I won’t be writing about my entire PantheaCon experience because it would take a long time to do so; plus, most of what I did at the con was chat and rest and neither of those things make for scintillating reading. However, on Sunday night I did have the opportunity to go to Golden Gate Kindred’s Lokasenna ritual drama and that might be worth sharing.
The event was schedule for 11pm on Sunday. I didn’t have any other programming that I really wanted to get to that day so I mostly took it easy, chatted with people, and then spent several hours resting and building up my reserves. (My cane helps me get around, so it’s always a good thing to have with me but it also takes a lot of energy to use. Even though it can moderate my pain levels somewhat, I end up pretty fatigued anyway.)
The ritual attendees were greeted with music and singing, a beautiful touch that set the mood. Ritual facilitators took time to explain that the drama was written as a satire to call attention to topics that cause contention in today’s pagan and Heathen cultures; further, the characters were not supposed to be interpreted as how they (the Kindred) perceived the gods. The space was set with the help of galdr and two costumed dancers illustrated the meeting of fire and ice that gave rise to the worlds. (I spent time wanting to take a close look at some of their costume pieces.) A guided meditation took people to Aegir’s hall. Live music accompanied the meditation. (The Kindred members are so creative and skilled!)
I didn’t participate in the meditation and it’s a bit complicated to explain why. (In fact, I wrote several sentences trying to explain all these reasons and it just got boring so I deleted it.) Nonetheless, drama has an altering effect on the consciousness, so a lightly relaxed state was achieved before very long.
The drama addressed several issues. I couldn’t name them all because I kept forgetting to pay attention; I was having fun watching Odin and Freya and Ran and Freyr and Loki bounce around. I do recall that sexuality, polyamory, disability, and social class were brought up and argued about in character.
Everyone knows how Lokasenna ends. I know how Lokasenna ends. Why then was I so disturbed? Not dropping down into meditation was supposed to keep me safe – and perhaps it did, relatively speaking.
Modern readers are sometimes entirely unsure what to make of Lokasenna. Why is Loki so entirely angry? In the drama, it seems to have been suggested that Loki was pushed to the point of anger and beyond by injustice, hypocrisy, and double standards. Haven’t you ever been so furious at oppression that you just need something to scream at? This was the state being illustrated in the drama. (In fact, I feel like there was some lines to the effect of, “If you’d just calm down and discuss your concerns calmly I’m sure we might actually be able to do something about them. We can’t make progress if you’re angry.”)
The ritual could have ended there but the Kindred chose to give people some kind of closure (which is good! don’t leave your audience injured and never leave your ritual participants in pieces). Small mirrors with bindrunes on the back were handed out to help facilitate greater self-honesty. These were intended to help us see the ugly, unpleasant parts of the psyche and to bring them to light where they could be dealt with instead of remaining hidden and continuing to cause extensive harm. I refused a mirror. I was entirely too upset to think about doing magic and at that moment I just did not feel like I wanted or needed such a dangerous tool. I left quickly. The ritual was sound and the drama was well-done and the Kindred was hospitable. I was just done, all done. I was sad and angry on a level I hadn’t expected. I was upset at myself for expecting to feel differently; what did I think I was going to feel?
I was very nearly to the elevators when I realized I had left my phone in the conference room. Turning back I found one of the tiny round mirrors glinting at me on the floor. Fine. I’d have a mirror but I wouldn’t take one in ritual.
Rituals have effects. This is no doubt one of the many reasons I don’t go to any that I’m not in control of. I always protest that I want something easier, something gentler, something less exacting but when I’m offered the chance for deeper self-knowledge and ever greater levels of refinement I always jump into the deep end of the pool. I am very greedy.
This ritual had very prompt effects. I began telling some hard stories about myself, dredging up the garbage that I’ve been carrying around for many years. Being honest in identifying these neglected trash heaps let me name them and know them; I have begun, slowly, to recognize how they influence my behavior, expectations, and emotional character. I am also very slowly starting to see how they harm me and how they cause continual problems in different aspects of my life. Telling stories became a major theme as PantheaCon wound to a close for another year.
The ritual is still having effects. I think (hope!) that I’ve gotten over feeling resentful and angry at having my covers pulled; honest self-knowledge is the greatest gift you can give yourself. A clear, unflinching knowledge of our own internal workings allows us to approach the Powers more effectively and to recognize Their proximity in increasingly subtle ways. With that at stake, I will empty my mental closets and drain every emotional cesspool. I will continue to embrace the light of knowledge even as it burns; such is suggested by the kenaz rune.
I’m still carrying the mirror in my wallet.