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Monday, June 15, 2015

Morrigan's Call Retreat 2015

A ritual honoring Badb at the Retreat

   I have just returned from the second annual Morrigan's Call Retreat and once again find myself sitting here trying to put into words an experience that is really impossible to describe. Last year the Retreat was new and smaller, fewer people, a wild and otherworldly location, and the energy of the entire weekend was a challenge to step up and answer Her call. This year was very different: more people, a new location that had more of civilization to it, and an energy that was not about hearing Her call as much as about reclaiming ourselves and our own power in this world.
   Some things did remain the same throughout. We saw an amazing mix of people from every possible background, witch and Wiccan, Druid and CR, Avalonion and eclectic, coming together to honor Her with one voice. We saw the same sense of kinship across lines that normally sharply divide, created by the common ground of a shared respect for the Great Queens. And we saw the same spirit of community ensuring that people were taken care of, that jobs were done, that when the unexpected happened there was always someone there to step up and make sure it was covered. Oh, it was far from perfect, and there was frustration and displeasure and things that went entirely off the plan but somehow the diverse strands were woven together anyway.
   The first day, as always, was the most chaotic, with people arriving and settling in, the Temple being set up through community effort and donations of material and sacred items (for the duration of the event). There were several great classes the first afternoon that I would have loved to attend, but I was teaching a workshop myself and then participating in the ritual. All of the ritual's at the Retreat are part of a larger arc, first cleansing, then challenging, then blessing; participants face the three Morrigna one at a time and, if circumstances are right and the priestess is able, may face Her in truth as She is channeled, aspected, or otherwise chooses to appear during ritual. The first night's ritual was dedicated to Badb and was very much about releasing and washing away what need to be let go of. The ritual itself was done next to a river and due to unanticipated circumstances started after dark with only a single fire at the center of the ritual space to illuminate the area. I cannot speak for the people who attended but I found it both a test of our commitment to Her and a very sacred experience.
the main altar in the temple

  The second day began on very little sleep and with a packed schedule ahead. I had two workshops during the day to teach and a second ritual to help with. My first workshop was directly after breakfast and was on the topic of Macha in mythology, always a fun subject. I was able to attend only one workshop all weekend and that was Jhenah Telyndru's class on Morgan and Avalon, but I enjoyed it and learned a new method of meditation called embodiment that I look forward to doing more with. I co-taught a workshop on grounding, centering, and shielding with Mayra Rickey and Melody Legaspi-Seils which I think went very well. Throughout the day I had many great random discussions with people and I both reconnected with old friends and made new ones. The second ritual was for Macha, and was - not surprisingly - the one I anticipated the most since she is the Goddess I am dedicated to. It focused on the theme of facing Her blade and declaring what you would fight for in life. One of my tasks as Her priestess is to carry Her sword in this ritual, and I am always honored to do it.
  After ritual there was a community feast and concert by Mama Gina, who is an amazing storyteller and singer that truly, I think, deserves the title of bard. Hearing her perform her song "Ruby" live raised the hair on my arms; its so much more evocative live than recorded (although that is still worth hearing too). There seemed to be a nice feeling of conviviality among everyone as we shared food and great music together. The cake that the caterer, Dawn DeMeo, had prepared for the feast was beyond amazing, and I must add that she made a second smaller cake for those of us who couldn't have the gluten/regular flour version which was equally amazing. (And yes, for anyone wondering, the first pieces went as offerings, to be sure that the Gods and spirits shared the feast too).

The epic cake from the feast
   The third day began with breakfast and a panel discussion on honoring the Morrigan, during which I hope I didn't talk too much. It's a subject I have so much passion about that I'm afraid I can't help but want to talk about it a lot. I know my fellow panelists are amazing people, and I loved the diversity of experience and opinion that we brought to it. There was a charity raffle for the Wounded Warrior Project. The raffle draw was great fun and people really seemed to enjoy it. I had donated a book or two and Wouldn't you know the one time my ticket was called it was for my own book? (They let me substitute a different item, but it was quite funny).
   Afterwards I had to prep for the final ritual, dedicated to Morrigan as Anu and to people reclaiming their sovereignty. In the ritual people were asked to come forward and place their hands on a stone, representing the stone of sovereignty, and to say out loud if they were ready to reclaim their power. This was meant to be a simple act but as sometimes happens it became a bit more complex. Everyone also received a small rough ruby as a symbol of having gone through the three rituals and claimed a place - symbolic, literal, or however each person chooses to incorporate it - as one of Her ravens. For that, truly is not for us to decide but for the individual to find meaning in, based in how the rituals effected them personally.
    In each ritual I did my best to serve Her, and Them, and my community. I wore a small silver pendant, of the type that people keep ashes in to commemorate loved ones; this pendant carries clay from Uaimh na gCat, the Cave of Cats, from Cruachan. The earth was a gift from a friend who visited there long ago, and carefully kept the wet clay that coated her clothing when she came out, saving it as it dried. I felt that having soil from her sacred place present at the rituals was significant for helping to have Her present as we called Her in to a new place. One of Her other priestesses, dedicated to Badb, bled into the river as the river took its due before the first ritual, and in the first Her people called her with chants and shouts and screams. And I truly believe she answered with Her presence.
   I received some personal messages through various means throughout the weekend, through an amazing Avalonian priestess and through omens and portents, messages of empowerment and of affirmation. It will not be easy to move forward in the strength other people are telling me I have, or that I know she wants for me but I will try. I will try.
    The Morrigan's Call Retreat was once again an amazing experience. I will never cease to be amazed at seeing so many people from so many backgrounds and who follow such different paths coming together in fellowship. Knowing that we can overcome these differences to come together and honor the same Goddesses without argument or judgment gives me such hope. And the irony that a Goddess of War can inspire such unity and fellowship among Her followers is beautiful and joyous and somehow entirely appropriate.
The river

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Monday, June 1, 2015

On Being *That* Guy

  Everyone knows that guy*, the person who is always one of the first ones to speak up about paganism or polytheism, even though they don't really know that much about it. The one who puts down other religions while simultaneously complaining bitterly about religious persecution. The one who is certain that all the debunked bad history is actually true, from the Burning Times (tm) to all-male Druids, from the Golden Age of Matriarchy to the ancient neolithic Wiccans. And no amount of discussion, logic, or evidence can dissuade that guy from their very loud opinions. That guy is the one who makes more experienced people wince or roll their eyes, or in some cases lose their tempers.
   We're all quick to complain about that guy, to criticize and, if we're honest, to go after that guy one way or another: to try to prove them wrong, or teach them, to show them up, or maybe just shut them up. When that guy appears in a discussion, with their loud declarations and boundless belief, you can watch the newer people's eyes widening in confusion and uncertainty and the more expereinced people bristling and girding for battle. We commiserate with each other, present a united front, and advise everyone else not to be that guy. No one gets less sympathy than that guy.
  The thing is - we were all that guy, once upon a time. Maybe not as loudly, or as spectacularly. Maybe not at a time when social media made being that guy a ringside event that people need popcorn for. But we, at least most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, went through that phase in our spirituality where we bordered on zealot and our beliefs were like boulders, even when those beliefs were spun of wishful thinking and fantasy. Most of us have had that time when defending the faith was a badge of honor, even if we were defending it against dragons that looked a lot like windmills to everyone else. If you didn't, if you avoided ever, even once, being that guy, then good on you but I think its something most of us go through. I certainly look back now at a certain, shall we say, enthusiastic period of my spiritual life with a blush and a shrug.
   I'm writing about this today because, as strange as this might sound, I think we need to give that guy a break. When they are foaming at the mouth over things that seem like shadows to us, when they are exuberantly insisting that fantasy is history, when they are loudly declaring their personal spirituality to be the entirety of paganism for everyone, everywhere, I think we need to remember what it felt like to be in that place in our own journey. When that outer passion was maybe covering an absolute terror of being wrong, when that exuberance was disguising a desperate desire to fit in and belong somewhere. Think back to what made you that guy, once upon a time, and try to have a bit of empathy for someone else who is perhaps in that same place. And maybe ask yourself why that guy bothers you so much to begin with.
   Don't stop not being that guy of course, and don't stop living and speaking your own truth. And by all means let that guy know there are other options, other ways, and for the love of the Gods better history. But instead of doing it with words aimed like a sword point or arguments that land like fists, maybe try to listen to what's really being said, and the message behind what's being said, and answer with kindness and an open dialogue.
  It's an idea anyway.

*guy used here in a gender neutral sense, applicable equally to males or females. And yes I really do talk that way in real life.

Copyright Morgan Daimler