Between the Worlds and Sacred Space Conference 2015
Article ID: 15843
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Caroline Kenner [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: March 15th. 2015
Times Viewed: 6,945
Sponsored by: Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and Sacred Space Foundation
Location: Wyndham Hunt Valley Conference Center, Hunt Valley, Maryland
Event Date(s): Thursday, March 5th through Sunday, March 8th
The Sacred Space Conference is a labor of love. We work all year to manifest a four day conference on metaphysics, magick, and mysticism. This year, our 25th conference was held in conjunction with the 6th Between the Worlds, a bigger and more prestigious non-annual conference, between Thursday, March 5th and Sunday, March 8th, near Baltimore, Maryland……..but now, Dang It, an Ice Giant of a Snowstorm named Thor was stalking our joint conference! Uh-oh? Would our joint conference actually consist of 35 snowbound people instead of the 350 we were actually expecting??
I found myself driving through a fierce downpour of rain Wednesday night before conference, with a foot of snow expected to begin within hours, and a doom-laden feeling in the pit of my stomach. But when I arrived at the hotel, my fellow organizers said cheerfully, “80% of the participants we are expecting are here, and have already checked in with the hotel.” Wow. I give thanks.
North Carolina oracle and blogger Beth Owls Daughter put it this way: “Seeing the alarming weather forecast, my husband, Otter, and I were forced to make a mad dash from North Carolina a day earlier than planned, or else risk being shut out by Winter Storm Thor, which was bearing down on Baltimore. Yet this, too, added to the magic. Thursday dawned under whiteout storm conditions. The landscape around the hotel was erased, the highways were silent, and if you weren’t there already, it was unlikely you’d be arriving until much later, if at all. It was as if we were sealed in together, under a deep blanket of snow, truly in Sacred Space and Between the Worlds.”
The combination of the two conferences was a happy confluence of astrology, magical compatibility, and personnel overlap. Michael G. Smith, Elder of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, also sits on the board of Sacred Space. “As one of the primary organizers of the event all I can really say is ‘wow.’ It always delights me that so many people come to Between The Worlds and Sacred Space, and remain focused on the goals and purposes of the events; to teach things old and new, to provide experiences of magic and spirituality, to be in community with the like-minded. And I think this year in particular was a loud clarion call to use what we know and have learned and experienced to make lasting changes in the world. And of course none of this happens in a vacuum. The members of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and the Sacred Space Foundation all worked tirelessly to ensure that all of the attendees, seen and unseen, were able to focus on the work of learning and doing. Without people willing to give freely of their time and energy, to ‘sacrifice' in the finest meaning of the word, such events would not be possible. May they always be blessed for the work they have accomplished so brilliantly.”
Both conferences are dedicated to providing Pagan educational opportunities with a focus on intermediate to advanced material. For the last ten years (and eight iterations of the conference) I have devoted myself to helping organize Sacred Space. The regional community gladly supports our annual conference, while the national Pagan community has always supported Between the Worlds. BTW is a carefully scheduled fundraiser for the New Alexandrian Library. Elder of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel Ivo Dominguez, Jr. provides the astrological inspiration for the timing of Between the Worlds, as Beth Owls Daughter explains.
“Between The Worlds occurs when the stars indicate that such a gathering is needed and favored. It was invoked this year because March 16 will be the final clash of the seven exact squares between Uranus and Pluto that have been unfolding since 2012. Most astrologers I know consider this five year showdown to be the defining game-changer for ours and the generations yet to come. We were there to mitigate that influence, which Byron Ballard so aptly calls “Tower Times, ” and weave our magical support to further the evolution and well-being of life.” Both conferences are conceived as offerings to our Gods and to our communities. Ivo said, “When we make offerings to the Goddesses and Gods, it is often said that we should give the best that we have. One of the reasons that we work so hard to bring beauty and mystery to events such as the Between the Worlds – Sacred Space conferences is that it is an offering to the Goddesses and Gods. The entire event is one large altar.”
Gwendolyn Reece, an Hellenic Pagan, Witch, and Theosophist who is the leader of Sacred Space’s organizing team wrote, “Sacred Space is both a part of the continuous educational infrastructure for practitioners of various magickal and mystical traditions and is an annual offering to Athena and Thoth to whom the conference is dedicated. Both of these Great Ones are divinities of wisdom and learning. Sacred Space, being designed specifically to meet the developmental needs of intermediate to advanced practitioners, is conducted under their auspices. I have a particular relationship to Athena and I think I can say with certainty that furthering the spiritual evolution of humanity is a significant part of her agenda. Occultists are always among the vanguard. We should be 200 years out in front, pushing the edge forward. We offer the conference as a vehicle for furthering that work.”
So Thursday, March 5th, at our new venue the Wyndham Hunt Valley Hotel north of Baltimore dawned with storm named Thor pouring a huge blizzard onto Maryland, where we are neither accustomed to snow nor skilled in dealing with it. We got over a foot of snow total. The snowy weather prevented a number of people from reaching conference, including Sacred Space featured presenter Judika Illes, a major disappointment for many people.
Thursday night of the joint conference, under a radiant full Moon in Virgo, I presented the Conjure Dance, a rite of trance possession honoring the rich gumbo of spiritualities that have joined together in New Orleans and echoed throughout the world. The Conjure Dance was taught to me by my shamanic teacher Sandra Ingerman, who learned it from Martha Ward, a shamanic practitioner, professor and biographer of Marie Laveau from New Orleans. Each year at the Conjure Dance, we create elaborate altars honoring many pantheons of deities, an enterprise that requires a dedicated team of volunteers.
This year, our newest altar honored the Slavic Gods. A group of us created the images of the deities and spirits, because it was impossible for us to acquire icons of the Slavic Gods. Making these artworks was an act of devotion on all of our parts. It was very spiritually fulfilling to make some of the Gods of the Slavic tribes visible to their people once again.
Backed by a team of excellent drummers, Cat Firesong, priestess of the trance possession tradition Universal Temple of Spirits, sang songs inviting different deities inside our heads in divine possession at the Conjure Dance. My personal favorite moment was when Cat sang a song dedicated to La Sirene, the lovely Haitian Lwa who is a Mermaid. Instead of La Sirene, I found myself gently but strongly possessed by Fand, wife of Manannan McLir, who is also a Mermaid.
The author Diana Paxson is mostly known as a Heathen leader. But Diana is also an expert on trance possession. She works with Apollo as well as Odin. Diana knows a great deal about African diaspora deities and forms of worship, and has helped us with the Conjure Dance for a number of years now. Her new book "Possession, Depossession, and Divine Relationships", just out from Weiser, has some information about the Conjure Dance and the Universal Temple of Spirits within its pages. Diana really enjoys getting possessed, and her possessions that evening included Odin, Apollo, Holle, and the Spinning Goddess. A moment of humor during the Conjure Dance came when a young man new to our community was touched by the Big Guy with One Eye. As we danced for Odin, He commented pensively inside the young man head, “They used to sacrifice criminals to me, and now old women dance in a circle.” Chuckle!
For the second year in a row, we had a contingent of live painters at the Conjure Dance. Tintalle Foxwood, artist, herbalist and Witch, explains:
“This year, I had to work for it: I had to breathe through my insecurities over having a big canvas with no time to prepare. I also had no time to silence my inner critic, who kept asking me who I thought I was to put myself out there like that. Looking back, it ultimately came down to the work of the weekend itself. I came to dare, to know that I could stay true to the vision, and—through the force of my will—keep going even in the place of so many internal and external distractions, silently bringing some of that sacred energy into manifested form through art.” Laurel Mendes, a local Seidr practitioner and teacher trained by Diana Paxson, provided oracular services during the Conjure Dance, “Talking about the oracular work is always difficult because it fades from memory so quickly. I may remember snatches of it here and there, but on the whole, it is gone. The memory that endures is that others find benefit in the work. It is an honor to be of service to a community of elders and peers like the one at Sacred Space/Between the Worlds.”
First time attendee John Weller, member of CedarLight Grove ADF in Baltimore, wrote, “Between the short time I had planned to go to JUST the Conjure Dance, and the event itself, I had a small financial windfall which made it possible to attend the rest of the event. I am, now after the fact, absolutely certain this was part of my life plan: to be able at just the right moment to attend this event--because it truly changed my life: spiritually, professionally, financially, and personally, for the better.” John was not alone in this experience. Another first timer at conference, Scott Mohnkern, local Heathen leader and author, wrote, “I had originally intended just to attend the Gala at this years conference, but made a last minute decision to attend all of Saturday. I'm really glad I did. This conference reinforced my understanding, faith, and belief in our community in a way that no other conference has. Just by being there, I experienced personal growth that I will carry with me for many years to come.”
Natalie Zaman came down from New Jersey partly to network connections for her forthcoming book "Mapping the Magic", to be published by Llewellyn in the fullness of time. Her book will raise Spirits of Place to their rightful position, with articles on the sacred places in each state and prayers written especially for the book from local Witches, Pagans, and spirit workers. The forthcoming volume will cover the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, out of a planned series that will encompass the whole country.
Natalie wrote, “Sacred Space/Between the Worlds 2015 turned out to be a life-changing event: I expected to learn, I expected to meet people—I did not expect to be held up to a glass so that I could see my own soul. I cried at the end. It all made such sense. My head is still buzzing from what I experienced this past weekend. Conference has affected every step I’ve taken since, every word I’ve written. I will be at Sacred Space next year, and the year after, expecting the unexpected.”
Longtime Between the Worlds teacher Aeptha traveled from North Carolina with a team of initiates to bring the Naga Ritual to conference. “As a teacher and a perpetual student the conferences offered a great opportunity to expose our work to those who may not experience it otherwise as well as learn from other teachers. One of the many good reasons I encourage people to attend is community. Living and working in the foothills of North Carolina we are somewhat isolated, particularly to the diverse perspectives offered at such a high quality gathering such as this. It is great to have a conversation in the hallway and exchange ideas, or dance and simply enjoy the fun of being together. The coming together for the main ritual is also a highlight for me. It is amazing to see several hundred people work with focused intent in a setting that manages to transcend time and space despite being held in a hotel. My previous experiences have shown me that when you leave, you take something with you that results in change. That is magick.”
Friday night was the Main Ritual. ASW coven leader Leanne Pemburn wrote, “The main ritual was a departure from the style that ASW usually offers; it was more ecstatic and emotional. I was thrilled at how beautifully and effectively all the traditions involved in the planning and performance folded their energies seamlessly together. Truly a peak experience, and I feel my life has changed in subtle and profound ways.”
Diotima Mantineia, astrologer, Witch, and blogger from North Carolina, has been to many ASW rituals over the years. “This year’s main ritual particularly stands out in my mind as a shining example of just how enlivening and transformative large group ritual can be when it is done right.”
Author, ritualist, and teacher Christopher Penczak from New Hampshire also enjoyed Main Ritual. "I was truly impressed by the main ritual's creativity and complexity, having lots of magickal under currents going on in each part building to the renewal. Very inspiring.”
Main ritual combined drama, inspiration, and energy raising within a strong ritual structure upheld by the community in great measure. All of the priestesses and priests who served in the rite acquitted themselves splendidly. I was particularly impressed by Aeptha personifying the Mother of Gnosis, and of course the inimitable Katrina Messenger, the greatest orator of our community. Katrina was charged to give the call to action for the ritual. Her exhortation was so powerful it was almost overwhelming. We very much needed the snacks that were offered after the ritual in order to ground ourselves.
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki was one of the teachers for Sacred Space 2015. Almost ten years ago, when I began working on reviving Sacred Space, I aspired to bring Dolores back to teach us once again. This year I fulfilled that ambition. Dolores is one of the most inspiring teachers I have found over the course of more than 30 years of study in magic. It was a pleasure to watch some people discover Dolores’s teachings for the first time at conference, and a joy for all of us to be in the presence of a true spiritual Master.
Monika Lonely Coyote, a shamanic healer and psychologist, presented two classes, one on psychopomp work, one on distinguishing spiritual experiences from mental illness. “I attended rituals exclusively this year, as opposed to classes previous years, by happy coincidence. I was blown away by the power of Christopher Penczak's ritual, Empowering the Sorcerer's Tongue. The purpose of the workshop was to help us bring our own words into alignment with our Higher Self, and to understand the consequences of what we "spell" into physical manifestation. He created a wonderfully powerful magical tea to give over 40 of us in attendance. During the pathworking, I found that my senses were immediately heightened when linked to the imagery and symbolism Christopher used, especially when working with the thorns of the Rose Tree.”
Christopher Penczak himself enjoyed the panel discussions. “I continue to be impressed with the level of presenters at both of these conferences. I enjoy the opportunity to learn from the other speakers as well as teach. Both panel discussions were particularly helpful to me."
Some participants have dedicated themselves to other aspects of Pagan education, like Holli S. Emore, executive director of Cherry Hill Seminary. Holli came up from South Carolina. “Those of us from Cherry Hill Seminary particularly valued the opportunity to hear from people around the community – at our panel, Sounding the Deeps, the group talked about the changing Pagan landscape, what people need from Pagan leaders, what should we be doing or doing differently. This is valuable input as we continue to shape our educational programs into what best serves us all.”
Asheville, NC’s Village Witch, presenter Byron Ballard also found inspiration in the community at the conference. “When experienced magic workers are given the opportunity to mix and mingle, to chant together and to learn from each other something extraordinary may happen. At Between the Worlds/Sacred Space, the rising energy was palpable starting midday on Thursday. Joyous shouts, fierce embraces, whoops of recognition echoed through the lobby. There were no rivals here and so little drama as to be unimportant. Instead there was the sharp smell of change in the air, of the possibilities that arise when a community genuinely stands in the certainty of its power, its love and its vision. I have no idea how many beings were present—teachers, ritualists, attendees, Ancestors, Divines, Honored Dead--and the ever-present tricksters of snow and cold. We are the weavers. We are the web. Merry meetings indeed.”
Archdruid of ADF Kirk Thomas came all the way from Washington State to learn, as well as to teach and to network with his peers. Kirk had this reaction to the shamanic healing ceremony my students and I presented.“I've always liked participating in shamanic work in addition to my normal devotional stuff. It's pure UPG, and while there's a fear that it's all just 'made up', I have found that the visions I've received on different occasions often link up together. And that's exactly what happened at the Ceremony of Curse Unbinding at Sacred Space/Between the Worlds. For a number of reasons I sat there with tears running down my face, quietly and serenely. Nothing terrible, just a feeling of sadness and regret. Almost immediately one of the shamans participating came up to me and told me something that totally resonated with me. He saw me as a tall and strong tree, but with some kind of parasitic vine growing up and around me, strangling the tree. And then he said it was somehow connected with slavery. I was floored. In the two past lives that I've found through ecstatic trance, and through Seidr, I was slave. And a rather wretched one at that. In both cases I died young. The female life was murdered and the male life was sacrificed on a great stone. The shaman untwisted the vine, pulled it out by the roots, and threw it into oblivion. At that point I realized that I was no longer crying. A weight seemed removed from me. Now that a bit of time has passed I see that while things are more clear, there is still work to be done. But it's a start.”
The gala on Saturday night was a great deal of fun. People’s outfits were spectacular. A lot of women had obviously received a Red Dress Memo, including me. And even the gala was energizing to the spiritual work, according to Diotima Mantineia. “Speaking of transformative experiences, dancing to near-exhaustion with a great band was yet another one.”
Michele Warch, a priestess and blogger on the Delaware coast, put it this way. “Tuatha Dea, with their incredibly unique style of Gaelic-derived, Appalachian-spiced, folk-rock were a pleasure to be around. Not only were they truly nice people, who chatted with everyone who they came across; they were first-class musicians. The gala was a significant highlight with their amazing music singing to the blood -- they began the show by calling the quarters in their own musical method; and continued with their original works blended with fan favorites by bands like Heart, Jefferson Airplane, and Thin Lizzy. WOW. I'm a fan for life.”
Personally, I went running onto the dance floor, and loved Tuatha Dea's show! I am happy to report that the band liked us and our event, too, according to Rebecca Hubbard. “An absolute fantastic event for beautiful people that made this little troop of Appalachian Fae feel warm, cozy and at home. The energy, presenters, coordinators and folks were amazing. Slainte!”
With four days of ritual and classes, bands and drumming, vendors and healers, all of us were as crisply fried as the morning dew by the end of conference. But we were triumphant to receive feedback such as this, from Erica Shadowsong, a first time conference attendee who serves as Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist congregation of Arlington, Virginia.
“Especially for solitaries or those new to their paths, attending something like this joint conference would be very important, in order to have an accurate sense of the ways the winds are shifting in the community, and how we can be involved. One of the things I observed at conference is how this community cares for each other, how it is seeking to be more cohesive and united than ever before. This is important, because to the newcomer and/or solitary, if all you ever see are online blogs debating internal issues, one can very easily have the impression that there is not this level of love and collaboration throughout this beautiful, varied, many-colored and -flavored community. For those hungry to participate in the Great Work on a larger scale, coming to this conference would provide, I feel, a valuable touchstone.”
The elders’ perspective was best expressed by Orion Foxwood, author, presenter, and teacher. “The Between the Worlds/ Sacred Space Conference was a confluence of many streams of magic, wisdom, spirituality and mystical insight. It also felt like a call to magical action for positive change, and living in accordance with your inner-spirit. I have tried to identify that one workshop, ritual or event that was my favorite….but they all come together as one seamless transformational experience. I was honored to teach witchcraft and Faery work with a focus on my new book The Flame in the Cauldron. The students in the class were so engaging and sincere, truly a joy to teach. It seemed like there were opportunities around every corner to learn, share, grow, and deepen in skills, knowledge and sacred relationships. We truly were between the worlds in sacred space….the whole time. My only criticism was that I could not bi-locate and teach my workshops while being in another one. Perhaps those skills can become core to the next conference. Count me in for the next one!”
Dear Ones, Sacred Space 2016 will feature ADF Archdruid Emeritus and Bard Laureate Ian Corrigan, Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, creator of The Dark Goddess Tarot and The Minoan Tarot, and ASW Elder Ivo Dominguez, Jr. Ivo's next book, Practical Astrology for Witches and Pagans: Using the Planets and Stars for Effective Spellwork, Rituals, and Magickal Work will be available Autumn 2015 from Weiser Books. Hope to see you at Sacred Space 2016!
Meanwhile, The next Between The Worlds conference will take place in 2020 because of a stellium in Capricorn and a new cycle of Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions. The exact date has yet to be determined.
Photo Captions and Credits:
Altar to Mother Nature, the Greenman, and the Animals, Conjure Dance 2015 Photo by Frater Servitor Lucem.
Ivo Dominguez, Jr. and Melissa White d’Ortenzio standing before paintings of Brighid about to be auctioned for benefit of the New Alexandrian Library. Thanks to Melissa for her work on the art. Photo by Helena Domenic.
Michael G. Smith reacting to Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki’s hilarious joke. Photo credit Karen Schlechter.
Odin sent one of his Ravens to the Gala. Photo credit Helena Domenic.
Rebecca Hubbard performing with Tuatha Dea at the Gala. Photo credit Frater Servitor Lucem.
Networking Section: http://www.lighthaven.org/#!/
Assembly of the Sacred Wheel: http://www.sacredwheel.org
Beth Owls Daughter: http://www.owlsdaughter.com
Byron Ballard: http://myvillagewitch.com
CedarLight Grove ADF: http://www.cedarlightgrove.org
Christopher Penczak: http://christopherpenczak.com
Diana Paxson: http://www.diana-paxson.com
Diotima Mantineia: http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-culture-blogs/diotima-mantineia.html
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and Servants of the Light: Photo of DAN and Christopher Penczak at conference: http://www.servantsofthelight.org/dolores-with-christopher-penczack/
Jane Brideson’s Tuatha de Danann: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Ever-Living-Ones-by-Jane-Brideson/299319623606501
Kirk Thomas, Archdruid, ADF: https://www.adf.org/about/leaders/2296/index.html
Main Ritual: http://www.sacredwheel.org/BTW2015/main-ritual.html
Michele Warch: http://witch-sway.blogspot.com/?zx=e128294729efbc32
Monika Lonely Coyote: http://www.healingcoyote.com
Natalie Zaman: http://nataliezaman.blogspot.com
Orion Foxwood: http://www.orionfoxwood.com
Scott Mohnkern: http://cherryhillseminary.org/about/leadership/faculty-2/mohnkerncrop/ Tintalle Foxwood will present here: http://spiritfirefestival.org/past/presenters/
Tuatha Dea: http://www.tuathadea.net
Copyright: (c) Caroline Kenner 2015
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
Author's Profile: To learn more about Caroline Kenner - Click HERE
Bio: Caroline Kenner calls herself a Washington Witchdoctor. She is a shamanic healer and teacher of shamanism, and Mistress of The Fool's Dog, an electronic Tarot company with more than 50 decks for sale on iTunes and Google Play. Caroline has been part of the Washington, DC and Baltimore Pagan Community since 1987. To learn more about Caroline's magical path or to assign guilt to the parties who trained her, please visit Caroline's Witchvox profile:
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