I open myself to my beloved divinities and allow Them to move through my mind, my body and my soul. It is like a hardware upgrade, to use a technical analogy, or perhaps, the possessory spirits temper me like a fine blade when They dance through me. I present the Conjure Dance to serve as a gateway and crossroads for others to enjoy this type of divine communion in a safe and skilled atmosphere. And I also present the Conjure Dance to manifest divine possession for personal and community healing.
Because the hotel in which we hold Sacred Space is the nearest Holiday Inn to Fort Meade and the National Security Agency, various teachers mentioned the NSA during workshops. We finally got to the last workshop period of the conference. I was amused to hear Helena Domenic, Elder of The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and Tarotiste with her own decks, compare The Tower in the Lenormand deck to the National Security Agency: “Here’s the Lenormand Tower. It is quite distinct from the Tower in Tarot. It represents a large organization, and here in Laurel, Maryland, it could represent, for example, the NSA.”
This particularly amused me, because at that moment I was seated in the bosom of my own magical family, between a retired NSA employee and an active duty one. Across the room from me sat a gentleman who is the son of a military intelligence officer, and I am the daughter of a CIA operative. To my right sat two computer experts with stratospheric security clearances. Yes, the Washington, DC and Baltimore Pagan community is not necessarily what you might expect. But we *are* in the grand tradition of occultists, following the footsteps of giants like Uncle Aleister and Doreen Valiente, both of whom were involved with intelligence activities in World War II.
Literata’s very patient husband Matt also helped me set up The Conjure Dance. He doesn’t attend classes, but comes to the evening events to support Literata. Matt is a full bird Air Force Colonel. It’s not often that I get to send a Colonel to the nearby gas station to buy the batteries I forgot, thanks again, Matt. His word on Sacred Space: “I didn’t meet a single boring person during the whole conference.” Our DC and Baltimore Pagan community is unusual, even among Pagans.
The beautiful April from New Jersey gets the last quote of this conference review: “Sacred Space Conference 2014-What can I say? It was wonderful, even better than the year before, which was remarkable. As my Facebook status said when I left: "Sacred Space Conference; so much fun, so much for my head and spirit to process, so many new and renewed friendships!" Is it time for the 2015 Conference yet?”
So please consider attending Sacred Space in 2015! Next year, we join forces with Between the Worlds, The Assembly of the Sacred Wheel’s benefit conference for the New Alexandrian Library, to present an unparalleled line up of talent. The conjoined conference will take place Thursday, March 5th through Sunday, March 8th, 2015, at the Hunt Valley Conference Center near Baltimore. Our Sacred Space featured guests for 2015 are Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Diana Paxson, and Judika Illes.
We will sponsor an invited list of local presenters, distilled from the best of the last seven years of Sacred Space. All Sacred Space attendees will have access to all Between the Worlds programming, except the Gala on Saturday, which is an extra charge for everyone. Hope to see you in March 2015!
Here are the translations of the Names of Athena we invoked in Sacred Space 2014:
Athena Glaukopis (Bright Eyed Athena) , Athena Boulaia (Athena of Wise Counsel) , Athena Polias (Athena of the Polis/Human Civilization) , Athena Promachos (Athena who Fights in Front) , Athena Alalcomeneis (Great Protector) , Athena Soteria (Savior) , Athena Pronaia (Athena who stands before the temple and receives first honors) , Athena Nike (Athena of Victory) , Athena Polymetis (Athena of the many forms of wisdom) , Athena Themis (Athena of Justice) , Athena Columbia (Athena in her form as Columbia, national spirit of the United States) .
Learning ancient titles for deities we usually know by a single name adds richness to our understanding. Reading some of Athena’s titles, knowing just a few of Tehuti’s many names, adds a new dimension to our knowledge of these beloved forms of deity we are worshiping once again in the here and now. Both Athena and Thoth are so pertinent to our modern lives! We in Sacred Space give thanks for Their Matronage and Patronage.
1. Legba’s license plate holder on the Orisha Altar at the Conjure Dance, Sacred Space 2014
2. Angela Raincatcher at her vendor booth with the painting of La Sirene from The Conjure Dance, Sacred Space 2014
3. Orisha Altar at The Conjure Dance, Sacred Space 2014
4. Tintalle Painting at the Conjure Dance, Sacred Space 2014
All photos courtesy Eric Eldritch, many thanks!!!
Copyright: (c) Caroline Kenner 2014
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
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