Fecundity and Richness of the Dark: the 11th Annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies

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Hello from Claremont! This weekend is the 11th Pagan Conference, and I’ll be live-blogging it here and there. The theme this year is Fecundity and Richness of the Dark, and most of the presentations will be discussing ideas of Darkness, both concrete and theoretical, and how Pagans (et al.) envision, work with, and embody the dark in our practice and lives.

This is the only academic conference I know where the person giving the welcome talk blows bubbles.

The keynote speakers this weekend are Vivianne Crowley, who will be speaking today on the future of Pagan witchcraft; and Orion Foxwood tomorrow, speaking on the Faery Tradition.

The first presenter today is Dorothea Kahena Viale (Kahena to everyone in the room), giving a talk entitled “Oh Sweet Darkness.” She’s discussing her understanding of the dark, which for her was never “evil.” She grew up in a diverse area, where people of her ancestry were not considered “white” (“Imagine my surprise, when I came to California…”). For her the darkness is also “the place of hidden treasures.”

Communication between “dark” and “light,” or the different sides of the earth, is a big issue. Dancing in particular, with its connection to the body, can bring out many emotions and help people dig deep into themselves, but always contains a measure of joy. Dancing also enables dancers to reclaim their bodies as something other than a “dark hole,” a dirty thing to be ignored and restricted. This connects to issues of women’s rights and power, as well.

The question/answer period is mostly centered around modern folk practices in Arab culture and especially Egypt, where Kahena lived for a time. There’s also a lot of discussion on the creation of racial identity in Europe and the United States, reflecting on the ways in which race based on skin color is a product of modernity and is overwhelmingly economic.

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