A couple weekends ago, I went to Many Gods West in Olympia, WA. It was my first time at the conference, and I was very happy that I went. Nikki and her crew put on a wonderful, educational weekend filled with new information, new experiences, and great community.
The hotel itself had just completed a renovation, and they did a great job. The rooms were huge, and the bar was lovely.
I arrived on Thursday evening, after my roommate, Brendan, picked me up from the airport. Thursday night, we were both tired and ended up eating dinner in the hotel bar. It was a great choice as we met a couple of wonderful people who we continued to get to know through the weekend.
Friday morning was mostly devoted to finding friends and getting registered. A few folks who I knew from California came up, and I got to meet a few more friends from California who I hadn’t met before! It’s funny how you end up meeting people at conferences – when those people live just 30 or 40 minutes away from you ☺
The Opening Ritual was lead by Sean Donahue – and I knew that I was in the right place. Although Sean’s opening prayer and ritual were not in the tradition that I practice, there were a lot of overlaps. There were enough overlaps that it felt familiar and welcoming. Here were a group of polytheists who were coming together in community and learning. And that was amazing.
Next up was the Plenary session of a panel discussion on building pagan community. The panel was chaired by Druid and Blogger John Beckett and included ADF’s Archdruid Emeritus Kirk Thomas, Heathen skald and co-founder of the Golden Gate Kindred, Ryan Smith, and the co-founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple and Gods & Radicals, Syren Nagakyrie. It was great to hear everyone’s different perspectives on how to build community. In general respect for each other, a clear path to address disagreements and troublemakers, and a whole lot of work goes into building pagan community.
That evening was a double ritual for me. The first ritual was a ritual to the goddess Rhiannon by Phoenix LaFae and Gwion Raven. The ritual was about handing off the stories that are told to us, about us but aren’t us. We were offered to hand off these stories to Rhiannon – she can help us get rid of them, or at least to carry them for a time.
The second ritual of the evening was the Dionysian Revival ritual by Jason and Ari Mankey. I’ve only been to a Mankey ritual once, and this one was different but just as impressive. We started out with a traditional Hellenic invocation and ended up with a bit of a dance party …. And a trip to the underworld in the middle. It was a great ritual and a lot of fun.
That night I managed to stay up until 5 am talking with people. There were so many great conversations! As a result of the excessively late night, I slept through my planned morning session, but the rest of the day was great.
Saturday, the vendor hall was open, and I got a new rune set, a new journal, talked with a few folks from the Olympia/Seattle area about different Heathen practices and just had a great time talking with everyone in the vendor room. I also spent time in the Community Tea Room hosted by Emily and Raye with tea donated by B. Fuller’s Mortar & Pestle and Radiance Herbs. The teas were awesome, and I’m looking forward to trying more of them in the future.
This day I attended a talk on multi-traditional practice by Willow Moon where he talked about balancing the Witchcraft and Buddhist traditions. Although I am generally pagan, I do work with multiple traditions so understanding how he did it gave me some ideas.
One of the sessions that were planned got canceled due to the presenters being unable to attend, so Alf Herigstad hosted a Sumbel. It was my first Sumbel, and it was a cool experience. After the toasts, a few of us stayed and chatted and drank mead.
The next session that day was the ADF Ritual. The ritual was hosted by Cascadia Grove, and they very kindly let Kirk, Sean and myself have parts in the ritual. Kirk Thomas was the presiding clergy for the ritual. It was a great ritual where we invoked Tailtiu.
That evening consisted of dinner with friends old and new, and an evening of mead and snacks and conversation.
Sunday was the last day of the convention, but the schedule was still pretty packed. The first session was one of the most moving sessions of the convention. Alf Herigstad presented his views on Animal Sacrifice. The workshop included a good grounding in the historical context of animal sacrifice. Alf then went on to describe how his Kindred performs animal sacrifice – from raising the animals to their final moments and how they are honored. It was a very moving workshop, and Alf had most folks in tears at least once.
The second session that I went to that day was a workshop on Gnostic Polytheism and Animism by Sara Star. The workshop started out with the question “Who writes the Myths?” By the end of the workshop, the response was “me!” Each of us has a responsibility to communicate the UPG that aids the community and helps to unwrite some of the harmful stories.
I stayed through Monday and walked around Olympia to check out the cute little town.
Overall the event was awesome, relaxing, educational and all around success. Nikki, Sean, and the Warding crew did a fantastic job of keeping the energies balanced and the convention going well.
I’m looking forward to going to Many Gods West next year.