I spent the majority of the day driving home from Minnesota (8 hours this time because I made several pit stops) but I wanted to wish everyone a joyous and vibrant time of hope with the Vernal Equinox today if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and a blessed time of abundance and joyful harvest at Fall Equinox if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Minneapolis area was still stuck with snow (three feet of it in the vicinity of my hotel) but I was so happy the further and further I traversed southeast through Wisconsin and then reaching Illinois to see a complete and total absence of snow.
And when I arrived home, my courageous little daffodils were pushing their way up through the seemingly dead dirt of my garden to announce the arrival of Spring. Blessed Be!
We’re well into the night as I begin typing this entry. My heart feels weighed down with melancholy. It’s hard to believe that this amazing weekend Pagan conference experience has ended. I couldn’t imagine driving back 7 hours to get to my Illinois home this evening on the heels of another intense day of learning, of appreciating the power of our community, and of holding space for the raw emotions that came up during this afternoon’s panel discussion on “The Future of Paganism.” Hence I am very glad I had the sense to stay here another night and process my experiences through my writing.
I am thinking of what Kristoffer Hughes mentioned in his Mythology workshop yesterday on how all of us are tasked with going on The Hero’s Journey. This conference experience has felt like such an archetypal journey, layered on top of the literal physical journey to get here. The most important and daunting lesson for the Hero after the mission has concluded is to reintegrate the lessons they gleaned in the Otherworld with the life they lead in their community going forward. I know I will need time to decompress and continue to process this amazing Paganicon 2023 experience. I’m sure my long drive home tomorrow will have my Deep Mind busy at work as my Alpha Mind pays attention to my vehicle’s GPS. At any rate, here is my summary of the wonderful things I saw and did today.
On this second full day of Paganicon, March 18, I recognized that my body-mind has its limits. I did attend a full plate of workshops (four total) that began earlier in the morning than they did yesterday, but I made sure to decompress between content-heavy sessions (sometimes it’s not easy having your brain run in “sponge mode” absorbing new information for hours on end) with some walking about and stretching my legs and my dollar bills y’all in the fun-filled aisles of the Vendors’ Gallery. I called it “quits” on the workshops altogether at 3:45 p.m. so that I could quickly grab the mead offering I’d specifically brought for The Morrighan. A Morrighan Meetup was being organized by my friend Gerrie in the party suite run by the Druids of the Midwest and I didn’t want to miss out!
Tonight is also the night of the Equinox Ball and I did bring a gown and mask (my ensemble is meant to evoke a specific character) and thus do plan on attending so I’ll also have to write this post in stages. Here we go!
Today (Friday, March 17) was an incredibly full first day at Paganicon. Even before the workshops began, I spent 90 minutes volunteering to help a friend unload her cargo van outside the hotel (in the fabulous 17° sunshine) of shelving and her original (and quite heavy) multimedia works of her art she would be showcasing at the Art Show. The experience definitely counted as my cardio and my strength training workout for the day! Thankfully I’d had a hearty breakfast beforehand (food in the hotel restaurant as opposed to my road trip staples of cereal bars and Fruit Roll-Ups strips), and, more importantly, three cups of coffee, so I felt more than alert by the time the first of my three workshop intensives began at 10:30 in the morning.
As I begin typing this post near 9:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time, USA, a blizzard is raging outside my hotel room in Plymouth, Minnesota. I give thanks to all my Holy Powers I’ve been fervently praying to for weeks that everything would fall into place so that I could take a badly needed self-care break and escape here to Paganicon 2023, a hotel-based Pagan conference that draws Guests of Honor and hundreds of attendees from near and far. The organizers of Paganicon, the fabulous folks who also organize the annual Twin Cities Pagan Pride, like to hold this conference the weekend preceding Spring Equinox. The last time I attended was my first-ever visit, and you can read about my many adventures from four years ago starting here. There are workshops and rituals, a Pagan Art Show, a vendors’ room, a concert tomorrow night featuring Sharon Knight and Winter, and a Masquerade Ball. You can get your runes read, have a Reiki healing session, or just chill with friends at the Fireside Lounge or in one of the many Party Suites located in the Crowne Plaza Minneapolis West Hotel.
Festivities begin tomorrow and run through Sunday evening. You can register for just a day pass, if you like. And for the first time ever, the general public will be invited to shop in the Vendors’ Room!
Getting Here Is Half the Fun
According to Apple Maps, the drive from my house to the hotel just outside Minneapolis was supposed to take 5 hours, 45 minutes. It certainly didn’t factor the brutal weather and the harrowing white-knuckle driving experience in downtown Minneapolis just prior to the evening rush hour in white-out blizzard conditions, so all told, it took me 7 hours, and that factored a 15-minute rest stop and refilling my gas tank near the gorgeously scenic town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin (where the photo below was taken: you can’t drive through Wisconsin without being reminded to buy some farm-fresh cheese!).
I’m proud to be a Midwesterner, and I love driving through the Midwest. I love driving through Wisconsin in particular: the way that the last Ice Age shaped the landscape thrills me. The undulating curves of the carved out ravines and gorges, towering with limestone “chimney rock” formations; the thick forests of evergreen trees; the powerful rivers, like the Chippewa River and Black Falls River. I blew kisses at both as my Subaru sped overhead on some sturdy suspension bridges, carefully changing lanes to outmaneuver plodding 18-wheeler trucks and slow motorists in the whipping heavy rains (it didn’t start snowing until I literally crossed the state line into Minnesota around 3:45 this afternoon; I left my Chicago home just before 9:30 a.m.).
My shamanic antennae, if you will, always perk up when I drive through Wisconsin and the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. That’s because I sense a very palpable frequency emitted by the ancient, powerful, and, in my experience, wholly benevolent land spirits here. They are very much anchored in the Water Element, especially in Minnesota, dubbed “the land of 10,000 lakes.” There are scores of white birch tree forests as well, and you cannot help but feel the powerful Rune Might of Berkana pulsate through the landscape. These spirits bring healing, profound healing, and I already feel their effects in motion even though Paganicon begins, officially, tomorrow. But the networking and the laughter and the hugs from friends I haven’t seen since before the pandemic began have all started and are bringing me true soulful levels of healing.
Stoking the Fires of Community: The Beauty of Diversity in Pagan Representation
I really appreciate that this year’s theme for Paganicon is “Metamorphosis: Rebirth of a Community.” Like so many others, I have been starved for in-person Pagan gatherings and rituals; Zoom meetings can only do so much, especially when we’re talking about religious worship. And there’s no substitute whatsoever for the warmth of a hug from a friend you haven’t seen in four years who lives across the country!
One of the “denominations” within contemporary Paganism that I appreciate is Druidry. The folks I know in the Chicago chapter of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) are outstanding human beings. I resonate with their Polytheism and their piety. I am always delighted to be invited by Arch Druid Chris Sherbak of Wild Onion Grove to the rituals he leads, all of which honor one of more specific Deities (hence Imbolc is a devotional to Brigid; Samhain is a devotional to The Morrighan, etc.).
I was so thrilled, once I changed my clothes in my hotel room into something femme fatal-y chic and decided I’d saunter over to the Fireside Lounge for a pomegranate martini, to get swept up into the big bear hug of Mr. Sherbak in the lobby. He and Wild Onion Grove administrator Janet Berres had just arrived. Like me, they got the worst of Minneapolis blizzard traffic and it took them 7 hours to get to the hotel from Chicago also. Chris was unloading items to be hung and displayed in the Druid Party Suite he and other ADF Groves were sponsoring at Paganicon. Would I be interested in taking a peek as they set up? Heck, yeah! I volunteered to carry the gorgeous tapestry banner depicting The Morrighan, and felt very honored to do so! I suspect they’ve got great shenanigans in store this weekend for any visitors…and what’s with the werewolf?
I didn’t get to spend much time at Paganicon 2019 in the Party Suites but these are some of the folks I’d love to visit and get to know: The Sidhe Shed, The Wayward Witches Lounge, Sweetwood Temenos, The Satanic Temple, and Llewellyn Publishing! (I brought my business card for the latter: need a freelance book editor with experience in the metaphysical books market? Me me me me me me meeeeeeee!)
The guests of honor this year are Andras Corban-Arthen,Christopher Penczak and Kristoffer Hughes; the latter has flown all the way in from his home on the Isle of Anglesey, Wales! I brought a few books of theirs I hope to have them sign for me. I also am going to attend several workshops led by Traditional Witch, Kelden, author of the most excellent new release The Witches’ Sabbath. And I ran into Jason Mankey in the hotel bar earlier this evening (no surprise there, ha ha!) but I didn’t have my copy with me of his thoroughly researched and beautifully written book, The Horned God of the Witches, for him to sign. I will nab him, though!
There’s so much great content presented by these and other great teachers of their traditions at Paganicon; I take copious notes! This is my journal for this year. Yes, that’s my handwritten Cyrillic. Can you translate it? 🙂
A Time to Reflect and Commune with My Gods and Spirits and The Spirits of This Lovely Land
This view from my room is simply gorgeous. And even at night, as the wind still howls and creates dangerous blowing snow conditions, I feel the Presence of Beauty amidst the unmistakable Death Currents of Energy. Last week, the Twin Cities area was sacked by more than 2 feet of snow and not only has it never melted, more is being added to it as I type this at 10:27 p.m. the night of the 16th.
I don’t know about you, but I feel immensely cozy when I know that I am safe indoors and there is nowhere for me to be other than where I am. It’s like a child-like feeling of security and warmth, the mental equivalent of diving into warm flannel sheets at bedtime.
I also feel emotionally secure because of the blessing of my safe arrival here despite the weather hazards. I always bring some kind of a travel altar with me on my journeys, whether a road trip like this one or an international flight, and I knew first and foremost my ancestral God, Veles, was shepherding me on this journey. In Serbian lore, as Lord of the Dead and the Underworld, Veles presides over a wetlands landscape where the happy dead dwell. He is a Master of Animals, wild and domestic, and the idea of Him sporting a shepherd’s crook, not unlike Hermes Kriophoros, the Good Shepherd, is apt. That’s why I love this statue of Veles I brought with me on this trip. It is from Serbia, sculpted by artist Jovan Petković. Veles is right at home with the frozen marsh my hotel room window overlooks.
Other Powers I have petitioned for Their blessings of protection and safe passage for me during this trip are shown on my travel altar here. From Anubis to Rhiannon to my Orisha, my Holy Powers are represented here, as are my Allies from the mineral/crystal kingdoms (eudialyte, epidote, black tourmaline). Each day I am here I will choose an Ascended Masters card to see Who might be governing the energies of that day.
Even though I’m an extrovert and I love, love, love chatting up strangers, networking with people, and hearing peoples’ stories and sharing my own, I do need time in solitude for processing the healing energies that are already pouring forth their blessings on me. The best vehicle for processing, for me, is time in devotional ritual to my Gods and Spirits. I love beginning my day with prayer. And since my petitions have been answered as far as bringing me here safely, I am going to have to carve out some time, weather permitting, to go near the marsh and offer the tobacco I brought as a thank-you gift.
In addition to prayer, I love journaling. I brought with me a handmade journal I crafted during a Chicago public Pagan event in 2014. Looking at it brings me joy, as does reading my prayers, affirmations, and paging through my collage of inspired images that connote the Divine. Have a look.
So tell me, my friends: do you honor your religious practices when you travel? How do you keep the lines of communication open with your Holy Powers? What brings you the comforts of home, spiritually speaking, when you travel? I’d love to hear from you!
Well, it’s getting late for me and after the long but satisfying day this has been, I will sign off for now. A full day of Paganicon 2023 programming begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. sharp! I look forward to reporting at the end of each day; thanks for reading! Blessings bright!
When something extremely good happens to me as the direct result of the intervention/intercession of a spirit, my policy is to publicly praise that spirit. Hence this blog post expressing my absolute gratitude and humility for the profound healing gift given to me by the spirit of the late Leonard Charging Crow and, through him, his totem of the mighty Black Buffalo Spirit.
Holiday traditions take on an even greater importance for me now than they did years ago: as nearly the last member of my family to carry them on, it’s vital for me to participate in them. Cultural traditions impart to us a sense of belonging and continuity. No matter where today’s Serbian Diaspora lives around the world, today’s date, 6 January, is that of Christmas Eve (Badnje Veče, literally “The Eve of the Oak”—pro tip: Christ has nothing to do with these customs) and it brings with it a unique set of cultural customs and traditions that are anchored in Winter festivals meant to placate the Ancestors first and the Old Slavic Powers such as the protective God, Perun, Whose cult is tied to the oak tree, widely venerated across the Slavic world for centuries.
This painful year is book-ended by horrific losses to me: my father’s sudden death in January, and on this last day of the year, my beloved animal companion of the last 15 years and 3 months, Lord Beowulf, is dead.
We’re nearly three hours into the Autumnal Equinox from my Northern Hemisphere vantage point in Chicagoland. Fall Equinox, or Second Harvest, is one of my favorite Sabbats to celebrate. I honor my Holy Powers in this gilded season and watch the foliage of my local treescape transform from green to gold. The dying year is prepared for its final resting place in Winter’s embrace. With every falling leaf, I submit to Divine Mystery and ask for the guidance of my Goddesses and Gods to see me through the season of lengthening shadows, while I remember with thankfulness all the forms of abundance my Holy Powers have bestowed upon me.
This is one of my favorite times of the year! I cheerfully wish those celebrating May Day / Beltane tomorrow in the Northern Hemisphere and All Hallow’s / Samhain in the lands Down Under wonderful festivals! May your Gods and Spirits gladden your hearts and guide you at this powerfully liminal turning o’ the tides (made all the more potent by a Taurus New Moon eclipse!). For me and for my Slavic forebears, early May marks the beginning of Summer (in the Serbian calendar, it’s the fixed date of St. George’s Day, May 6).
It’s a time of honoring the fructifying powers at work in the land; in particular, it’s a time of cultivating right relationship with the Fair Folk / the Fae / the Vile (pronounced VEE-lay) and demonstrating through your ritual actions that you know how to be a courteous and hospitable neighbor to Them. I’m looking forward to doing my solitary Walpurgis Night ritual tonight, where I honor the Lady of Elphame, and I’m giddily looking forward to celebrating May Day tomorrow with my coven that my dear friend Adam and I formed late last summer. After a winter gestational period of figuring out what to call ourselves and detailing our coven’s brand (yes, I have a background in marketing!), the name came quite suddenly last month while meditating on our Divine Patrons, Hekate and Pan: Oak & Aconite Coven!