rowanf: (Interfaith Today)
This morning I was quite tired after our Colonial Tramcar dinner. Anna & I went together and we ran into Tim Miner and his wife from Washington DC. Tim is the fellow to whose organization I donated the interfaithtoday.com domain. We had a lovely dinner but there wasn't a tour aspect. By the end of three hours I was a bit motion sick. What is the point of a moving dinner, however yummy, if there isn't a tour?!

I skipped doing a devotional and went to a 9:30 session - Understanding Vodun: a West African Spirituality by Robert Houndohome Hounon of Benin. Also known as His Majesty Daagbo Hounion Houna II, Robert Houndohome Hounon is the Supreme Spiritual Leader of the Great Council of the Vodun Hwendo tradition. He was speaking in French with a translator. I understand that the East Coast Pagan community had contributed money to get him to the Parliament.

His basic message seems to be that the diaspora is doing it all wrong and should come back to Africa to get the pure religion from one of the countries of the Gulf of Guinea. He doesn't have a website yet. There was the inevitable "animal sacrifice" question, twice. He said yes, they do animal sacrifice but if the animal screams it gets a reprieve. Someone asked him about Vodun's views on modern issues like abortion, vegetarianism and euthanasia. He said that Vodun condemned abortion because all life is sacred, vegetarianism is an individual choice because one's food taboos are determined by the sign one is born under and he didn't respond about euthanasia.

January 10th is a national Vodun holiday in Benin however and they have gotten some recognition there. There are monuments to the gate of departure (leaving for slavery) and the gate of return (slaves descendants returning). It was never discussed whether non-Africans could practice Vodun but His Magesty seemed to be talking only to the black members of the audience.

At the end of his presentation Angie Buchanan presented him with one of the beautiful shakers made by Julee Higgenbotham. Hmm, have I mentioned those? There are four symbolic ceramic shakers that the Pagans were giving to various groups and elders - the Parliament committee in Chicago, the committee in Melbourne, this guy and hopefully the Dalai Lama. I took pictures of the presentation which are stuck in my camera. *sigh* Here is an article on them from her local paper, St. Louis Today.

This presentation really made me glad that the Orixa have reached out to me with the new religious movement of Umbanda. I feel no need to go back to Africa for some kind of authenticity. I love the syncretic nature of Umbanda and I don't need some Africa "King" telling me what is truth. Heh, I have always had trouble with the religious titles of Lord & Lady, His Magesty is pretty much right out for me. And his anti-abortion stance also put me off considerably as you might imagine.
rowanf: (Interfaith Today)
Joanne Shenandoah wasn't playing this afternoon, so I found time to go by the exhibits. Only Earthspirit has a booth this year amongst the Pagan groups. I ran into Don & Anna and we sat and had coffee/tea together. The tea here is really insipid. *sigh*

My last presentation of the day was Personal and Professional Journeys of Women Leaders: a Worldwide Dialogue by Dr. Linda Lyman of Illinois State University. She highlighted the stories of women in education who participated in the 2007 Rome conference: 'Sharing the Spirit, Fanning the Flame: Women Leading Education Across the Continents'. Then we broke into groups of 5-6 and talked about how the themes - scholarhip, activism, introspection and mentoring within our educational, career and spiritual lives - related to our own experience.

My group was particular rewarding because of the presence of Jan Chaffee who, with her husband Paul, runs the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. Hearing Jan's stories and getting to know her better was a wonderful opportunity. I have always admired her warmth and competence. Also in our group was a young woman from Saudi Arabia who has faced challenges in getting an education. She had only gotten a batchelor's degree when a university opened in Bahrain because in Saudi Arabia there were only teacher colleges or nursing schools for women and she wasn't drawn to those professions. At this point she has a bs in information science, a masters in human resources and a masters in public administration and she is going to start a doctorate soon. Another woman in our group had faced both racial and gender discrimination and lived through both the civil rights and women's movement. She has also survived a rare and virulent form of breast cancer. So many stories!

Dr. Lyman offered a number of quotes in her presentation, I especially liked this one (except for the word pilgrimage which is a bit of a trigger for me). "To have a firm persuasion, to set out boldly in our work, is to make a pilgrimage of our labors, to understand that the consumation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task." (David White, 2001, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, NY: Riverhead Books)

I need to get dressed now as Anna and I are doing the Colonial Tram Car dinner which was one of the "extras" one could sign up for at the Parliament. So we'll be missing the youth plenary, which is a shame as I understand that Isobel Arthen has a solo. But I am looking forward to the dinner!
rowanf: (Interfaith Today)

FC&P12-5_009.jpg
Originally uploaded by rowanf.
I started the morning by stopping in Second Life and going to my photo club. How nice that the time was one I could make. :-) Today's theme was Fire & Ice.

I started my morning with a devotional called Living in Peace not Pieces: How to Find and Remain Anchored in Joy, Peace, and Bliss amidst the Waves and Storms of Daily Life by HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati. He is a great storyteller and his voice for matras is amazing. We began with him singing mantras and then Sadhvi Bhagwati did a guided medition.

He said people often come to him and say "I want peace". He says to get rid of "I want" and what is left? Ego and desire block our peace. Daily prayer and meditation are cleansing. Prayer, in any language, to any divine form, is the practitioner is fully engaged in devotion. Meditation is when God talks back. By humbly offering all of ourself to the divine we are cleaned and become anchored in the divine which will bring us peace.

They gave all of the participants a copy of his book, Peace: For Us, For our Families, For our Communities and for the World. I have read a couple of passages and I must say his stories come right through the printed page. I am so glad to have been introduced to his work! And having quickly googled him, I find his site at http://www.parmarth.com/ and he has audio at http://www.parmarth.com/audio/audio.html. I'm off to download some inspirational mantras.


Then I went off to Australian Pagans Speak: a Community Forum featuring Fabienne Morgana, Glenys Livingstone, She' D'Montford, Gede Parma and Linda Ward. Their presentation was especially wonderful because they represented so many different facets of Australian Paganism from solitaries to members and founders of traditions to Pagans doing interfaith work. So many were informed by the environment of their land and by the many cultures who meet here.

She' D'Montford had a power point on the myths about Pagans. She came into the session wearing a black robe and ugly green mask and then stripped down to her slim and lovely self to symbolize stripping away the myths. Her presentation isn't available anywhere but she says there is a book on the way.

Ms. Livingstone, who attended Berkeley's GTU, wrote 'PaGaian Cosmology' which brings together a religious practice of seasonal ritual based in a contemporary scientific sense of the cosmos and female imagery for the Sacred. It is available in print or can be read online at http://pagaian.org/.

I had met Gede Parma the other day at Magick Happens and leafed through his Llewellyn book Spirited: Taking Paganism Beyond the Circle which looked quite interesting. I was glad to see the presence of a young queer voice amongst the panelists.

Fabienne Morgana talked about her upbringing on a ranch only slightly smaller than Rhode Island. She makes "focus beads" for many occasions and has made them for specific occasions. She said she had made some for the Parliament but I didn't manage to get information about them.

Linda Ward, the Interfaith Representative for the Pagan Awareness Network, then spoke about their process of engaging in interfaith dialogue here in Australia. She said they first time they approached an inter-religious meeting they were told, "Oh no, there is an international protocol that says Pagans can't be included." They have come a long way since then! By continuing engagement they have become partners in the local and now global interfaith movement.

It was very interesting to hear the stories of our co-religionists and I hope that the sharing and fellowship we have here at the Parliament will enrich both the Australian and non-Australian Pagans and Wiccans.

Afterward we gathered all of the Australian Pagans there and the various other folks from the USA and elsewhere and took a group photo. If I can ever find a card reader, I'll try to post mine.

Bah humbug

Dec. 6th, 2009 09:07 pm
rowanf: (fox feather)
Bah, I am feeling full of fail. Yesterday I held my arm up taking video for the whole Silicon Valley partner city presentation. I knew that the video would be crap (and said so) but I really hoped for a bit more sound since it was amplified and I was sitting in the front row. I should have taken my digital recorder and put it on the podium. They were my colleagues and would have allowed it. So... crap video, no sound. Lose.

Plus... Premiere Pro would read the format from the flip camera. Neither will iMovie. Obviously I should have just bought a real video camera. But no, I was feeling strapped and I don't know that I will continue with video, so I bought the cheap, easy thing. (I do love the form factor!) I spent several hours this afternoon trying to figure out how to do anything at all with the video. No luck.

So today I slept in recovering from the party, went to my SWC WoW Guild's holiday party (which was a blast!) and banged at video (and read help sites). Didn't manage to attend a single session of the Parliament. In half an hour I'll go down to the Plenary. Not exactly a stellar day.

And y'know. I really want to go out and sit down in a restaurant and eat a meal in company. I'm tired of grabbing things from cafe's and eating handfuls of almonds to tide me over. I really don't think I'm as good a traveller as I used to be. Plus the schedule for the Parliament is fairly insane. Halfway through and already I'm burnt out. Think I'll go take some pain meds.
rowanf: (Fun is my spiritual path)
So after almost getting a nap (but the URI Wiccan Indigenous folks decided to have a meeting in our room 20 minutes in), I headed back to the Arts House venue for the Magick Happens Cirque Noir Masquerade Ball. When I arrived burlesque dancers were putting on a lovely show. Then the Stiletto Sisters, a band containing a fiddle, accordian and bass, wandered around playing Gypsy/Eastern European music for small audiences. The level of entertainment at this event was truly stellar.

The lovely burlesque ladies soon began circulating through the crowd with trays of appetizers. I got myself a glass of spiced mead at the bar and tucked into the food - shooter sized hamburgers but on lovely crunchy rolls rather than insipid white bread, spring rolls, prawn dumplings and an array of puff pastries filled with cheese, cheese & spinach, bacon & cheese and mystery vegatables. There was also chicken satay and desserts but I skipped the chicken and was way to full for desert!

At 10pm Spiral Dance started their set (they were supposed to get a break but they played straight for an hour!). Those who know me know that I am a hopeless fan girl for Spiral Dance and their live performance did not disappoint. Such great performers!!!! I had heard most of the tunes they did but there were perhaps three that were new to me. I hope there is a new album in the offing! They taught a Breton dance for power raising and got people up and dancing (not me - I could tell my shoulder wouldn't like it). [For my own memory since it is on the back of an envelope the steps went right, left, right kick; left, right, left kick with the hands down on the first set and up on the second. It did look very good for power raising.] There was also a spiral dance danced (which again I sat out *sigh*).

After their set I chatted with Adrienne and the other band members. They suggested hotels for our Adelaide stay when we go there next weekend to see their show and said they'd take us out for Sunday brunch the next day. *bounce*

I listened to about half an hour of Wendy Rule (playing with her guitar, a fiddler and a bass) before realizing I was nodding off and it was after midnight. I love Wendy's amazing voice but I was worried about getting a taxi. Nick from Spiral Dance came outside to help me find a taxi and was so lovely and gracious. He said that on their tours of the USA (East Coast only, I've been watching for them) people had been so nice to them that he was paying it forward by helping me. I said they should do a West Coast tour and come to PantheaCon.

I got back to the hotel about 1:30am and fell over. But what a fabulous night! The local community is really nice, their costumes for the masquerade were amazing, the music was beyond fabulous and the food was fine and served by beautiful women. I mean, what's not to like!
rowanf: (Interfaith Today)
I started the morning with a Presentation, Observance, and Discussion on Celtic Mysticism: an introduction to its arts and traditions with Michelle MacEwan and Cath Connelly. Evidently these two ladies both out in Celtic mysticism proposals to the Parliament and were asked to combine forces. Though they both live in Australia they met after that introduction when they were both in Connamara, Ireland. Ms. MacEwan is a "Celtic mystic and spiritual activist who continues a line of mysticism in the Scottish and Irish traditions" (though she eschews the word "Pagan"). Ms. Connelly is a Christian whose current project involves exploring the Celtic figure of Brigid and her representations as Celtic Saint and as Goddess. She is a professional Celtic harpist who performs, records, teaches and facilitates harp and spirituality workshops throughout Australia.

With music, storytelling and breath meditation they asked us to listen to and trust the voice of the heart. The voice of the mind which tells us we aren't good enough and can't do things should be recognized but not allowed to stop our creative impulse. By harmonising heart and soul, we awaken our instinct and power of sovereignty enabling us to be co-creators of a sustainable, diverse and harmonious world. It was a really nice way to start the morning.

Then I went to Hindu meditations for the Earth. The first presenter, Swarnalata Rangarajan, spoke on the use of the Sri Chakra Yantra and other mandalas (a geometric projection of the world/psyche reduced to an essential plan). She showed us many mandalas from various cultures and talked about the elements of center, triangles, squares and other features. We went through the enclosures of the Sarvanandamaya chakra. She mentioned Kolam art, which is women's art of drawing a mandala on the threshold of homes and temples every morning. I love the idea of such a pratice!

Then Acharya Shrinath Prasad Dwivedi talked about expressions of Mother Earth in the vedas. He also proposed that because we all have a divine spark inside us and are thus all divinely connected we should respect all people. And because we have been and can be reincarnated into other animal forms that we should have the same respect for all of life. He also spoke of the Hindu practice of offering prayers to all you interact with - as you get out of bed, ask the Earth Mother for permission to walk upon her breast; praise and thank the beings who provide your food, etc.

The other panelists didn't show and there was an over-loud, persistent questioner dominating that part of things so I left.

At 11:30 was the presentation by my colleagues of the San Jose Interfaith Steering Committee on "Developing an Interreligious Community: How Silicon Valley Used the Partner City Process". I admit I didn't take notes. (a) I have read the proposal and (b) I was holding up my flip video camera filming it. Hopefully I can put together the slides which should be up on http://www.interfaithspace.org/parliament/ soon with the video and get that up soon.

Then I headed off to the Magick Happens fair that the local community was doing. I browsed the merchants and went to a talk by River Higgenbotham and Patrick McCollum and heard a short Wendy Rule set plugging the masquerade/concert tonight. I should really be taking a nap so that I have a prayer of lasting through the evening. Think I'll go do that.
rowanf: (Interfaith Today)
Just what the world needs (not), another social networking site. This one created by the Parliament.



Visit PeaceNext
rowanf: (crown)
The various CoG interfaith people are posting to http://covenantinterfaith.blogspot.com/

This is my first "official" report. *grin*
it got long )
rowanf: (Interfaith Today)
I find myself thinking about the words of Baba Wande Abimbola of Ifa School in Nigeria during the Yoruba religious observance yesterday. He said several times things like "You don't understand what we mean by sacrifice", "Sacrifice is very important in Ifa", "Sacrifice is the language through which we speak to the Orisha". He then talked about wearing yellow-orange clothes and giving yellow-orange fruit to Oshun. It made me want to look up sacrifice and see what it really means because I admit that what I am hearing I would call sacra (permanent things dedicated to the Gods such as special clothing) and offerings (ephemeral things given for the use of the Gods such a food). [Though I see the dictionary doesn't have sacra in it at all.]

For me sacrifice would mean giving something very precious to me to the Gods, rather than just a normal offering, which is indeed "the language" for speaking to the Gods. Merriam Webster says that the word Sacrifice comes from Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin sacrificium, from sacr-, sacer + facere to make. So sacrifice is literally to make sacred, but the first definition is 1 : an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially : the killing of a victim on an altar. So the Baba has probably run into people who hear the word sacrifice and think of human or animal sacrifice. Going to the definition of Offerings 1 a : the act of one who offers b : something offered; especially : a sacrifice ceremonially offered as a part of worship c : a contribution to the support of a church. So really sacrifice/offering are quite interchangeable it seems.

In interfaith I am always torn between moderating my language to something palatable to my hearer and using the terms of art or religious phrases that I actually use. So sometimes I have said "We are all children of one Mother" instead of "We all come from the Goddess". But sometimes I have said Goddess. It reall depends on my audience. I think that Don's stages of interfaith dialogue are very true. I don't remember them exactly but in early stages we look for commonalities and in later stages we honour each others differences. And we have to be very clear about the language we are using too it seems.
rowanf: (Interfaith Today)
I started my day with a Yoruba religious observance by Baba Wande Abimbola of Ifa School in Nigeria. It wasn't an observance really but rather a talk on Ifa with a reading for one member of the audience. I admit I had hoped for something more spiritual.

Then I went to a panel on Indigenous Perspectives on Conflict Resolution with Tonya Gonnella Frichner of the Onondaga Nation (USA) Lilybeth Sulutan of the Bagobo Tagabawa (Phillipines) and Margaret Lokawua of the Karimjong (Uganda). They each had 15 minutes to talk about the methods of conflict resolution in their region. Ms. Frichner talked about how hard it was to manage the Mohawk Nation when it crosses the USA/Canada border and the recent set-to with Canada arming their border guards. Ms. Sulutan had a presentation on the history of her people and the levels of censure for wrongdoing and how such things were decided by mediators and tribal councils. Ms. Lokawaua spoke about the Lord's Resistance Army and child soldiers and other problems of resource ownership (the Nile's water rights belonging to Egypt rather than to the upstream nations) and other problems facing them. She believes that religious institutions have a role to play in bringing all the disparate groups together. It was clear that conflict in Uganda was many-faceted and as with the Onondaga many players/jurisdictions must be brought together. There were no great revelations, but the depth of the problem was definitely brought to light.

Then I headed off via the train out to the suburb where the Apple Store had the part to fix my computer. It took over two hours of taxis and train and cost about $30 to get there. I wanted about 2-1/2 hours for my computer to be fixed and the reversed the process of taxis and trains. I missed my stop and then had trouble finding a taxi. Consequently I am not at the community night that the local Reclaiming community put on for the visiting Pagan folks. I am very disappointed. For some reason I thought this was Thursday. I thought about hopping back in a taxi and arriving there an hour late, but I don't have the spoons and I don't want to interrupt a ritual or anything. So I'm sitting here drinking a local Tasmanian brand "Mercury Special Dry" apple cider. Yum. I am considering room service. I could really use some protein. At the mall waiting for my computer I had envisions going to a restaurant but wound up at Theobroma, Chocolate Lounge where I had a pot of tea and a date pudding. Lovely, but I think I need something that isn't a sweet.

I'd put a photo with this but I can't find the cable I am sure Russell handed to me so that I can get things off my camera. It may have to wait until I'm home and can get at a card reader. *facepalm*
rowanf: (Interfaith Today)
We checking into our hotel and left our bags with the concierge since it was only 10am and headed over to the Parliament registration only to find it didn't open until 11am. Rachael & Raul and I sat in Caffe Cino in the Hilton and had refreshments. I had no idea there was Blood Orange Pellegrino, but it is very yummy. I don't believe Diet Dr. Pepper exists here but I have had a very nice Solo lemonade and now the Pellegrino. It works for me. :-) Don & Anna joined us and we headed over to register, running into many friends as we walked the length of the convention centre.

The lines were a bit chaotic but we eventually got ourselves all signed up. And our hotel room was ready. But by now it was only half an hour until the Indigenous Speakers Reception which Don, Rachael & Raul were attending and the Pagans at the Parliament reception that Anna & I were headed for. We all decided not to change clothes. Rachael and I are fairly low on spoons and she arranged through the hotel to rent a motorized wheelchair. It is only $14/day plus some delivery fees. I admit to a temptation to get one too.

The Pagan reception was in the Hilton in a suite that Angie & Drake and some other folks are sharing. There were probably 60 people attending including 8-10 local folks. It was very much a meet-and-greet with loud, interesting conversations on all sides. I talked to several people, including a few I was meeting for the very first time but to whom had spoken over the years. And I saw many old friends.

Afterward I went back to our room to find that the hotel had given us the "amenity" of a fruit basic and some fresh squeeze blood orange juice! So by the time Don called it see if I wanted to join them for dinner I really didn't feel like I needed more food. Huzzah for fresh fruit and being in the Hilton.

The first Parliament event, the opening Plenary started at 7:30 with a symphony accompanied by a digeridoo. Prof. Joy Murphy Wandin welcomed us to her land by offering virtual gum leaves which signify we are welcome from the tops of the trees to their roots. Then we were welcomed by Prof. David de Kretser, the governor of Victoria, Bill Lesher of the Parliament and the Hon. Laurie Ferguson, MP, and Jennifer Kanis a Melbourne City Councillor. The Australians all thanked and praised the Aboriginal Australians in their remarks which I thought was interesting. The Rabbi David Sapperstein gave the first keynote. He said some things about the environment and re-sacralizing the earth... but I was nodding off. I left as the first blessing, from the Zoroastrians was beginning. Many more blessings and performances and speeches were scheduled but I am just exhausted.

Off to bed now.
rowanf: (Galactic Love)
My trip to Australia was much complicated by my brainlessness. Sunday I had a bit of a cold and I didn't get as much packing done as I had hoped. I packed on Monday mostly and at about 3pm my computer started making horrible noises. Since it had been overheating and having screenfreezes I feared the worst. So I spent a couple of hours in the Apple Store. They diagnosed it as a fan rather than something serious but didn't have the part. I rushed home, ate the dinner Russell had made and then hopped in the car to go to the airport. Only upon arrival did I realize that I hadn't taken my passport out of the drawer. *facepalm* I called [livejournal.com profile] mr_kurt who was kind enough to go by our house and grab it since Russell couldn't have gotten to SJ and back in the hour available. I arrived at the plane just at the very last moment.

I mostly slept though the flight was very turbulent. Somehow I had also not managed to pack pain meds in my carry on. I hope this isn't going to be a theme. In Sydney everyone was very nice but they had totally mislaid a piece of Rachael's luggage. They did eventually find it but we had to take a flight two hours later than our original connection. Raul was arriving from South America at the same-ish time as our original arrival time so we asked that they contact him and tell him we would be late. They contacted him... and told him our original arrival time. So he was waiting for two hours in the Melbourne airport with no idea what was going on, despite our efforts.

We arrived at our hotel to discover that the Parliament booking office had booked us from Dec 1-4 (rather than 2-10). Thus they had kept our deposit as a no-show and they wouldn't have rooms for most of our stay. Also they put us in a very small room with one bed. It was shabby and just pretty much all around unacceptable. For $50 a night more we got a room at the Hilton which is (a) four times the size, (b) next door to the Parliament venue and (c) has better beds and all other amenities. The proximity to the Parliament has already paid off and it is totally worth it.

Oh, one last gotcha... getting into the taxi to go from our first hotel to the Hilton... I was struck by a bicyclist (hit & run) and naturally he ran into my shoulder. Now in addition to the operation soreness, I have bruised soreness on that arm. Argh!

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