[Community] Many Gods West 2016 Write-Up

Over this past weekend I found myself in Olympia, WA. The world was green and rivers stretched to and fro. The first night I arrived – after twelve hours of travel and my ears having been thoroughly abused – I walked from the hotel to downtown Olympia. I gazed in awe at the river flowing solidly along the path. There were many people out running and walking and playing Pokemon Go. Everything was painfully green, all different shades, and some trees even had orange-tinted leaves.

A half-day before I had been enveloped in the dawn heat of Tucson, so it was rather a change.

There have been a variety of well-written write-ups about the specific of the conference. Some can be found in the ‘polytheism’ tag on WordPress, while others are scattered across Patheos. I thought the conference was a huge success. There was laughter were I didn’t expect it, somberness when necessary, and lots of learning. I felt blessed to meet many of the people I did. 

I attended a variety of the presentations and rituals. By far the most touching ritual I attended was the Rhiannon ritual, which had me breaking down in tears. I was amazed by the people leading the ritual as well – Phoenix LeFae and Gwion Raven – as they were incredibly, well, good. After their ritual I attended the Dionysian Revival, put on by Jason Mankey and his wife Ari. I was reminded why I am not the ecstatic ritual sort, at least in public. The best way to describe my energetic reaction is ‘awkward laughing’; my physical reaction is ‘awkwardly standing’. The other option was the Community Tea Room. Excellent as it was, this was Friday night and I wanted a bit of energy to get me through the weekend. 

The Community Tea Room was very seriously wonderful and I wish I had spent more time there. The Saturday evening, however, I was completely knocked out after visiting the Asklepios Healing Shrine room. I was able to attend the Antinoan Ritual that evening, put on by the Ekklesia Antinoou. It reminded me, powerfully, why I hold interested in Antinous, as well as I why I do worship him and his related gods.

Both Sunday presentations/panels were engrossing. Emily Carlin and Raye Schwarz put on a talk on ‘Ritual Co-Creation’ which illuminated how to make groups with myriad of traditions work. It gave me hope for how to go forward in my own local community. Alley Valkyrie and Ryan Smith’s talk on fascism was absolutely illuminating, and it helped further my understanding of some deep differences in Europe and the UK vs. US paganism and polytheism. I had wanted to attending the Ritual of Grieving, but I was presenting at that time. I went to the Disability & Polytheism talk afterward, and though I hopefully remained more composed externally, I was internally nodding my head constantly. Phaedrus, who presented the talk, was engaging and I learned quite a bit. Or, perhaps, was reminded of quite a bit and given words to express what I’d known.

The closing ritual was quite different from the opening in terms of size. This wasn’t bad, necessarily, but it did throw me a bit. Sean Donahue had conducted both the opening and ending rituals, and both were lovely. 

For my own presentation, which was on the Otherfaith, it was very small. I had already been expecting a small crowd, as my presentation was right after lunch and check-out of the hotel. I tried to take a friendly approach to discussing everything, which was interesting. It was an invaluable learning experience. I wish I had gotten my physical materials together in time, but life doesn’t always allow. 

I must extend immense gratitude to Niki Whiting and Syren Nagakyrie for putting the conference together. I sincerely hope Many Gods West continues strong for many years, partially since I’m not sure I will be able to make it next year! I would also like to attend with my partner. That was simply not in the cards this year. (I may also want to cosplay when I attend next. That surely shows how impious and silly I am.) I was able to meet so many people I had only ‘heard’ of or met ‘online’. Putting faces to them did make a difference. It didn’t dissolve every issue or disagreement. But it certainly reminded me how incredible and human the people in the pagan and polytheist blogosphere and online communities are as well as how much bigger we are offline.

There were times when I could feel my gods swirling about me during the conference. During the Rhiannon ritual I felt her speak to me a name my own gods tell me. She gave me advice I should listen to as well, but when it comes to compassionate advice I tend to resist it. Pallis, the Dierne, was practically rolling on the ground in front of me during one ritual. It seemed all my attendent gods and spirits kept near me and didn’t go flying out bothering people, though. 

I cried more than I would have preferred – during ritual and at other times – but as I mentioned during one of the many conversations I shoved myself into, I cry. I cry when I’m sad, I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m angry. (No doubt to the shame of the spirits I train directly under.) But it was a good conference. I really, truly hope we see MGW continue and grow.

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