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Herbs on the ground prepared for ritual dancing

Herbs on the ground prepared for ritual dancing

A Pagan festival is a unique thing.  Although there is certainly a sense of costume and play, unlike a Renaissance Fair the players are not acting a part.  It is an experiment in tribal living, in being in the world the way we would like the world to be.  It is a place where there is no need to hide, or explain, or be afraid of beliefs and practices often misunderstood in the working world.

Teo Bishop was one of the National Guests at this year’s Sacred Harvest Festival.  His blog about this experience is posted on The Wild Hunt.   We also had music and workshops from Kenny Klein whose views on Faerie, quite different from our whitewashed Disney, were well received.  His books on the topic will greatly help the Pagans who work with these tricksy creatures.   David Salisbury is another Pagan author and activist visiting the festival from the DC area.

Too dark and too far away but Teo and Kenny are both waiting to perform

Too dark and too far away but Teo and Kenny are both waiting to perform

I have known Kenny for over 20 years, but it was really nice to meet in person some of the people I’ve only known through their blogs.  Does that count as meeting blogging buddies?  It seems different somehow, both because of the nature of a festival and also because the Pagan blogging community is so much smaller than the blog-o-sphere in general.  I already know I have more in common with these folks than just enjoying their writing.  We’ve friends in common, whether or not we can point to them.  There are always fewer than 6 degrees of separation among Pagans.

I wish I had a photo of Teo and Orion.  Star Foster (developed the Pagan channel on Patheos and who I’ve known personally for a year) organized an early morning sing.  Orion is a morning person and he loves to sing.  Me, not so much – at least in the morning.  So I made an arrangement with Star to get Orion to her workshop.  She sent Teo.  Apparently Teo and Orion had a grand time together sharing songs.  Orion pulled out his German camp repertoire and serenaded the group with Der Vuglbeerbaam, lyrics adjusted for camp.

Lamyka L. took this photo of  Szmerelda and David

Lamyka L. took this photo of Szmerelda and David

Orion and I also had the privilege of picking up Szmerelda when she came in from Chicago.  Szmerelda is featured in Crystal Blanton’s anthology Shades of Faith.  She is a visual artist and ritualist in the Chicago area.   She is also delightful.  When I found my tent filled with water the first time it was Szmerelda who jumped in and bailed me out.  I had met Szmerelda briefly at Pantheacon in February so it was nice to get a chance to actually spend some time getting to know her.

Sacred Harvest Festival is all about the people.  It’s sharing time and space under the beautiful oak trees.  It’s talking about our beliefs and practices and plans.  I presented a few (three) workshops and that was fun.  It was the first time for all three and I find Sacred Harvest Festival a nice venue to try out new things.  Got some great feedback too!

Camping in the oak grove

Camping in the oak grove

In spite of the rain in the tent and the back problems I’m glad we went.  It’s revitalizing to make heart connections with people who share a love of nature and spirituality.  It’s always a joy to see Orion having a grand time.  My campmates and I made good food.  I got treated like a queen visiting Cara’s camp at happy hour. (Her book is Martinis and Marshmallows: A Guide to Luxury Tent Camping.)   And you know from last week I got packed up and sent off without a fuss.  Now the back is slowly healing and the memories are only fond.


The theme of Sacred Harvest Festival this year was shrines.  That’s where I was camping at the beginning of the month and where I also presented two workshops (neither of them about shrines.)

Shrine to Cernunos Irish Lord of the Hunt

I  really enjoy visiting shrines.  I’m fond of the side chapels in churches.  I like walking through cemeteries.  I nod at the statues in Asian restaurants.  I’m happy to stop and rest on memorial benches and enjoy the view.  I readily light a candle, or a stick of incense or drop a bit of libation when invited to participate in the honoring of a shrine.

Visiting a shrine is like meeting the relatives.  It’s a level of intimacy that, although usually not too risky, isn’t something where participating makes everyone who visits comfortable.  A shrine, like the relatives, must be approached with a willingness to simply accept them as they are.  Shrines are a gift to and from those who tend them.

I notice shrines when I visit peoples homes, even when they are tucked away and unremarked upon.  Some shrines are a very conscious part of a spiritual practice.  Some are entirely unconscious as though shrines are hardwired into our genetics.  Photos collected with the dead relatives in one cluster and the living in another are effective ancestor shrines.  Collections of shells from a visit to the ocean or acorns, or stones often honor the memory of a place.   People have shrines to music, and art, and literature which they honor but do not necessarily acknowledge in a conscious way.

An unconscious shrine to love and marriage

In my book, Manifest Divinity, I identify the Divine very broadly.  I suggest that anything that produces that feeling of awe is inherently a manifestation of the Divine.  Shrines, for me, are a way for people to connect with the Divine in their day to day lives.  By visiting them I get a chance to touch the Divine the way others experience it and expand my own experience and understanding.

Buddha in the snow

Here are a few more shrines:

Can shrines be portable? Prayer beads of Earth Conclave

Or temporary? Place setting for a dinner in honor of the Red Dragon

Ancestors of the blood, of the heart or of the spirit can be honored in ancestor shrines

Shrine to Epony. Do you know a girl with a shrine to horses?

I am of the Divine and the Divine is in me.

What shrines do you keep in your home or visit regularly?

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