Numinous and Concrete
Gender, Paganism, and Finding Our Way
The 1st Annual Conference on Earth-Based, Nature-Centered, Polytheistic & Indigenous Faiths with the theme of Earth-Based Spiritualities & Gender left me with an intriguing mix of thoughts. I feel grateful that the Pagan Alliance put in the time, energy, and money to organize the conference, and am proud that Solar Cross Temple helped to sponsor it. Talking about gender in the context of Paganism feels very important to me. The sense I was left with after Saturday was that while we only scratched the surface of the topic, an elephant in the room was barely addressed, and more dialogue is necessary, goodwill was present amongst those attending, and that counts for a lot.
Many things felt heartening to me about the day: a variety of gender expressions walking through the hallways; seeing second wave feminists I cut my teeth on presenting at a Pagan conference; meeting a human rights activist from the Organisation Intersex International and wanting to talk more theology; the insightful comments and ideas that people shared with each other during my presentation on genderqueer theology; talks with people in between sessions . . .
The conference felt like a proper response to the pain and upheaval that came out of last year's Pantheacon, which has been written about a lot, including two pieces I wrote. But writing about something is not the same as having face time to get into some of the issues. The Pagan Alliance recognized this and tried to court a wide variety of presenters to speak on the topic. I did a fair bit of recruiting myself.
The first year of something is always difficult and they did a great job. The presenter's list was impressive and the array of topics intriguing. The fact that a mixer was included at day's end was brilliant. It gave people a chance to speak with each other in a casual setting, to discuss the talks they'd been to, or just get to know one another better. There were also things that felt troubling simply because there wasn't a clear space to discuss them.
Vicky Noble's keynote address began by speaking to her own gender history, and ended with a rousing call for us all to work together instead of ripping each other apart, but it felt jarring to not have a chance to address and unpack some ideas that came up in the middle of her talk. For example, what do we do when we aren't just tearing each other down, but have genuine grievances with one another that need to be addressed so our coalitions can become effective?
T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected visionary and teacher of the magical and esoteric arts. The author of Make Magic of Your Life, Kissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft, she hosts the Elemental Castings podcast series, writes the blog Know Thyself, and has produced several CDs of sacred music. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!