Missing PantheaCon and a Ritual of Exclusion

Missing PantheaCon and a Ritual of Exclusion February 17, 2012

The only thing worse than not attending an awesome event, is seeing all the posts from everyone who is attending on social media.

PantheaCon is awesome. It’s like a big diversity fair showcasing the full spectrum of the Pagan community. There are really fantastic classes, presentations, rituals, music and people.While I can’t make it this year, I do look forward to attending next year, and seeing all the amazing people that I only run into on the West Coast.

This year I know a lot of people are angsty about inclusiveness. This year’s theme is “Unity In Diversity” and PantheaCon strives to make a place at the table for every type of Pagan. Last year there was a bit of a ruckus over transgender women being barred from a women’s ritual, and this year there are rituals labeled as being for genetic women only.

I just don't feel comfortable sharing sacred space with blue mugs.

I don’t agree with rituals being exclusive in such a way (would a ritual for genetically Caucasian people be allowed?), but I am glad that people are being clear about who is excluded from ritual space. It makes it easier to plan, minimizes confusion, and lets folks know where you stand on inclusivity. Straight up, such a label on a ritual in my program pretty much guarantees that not only will I not attend, but I likely won’t attend the facilitators other presentations and rituals.

In fact, this idea of excluding people has given me an idea for a ritual. An exclusive ritual. One in which each person interested in attending is challenged at the gate and found unacceptable. A ritual only for people just like me.

Do you have a penis? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Is that your natural hair color? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Do you live outside the Southeast US? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Are you taller than 5’4″? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Are you slim or athletic in build? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Do you have children? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Are you in a serious relationship? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Do you have brown, hazel or green eyes? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Do you like white chocolate? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Do you have a tattoo? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Are you GLBTQI? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Are you over 30? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Are you a college graduate? Yes? Then you can’t attend.

Eventually all comers would be turned away, because this ritual is only for people like me, who can understand and share my experiences. People I will feel absolutely comfortable with and who won’t challenge me. Which means I would stand in the circle alone.

Of course, I’ve been trained too-well in Wiccan principles to leave it there, so then the process of inclusion and connection would begin. Each person would step forward again and I would find something in common with them. I would find something we both share.

You like Monty Python? Join the circle!

You love the smell of rain? Join the circle!

You have a scar? Join the circle!

You like to chant? Join the circle!

You’ve been hurt by people you love? Join the circle!

Eventually everyone who was excluded would be admitted as I work to find a connection with each person. Because it’s easy to write people off. It’s easy to draw dividing lines. It’s easy to say that someone can’t understand you or connect with you because they are different. The hard work is forging connections. The human work is forging connections.

If you exclude someone from your ritual space, it should be for a good reason. It should be because the person’s behavior is unacceptable. Because the person has stated an intent of ill will towards the participants or has made it known they intend to disrupt the ritual. Because the person is dishonest, dishonorable, disrespectful and disruptive.

There’s a strange idea floating around that someone having a penis automatically makes them unsafe in ritual. It’s an idea that is actively promoted and nurtured. It feeds on itself, creating a cocoon of circular logic. It invents a devil, feeds him, and keeps him menacing outside the circle’s edge. It prevents real healing and growth. But a penis doesn’t make someone unsafe anymore than having a vagina makes someone nice, emotional, nurturing and safe.

I’ve said all this before. I’ll likely repeat it again at some point. But if you ain’t inclusive, then I don’t wanna boogie ’round your balefire. I think there are more people who feel like I do every day. I think these exclusive viewpoints that make a demon of the Other are fading into the past. I think the future is bright.

So have fun at PantheaCon and be certain to post updates and pictures to make me green with envy! I’ll see y’all next year!

As I have been accused of propagating rumors, I’m including this statement made 9 months after the original incident at the 2011 Pcon. I leave it to you to judge which version of the incident seems to be reasonable and accurate:

Unbeknownst to me, several gender equality activists had pre-planned a protest at PantheaCon regarding the issue of gender-and-sex-exclusive spaces. Unbeknownst to me, this group had already contacted the Pagan Newswire Collective letting them know that they planned this action. Unbeknownst to me, they were outside protesting our ritual while we were figuring out our technical difficulties, and saying that we excluded trans women. THE AMAZONS HAVE NEVER TURNED A TRANS WOMAN AWAY AT THE DOOR OF ANY OUR RITUALS. We believe in personal integrity. We believe that in women’s culture, if a woman sets a boundary about her preferences, other women will honor that boundary. We believe that if any woman is in need of healing and is prepared to participate respectfully, lovingly and kindly in a ritual for such, she should have it. We do not do penis-checks or pat-downs. WE DO ASK THAT ALL PARTICIPANTS AT AMAZON RITUALS BE ABLE TO BE NAKED AND ALLOW THEIR YONIS TO BE PRESENT IN THE RITUAL SPACE for the purpose of a particular type of visceral experience, much the same way others hearken to the witches rune and gather naked at their own rites for their own purposes. There are many women, both cis- and trans-, who struggle with public nudity. There are many women, cis- and trans-, for whom this type of ritual might be triggering. There are also many women, cis- and trans-, who do not feel called to this particular type of worship. We support thoughtfulness and personal responsibility in the matter of selecting the rituals that will be most personally helpful, creating the necessary boundaries for any specific type of work one feels called to do, and respecting the boundaries of others, whether we share those boundaries and agree with them or not.

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