Today I went to a couple of presentations. First up was the Paganism and New Media panel. mythworker
did a presentation on this last year; this was, I think, more sophisticated and covered a broader territory, as well as bringing in new approaches. The panelists included Thorn Coyle, Star from Patheos.com, a board member from Cherry Hill Seminary, and one of the tech people from Llewellyn, with mythworker
as the moderator. One of the issues addressed this year was e-publishing, which hadn't really been brought up last year at all that I recall. I noted the issues I'd had with Circle of Stones
being in and out of print, and how the print edition goes for ridiculous prices online, while I'm now selling a PDF of the book for the original cover price, yet folks still want hardcopy -- they buy the PDF, but I can completely understand the desire for paper copy.
The second panel I went to today was the presentation "Are Hindus Pagans/Are Pagans Hindus," offered by four Hindu practitioners from a national Hindu association. I thought it was an extremely positive and interesting presentation. Topics addressed included the history of Hinduism in America, spiritual similarities between Hinduism and Paganism (pluralism was the watchword of the panel), common cause between Hindus and the Pagan community regarding American culture and western culture generally, in terms of coerced conversions, activism, political involvement, and civil and human rights, and an examination of how we can work together. Issues of potential cultural appropriation were also addressed; this was seen as a problem if it was a commercial appropriation, but when Pagans approach Hindu deities as sincerely interested parties for spiritual purposes, the panel's attitude was that the deities are big enough to be just fine with being approached by non-Hindus.
There was a good deal to think about in the presentations and I was impressed with the speakers. They seemed very interested in working together with the Pagan communities to strengthen all our positions in resisting oppression by the monotheist majority when it seeks to marginalize or actively destroy our communities. It has not been unusual for poor Hindus in India to be bribed into conversion -- "we'll send your children to a good college, we'll give you medical care, we'll feed you if you convert." Yet this conversion is then taken to an extreme, where the new converts, who are really only going into it to try to make life a little better for their families, are coerced into desecrating not just their own altars at home, but the altars of their families or even their local temples. This sort of thing is completely disgusting, but it's not at all unusual behavior for evangelical Christian missionaries in Asia, India, and Africa. It's not at all unlike what has happened to the Native peoples in North America, where cultures were destroyed, children stolen from their homes, and entire groups of people slaughtered.
I think there's a lot of really good work to be done between the Pagan and Hindu communities in the future. I was absolutely delighted to see a strong Hindu presence here this year and hope that they'll continue coming to meet with us at PCon and under other circumstances, creating strong ties between all our communities as we all struggle for our rights as spiritual and religious minorities in a mostly-monotheist society. We need to dismantle the privilege that Christianity has in the United States; its status should be one of many, not the dominant force in American society. We cannot be equal when one religion is more equal than all the others. It's a continuation of the same aggressive, disrespectful force that allows military chaplains to believe they're simply exercising their freedom of speech when they attempt to force deathbed conversions on non-Christians and atheists
. To quote from the Christian Post
article, "Birch informed the audience that he would oblige to help them with their faith but would not withhold himself from helping a dying soldier or a soldier with no faith get right with God."
After the panels, I headed up to spend some time with the Sisterhood of Avalon folks, talking with them about some potential ideas for pilgrimage themes and places. It turns out that one of the gals I was talking to is an old friend of joyful_storm
from Atlanta, and she wandered in while I was talking. One of the ideas I was suggesting was a Sequana pilgrimage, dealing with that Goddess and the shrines and artifacts at the source of the Seine river; since joyful_storm
had gone to the Seine a couple of years ago to find information about Sequana and had already been to many of the sites, I thought she would have some excellent suggestions for this, and I think both of them are going to talk this over. They're also talking about proposing a Pagan pilgrimage panel for next year's con, which I think would be a fantastic idea.
Eventually, I had to go get ready for the 11pm Bakkhoi Antinoou
ritual drama. I got dressed up in the most bling anyone is ever likely to see me in for a very long time, with my brocade silk jacket, one of my shiny silk scarves in iridescent colors, sparkly bracelets, and lots of green silk. It was pretty spiffy, if I may say so myself. The play involved the death of Antinous, and the Otherworld happenings surrounding his deification. We had a ton of fun, and I think the audience did as well. Tomorrow morning at 11am we have the "Antinous is Not Just for Pretty Boys" panel, consisting of several of the mystai of the Ekklesía. It'll include me, ogam
, and tristissima
talking about the various ways we deal with Antinous, and what the whole thing means to us, considering the general impression of Antinoan cultus is that it's supposedly only for young pretty gay guys. None of us actually fit that particular model, of course. A lot of people ask what Antinous would have to do with them, given that they're not gay men, but most of them would never ask what Brigid would have to do with them if they're not women who are poets, smiths, and healers. I think it's a paradigm issue, really.
And now, to try to get some sleep. It's nearly 3am and I have to be up and about at some ungodsly hour tomorrow.