Thursday, February 24, 2011

PantheaCon musings

Lilith by Megaera Callisto Lorenz

So I am back from PantheaCon and am getting settled back into my normal life (albeit with more work involved- I have lots to write from P'Con for PNC Bay Area). Before heading to the 'Con, I perused the schedule this year and decided to cover the kids and family programming, getting several tasks accomplished at once: PNC coverage, spending time with Rowan, and networking and learning from other pagan parents and families.

Friday was all about getting settled in and getting my bearings. I had to do on-site registration for the 'Con, wait in a loooong line to get into my room, then we had a meeting of the Bay Area bureau of the Pagan Newswire collective to decide which stories were going to be covered by whom. My partner and I traded off watching Rowan when we were not attending things with him- and Friday was his night to carouse. So I stayed in.

Saturday morning, I went to John Michael Greer's presentation on the Picatrix, which was fantastic. He recently did a new translation and I am anxious to get a copy (I am a geek like that!). Then I attended a ritual for youth ages 8-12 and interviewed the woman who organized and proposed the event. Then I hung out in my suite for a private event where we did workings that set me abuzz.

We hosted a playdate in the Pagan Playdate suite that afternoon, and there I got to meet more pagan families, and some will be joining us for playdates beyond the 'Con! That was awesome and exciting. We are building the organization, one brick at a time.

Lilith, once more
We hosted a small event in the Casa Vesperus suite and then went to dinner. Because we were out of the hotel, I missed a huge hullaballoo when some Dianic witches refused trans women entrance to their 7 PM ritual. I have to say, I have been upset with the Dianics for some time over this very issue (and will not attend most Dianic rituals for this very reason), and was glad that it became an issue for the community to have its say about.

To exclude certain kinds of women because of their anatomy, biology, or life experience is UNFEMINIST, and I cannot abide this kind of bigotry- especially in the guise of religion. It pains me that some people I genuinely like perpetuate this horrible transphobia and unreligious* behavior. While women have been oppressed, that does not make it okay to oppress others. And that is exactly what is happening here- make no mistake.

My patroness, Lilith, wants me to say publicly that this ritual in question was supposed to be dedicated to Her- yet She is not pleased. Lilith does not approve of this bigoted nonsense. Women- please hear her. Bigotry in Her name will not be tolerated. Organizers playing gender police that night may have some nasty life surprises waiting for them as a result. She has a way of getting her way- by hook or by crook. She has a way of making her Will known, and not always pleasantly. These organizers are obviously not familiar with my Patroness, as She is the patron of sexual and gender variance and freaks of all kinds, among other things. What were they thinking (or were they)? She is not simply the cute feminist icon of "I submit to no man!". This goddess isn't about not doing it missionary-style. No scholarly research was done here evidently- because Lilith would not abide any rite that excludes Her people.

There will be a detailed story about this for Bay Area PNC, I am glad to say- as this issue needs to be out there for the community to read about.

Later that evening, I went to the Oracular Seidh. I am very interested in all kinds of oracular work, and this particular tradition has a great history and lore around this form. I was very affected in the session myself, and some of the tenders felt the need to check in on me a couple times. I was fine, but entering just that trance state myself. Afterwards, even though it was my turn to carouse, I was wiped and went back to the suite to sleep!

Sunday, I was part of a panel introducing the Pagan Newswire Collective. I am hoping there were some in the audience that will become future writers for the Bay Area!

I missed the Family Blot in the next time slot, but heard about it from other attendees (Rowan was melting down and needed a nap) while in the Pagan Playdate suite. We (Rowan and myself) tried to attend the "Fairy Tea Party" for kids after his nap, but it was kind of a disaster for us. The organizers had placed a shiny sequined altar cloth (on the floor! with cookies on it!) in the center of the room, and then did not want any of the kids to touch it right away. Um, what?! That's possibly fine for a 5 or 6 year old, but toddlers? Not so much. Rowan could not wait to grab the shiny and delicious things, much to the organizer's chagrin. He is a wild thing, and it was tough reining him in. He ended up running around the space maniacally and bonked his head so badly he got a goose egg on his forehead. (Before you ask, he is fine). It was not exactly good logistical planning for kids under 2. So we left early. I was able to promote the Pagan Playdate storytime afterwards, so that is where we headed next.

We went to dinner again before the big ritual at 9 PM, which was spectacular. I am glad that I started it well fortified! "Call of the Battle Raven: A Morrigan Devotional" blessed us with a visit from the bean sĂ­dhe Herself and I am still mulling over her gifts and demands of us. We all made oaths on her sword to keep throughout the year- and I am excited to start on mine (sorry, but it is a secret!). After the ritual, I was pumped up and on the prowl and organized an impromptu cocktail party at the hotel bar. I got a little tipsy and laughed a lot while Rowan was asleep and in the care of a beloved brother in the Craft (Thanks, Shimmer!).

Monday morning, I got up early again and went to "Passing It On: Creating Sustainable Traditions In Pagan Families" where I networked and interviewed the presenter for my PNC article. There were resources swapped and friends made.

The protesters of the Lilith ritual were given a space to hold a forum/roundtable on this day, which I attended and made my voice heard. I was happy to see that virtually all in attendance were against the discrimination, yet also believed in the integrity of women's and men's ritual space (they just believed, as I do, in self identification as the litmus test for entrance).

What pains me is that while most people I know dismiss this as a "second wave feminist problem" (meaning it is generational and when these die-hards finally pass on, so will this issue), that is not the case- at least here in this instance. Come As You Are Coven, aka CAYA (the CAYA Amazons put on this ritual and run many of their non-PantheaCon women's rituals with the same rules- no trans women) is a fairly new organization that attracts people in their twenties and thirties- many of them new to pagandom and witchcraft- and are certainly a generation or two well past the generation of "second wave feminists". They are, in essence, perpetuating this anti-trans bigotry to a new generation of pagans. This makes me both profoundly sad and incredibly angry.

As I said at the round table on this issue, If religion does not bring people closer to the earth, to each other and to the gods, it is not actually religion. The roots of the word are "to re-tie" meaning to all those three things. Bigotry disguising itself as religion acts as a force of disconnection- and therefore is not religion at all.


  1. They want you to come as you are but then don't like it when people do? ...Idiots (among other things).

    One of my biggest issues with Wicca is the gender polarities built into the imagery; I really think we need to reimagine our symbols to include our realities.

  2. Yey! THanks to you and the others who fought for the trans women...I agree. Being a Woman is much more a "soul thing" than a "physical one", except that going beyond the gender identity thing right now will confuse most people terribly. (Sorry if I'm not very clear.)

  3. And thank you for including Filipino in your web service! Bless you.

  4. Great read - thanks for this! I just subscribed to your blog.

    As for this:

    "My patroness, Lilith, wants me to say publicly that this ritual in question was supposed to be dedicated to Her- yet She is not pleased. Lilith does not approve of this bigoted nonsense. Women- please hear her. Bigotry in Her name will not be tolerated."

    I got the exact same thing from Her. She pushed me to write the essay I posted on my blog. Interesting to see that She's tapping several of us to express Her dislike!


  5. Welcome Anya! It's nice to see another dedicant of Lilith here. I found your blog via the Wild Hunt, and subbed as well.

    You may be interested in seeing the devotional, oracular mask I made for Her here:

  6. Third Ardat-Lili chiming in to say thank you, Lily--and you, Anya--for speaking up on this matter. She's pushed me, too, on this, and it's only by virtue of illness that I managed not to be there and get turned away myself. As I said to my sister, I would have been really tempted to let Lilith drive at that point, and I don't expect She'd have taken "I'm sorry, that body you're riding is too monstrous for us to let in" so very well.
    It's not always easy to speak up, but I find She is not so keen on my backing down. You know how it is.

  7. Thank you very much for this post. About a year ago at this time, I left CAYA after three years' involvement. It is not the discrimination against transwomen from this group that surprised me, but the way it was handled. The event description was written in such a way that one could assume that all were welcome. Yet people who had chosen this from several other activities had no warning whatsoever that they would be denied entry. I imagine this was would have been seriously humiliating for those who were rejected. I am admittedly not a fan of this group, yet it would not have occurred to me that the planners could have been as crass and hurtful as this. Surely there could have been some indication on the program or perhaps by posted flyers that this was what could be expected.

    I agree completely with your response to this discrimination; I have written more on this elsewhere in the blogosphere. And I do not think it has a place at a large, open Pagan festival except perhaps as a private event that is not publicized in the con program.

  8. Welcome all. I woul love to read what you have written, Cathryn. Could you post some links?

  9. Cathryn Meer BauerMarch 1, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Thanks for the welcome. I will try to dredge it up. I commented on the Wild Hunt, and there have been some technical difficulties which may make it difficult to find the thread. Haven't been able to access that thread to date. If I can't, I will return and sum up what I said.

  10. Cathryn Meer BauerMarch 1, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Here you go:

    "I support Sarah Thompson's call for Pantheacon to be safe space for all and to adopt a nondiscrimination policy. I
    am disappointed in the lack of compassion shown by the Dianic leadership toward transgendered people. I have
    difficulty with a spirituality that discriminates in this way, and I cannot share in it at any level. I cannot believe that
    anyone would choose to endure that level of medical treatment unless they were in tremendous psychic pain over
    the disconnect between their spirit, mind, and body. I think transgender individuals have made a brave and difficult
    journey. I would in fact like to see this honored, but I know that's a long time coming. Dianic practice and belief in
    any form will not be an option for me unless and until this policy changes."

  11. Cathryn Meer BauerMarch 1, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    I would like to add that a few weeks prior to Pantheacon, I found myself wondering whether my negative experiences with CAYA had to do with attitudes and behavior stemming from its Dianic roots. In fairness, CAYA did meet some of my spiritual needs for a while. But there were always issues and discomfort on both sides. And when I briefly entered priestess training and saw things from the inside, I found that the differences were indeed foundational, and CAYA and I were not to be. I do not feel that the specifics are best discussed in a public forum, but it is fine to email me about my perspective.

  12. I would like to signal boost a dear friend's swingeing call to action for trans men and women to take back their place in the male and female divine:

    There are also a few recent posts on my blog regarding binary-identified trans folks and third-gender practice, as well as my place in Men's Mysteries as a genderqueer cissexual man, for anyone who may be interested.

  13. On behalf of CAYA Coven, I would like to say that it is apparent that this is an issue that has hit a nerve for many in the Pagan community. We sincerely appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share their point of view on this, in this blog and others. As we encourage open discussion around this topic, we would like to also offer our own views on gender and ritual space, which can be found here-

    Thank you,

  14. Considering the fact that you did not attend the ritual, some of your comments are harsh and, I would say, very broad assumptions. Yes, there is a conversation that needs to take place about gender, inclusion, safe spaces, and all of the associated issues. As a result of many of the rituals that have happened at P-Con for the last several years, those conversations have started. However, for you to assume that there was a lack of education on the part of the ritual leaders is pretty bold. Also, using a goddess as a source of authority to reprimand people seems, to me, the HEIGHT of hubris. What was your intention, here?

  15. @Nadirah: I don't have to attend the actual ritual to dislike the discrimination. I have had conversations with CAYA Amazons on this topic before and will continue to do so. But as for my intention, it is my intention to express my EXTREME displeasure with a group of people who wish to define women according to anything other than self-identification. I thought that was pretty obvious.

    And that was no assumption (of a lack of education). I have spoken with several Amazons about the policy, and it is obvious to me there is much education to be done on these sorts of issues.

    As for "using a goddess"- you have it backwards. She was using me and my blog to make a very pointed comment to you and yours in CAYA.

  16. 1) I did not state my position on the issue at hand. You seem to assume that you know it because you know some people who know me. Your assumption is incorrect.

    2) The voice of "your Goddess" sounds a lot like a combination of a vengeful Christian god and human anger and hurt. That tone is why I thought (and continue to think) that you are using Her name to imbue your words with added authority.

    3) As a woman, positioning yourself as an advocate for trans people, you have a certain amount of privilege in this situation. As a blogger and community writer, you have the power to contribute to the conversation and, possibly change some minds. There are a LOT more people in this country and world who are uncomfortable with trans people (for a variety of reasons) and who would not welcome trans participants in various spaces. The tone you used is not going to foster dialogue nor will it open doors or connect people who were formerly at odds. Which is why I continue to question your intention.

  17. I never assumed your position, Nadirah. You stated it for yourself by challenging the belonging of trans women in female space. You continue to do so in your subsequent comment, which only proves my point. Prejudice is UGLY, and I speak out against it when I see it, period.

    You obviously have no idea what Lilith is like. I am intimately connected to her and feel comfortable making statements on her behalf, as we talk regularly and she has charged me with acting in this world on her behalf.

    Most of Lilith's priestesses that I know have spoken out against the ritual (as CAYA designed it) with good reason. You obviously do not speak for her- she is indeed "vengeful" and strong when she needs to be. She is a calculating dark goddess whose favorite offering flavor is suffering- and I have no issue with that. To believe all goddesses are love and light to the patriarchal bad and dark is naive and foolish. That seems to be what you are implying with your "Christian" comment.

    I have no intention as "acting as an advocate" for trans folks. I am speaking out as an ally- and there is a distinct difference.

    Trans folk can speak for themselves- as can I. I, as a cissexual woman, believe that exclusion of any type of woman from woman's space is bigoted- and I have done enough work in both areas of activism and ritual to know where I stand.

    My "intention" is to speak out on issues of importance and voice MY opinion in MY blog. This is a personal project- unlike the PNC coverage- which I delegated to someone else to write about in an objective way.

    The fact that you presume to speak for "a lot of people" being "uncomfortable" with trans folk is you doing exactly what you accuse me of- speaking for other beings, be they carnate or incarnate.

    It also shows that you have not reached beyond your comfort zone and gone beyond the bigoted minds who do not understand their own privledge.

    Just because a lot of people have an opinion does not make it a right one.

    Thanks for your comments- but we are finished here. If you wish for *actual dialogue* (rather than trying to score points in a semi-pubic forum), you should contact me to meet in person (since you are local).

  18. There were many strong statements made on this page about the CAYA Amazon ritual that took place at Pantheacon in February 2011. CAYA High Priestess, Yeshe Rabbit, recently posted an extensive article clarifying her experience here: I think, in the interest of skillfully holding nuanced and multi-dimensional awareness, it would be valuable to have it linked here to balance some of the confusion and inaccuracies that were expressed about the situation.

  19. Of course a link is a good thing. Rabbit and I met before I left the Bay Area and agreed to disagree on several things. I have always considered Rabbit a friend and a wonderful priestess.

    We continue to agree to disagree on the inclusion of trans women in women's spaces in all cases. I was disappointed that some folks in CAYA would rather dismantle a women's group than be inclusive, but that was not Rabbit's personal perspective- just one she relayed to me from your behind-the-scenes meetings.

    I pray for a world that ceases to discriminate against trans people and will continue to work actively in my communities to make that happen.


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