Earlier this month, I attended Mystic South, a pagan conference, for the first time since the summer of 2019. This was my first Mystic South – and also my first pagan gathering – since the pandemic began. To paraphrase John Beckett, I really needed that. My reasons for skipping things until now should be familiar to many of you, but the last hold out was really vaccines for the littlest ones. I knew it was going to be race to see whether my kid turned 5 first or if the under-5 vaccine came out first, and in the end his birthday came first. The kid stayed with his grandparents for the weekend, but Scott and I, vaccinated and boosted, drove down from Virginia for what ended up being a very necessary immersion in community. We saw plenty of folks we knew from previous years and other events, and I finally got to meet Daniela Simina in person, which was such a delight!
Friday morning started with my solo workshop, bright and early, but despite the hour it was fairly well attended! I facilitated a discussion on navigating fallow times (those periods in our lives when, by choice or by happenstance, we lose contact with spirits and our spirituality and magical practices wane), and I think most folks left having a better idea of their next steps as they try to revitalize and reinvigorate their practices, or support their home communities. [Patreon supporters at all levels will get access to my notes as soon as I update and upload those!]
I also attended David Salisbury’s class, “Shades of the Dead: Encountering humaniod spirits through the lens of witchcraft and modern pagan mysticism”. It seemed like a good idea, as I find my practice drawn more and more into work with the Dead, to get a little bit of perspective from someone else doing parallel work. I came away with a lot of good notes and some thoughts about ways to improve and expand my own practices.
After that I attended JD Walker’s class “A Witch’s Guide to Wildcrafting”, which I liked so much I went and bought the book! One can never have enough herbalism books, after all, and this particular one is really well suited to the urban or suburban landscape, including plants like boxwood and ivy.
That afternoon, I attended Daniela Simina’s presentation, “Goddesses to Fairy Queens in Irish and Romanian Traditions”, based on her paper (which is available on Academia). This is also the topic of her upcoming book, Where Fairies Meet: Parallels between Irish and Romanian Fairy Traditions. It’s part of the Pagan Portals series, and will be available through Moon Books in May 2023. I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in living fairy faith traditions!
Next I attended Jim Dickinson’s workshop on Contacted Traditions, and learned a whole lot of very useful vocabulary and theoretical frameworks, which I’m sure I will be pondering for a while. Much of time was taken up talking about Indwelling (a merging of a human host and an Other, as a permanent and constant bond, unlike Overshadowing, which can be permanent but the presence isn’t constantly noticeable, and very unlike normal mediumship and channeling), and how a tradition with an Indwelling patron can use that contact to stay consistent and focused over longer periods of time. This really wasn’t a concept I was familiar with, especially not the historical examples shared, and it was very interesting overall. Jim’s stated reason for giving the workshop was that this is a tumultuous period, and historically that has attracted the attention of beings who would like to guide humanity’s growth, and he thinks we’re going to be seeing a lot more Contacted Traditions springing up, and hoped that this information, when shared, might give some context if people in our communities have experiences being contacted in this way.
Friday night I attended John Beckett’s ritual for Tower Time, which was a moving experience. The Storm is here, he told us; we just need to decide what we’re going to do. Attendees were asked to pick either The Hermit, The High Priestess, or the Knight of Swords (or maybe Wands? my notes are incomplete, whoops). I chose the High Priestess, which I’m sure comes as no great surprise to basically anyone who knows me! I was slightly surprised and entirely delighted to see that the card I picked (because there were printed cards for everyone) had artwork by Ashley Bryner of Firesighted! I knew she’d been working on a few tarot cards but I hadn’t known they were for this ritual!
Saturday started bright and early as well, with a workshop by Corey Hutcheson and Laine Fuller (of the New World Witchery podcast) on “Junk Drawer Magic” which was a fun little jaunt into one of my favorite kinds of folk magic – doing witchy shit with whatever you’ve got lying around. They presented a few types of example, and then had us all pair up and go through our pockets and purses. It was just as funny and educational as the podcast, and I’m glad I went!
After that I attended Beckett’s class on Pagan Monasticism, and, well, last week when registration opened, I signed up for the longer course. I recommend reading his blog post about it (and his review of the book that will be the textbook for his course), if you’re interested in the topic. The course starts August 4th.
I brought along a knitting project and sat on the floor for Craftivism: Global and Local by Debra Burris, and I really felt like I had found My People. From supporting Ukrainian knitting pattern authors, to the Shave Em to Save Em program, to the AIDS quilt, ways to support BLM and MMIW, to boycottting TERFs wherever they pop up, Debra led us through a discussion of a million ways crafts can be incorporated into activism work, and I left feeling inspired.
I attended Serendipity Wyrd’s rune ritual as the last thing Saturday before preparing for my own ritual, and I’m glad I did. It was a different cosmology than I am used to, but that didn’t really hamper my ability to get to where I needed to be – which was the Well, with the Norns. Their words were for me only, but I am really grateful to Serendipity for providing the framework for that experience. As my sacrifice for the knowledge I gained, I’ve pledged to finish my fox bone rune set – and do all the journeys to meet the spirits and co-create my own rune poems – before the last day of November.
My guild, the Potomac Oracular Seidr Guild Ondvegisulur, put on a seidr ritual on Saturday night. Three of us came, to sit as Seers, myself included. It was a pretty intense experience, but one that might require a whole other post to come. Suffice to say for now, that it was (as ever) an honor and a pleasure to serve my community in that way, and I hope people got the answers they were seeking.
Sunday morning I began with another of Jim Dickinson’s workshops, this one on Birthing Healthy Covens. I had come in with thoughts about some communities I am a part of, and left with a lot of notes that might someday be incorporated into something new. While it was coven-focused, most of the information could apply to any sort of pagan group, and there were a couple of lightbulb moments where I was almost embarrassed something fundamental hadn’t previously occurred to me. (“Do the foundational magic before you start the group”, he said, and “consider astrological timing” – what do you want your group’s birth chart to reflect?) But live and learn! I’ve been involved in groups, but I haven’t really been instrumental in getting one off the ground, and this class gave me a lot to think about, both in terms of new groups, and ways to improve existing ones.
The last workshop I made it to before I basically collapsed and we decided to head home, was by David Salisbury again, on Magical Activism. I was pleased to find out that the book this workshop was somewhat sourced from contained not just the ideas for protective/defensive workings that were the first half of the class, but also some more offensive/active style workings, like he mentioned in the second half of the class. I looked at the bookstore afterwards, but if there had been any books for sale they were already gone – so I bought one online instead!
There were so many more workshops I wish I’d been able to attend, but I between needing food, and rest, and prep time for my ritual, and having to pick just one from each block, I couldn’t make it to them all. Hopefully some of those folks will do some of those workshops again later, and I’ll be able to catch them then. I was so tired, y’all, I completely blew through all my spoons – but it was so, so, worth it.
This blog has been crossposted from squarespace.