A November miscellany: the All Gods event

My All Gods event/impromptu goodbye party went well, and as with all things new, it had a bunch of rough spots. I’m very excited to help with the Bay Area Hellenic Community’s version at PantheaCon this year, because this is a concept that I really believe in–me, Cara, the human; not Cara the priestess or Cara the political gadabout. It just really makes me happy to see different deities being represented by those who love them. The more the merrier, in my opinion. Come together, don’t pull apart. Our strength is in numbers. The real magic occurs in the interaction with other people. Together we can create more than any of us could envision or pull off on our own. (Fill in your own cliché here.) It’s all true, IMHO.

(I never understood Solitaries, honestly. Even when I was Wiccan, I didn’t understand it. If you’re geographically isolated, I understand that; that’s a reasonable concern, and as someone who became pagan in the Midwest in the mid-90s, I feel your pain. Maybe that’s why I’ve stuck with Heathenry so long; we’re ALL about community. Hate us or love us, we’re all in the community together. A horn shared is much better than one drunk alone. /end rant)

But anyway, back to the All Gods. I’d been doing Interfaith stuff and Hellenic stuff along with my Heathenry for a year or so, and just felt a really strong push to create an event where many gods could be worshiped together with other people who wouldn’t normally get a chance to worship together. My grand vision, now that I think back on it, was kind of modeled on the Brethren Court pirates’ meeting from Pirates of the Caribbean, except with less killing. In other words, people representing different trads and different Gods, all coming together to honor their Gods in the way they chose with the rest of us either respectfully joining in or waiting respectfully for the chance to honor our own Gods. (Have I mentioned that I’m an INFP? Idealism FTW.) And to a certain extent, the event did turn out that way–the Brethren Court minus the killing, but likely as much of the drinking. Many Gods were hailed, off-color jokes told, food eaten, connections made. But (as far as I know) we did not release any Goddess from her human form. Maybe we’ll aim for that next round. Still, I think the Gods were happy to a) be honored in front of people other than their usual worshipers, and b) be honored at all.

What we did, and suggestions for next time:

Basically, what we did was this: I booked a great campsite for the event; invited all of the pagan/polytheist groups and people that I knew; and explained the rules of engagement. People arrived at different times with different offerings; and those of us who were there either joined in with the God/ess who was being honored or waited until it was time to honor our own Gods. Aside from the stress of organizing a new kind of event the day before I left town, it went well and I enjoyed it. Some memorable moments: an impromptu round of Hermes’ dick jokes (“Hermes’s dick is so big, every time he gets a hard on there’s a solar eclipse.”) and the Ravens from Berkeley (Diana Paxon and Lorrie Wood) dropping by to lead an Odin blot. Also, a few of us who stayed until the end ended up trancing Freya and Hermes. They both had lots of advice to give, aside from the fact Hermes was annoyed that his medium was tipsy and Freya was cold (though appreciative of the fine selection of chocolates). One of the few bits I remember was Them fighting over our Warder and having a hypothetical discussion debating whether Dionysus and Freya could decide this through Combat Sex, and, if so, who would win. (Dio would fit right in at a Vanic event, is my guess.)

I took away from the experience couple of suggestions for the next time I run this event (or anyone else wants to attempt it).

First, create a event dance card. A timeline. A set list. Whatever metaphor you wish to use. To the extent that you can, get an idea of who will be there and which Gods will be represented. Then, put them in order and make everyone aware of that order. And stick to it.This will help avoid confusion, wasted time, and hurt feelings; and, well, just be more organized. I’m divided on whether the set list should be organized by pantheon/trad or not; personally, I liked it best when we skipped form pantheon to pantheon–first Hermes was honored, then Freya, then Hecate, Hreda (Germanic goddess), then the Morrigan, then back to Heathenry with Odin, etc…

Second, depending on the size of the event and who’s involved, you may need to deal with politics. I highly encourage this event be made up of individuals representing their Gods rather than a bunch of people each representing his or her group. It’s not about the politics and it’s not about the personalities; it’s coming together in a community to honor the Gods.

Third, invest the money to get a decent location for the event. Though it’s unlikely that you’ll find a place with a communal fire pit, natural running spring water, accessible bog, beach, and sauna, it’s a good goal to aim for. I ended up booking a group campsite in a public park on a marsh next to the Bay. It had a huge fire pit, ample space for grilling and food prep, benches, picnic tables, running water, and a permanent restroom. It also had a lot of outsiders walking through or near it, so I, as the person running it, had to spend a lot of time and physical/spiritual energy on the landtaking part of the ritual.

Which leads me to my fourth recommendation: Demarcate and purify the crap out of that space before you get started. Do it before the participants have even gathered and started doing their own cleansing/circle casting/space setting. And if possible, have someone designated specifically to hold the larger space. In All Gods version 1, I ended up doing both the initial intensive landtaking and held the space throughout the event; I don’t recommend it. (Unless, of course, you prefer to facilitate than participate.) Also, let people set/cleanse their space as they wish. We had a variety of ways sacred space was set within the larger space; I don’t think they interfered with each other. (This was possibly due to the fact that everyone who attended the event were people whom I knew were responsible in their own practice and and respectful of others’ practices. YMMV.)

And recommendation number five: I ran this as if it were an Open House, with participants rolling in at different times. I’m not sure if that’s the best way to run these things. It certainly made creating and keeping the order of events a bit more difficult than it could have been.

Finally, six: I also ran this event as a “low-woo” event. I can see different versions of this event being higher woo or with a specific woo focus (say, trancing a deity). The low-woo focus was to allow as many people to attend as possible. Some people are just not interested in or prepared to participate in a high-woo event, but they still have the right to worship their Gods in the way that they see fit. I don’t think the Gods necessarily care if we do “woo” for them or not; again, YMMV.

So, all in all, it was a good first shot at this type of event. I look forward to doing more of them in the future.

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