Thursday, October 23, 2014

Now Serving: Pagan Pancakes

A spider's web glittering with mist in the island's cemetery.
 A hastily scribbled flyer posted on the community board and a few phone calls and face-to-face invites—that was the extent of my promotion for the launching of Pagan Pancakes.

I had been wondering how to serve this tiny island community as a public Pagan priest/ess, had spoken to many individuals about what might sound enticing, and what emerged was a vision of creating an occasional space in time for all sorts of folks to come together and share their stories, skills and perhaps make new and inspiring connections that could lead to collaborative rituals, spells and other magickal possibilities.  A group of Lopezian Pagans have been hosting two enormous Solstice events for decades. Many of the solitaires, families and hidden little affinity groups come together for these extravaganzas. But what is everyone doing for all the other Sabbats, the Esbats througout the Wheel of the Year? Let's get together and celebrate! This sentiment I heard echoed from friends all around the island.

After the touristy summer season is over, the Village shutters up its windows and the inhabitants of The Rock have time to spend with each other once more, so I decided to begin the meetings in October. But "meeting" sounds so ordinary and lackluster. As a Kitchen Witch, it seemed inevitable that food would be involved. The islanders love potlucks. After tumbling a few possible event names around my noggin, Pagan Pancakes popped out as the winner! It is nearly impossible to get hibernating Lopezians out of their homes in the long, long evenings of the darker seasons (and there are some extremely popular dinner potlucks with which I didn't wish to compete, because potlucks are a competition sport around here!), so a brunchtime gathering seemed it would be more successful, anyway.

 This past Sunday, about a dozen curious, friendly, hungry folks all gathered around in a casual circle in my living room. We all had plates loaded with many kinds of pancakes. Yoram made some with his tangy sourdough starter, one person flipped gluten free cakes as an option, and someone else brought potato pancakes, "fried in delicious butter!" (By the way, we used coconut oil to fry the sourdough cakes, and that was soooo gooood!) We had maple syrup and honey, and magickal rowan berry syrup made this summer from an old, revered tree at the home of some friends on the South End.

Straining the rowan berry juice
After the feeding frenzy, an eager participant asked, "So, everyone here is Pagan?" It was at that moment I realized that I was not very prepared to moderate the conversation. Big oops. I had kinda sorta thought I would welcome everyone and collaboratively establish an intention, however the conversation was rapidly and impressively taken over by another individual who seemed quite accomplished in that practice. This person talked off-topic, told other people what to think, didn't share the space with others, didn't answer direct questions, didn't stop talking, and then suddenly wrangled everyone into joining them in a personal practice without carefully obtaining proper consent.

What's worse is I never stopped them.

Huge learning experience for this green witch. I later contacted all the other participants to apologize, also sharing with them the plans I had for making the next one sweeter and much more functional. I sent an email to the person who had taught me so much. Excerpts from that message highlight some of my lessons:

None of us can safely presume that our practices are appropriate for others.

Many of those present were less experienced than others in discussing spiritual matters in a group context, an environment which can be very intimidating to people accustomed to practicing in solitude. Such cautious people would be best served by those of us who are more comfortable in our ways, by encouraging them to share without judgment.

The benefit of this experience is that I will proceed with much more caution in future gatherings. I plan to establish and communicate clear guidelines before any discussion takes place, and perhaps use a talking stone so that everyone may feel invited to share equally.

Lest I leave the reader with the impression that the event was a disaster, I will report that the other participants with which I talked said that despite the annoying person, they all had a swell time, they think Pagan Pancakes is a great idea, and intend to come to the next one. Because a few other people actually did get to share. One person is into permaculture and the teachings of Tom Brown, which folks were eager to know more about. Perhaps we might plan a group trek out into the woods sometime. Another person said that their personal practice centers around "turning poison into medicine," especially in healing around family issues. More enthused interest. I discussed the potential of doing a group practice where we each had a candle charged with the same intention, so each time we lit it, we would be connecting with each other and supporting the intention. A few folks said they'd like to try such a thing. Celebrating the Equinox together was suggested, which was met with support. I heard from several people who couldn't make it that they and some of their friends were looking forward to the next gathering.

And so am I! I am grateful for this opportunity to learn and to serve with so many delightful people. Gluten-free or gluten-full— we are all pancake appreciators.