Pagan Spirit Gathering, an annual summer camping festival, brings Pagans from across multiple traditions, philosophies, and faiths together since 1980. This diversity, while celebratory, is not immune to controversy. This year, theological disputes about the place of transgendered people in gender-based rituals have traveled to PSG from the Pantheacon conferences of 2011 and 2012. The source of conflict at Pantheacon, and now at PSG, comes from two different community ethics: the value of groups to lead rituals according to the guidelines of their specific tradition and the idea that large group ritual shouldn’t exclude attendees.
On Wednesday night at PSG, a Dianic ritual for “women who bleed, will bleed, or have bled our sacred bloods” was held at the same time as the mens Solstice ritual. It’s goal was to celebrate women and honor the mythic cycle of the Goddess as she transitions from Maiden to fertile Mother. Another women’s ritual, to be held on Friday night, is open to any who self-idenity as female.
Although some persons contacted PSG prior to the start of the festival to voice their concern about the Dianic ritual, unlike Pantheacon, no protest was held before, during or after the ritual. PSG leadership says they are in productive discussion with interested parties present at the festival.
At the Thursday morning meeting, while standing with supportive community members, PSG attendee Melissa read a statement to the community. It read, “Sisters, Brothers, Tribe. Today I rise as a woman and ask you to bear witness to my pain. As a tribe any wound is inflicted on all of us. My pain today is caused by my exclusion from the main women’s ritual. It flows from an event occuring in the very community where we all expect to find accectance, love and understanding. Yesterday I stood invisible, excluded and in tears as a result of this exclusion, Today I do not seek easy answers, there are none. I do not seek protest or debate, only the acceptance of my community and acknowledgement of my pain. Today I ask you to understand that as a trans woman I stand within the ocean of love that is PSG. My only call to my sisters and brothers is to be included in what we all enjoy as a community – acceptance.”
After Melissa read her statement, Rev. Selena Fox thanked her and said she was happy people felt comfortable sharing such emotional feedback with the community during the daily morning meeting. She then invited Melissa and others in the community who needed healing to stand in the middle of the ritual circle so the community could send them healing and positive energy. It’s not unusual for attendees to voice concerns or make requests for healing at the daily morning meeting.
PSG leadership and interested festival attendees said they are not on a side nor do they want conflict. They are participating in a series of open and private discussions taking place through the end of this week. Rev. Fox said, “PSG is always evolving.” All parties are withholding further comment until Saturday.