Although I have not managed to make it every year, I have been attending the Heartland Pagan Festival since 1998. In that decade-and-a-half I have seen good rituals and bad. The bad were mostly just ineffectual: theatrical rituals that did not involve or connect the audience. The good were spectacular: cauterizing and salving old wounds, presenting divine dramas in which the audience participated, and opening new avenues of thought. This year’s main ritual, though, was the first I had seen to leave people wounded by the experience.
Early this year, when I made the decision to attend the festival as a work exchange minion, it was only partly about the money. I have been participating in the festival for over a decade, doing my mandatory community service, but otherwise a largely passive spectator in what has become a large part of my spiritual life. The time for such passivity has long past. It had been my intention, going in to the festival, to join the HAS and perhaps participate in the Sacred Experience Committee if my work exchange experience went well.
The work exchange went fabulously. I made friends, contributed to the community in a meaningful fashion, and—although I was a little disappointed in the schedule management, and lost an unfortunate amount of time with Camp What The Fuck—overall felt that the experience improved by my participation. On the merits of that experience, I was convinced that joining up was, indeed, what I wanted to do (something that those of you who know me in meatspace might find that shocking: I have never been a joiner). The violence of the main ritual, however, shook that new-found conviction to the core.
To say the least, I was deeply conflicted. Like most feminists, I have generally found that people (who are not already feminists, themselves) find deconstructions of their actions to be unappetizing at best. Still, I was not going to give in without even trying.
At the end of the festival, when I sought out the head of the Work Exchange Committee to get my deposit back, I also asked how to get in touch with the head of the Sacred Experience Committee. She told me that she’d forward my contact information to the appropriate parties.
The next three posts in this series will detail the exchange that followed that contact. Although all of this email exchange is publically available on Facebook, I have here redacted the legal names of all parties in accordance with my standard practice. Ultimately a mediated in-face meeting was arranged and executed, but most of the contents thereof are bound by a confidentiality agreement required by the mediator. The concluding post will detail my ultimate thoughts on the matter. I will say here at the outset that despite the very rocky start, these negotiations ultimately concluded positively. Although the outcome did fall short of a hypothetical ideal (I can be a pretty hardcore idealist and utopian sometimes, despite my bitter and cynical tone), it far exceeded both what I had thought reasonable to consider a victory.
These posts will be coming approximately daily—hopefully in addition to actual magical posting—but the final post may be delayed as some of the things I secure permission to discuss some of the finer points of the face-to-face negotiations.