Toronto Pagan Conference

What a blast! This is a great conference – with a clear emphasis on education. The people are wonderful, warm and welcoming; the topics intriguing; the setting perfect

That’s it in a nutshell. Want to know more? Read on.

There was a solid program on Friday – which I missed (but never again!), including a presentations on conflict resolution from Judy Harrow, building community from Jim Findley and Ethical Withcraft from Deirdre Norman. Absolutely the kinds of topics I would have enjoyed. I heard only good things about Harrow’s talk – apparently it drew a good-sized crowd who felt they learned a lot from her. (I don’t mention the other two becuase I didn’t hear anything, not to imply that they weren’t good.)

I also missed Deo’s talk (The Elemental Square of Opposition) at 9am on Saturday. (Mostly because I was trying to track down the status of my wayward baggage and frantically attempting to recreate my talk scheduled for 10:30. Turns out my talk was actually at 11:30, so I had time to hear the end of Andy Bigger’s talk on alternative approaches to ritual. I thought it was going to discuss ways of doing ritual – either structurally or mechanically – than what is common to much of Paganism. It turned out to be a lecture on the historical roots of ritual – and how what was once non-mainstream became codified. Interesting concepts

My talk went well, despite a lack of sleep a mild fever and a voice that occasionally went away. I drank about a gallon of water and pretty much blew through the three Cs of negative group dynamics – Cohesion, Conflict and Continuity. Yep, 3+ chapters of my book in about an hour. Whew! The group was a little slow to start, but we ended up getting some great questions discussed and I really enjoyed myself. (There were about 20 people there, a good crowd for such a small ‘con).

Afterwards, I went to lunch and ended up sharing a table with two participants. Psych from Spiral Nature (who came to my Cyber Paganism talk last year) and Liana (my apologies if I misspell your name – that’s what it sounded like and I never saw your badge to double check!). Amy Taylor, the programming coordinator joined us and we had a great time talking about the Con and how it’s grown over the three years it has been in existence.

Somehow, I’ve ended up committing to speak again next year—this time on the topic of Pagan Clergy (the next book I want to write, quite frankly). Can we have a clergy without physical structures, like churches? If so, what role would they fulfill? I’m looking forward to noodling about it and having an informed dialogue with such an interesting community.

I then joined a panel with Helmut, Pamela Fletcher and Amanda Hyde. Since Helmut is a blacksmith by trade, he travels throughout Canada and has a lot of contact with many different Pagan communities. Over this last year he was struck by how many witches he was meeting had no idea there was a larger community available to them. I was there because of my perspective as a witch who practices exclusively online, Pamela is a co-founder of TPC and a long time organizer of Kaleidescope (now in its 18th year), Amanda is the organizer of Hamilton PPD. All of us have a lot of experience with reaching out to our community, and beyond.

Some of the questions raised were: are we truly reaching out? If so, is it far enough? Is it possible we are worried about reaching people who don’t really want to be found (related to that comes the question: aren’t we a religion of self responsibility and Seekers? Shouldn’t others seek us, rather than being sought?)  Once woman brought up the fact that we used to go to bookstores to find out about what is going on, but the bookstores have closed down. I pointed out that what we are re-creating in cyberspace are the gatherings we had/have/want to have in physical life.

It was a good discussion – I’ll be interested to see what, if any, decisions arise from it.

Next year, I will plan to take more time off from work so that I can attend all three days. It’s a great ‘con in so many ways. As a presenter, I felt taken care of – they give us candles and incense as gifts. This is the first, and only, group that has ever – and I mean EVER – thanked me for presenting. The schedule is completed and posted almost a month beforehand, and it is not changed except for emergencies. The con, in its third year mind you, is not only breaking even, its paying off the debt from previous years.

Organized. Interesting. Educational. Fun. This is how I would describe TPC in a nutshell.

Oh! I almost forgot – the presentations are recorded onto a CD available for purchase. More than 25 lectures will be available after March 15th for $20 (Canadian, I think). Its one of the ways TPC raises money for the Con each year. I strongly recommend it (I know I’ll be buying one because I want to hear Harrow, Daniel Girard’s Building Community, and Michelle Belanger’s lecture on Dream Walking.)

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