Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Final Information for Gaia Gathering 2012 in Toronto

We're only a few days away from the opening circle and four days of speakers, panels, roundtables, talks, and workshops. Not to mention all the other goodies. We're so excited!

Here are some instructions to help get you from the airport, bus depot or train station to our official accomodations and the conference site, as well as what to do when first arrive at the conference, plus some other handy information. (If you are registered for the conference, you should have received this information by e-mail as well.)


* Arriving in Toronto
* Arriving at Gaia Gathering
* Information about the residences
* Main opening ritual
* Volunteering
* Gaia Gathering programme
* Thursday night pre-Gaia Gathering welcoming party
* Friday tours and extras
* Saturday and Sunday evening entertainment
* Gaia Gathering AGM
* Toronto museums, shopping and events
* More Information


A map and full directions to NewCollegecan be found here: http://www.ncsummer.utoronto.ca/Location.htm.

Should you need help upon arrival in Toronto please call or text 905 952 9757. We will do our best to help you from there. Air: Toronto has two airports servicing the city. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport also known as “The Island Airport” and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The Island Airport:
Porter operates out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. To get from the island there are plenty of options which you can investigate here: http://www.torontoport.com/Airport/Getting-To.aspx
You may take the ferry and connect to the Bathurst Streetcar which will take you to Union Station, the complimentary shuttle to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel or take a taxi from the airport to New College.
Should you wish to take the complimentary shuttle to the Fairmont Royal York, you have a couple of options to get toNewCollege. You can take a taxi directly from the Fairmont Royal York, or you can walk across the street to Union Station and take the subway north on University to Spadina then take the streetcar south toWilcox Street.

Toronto Pearson International Airport:
There are several ways to get from Toronto Pearson International Airport to New College.
Taxi: Available on the Arrivals level. Approximately CAD$53.00 to New College.
Limosine: Available on the Arrivals level. Approximately CAD$53.00 to New College.
Airport Express Bus Service to Fairmont Royal York Hotel:
Approximately CAD$23.95 one way, approximately CAD$53.00 return. The customer service locations are: Terminal 1 - AE Customer Service is located on the Arrivals Level Curbside Post C; and Terminal 3 - AE Customer Service is located on the Arrivals Level Curbside at Area # 25
Public Transit: The TTC has several buses that will take you from Terminal 1 (Ground level) and Terminal 3 (Arrivals level) to the subway system depending upon time of arrival. The fare is CDN$3.00 (at the time of writing). GO Transit operates bus service from York Mills and Yorkdale subway stations to Terminal 1 (Ground level). This service operates every 60 minutes, from approximately 6:00 am to 1:00 am Monday to Saturday, and from approximately 9:00 am to 1:00 am on Sundays. The fare at the time of writing is CAD$4.70. More information can be found here: http://www.gotransit.com/publicroot/en/default.aspx

Union Station
Via Rail arrives to Union Station from all over the country. You will arrive near street level. To obtain a cab speak with the kind folks at the information desk and they will direct you. To get to the subway, go downstairs or use the elevator. The Via personnel will assist you should you have any questions. Signs or Go Transit staff will direct you to the subway station.
Go Transit train lines all converge here and Go bus lines arrive acrossBay Streetto the east. All bus travelers can access Union Station by walkway overBay Street. There is an elevator for those who do not wish to carry their luggage up stairs. You will end up on platform 1, there is another elevator to take you to the main waiting area for Go Transit. Customer service staff will be happy to direct you to the taxi stand or the subway system.

Please note that there are discounts available under the Groups tab on Go Transits webpage that can be found here: http://www.gotransit.com/public/en/fares/tickettypes.aspx

How to Get to New College from Union Station:
Go to the streetcar platform. The ticket booth attendant will kindly tell you where that is located before you go through the turnstile. Take the streetcar that is going Northbound to Spadina Station. This will be the Spadina car. The fare is CDN$3.00 (at the time of writing). Get off at the Willcocks Streetstop (first stop north of College Street). Total trip time from Union Station is around 15 minutes. New College - Wilson Hall Residence is on the north-east corner.

Bus Lines
The Toronto Coach Terminal is located on the northwest side of Bay St.and Dundas St. West. Taxis are available for those arriving at the terminal just outside on the southwest corner of Edward Street and Elizabeth Street. To get to the Subway there is a tunnel route to the Dundas subway station.


The University of Toronto is made up of seven colleges. We are grateful and thank New College for accommodating us this year. 

New College is located at 40 Willcocks Street, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5S 1C6. The Residence is across the street. There is a quite well done interactive map of University of Toronto St. George Campus where you can locate Wilson Hall, New College Residence and how to get to TTC Stations.

Once you arrive at the conference site (New College), there should be someone to greet you, as well as signs directing you up the stairs to the registration area. The university information desk is also right inside the doors, so if you don't see anyone or the signs, just ask them for directions.

Our registration desk will be open from 11am on Friday and 8am on Saturday and Sunday.
Please go immediately to the registration desk and give them your name so we can give you a conference badge, printed programmed, some swag, and information for the AGM. It's a good idea to bring your ticket or confirmation e-mail with you in case of glitches (they do happen), but it's not neccessary.
At the registration desk, you'll also be signing a waiver form, and we will have sign-up sheets for various tasks that we need help with over the weekend. (Helping out is completely optional but we appreciate it.)
Your conference badge must be worn at all times to access the talks, panels, workshops, and evening events.

If you are staying at the university residences, you can expect the following:
  • central air-conditioning
  • single or double rooms (with 2 single beds)
  • bed, desk and dresser
  • linen (bedsheet), blanket, towel, pillow, pillow case
  • a 23-hour reception desk (Wilson Hall Residence)
  • private security guard patrolling the residences after hours
  • complimentary broadband "wired" internet access (you require an ethernet cable or you can purchase one at the front desk for $5)
  • in-room phone (for complimentary local calls)
  • coin-operated laundry facilities on each floor (washer and dryers)
  • iron and ironing board
  • common rooms with limited kitchen facilities such as a microwave, burners, sink and fridge
  • flat screen plasma TV rooms with sofas and armchairs
  • shared communal washrooms
  • library with computer lab use (small fee)
  • business services
  • non-smoking residence
  • front desk where one can purchase long distance phone cards, TTC to kens for the streetcar and subway, postage stamps, laundry detergent, easy access to the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission–subway/metro system) just outside the door
Meals will not be provided however, there are a great variety of choice in the local area or just a transit ride away.

Be sure to bring an alarm clock and an extra pillow should you wish one. Please pack all necessary medications and special dietary requirements. Should you wish to cook your own food at New College Residence, be sure to bring what you need to prepare what you will make as the residence does not provide cooking equipment.

Our main ritual to open the conference will be held Friday night at 8pm. The ritual will be led by Richard James and guests based on the Mosaic of Canada highlighting different parts of Canada.This will be followed by a meet and greet. You must have gone through registration desk process before coming into the ritual.

Come as you are or dress up, it's up to you.


Over the course of the conference, we will need volunteers to help sit at the registration desk, supervise the hospitality room, time-keep the panels and workshops, do whisper translation and more.
If you wish to volunteer or would like more information, contact saritaphoenix(at)sympatico.ca 

The final programme is now available to download as a pdf. This includes the schedule of what is happening when. You can access it here: http://www.gaiagathering.ca/images/pdf/finalprogram.pdf

Arriving early? Meet some Toronto-area Pagans in an informal setting. Some locals have organized an early-bird reception party on Thursday night. How awesome is that? The party starts at 7:30 p.m at 40 Homewood Ave (buzzer 364) in the recreation room of the building. It is strictly B.Y.O.B. and celebrants must monitor their intoxication levels as those exhibiting inebriation must be escorted off the property immediately (condo rules). The party room is on level B1 which may be accessed via the el evator. The closest cross-street to 40 Homewood Ave, is Jarvis and Carlton (Carlton is the same street as College but changes name east of Yonge street).

All attendees have been kindly offered free admission to the Textile Museum of Canada (55 Centre Avenue -- Dundas St. W & University Ave., St. Patrick subway) on Friday. You will be required to show your Gaia Gathering conference badge to gain entrance to the museum.

On Friday afternoon there will be two guided tours. The first will be of local book shops with Richard James. The second is a tour of the Kensington Market and area with Sarita Phoenix. Both tours leave the Wilson Hall lounge at 2:15pm. Please arrive early so the tours can leave on time.


On Saturday evening, we will meet at the JangBang Bar a Korean fusion bar located at 430.5 College Street. Cutting Bracken will entertain us with celtic music. A night of friendship and fun!

On Sunday, join us in Wilson Hall lounge for a wonderful networking opportunity with nibbles and mocktails; as well as acoustic music and storytelling from Wytchwood Children, Greg Currie and JD “Hobbes” Hickey.


At the AGM on Monday, we will decide where the next Gaia Gathering will be held, elect new officers for our national board of directors, and review the reports from our out-going board of directors and local conference committee.

This year we have one board position to fill. It is for a 3-year term. We will be asking for nominations during the AGM.

We welcome bids for hosting Gaia Gathering in 2013 and 2014. As of today's date, we still don't have any firm offers. If you would like to host Gaia Gathering, or want to find out what's involved in hosting, please email info@gaiagathering.ca or talk to one of the board members. The host city has one seat on the board of directors. It is a two-year term.

Everyone is welcome to attend both the AGM, however only those who have paid the full conference registration rates are considered members with voting rights. A buffet-style lunch will be served.

Arriving early or staying later to take in the city? here are some useful links:





For more information, please visit our website, blog or Facebook page. You can also follow us on Twitter. The Gaia Gathering 2012 hashtag is #GG2012.

If you have any questions about the conference, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@gaiagathering.ca

Looking forward to seeing you all in a couple of days!
The Gaia Gathering National Board of Directors and Local Host Committee.

For more information click here:
Gaia Gathering, the Canadian National Pagan Conference, Toronto 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Academic Stream Presentations

We are excited to announce the details of our peeer-reviewed academic stream. The academic stream presentations will take place on Sunday morning from 9:00 am until 2:30 pm. Here are the titles and abstracts:

Sunday 9:00 – 10:15: Classroom 2
Academic Stream Block A: Esotericism in the Modern Time

  • My Wax Wings: Or, How I am Pursuing the Academic Study of Magic in Canada.
    Presenter: RA Priddle
  • The Mosaic of Neo-pagan studies, the emerging academic discipline of Western Esotericism, and Religious Studies: What is the relationship?
    Presenter: Shya Young

Sunday 10:45 – 12:00: Lecture Hall
 Block B: Witchcraft

  • Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Representations of Witchcraft in Contemporary Documentary Cinema
    Presenter: Aradia Rosa James
  • The role of Handmaiden in Witchcraft.
    Presenter: T. Scarlet Jory
  • Text A: Teasing out the early influences on Gardnerian Witchcraft as demonstrated in the personal writings of Gerald Gardner
    Presenter: Lisa Crandall

Sunday 1pm: Classroom 2
 Block C: Pagan Studies Panel

As a finale to the academic stream of this year's conference, some of the academics in our community will discuss the current state of the academic study of paganism. What achievements have been made so far? What questions still remain to be asked? What are the basic research challenges, and what are the rewards? What is the relation between the one who researches the pagan movement, and the one who participates in it? What if the researcher is a participant, too? Join us for a hearty and intelligent examination of these and related questions.

 Presentation Abstracts
TITLE My Wax Wings: Or, How I am Pursuing the Academic Study of Magic in Canada.
BY: R.A. Priddle, H.BA, MA (Ottawa 2012), MI (Toronto 2013)
The cautionary tale of Daidalos and √ćkaros tells us neither to fly to high nor fly too low lest our wings fail and we crash into the sea below. A careful reading of the myth tells a story of knowledge and control and provides a vital departure point to compare the myth to the academic study of magic by reflecting on how I have learned to traverse the atmosphere between the sun of my academic goals and the seas of material realities that I must cross to safe shore. There are three main themes that I will reflect on, the first is on my Canada mentors and their project asks questions about the cunningly crafted labyrinth of academics that I must learn to navigate. The second theme is how I gathered my materials for my wings asking questions about the education training I have been given to make my own project in the academic study of magic in Canada. The third theme is about the future of the academic study of magic in Canada, and reflects on the sorrow of Daidalos as he watched his son and his future drown in the sea.

TITLE: The Mosaic of Neo-pagan studies, the emerging academic discipline of Western Esotericism, and Religious Studies; What is the relationship?
BY: Shya Young, Instructor, Religious Studies, University of Alberta
I will argue that the study of Neo-paganism fits within the field of Western Esotericism, and that together both can play an important role within the discipline of religious studies by deconstructing the grand narratives of who we are and how we arrived there. I will do this by talking about my experience teaching Witchcraft and the Occult at the University of Alberta, delineating the emerging discipline of Western Esotericism, and summarizing the argument of Wouter Hanegraaff as to the importance of Western Esotericism within the Academy. I will also touch briefly on the work of Sabina Magliocco and Ronald Hutton, who both place neo-pagan witchcraft within the lineage of western estoric traditions.

TITLE: Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Representations of Witchcraft in Contemporary Documentary Cinema
BY: Aradia Rosa James
The representation of witchcraft and witches in contemporary documentary often contribute to the dissemination of misinformation about what witchcraft is and what witches believe. Many of these ethnographic documentary films incorrectly essentialize the practice and technique of witchcraft as being synonymous with the new religious movement of Wicca. As the subjects speak to their own experiences, this essentialization is not due to misrepresentation of the filmic subjects of themselves, but is instead a shortcoming of the filmmakers in question, who often use their conversations with individual subjects to generalize the beliefs of many myriad practitioners. In the language used by narrators, reporters, and interviewers, the filmmakers incorrectly establish their subjects as delegates speaking on behalf of all witches. While it is vital that popular conceptions of witches (which, as explained by entertainment critic Dean Richards and historian William Monter in The Biography Channel’s Witches, largely remain in the middle ages and with Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of Elphaba in The Wizard of Oz) are challenged and deconstructed and that practitioners of witchcraft today have the agency to represent themselves in popular media, it is important that that one type of misinformation is not replaced by another.

TITLE: The role of Handmaiden in Witchcraft
BY: T. Scarlet Jory, MA Concordia University
The history of the handmaiden is seen throughout our past. They were lady attendants, otherwise known as ladies in waiting, or handmaidens. In Japan, they served as concubines to the emperor. The history of the Robin (or Fetch or Page) is similar to that of the Handmaiden, except that it is a male assistant to a man. The role of the handmaiden in Wicca stems from the historical references to handmaidens in both the male and female sense. They were the intimate aid that was crucial for the smooth continuation of a practice. I propose to look at the various historical references and roles of the handmaiden (both male and female) as seen in history and compare these to the traditional practices of the handmaiden role in Wicca and Witchcraft. I will conclude with some of the issues and concerns facing this tradition in today's contemporary Pagan practices.

TITLE: Text A: Teasing out the early influences on Gardnerian Witchcraft as
demonstrated in the personal writings of Gerald Gardner
BY: Lisa Crandall, MA Candidate, University of Ottawa
Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884-1964), generally acknowledged within Wicca as the founder of Gardnerian Wicca (Witchcraft), claimed that in 1939 he had been initiated into a highly secretive religious tradition that had a lineage dating back hundreds of years, possibly even predating Christianity. This claim has been energetically debated in academic and pagan circles for decades but it still constitutes an "origin myth" of contemporary witchcraft. Part of the debate is fueled by the lack of published analysis of early Gardnerian documents. Over the past three years I have been transcribing, sorting and analyzing the contents of Text A, Gerald Gardner's assumed first Book of Shadows. Building on textual and source analysis I will present some of the more startling discoveries I have made regarding the origins of some of Wicca's most cherished rules and words. How early was he using the word "athame"? When did the phrase "Book of Shadows" enter his, and our, lexicon? Was Gardner a goddess worshiper? Breaking Text A down into themes I have recognized some elements that have left their trace in today's rituals and beliefs and even the language we use. I look forward to sharing with you my fascinating journey through the literary elements that Gardner researched, pondered and compiled into the notebook that is now known as Text A. This research forms the basis of my Master's thesis work at the University of Ottawa.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Panels for Gaia Gathering 2012 in Toronto!

Finalized Topics!
  1. Ageing and the Elderly in the Pagan Community
    As our Neo-Pagan communities grow up we are also growing old! How can we build a community that will tend to the needs of our elders? What types of infrastructure is required to make sure that their wisdom is not forgotten? How do the roles of our various priesthoods change in our golden years?
  2. Mental Health in the Pagan Community
    Our community is diverse and accepting of eccentricities. How do we manage a situation when eccentricity crosses the line into mental health issues? How do we tell the difference between delusion and profound spiritual experience? How do we support leaders in our community experiencing Pagan community mental exhaustion?
  3. Marketing and Advertising of Pagan Events
    Pagan events are often running on a shoestring budget! How do we spread the word about our events without breaking the bank? Find out what resources are out there and the most effective marketing and advertising tools that really work for our communities from the folks who work with these things in their Pagan and mundane lives.
  4. Revitalizing the Community
    A vital community involves Pagans of all ages and experience levels. How do we retain the longtime community members and engage them with the same enthusiasm as the new comers? How do we make public events enticing to all the members of our communities and introduce new people to local resources? Where are the opportunities for folks to meet and network?
  5. Religious Tolerance
    Most Pagans come to their own spiritual paths from an existing religion often rejecting their religion of birth. As an open community how accepting are we of each other’s spiritual paths within the Pagan umbrella and within society in a whole.
  6. Social Networking
    The internet has changed the way Pagans meet and communicate to each other. New ways of communicating keep growing and developing. How do blogs, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest impact the Pagan dialogue and community? Do they help or just water things down? Are we as accountable for our actions in this world?
  7. Are you willing to pay for your Spirituality?
    Some traditions have strict rules about accepting money for teaching, some think nothing of it. When is it appropriate to pay for Spirituality? Is it ever appropriate? This panel will tackle this topic from different viewpoints.
  8. Gender Balance
    How much of an issue is gender balance in our Canadian Pagan scene? Where is the pendulum swinging these days? Are we really a female dominated community? Are the opportunities equal for men and women? Are the Gods and Goddesses worshipped equally? Do they need to be?
  9. Reconstructionist Traditions
    How do you respectfully honour the Gods and rituals of a past era? How can you revive forgotten practices from a distant place? Modern practitioners of old ways discuss how they breathe new life into ancient practices.
  10. Pagan Arts
    How is the Pagan movement represented in art? Who are the creators of Pagan art and is our community supporting their effort? How do the artists honour their Gods and traditions through their chosen media? This panel of Pagan artists discuss how they work and why.
  11. Ancestors in the Pagan Mosaic
    Ancestor reverence or a special time set aside during the year to remember our ancestors is common across many Pagan traditions, even if we approach it differently. It seems to be a piece of the Pagan mosaic that we all share. This panel discussion features Pagans who each place an emphasis on ancestors in their traditions or spiritual practice.
  12. Supporting Social Change with Magic
    Some Witches and Pagans see magic as a tool that can be used during public protests and demonstrations such as the Occupy movement and environmental demonstrations. Who are the people who engage magic and activism together, why do they do it, and what tools have they found to be effective in demonstrations. Pagan activists share their stories.
  13. Pagan Book and Media Share
    What are your favourite Pagan titles and who are your favourite Pagan authors? Join us at this facilitated round-table discussion as we introduce each other to the best books, podcasts, magazines, blogs and websites out there, especially Canadian ones.
  14. Gender and Sexual Identity in Paganism
    This panel round table discussion will explore Gender and Sexual Identity within Paganism focusing on the moral implications of tolerance, acceptance and integration. The purpose of the panel is not to define a specific morality but instead get Pagans talking about issues that many would like to avoid or have just never thought about.
  15. Planning Large Public Ritual
    Putting on a public ritual can be both exhilarating and terrifying. What are the skills and steps necessary to successfully plan and execute a public ritual? What makes some rituals more successful than others? What re the pitfalls to avoid (or at least consider)? Experienced public ritual planners from across the country share their successes, failures, and advice.
  16. Conjures, Spellcraft, Rootwork, and Petitions. Oh My!
    Folk magic is practiced by Pagans and non-Pagans alike. It is also known by many different names, each with their own distinct flavour and style. What are these different types of folks magic? How do they differ and what makes them the same? And what traditions are they associated with. Join a diverse panel of magical practitioners as they discuss their flavours of folk magic.
  17. Pagan Chant Share
    Chant plays an important part in many Pagan rituals for creating a group mind and raising energy. It's also fun! In this "roundtable", we will share songs and chants from our communities or personal repertoires. Don't worry if you don't have anything to share, simply join us to add to your own repertoire. The facilitators have more than enough songs and chants from across the country (and continent) to fill the time.
  18. Ceremonial Magick
    Ritual Magicians have often been misunderstood, misrepresented and quite regularly maligned. With a magical path that seems to be secretive, solitary, and with few practitioners its easy to understand where information might be misinterpreted. Well no more! Join two active Ceremonial Magicians who will cut through the veil with truth and openness. You will get to experience actual ritual practises that will lead to a greater understanding of the theory and energy behind ritual magick.
Still to be finalized!
Pagans on Film