Alchemy is a mystical process wherein elements are combined and transmuted through various steps with the end goal of attaining an elevated state of Being. From the athanor’s fires of late summer to a tempering in the quenching waters of spirit, we saw a mystic transformation within this loving community. This year marked the 4th anniversary of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering (BTW), our largest and most diverse gathering to date. We were fortunate to have 77 men present in community with us from 14 different states, some from as far away as Oregon. They represented many spiritual paths, including eclectic Wicca, Buddhism, Shamanism, Druidry, Heathenry, Minoan Brotherhood, Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca, Radical Faerie, Chaos Magick, OTO, OAI, and Traditional Witchcraft.
BTW is designed to provide a safe place for men who love men to explore spiritual practices such as Pagan and Earth-centered paths. This year offered a mix of rituals and workshops, with social events, musical performers, vendors, and drumming and dancing. We joined together for 5 days in the beautiful hills of southeastern Ohio to forge a community amongst groves of shagbark hickory, burr oak and sassafras with rafts of wild turkeys and the sun, moon, and stars as our witnesses. This year was sunnier and much warmer than our first 3 years. How strange to worry about sunburn and heat exhaustion in mid-September! As if remembering what time of year it was, Mother Nature compensated at the halfway point with a series of quick, hard downpours that cooled things off a bit and lofted spirits (and a few tents!) .
The Opening Ritual kicked off the event, with men from the diverse paths represented at BTW invoking our queer ancestors to watch over us, and with each member of the community bestowing blessings and good wishes for the gathering. The No Talent Show broke the ice with poetry, stories, jokes, and bawdy lyrics, and Todd Alan graced us with a performance that included the debuts of several new songs as well as many old favorites. The week was a whirlwind of 26 workshops, 13 rituals, social events, and concerts. The workshops ran the gamut from Heathenry and runes, to plant spirit allies and incenses, to candle magick, psychic defense, tantric massage, meditation, queer spiritual history, Buddhism and compassionate activism, drumming, and Chaos Magick. The rituals included a Wiccan celebration conducted completely in ASL, a midnight crossroads ritual to Hekate, a Minoan Brotherhood ritual, an Ergi Norse blot and sumbel, a healing and protection ritual, and a journey through the eight faces of the queer God. We touched on both the tragic and the joyous within our community, honoring the life of our dear departed brother, CrystalBear, who passed away last November, and celebrating the joyous handfasting of our brothers Daystar and SpiritWolf.
The community this year, as in every year, outdid itself with the potluck. An auction raised funds to help The Green Faerie Grove participate in a GLBT interfaith conference. The Tea Dance saw a cross section of the community, men from their late teens to early seventies, dancing and having a great time together. This year’s keynote speaker was Toby Johnson, author and contributing editor to White Crane Journal. Toby enchanted the community with his gentle humor and reflections on his friend and mentor Joseph Campbell, while giving us the message that we are a part of the mysteries and myths of humanity, and that we have a purpose in this world. The gathering culminated in the Rites to Dionysos, where the entire community came together to celebrate who we are, shouting, chanting, and dancing around the fire, egged on by the madly twirling God of Ecstasy. Queer men often don’t get the opportunity to be queer men in an environment that is free of the attitudes and hurts that exist in everyday life. It is amazing how transformative something like this can be when they are finally given the chance to drop the masks and live and celebrate who they are. In that alchemy lays a true magick.