Thursday, April 26, 2012

Some of the Worshops and Lectures for Gaia Gathering 2012 in Toronto

  1. Ancient Egyptian Religious Practice
    This lecture will be an exploration of Ancient Egyptian religious belief and magical practices. This overview comes from Egyptological studies and will cover mythologies, deities, practices, rites, symbols, basic tenets as evidenced in the literature for the living and for the dead. Brief comparisons will be drawn to other more familiar Pagan cultures and their religious and magical rites. Information in list form will be presented for quick summarization. A visual presentation with illustrations will give the participants context to the explanations being given. Presented by Anat, Het Set, Het Eset.
  2. Baltic Spring Rites
    A look at the various spring observances, rites and celebrations of the Baltics. Lithuania was the last country to convert to Christianity, with conversion starting in 1386. The last sacred oak grove was chopped down by the Russian Empire in 1795, and the faith though subjugated during the Soviet Era survived and flourishes in Lithuania today. We shall look at the various festivals, starting with the Spring Equinox (Pavasario Lyge) culminating with the Summer Solstice (Rasa). Please just bring yourselves, with lots of questions. Presented by Marija Kuncaitis.
  3. Career Transition and the Soul’s Journey
    We incarnated with a purpose and a set of skills to develop and become. Our job is one way our Soul can fulfill its destiny and purpose: take your Craft to work! Magic happens when you accept that there is no separation between your Spiritual path and Career path. Call upon the path of Spirit and launch a career that reflects your Soul’s unique gifts and abilities. Learn to see career transition as Goddess’ Blessing and opportunity to take stock of your life, re-evaluate and re-choose situations that feed your Soul. Through the principles of Soul Based Energy Medicine™, meditation, divination, ritual and ceremony learn how to dance through your career transitions from a Spiritual perspective. This workshop is for anyone who is employed, unemployed, underemployed or considering a career transition and wants to explore their situation from the expanded perspective of Soul. Presented by Lydia Silent Magic.
  4. Circles of Meaning, Labyrinths of Fear
    You’ve heard of sacred places, writings, relics, and rituals, holy days and magical times of year. But these are actually representations of relationships that people have with each other and the elements of the world. Some of these relationships environmental: they involve landscapes, animals, and the streets of your home town. Some are personal, such as families, friends, and elders. Some are public, involving musicians, storytellers, medical doctors, and even soldiers. This lecture examines twenty-two relationships, from a variety of traditions, and shows their place in ‘the good life’. Yet our world is utterly saturated with fear. From practical fears like anxiety about the future, to social and political issues like the fear of unemployment, or crime, or terrorist attack, to existential fears like the fear of failure, or of death, most people in our society live in an almost constant low- level state of fear. And what is worse, we trap ourselves into doing things that we think will keep us safe, but which actually make things worse for everyone. Yet life does not have to be that way. Brendan's ambitious new book describes how we imprison ourselves with our fears, and how we can escape from our prisons by treating our relationships as sources of spiritual experience. Join Brendan Myers to celebrate the release of his eighth book, "Circles of Meaning, Labyrinths of Fear." Brendan will introduce the book, read from some of the highlights, answer questions, and of course sign copies. Presented by Brendan Myers.
  5. Deepening Spiritual Practice
    Sometimes we want to delve more deeply into a spiritual concept, practice or relationship than we are able to in our usual daily lives. Other times, we may have a single small thing that we never quite get around to. How do we create the space—physical and mental—to facilitate these experiences? In this workshop we will explore the concept of creating and implementing a personal mini-retreat around specific desires for deepening our spiritual practice. Please come prepared to work on a specific spiritual aspect or goal. (2-3 hours; maximum 8 participants) Presented by Amanda Strong.
  6. Faith Blending – “Weaving One’s Faith”
    A common and unhealthy practice in several paths of Paganism, is to divorce themselves from their parents' "non-Pagan" faith, leaving a gap in their own spiritual identity. It is not a matter of returning to an original ancestral faith nor diluting one's past or present religious practice; but simply weaving one's faith. What is the difference between religion & Spirituality anyhow? Discover & deepen your spiritual path by retracing the faith of your childhood and strengthening your Ancestral roots in your Life through patience, seeking questions, and letting each faith speak its mind. "Tree in the Mind's Eye" - What the Neo-Pagan movement can Learn from Buddhism Prince Siddhartha sat beneath a Bodhi tree and reintroduced Buddhism to the world. There was more to the tale - there always is - but it is the simplicity & universality of Buddhist concepts which is part of its appeal. Join John, a former Dharma worker & teacher, as he shares some teachings of Buddhism and how they can reintroduce forgotten parts of ancient Earth-based Spiritualities and revitalize how you practise your path. A basic knowledge of Buddhism is not required. Presented by John Huculiak.
  7. More Than Words: Movement and Gesture as Magical Tools
    In this highly cerebral world, we tend to overlook the power of movement and gesture, both as a method of communication and as a magical tool. In this workshop, we will explore the relationship between our bodies and our spirit, look at the ways we use or can use our physicality to maximize our ritual experience and magical strength, and work through a vocabulary of movement and gesture that can be used to communicate more powerfully with our Gods and each other. Presented by Julie Desrosiers.
  8. On Oaths and Oathing: A Heathen's Perspective
    In Heathenry, one's worth is associated to one's word. We put a great emphasis on the value of oaths as they hold a central place in our folkway. They can bind a group very tightly together as well as destroy one's reputation if the oath is not fulfilled. We will look at oathing throughout history as well as take a look at different kinds of oaths throughout cultures and professional groups. Through the lens of the “Toasts, boasts and oaths” structure, we will examine how and why oaths are so powerful, how they can make our communities stronger and our luck shinier. Presented by MC Perron.
  9. The Power of Myth in the Mosaic
    Take a journey with us as we explore the power of myth and storytelling for both personal practice and performance art. Part of the Mosaic that we as Pagans are building are the stories, the myths, and the truths that we share with each other, and in so doing, from generation to generation. These stories keep our traditions and are values alive, allowing them to resonate from community to community. The stories can be wildly different, but they still share that universal thread that binds us all as a spiritual community, but also allows us to celebrate our diversity. The workshop will cover such diverse topics as Mytheism (using myth for spiritual expression), bardic etiquette, performance techniques, as well as practical exercises for practicing and improving your bardic skills! Presented by JD "Hobbes" Hickey.

  10. For the love of Mother Earth - Pagan Sensibility and Pagan Land Use
    For over 20 years now, I have attended Pagan summer festivals in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. During this time, I have also participated in Native Powwows and visited Native camps and spiritual gatherings in the Yukon and Ethnic Minority Cultural Sites in Southeastern China. I've noticed some strong differences in the relation to the land, of its use and even in its abuse. These differences cannot be attributed to religious attitude or belief since all three groups (Pagans, Natives, Animist Chinese) profess a strong attachment to the land as nurturing mother. So what else is at work here? Why do some succeed in minimizing their ecological footprint while others have turned dancing on mother earth into stomping all over her? By comparing real examples of accommodation to the needs of both people and nature, I will invite discussion on how we as pagans can better express our love of Mother Earth when we gather to celebrate her. Presented by Lucie Dufresne.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

2012 Mosaic Guest list!

Peruse this year's invited guests for Gaia Gathering 2012 in Toronto! In keeping with the the theme "Mosaic", we have a "Mosaic of Speakers". Here they are in alphabetical order:

Andy BiggersAndy Biggers
Andy has been deeply involved in the North American Pagan and heathen community for over twenty five years. He is a past member of the board of directors of both Wic-Can Fest and Harvestfest – as well as serving on the board of directors of the American Vinland Association. He is an Elder in the Ásatrú faith and a past High Redesman of the Ring of Troth. Andy is also a key organizer and board member of SiMuCoR (Simcoe Muskoka Coalition of Old Religions), and holds several advanced academic degrees including Bachelor and Master’s degrees in History.

Mosaic Lecture - The Technology of Time Keeping in the Ancient North
We raise our eyes to the heavens. The celestial canvas unfolds like clockwork, revealing hints of the divine order of Creation. In this workshop, I will discuss the night sky, seasonal calendars, and time keeping from the ancient Northern European perspective. We will investigate how our ancestors marked the passage of the day tides, recognized the beginning of important agricultural feasts (planting and harvesting etc.), and regulated the passage of time in their world. More concretely though, the materials presented in this lecture will allow you construct a basic version of the traditional “Rune Clog” calendar – a device with which you will be able to calculate the date of every full moon, new moon, lunar eclipse, seasonal blessing, and day name for a period of one Aun (300 years).

Michel and Pamela Daw
Michel & Pamela are modern Stoics, reviving the ancient philosophical and spiritual path. Michel is a founding member of the College of Stoic Philosophers, an online study program for Stoic Practice. Pamela runs Stoici Civitas, a nacent umbrella organization for Stoic Spirituality. They have been jointly hosting monthly Stoic Workshops in the National Capital Region, the monthly Ottawa Region Pagan Discussion Night, and have spoken at festivals and conferences on Stoic Spirituality. Together, they also manage, a Stoic website and resource center, as well as Words of the Ancient Wise, a daily Stoic blog.

Mosaic Lecture - The Path of the Stoics or How to Live the Good Life
This session will explore the re-emergence of Stoicism as a spiritual and philosophical path within the larger Pagan Mosaic. We will discuss the foundational principles of Stoicism and the Community which is being formed around them. The integration of Stoic philosophy with other Pagan paths will also be addressed. Come and see what the practise of Stoicism can add to your personal spiritual quest. What is Stoicism? - Stoicism is the study and practice of living a complete life based on reason and relationship, one where we explore and express our best selves, where we flourish to the best of our abilities in all places and circumstances. Stoics reach for personal excellence, which we call virtue, in all the domains of our lives, privately and publicly, to benefit ourselves and our communities. How is Stoicism a Spiritual Path? - Stoicism is the practice of changing the way we look at life to arrive at a point where our baseless worries are defeated, our paralysing fears abolished, our violent passions tempered, and our childish selfishness turned to generosity and compassion. Practising Stoicism involves all aspects of our being - body, mind and soul. We celebrate and honour our connections to Gaia and to each other. In short, it is to live deeply, purposefully and wholly. This is the Art of Living in accordance with Nature. Who is the Stoic Community? - We are a loosely connected group of men and women who have chosen to adopt Stoicism as an Art of Living. Our Stoicism is the same as the philosophy founded over two thousand years ago in Greece, and at the same time profoundly different, evolved for our current age and our current understanding of Science, Psychology, Philosophy and Religion. We choose to study and practice a philosophical life, in order to express our truest natures.

Tamara James
Tamarra was initiated as a witch on her 16th birthday, almost 45 years ago, and remembers that the big mystery she received was that there IS a Goddess. She was part of the hippy movement of the late '60s, and found flashes of the old religion at love-ins and anti-war activities. Away from her original coven, she kept her craft as a solitary, and still emphasizes solitary growth with her students. When work took her to the USA, she found the craft manifested in Pagan bookstores, some with publicly available Circles. Her knowledge of herbs and divination learned as a farm girl and counter-culture worker led the founders of the Blue Star tradition to adopt her as elder. Back in Canada, Tamarra opened The Occult Shop, and began to teach. Her students demanded a Church, with weekly meetings, and were numerous enough to require group classes. So she found herself at the head of Canada's only Pagan Church, complete with a religious education program. In Tamarra's experience with Pagan Women's groups, they were often short-lived due to politics, so when she formed Sistrum, politics were banned. Sistrum is now 30 years old. As High Priestess of the WCC, Tamarra was drawn into being the first Pagan clergy person to serve in a jail. One of her students created Canada's first Pagan festival. This continuing service to a public ministry made it obvious that she wasn't following the old rules about secrecy, and the things that work for a private coven don't work as well for a public Church. Tamarra had invented a new Tradition, which has become known as Odyssean. Tamarra has been either actively involved or very close on the sidelines for most of the growth of Paganism in Canada since it poked its nose out of the broom closet.

Mosaic Lecture - How We Got Here
Tamarra will be sharing through stories and personal experience the history of the Canadian Scene over years, how it has grown and changed. She will describe the transition from secrecy (some of it rather ridiculous) through the time of local community building, to our times of being on the edge of mainstream acceptance. It has been a peculiar route, and Tamarra has been in a position to observe much from various parts of Canada.

Sydney LancasterSydney Lancaster
Sydney Lancaster is an Edmonton-based visual artist, writer, and musician. She creates mixed media assemblages, drawings, photographs, sculpture, and installations that examine the construction and interpretation of lived experience -- in particular, how we ‘map’ our sense of place and belonging (or lack thereof), in psychological and spiritual terms. Lancaster has exhibited in solo and group shows in Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and St. Albert, and curated CORTEX: a multidisciplinary event in 2006 and 2007 for the Edmonton Poetry Festival. Recent exhibitions and projects include: a collaborative multi-media exhibition and chapbook project entitled Archives of Absence (with poet Catherine Owen); Make: Believe - a site-specific sculptural installation; EGG - a sculpture-based ritual/performance; and new work for the group show Lost and Found, exhibited December 2011 - January 2012 at the Art Gallery of St. Albert. She is the Artist in Residence at Harcourt House artist-run centre in Edmonton for 2012. She is an OBOD Ovate, member of the Druid Network, was involved in organizing Gaia Gathering in Edmonton and Winnipeg, and has assisted in various capacities with the Spirit of the West Druid Gathering.

Mosaic Lecture - What the Land Told Me: Objects, Places, and Processes
What the artist did with what she found Western culture is heavily indebted to a long tradition of visual artists expressing their philosophical or spiritual views through their work, work which is for the most part, congruent with whatever dominant iconography and world view prevails at the moment of it its creation. In this context, the question arises: how does a 21st century, contemporary visual artist living and working outside the dominant cultural perspective, spiritual view, and prevailing visual language, create work that functions in a similar fashion? How can work be made that goes beyond simply presenting an alternative iconography, to speaking directly about the lived experience of that individual and make it relevant and understandable to people in the wider community? What does the ongoing process of integrating personal spiritual practice into lived action mean in relation to creative process and creative work? I invite you to join me in exploring these and related questions, through the lens of my work in mixed-media assemblage, installation, sculpture and drawing.

Brian WalshBrian Walsh
Brian Walsh is a permanent part-time Spiritual Care Provider at a major Toronto hospital and a part-time Clinical Fellow in Spiritual Care at another major Toronto hospital. In the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care he is one of six members who identifies as part of a Pagan or Earth-based tradition. Additionally, Brian serves as Pagan (Celtic and Reconstructionist) chaplain at the University of Toronto, leads a private circle, and provides open rituals and presentations in the local community.

Brian is a priest in the Céilí Sídhe tradition of Celtic Paganism and holds a B.A. in Celtic Studies and Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, as well as an M.Phil. from the University of Wales. Also, as a licensed Wedding Officiate, Brian is able to perform legal weddings in the province of Ontario. Brian's passions include Celtic Studies, World Religions, Mythologies, Story-telling, Frame Drums, and Dogs.

Mosaic Lecture - Myth, Mystery, and Meaning: Different Understandings of the Divine; Why They Divide Us, and Why They Shouldn't
We all say that we value religious freedom, and we all say that in Paganism we are free to understand the world through the lenses that work best for us, and yet we aren't always just one big happy family. In this presentation, we will explore some the different ways deity and mythology have been understood in our community, as well as the value and limits of these understandings. Notions like hard and soft polytheism, transcendence and immanence, gender dualism, the role of a pantheon, and more will be explored as problems in our modern context, and solutions rooted on our ancient source cultures will be offered. Ancient Celtic, Greek and Vedic examples will be used to provide insight and poetic beauty that can lead us from being a fractured collection of random shards to being a community mosaic where different worldviews can be understood in the light of a deeper matrix or pattern than makes room for all. Whether you're a Recon, a Wiccan, or an academic; no one's assumptions will be complete safe in this 90 minute rollercoaster ride, but we will all come through unscathed, and closer as a community, so long as your arms and legs are kept inside the vehicle at all times.

Witchdoctor UtuWitchdoctor Utu
Witchdoctor Utu is the founder of the Niagara Voodoo Shrine, the world renowned Pagan drum troupe the Dragon Ritual Drummers and is a member of the New Orleans Voodoo Spiritual Temple. He has been traveling the continent for over a decade sharing the traditions and mysteries of North American voodoo with lectures, workshops and rituals at some of the continents top tier spiritual festivals. Utu is a regular contributor to the international publication "Hoodoo and Conjure Quarterly Magazine".

Mosaic Lecture - North American Voodoo; Separating fact and fiction, truth and misconception.
Voodoo has been gaining interest in the North American Pagan communities and festivals for a few years now, however it was not always the case. Not that long ago, Voodoo workings were frowned upon or outright banned from many events. It is still not a cozy relationship, even in the southern U.S. Canada, and in particular Ontario, has however been ahead of the bell curve in acceptance. Voodoo in its many forms is one that many Neo-Pagans simply do not understand; The complexities of its different traditions from Santeria, Ifa and Voodoo itself, to the lore of animal sacrifice and believed lack of any morals towards "karma" and magikal practices. All these will be discussed as well as a hands on example of a Voodoo working will be demonstrated as well as various tools and accouterments on display.