Sunday, October 21, 2012

Warmth in the Phoenix Flames

I was really tempted to make this blog entry all ZOMG NEKKID FIRESPINNING!!!1! Technically, it's true--that spectacular display was just one beautiful surprise I encountered at Phoenix Phamily's Autumn Meet--but there's more to this festival than entertainment. You can go anywhere to party. For me, this weekend was more about finding community: sharing our gifts with friends, learning from Pagan elders, and above all, listening. I did a lot of listening.

While the rum and dirty limericks flowed freely, so too did the original songs, the art, the music. Everyone had something to share. People learned to make mead, play Native American flute, do Reiki, and breathe fire. We danced, drummed, exchanged homemade crafts. I discovered a whole family of precious people of all ages and walks of life.

You see, although the hands-on activities certainly held my attention and made my world a little sweeter, I spent much more time just sitting and talking. All ages mingled throughout the day, children included, but mostly I spent time with elders. I got to know Omi, a sort of Pagan pioneer of our time who doesn't seem to realize what a big deal she is or at least hasn't let it go to her head. I also got to meet Ardy, a kind old woman with a sharp wit and a sharp tongue; she welcomed me on the very first day and I only later found out that she hosted the very first Phoenix festival in her backyard.

The conversations went deep, both in and out of the workshops. What is the historical basis for our spiritual practices today? How do we interpret the words 'harm none' or other moral codes held by Pagans? When is force justified, in physical and magical context?

And yet--it wasn't all scholarly. A big highlight of the weekend was a daytime ritual involving children and adults, weaving the web of community. The young and not-so-young each told one another a portion of a happy story. Everyone tossed different colored balls of yarn over a structure that would become a gigantic rainbow web around a lovely old oak tree. The little ones were completely absorbed in the moment and surrounded by loving family of all kinds. Together, we did weave community.

That was also the intention of main ritual. While there were some glitches and unintended humor, the goal was achieved. I pointed out afterward that we already had what we were looking for, before the circle was even cast. What we were looking for was there all the time.

That brings me to what some would call the tiniest footnote ever, but I find it strangely symbolic. I'd bought a solar lantern months ago, looking forward to a lovely flickering candle 'flame' to light my way back to my tent. It never worked before this weekend. This is because--and I swear I looked there before--this is because I just had to pull out a tab inside to let the lantern draw power from the sun and illuminate my path in the darkness. It had this ability a long time ago; I just had to take a very small but important step to let it do what it was able to do anyway.

Despite the waning of the sun this time of year, my flame is burning as brightly as it ever has. My heart is full of old and new kindred. I feel safe and welcome at this hearth. Nothing comes between us: not our egos, not our differences. We are family.

This, I tell you, is community. This is what I was hungering for, what so many of us are hungering for.

It's worth braving the porta-potties.

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