I've been publicly speaking about Paganism for several years now and as the class clown, I have always been quite comfortable. Of course it is pretty easy to talk about Paganism to non-Pagans who are interested. But this weekend I spoke at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies.
This was to be the first time I would be speaking amongst my peers, which raises the bar considerably. And this was the Academic Pagan Community, which raises things to a whole other level. Reading the bios of my fellow presenters I quickly realized that I was way out of my league. Most of them were Doctors and Professors with Ph.Ds and Academic credentials up the ying yang.
So that morning I was extremely nervous, but after the first few presentations I started to warm up and feel a bit better. The theme of the conference was Building and Sustaining a Pagan Community, (how too). My presentation focus was to emphasize Rite of Passage. Around noon, Selina Fox got up and gave her Key note presentation on the emphasis of Rites of Passage...
She's an amazing speaker and she gave a wonderful speech, which was nearly identical to mine. So what do you do when you show up wearing the same dress as the VIP / Key Note? Oh Shit! I need to go change my clothes. Do I have time? No. Do I have new clothes ready? No. What do you do? What do you say? Think about this for a second before you read on. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Ok, so... I started out with my confession, I said everything you just read up to here X.
Then I announced that I had therefore amended my speech to the following, "Yeah, what she said." and then I walked away from the podium. Thankfully the Academic community Does in fact have a sense of humor. I realized that when people like Selina Fox are saying the same things that you are thinking, this is a huge confirmation that you are on the right path, heading in the right direction.
In my presentation I asserted that rites of passage are important because we have a need for validation and acceptance. Rites of passage fulfill these needs and we are fulfilled spiritually, psychologically and emotional by them when our community celebrates our big step across the threshold, and is there to welcome us. This fulfillment sustains us and we can then move on on other pursuits.
I asserted that we as communities have lost these rites, but we as individuals have not lost the need for them. A need unfulfilled remains a need. These needs unfulfilled, we find ourselves distracted by the pursuit of that validation ans acceptance. Left to our own devices we create our own rites, like losing our virginity, committing our first crime or serving our first prison sentence. For each of these assertions a gave a personal experience to better illustrate my points, and closed with the story of my sons rite of passage and the its symbolism. People cried.
For the remainder of the conference I was approached by people who felt compelled to thank and congratulation me on my presentation, including one new friend who candidly admitted that he came to this conference with a predisposition and intention to not like me. I was so happy he failed.
I normally try to be a humble person, but dammit, yes, I am bragging! I earned it. Whats more, on the way home I realized I had just illustrated my own assertions on rites of Passage. I was weighed, measured, validated and accepted by my community. My personal spiritual, psychological and emotional needs were fulfilled, I left sustained and already find myself in a hot new pursuit.
Thank you Lord and Lady for making us earn things the hard way, and making them worth it.