Last weekend I had the pleasure of being a guest of honour at Iowa’s Lammasfest, along with fellow g-o-h Ivo Dominguez Jr. and musical guest Aria Wylde. A long-time correspondent and online friend of mine is on the organizing committee and she thought that I could contribute something useful to the Pagan life of eastern Iowa. Well, I am not a traveller by nature, but they bought me a plane ticket, offered me a place in a tent, and so down I went to Cedar Rapids.
What a nice group of people! There were about eighty people there, including a group of friendly and well-behaved children, in an open grove of trees – shaded but not crowded. Lammasfest has been running for sixteen years and many of the people were regulars, drawn from Iowa and surrounding states, although they were welcoming to newcomers and certainly made me feel at home.
Sixteen workshops, a children’s program, main ritual, opening and closing. It was a pleasure to collaborate with Ivo on the main rite, and I led a rousing spiral dance in the opening rite and taught a workshop on making mead as well as “Connecting with your Matron and Patron Deities” workshop. But mainly what I did was schmooze -some fine conversations, with Ivo about organization, with a Gardnerian HPS about sex magic, Great Rite, and gender flexibility. I was part of the “Consent Culture” panel and that discussion, which was very good.
It’s been more than half my life now, most of my adult life, that I’ve been a Wiccan and the communities have evolved and changed (plus I’ve moved into different geographic communities, too). As I’ve been getting out more into the community, travelling around a bit this year, I’m thinking about where we may be going.
There was a time, early on, where I was repeatedly told that “men must have nothing to do with the Goddess” which was irritating, but that stuff has pretty much died away. The hard-core essentialists now seem so out-of-touch and unaware, it’s embarrassing.There was also, around about the same time, but continuing later, where sexual openness verged on sexual exploitation, and the hardcore butch-femme distortion of heterosexuality was the norm in the Wicca-influenced Pagan communities. Although I enjoyed lots of sex with different Pagan friends, I sure didn’t like that there were some guys (and a few women) pushing that and making people (mostly women) feel that they had to have sex to be good Witches. And one thing that was very heartening was that, here, at this small community festival in a rural area of the United States, there was a strong and thoughtful panel and community discussion of consent culture.
I don’t want to make blanket statements. For me, a perspective that likes women and honours their independent personal power, that likes the body, all sizes and shapes, and that genuinely works to broaden the images of masculinity, has been very positive. And a perspective that doesn’t retreat into moralistic or puritanical reaction but embraces sex, with all of its complexities and differences, as an unalloyed good thing between consenting adults is a good thing.
The ways the Patriarchy / kyriarchy damages men is different from how it damages women. Having a spiritual home that at least begins to honestly address these things is a very good thing, particularly now that we’ve moved past that “all women are” and “all men are” stuff (at least most of the time), even in smaller communities, outside of the cities and radical hotspots.
We’ll see where we go with all of this rethinking. It looks very hopeful from here.
There’s a couple of good resources out in print right now that I’d like to recommend: Christine Hoff Kraemer and Yvonne Aburrow “Pagan Consent Culture; Building Communities of Empathy and Autonomy” (Hubbardston MA: Asphodel Press). Yvonne Aburrow’s website http://www.inclusivewicca.org/ is a resource for inclusive covens of witches and Wiccans.
And, of course “The Esoteric Philosophy of Love and Marriage” by Dion Fortune. Even though it’s a hundred years old and you have to scrape away some unfortunate language, Fortune’s understanding of a multi-polarity energy exchange is just so insightful.