The Michigan Pagan Fest logo
It was two weekends ago already, but I went to Michigan Pagan Fest this year. As my wife was out of town for the weekend, I went to the event with my sister-in-law. (I wouldn’t have even known it was happening that weekend if Emily hadn’t told me. I’m pretty oblivious to these things.) I could only go for one day of the event, so we decided to go that Saturday (June 25). Emily wanted to attend two workshops by the Reverend Nashan (who’s one of the board of directors for the Pagan Pathways Temple up in Detroit), as well as a workshop by Judika Illes (author of The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, The Encyclopedia of Spirits, and The Weiser Field Guide to Witches).
I said, “Okay.”
Before I go any further, I should probably explain something. I don’t normally enjoy going to these things, and here’s why. Way back in 2006 – back when the LV-426 Tradition was still just a two-person outfit – Brother Tony and I went to a big Pagan gathering in Texas. (Okay, I say “big,” but this wasn’t quite the size of Michigan Pagan Fest. It was more like a cookout with about 20 people or so.) The two of us were so damn excited, we stayed up the night before baking a shit-ton of cookies. This was going to be our very first “public relations” event, and we wanted to make a good impression. So we hauled ass to the gathering the next day with about twenty cookies shy of a full 500. Well, things started out well enough; it was just us and a coven of Wiccan soccer moms. But things got a little weird when we explained who we were and what we were about. They thought it was weird that we wore horned instead of standing pentagrams; that we only talked about a God and not a Goddess; that our God was “the bad guy” of the Egyptian pantheon; that we didn’t care for the Threefold Law; that we used the word “Sabbath” differently than they did; and that we read more Webb than we did Buckland. Our interest in exorcisms and execration spells was a little worrisome to them as well. Long story short, they thought we were just a couple of crotch goblins who’d probably be happier eating babies at a black mass somewhere else…
(Joke’s on them; I’d already crossed paths with a bunch of left-hand path folk long before that enchanted evening took place, and things went a little sideways there too. I appreciate a healthy dose of LaVey every now and again, but there’s only so much anti-theism, Social Darwinism, and Nazi aesthetics I can take before I want to pull a Vadinho from The Pumaman and throw people out from ten-story windows. Needless to say, things didn’t go much better with these particular Faustian malcontents than they did with the Wiccan soccer moms!)
Anyway, my point here is that we LV-426ers are a fickle breed, and that some of the assumptions that are made at Pagan events can really get on my nerves. (The one that fires me up the most is when people I don’t know think it’s OK to touch me or hug me without my permission.) But, I swallowed my pride and went with my sister-in-law to Michigan Pagan Fest despite these reservations. I’m really glad I did, too, because I ended up having a lot of fun.
The first workshop given by Reverend Nashan was called “Quantum Craftwork,” and it was about combining magical thinking with quantum mechanics. This is always kind of a dicey topic for me, because I worry that some people who try to combine these things don’t actually understand the hard science of quantum mechanics. I don’t really understand it either (which is why I don’t present myself to be an expert on the subject), so I’m not in any position to evaluate the scientific authenticity of certain claims. (Here’s a paper about quantum magic by Larry Cornett that seems like a good start to me, though.) But regardless of all that, Reverend Nashan’s presentation was certainly thought-provoking. I do agree that “reality” is a far more fluidic concept than it is solid. Just from a psychological standpoint, a truly objective understanding of “reality” is impossible for any sentient entity to fully attain, since consciousness is necessarily subjective. We are all subjects living in an objective universe, and we can only interact with that universe from within the subjective worlds that exist within our own minds. This is why two people who witness the exact same event at the exact same time can give totally different accounts of what happened. For me, a huge part of magic is trying to make something in objective reality conform to something in one or more subjective realities (e.g., dreaming of getting a car, then getting a car). Normally, such magical change must begin at a very small, localized level before it can be taken to a more universal or cosmic scale. This would seem to jive with quantum mechanics, which posits that particle waves will only collapse when they are observed, and that this process is most effective at the subatomic (rather than the macrocosmic) level. But like I said, I’m not an expert on quantum mechanics, and Reverend Nashan admitted that he isn’t either, so it was a fascinating discussion, if nothing else.
After that first workshop, Emily and I went to scope out the vendors. There were lots of awesome things on display; but since I’m a total bookworm, I was naturally drawn to the booksellers. One of them was an elderly gentleman who seemed very happy to have me stop by. He asked me if he could help me find anything, and I jokingly asked, “Do you have any LaVey?” I expected him to give me a weird look or something, but his response was, “Nothing by LaVey himself, but I have a few other things in that general area. Are you with the Temple of Set?” I blinked at him in genuine surprise; it was the first time in my life that anyone else had ever mentioned the Temple of Set (or anything else Seth-related) without me bringing it up first. “I would describe myself a Setian,” I replied to him a moment later, “but I’m not a member of the Temple, no.” The gentleman nodded and pointed across the counter to a pile of books by Edred Thorsson (b. Stephen Flowers). This was a real blast from the past, given that I had corresponded with Flowers through email once or twice back in the 1990s. I didn’t purchase any of the books (I already own them), but it was a really neat bonding experience to chat with that bookseller for a while.
Reverend Nashan’s next workshop was “Walking a Warrior’s Path.” One of the other people who attended this lecture had actually served in the military – I think he might have been suffering from PTSD too, the poor guy – and it was interesting to hear his perspective on all of this. I don’t think of myself as a “warrior” – I’ve never actually been in any serious combat, and I don’t want to be – but parts of the discussion made me think about some of the scary things I’ve had to face over the years. I could certainly identify with a lot of what was being said. There was one moment where my knee jerked a little, though, because Reverend Nashan was talking about some Pagans he once knew who were hexing someone, and he had to proverbially kick their butts. I haven’t had to use any maleficia for a very long time now, but I do think it’s justified in some extreme situations, and I wanted to know why these people thought it was necessary. Perhaps they had a good reason; perhaps they didn’t. But everyone else at the lecture clearly believed in the Wiccan Rede and/or the Threefold Law, and I didn’t want to be a shit-disturber, so I just kept my question to myself.
Then we went to Judika Illes’ workshop, “Magic of the Saints.” I really enjoyed this session; it was about the veneration of saints in various world religions (not just Roman Catholicism). Judika defined a saint as a human being who is now deceased, but who continues to affect large numbers of the living in a very positive way. People will pray, light candles and make offerings to them, asking for their help with any number of issues, and they’ll swear up and down that their requests are being answered. One of the most fascinating things to me was when Judika explained that the opposite of a saint is not a “sinner,” for many of the world’s most famous saints were imperfect people themselves during life. In her opinion, the true opposite of a saint is a vampire, which is a deceased human being who continues to affect the living in a very negative way. (I really appreciated it when she explained that in traditional vampire lore, vampires aren’t sexy anti-heroes but completely nasty fuckers that spread sickness, misery and death. Take that, Stephanie Meyer!) I asked Judika if there was a particular number of people an ancestor had to have venerating them before they could be considered a proper saint in her opinion, and she replied that there isn’t a specific number, but that you’d probably have to have enough people to fill a room. I must say, I really enjoyed listening to this woman talk; I don’t have any of her books, but I plan on changing that pretty soon. I was so impressed with her, in fact, that I asked her after the presentation if it’d be all right for me to shake her hand. She laughed and said yes, so I did. (It might not seem like a big deal, but it was!)
Yeah, that’s right; I shook hands with the lady who wrote this book. My first claim to fame! WOO-HOO!!
(This topic was actually quite relevant to me personally, for I’ve been thinking about lighting candles for Ronnie James Dio lately. Go ahead and laugh, but someone in my family’s been having a lot of trouble, and I figure that if anyone can help the poor guy, good ol’ Dio can. Besides, I just like the sound of “Saint Dio”; don’t you?)
Anyway, I didn’t get to attend the opening ceremony or the masquerade, but what little I did get to experience of Michigan Pagan Fest was pretty nice. I think I’ll plan on going next year, as well.