The Vision statement of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering (BTW) says that the goal of the event is “to create a safe and sacred community wherein men who love men can freely share ideas on the nature of spirituality and their place in the Universe in a loving, respectful and non-judgmental manner.” Since 2002, The Green Faerie Grove and its allies within the gay and Pagan communities have diligently worked to accomplish that dream at BTW. As we passed the 5-year milestone on that road this year, we paused to look back over the history of this quest to celebrate the awesome range of alternative spiritual practices in the gay community. We took the time to honor key people for their ongoing efforts on behalf of the community – gifting a commemorative bench to the intentional community that has hosted and encouraged us from our inception, presenting tridents wreathed in blessings and spells to the founders of the newly-created BTW safety group, and bestowing a statue of Kwan Yin to our long-time coffeehouse diva (who, having been called away to Vietnam before the event, still managed to be with us at one Morning Meeting via the modern magick of the cell phone) .
Has it really been 5 years since we started this journey? How much blood, sweat, tears and laughter (oh, so much laughter) has poured through the sluiceways of time in this quest? BTW began in 2002 with 32 men from 7 states, and 16 workshops, events and rituals spread over three days. We have since grown to 86 men from 20 states and 63 workshops, events and rituals over five days. And next year we expand to 6 days. This year’s gathering was the largest and most diverse to date (in every sense of that word) . Surrounded by groves of burr oak, sassafras, and shagbark hickory, men from all walks of life gathered to celebrate their nature in Nature – men from their 70s to their early 20s, large men and small ones, blue collar and white collar, long-time practitioners and newcomers, gay, bi, and questioning. Workshops and rituals were held in many different Traditions and paths, including Druidry, Norse/Heathen, Santeria, Ceremonial Magick, Voudoun, Radical Faerie, and several paths of Witchcraft. BTW 2006 also hosted the largest gathering of Minoan Brotherhood initiates in that Tradition’s 29-year history.
At BTW one could learn to how to successfully work through the pitfalls of community-building, sing spells, carve candles, identify and use herbs and roots, craft ritual tools, shield and ground, create your own tarot, and meditate. One could be initiated into the sacred brotherhood of solitary magickians, heal and protect oneself, attend oracles, and practice sacred touch, yoga, and dance. One could listen to an uplifting concert by Jeff Altergott or a keynote address on the place of gay men in the world by Dr. Ron Long (author of “Men, Homosexuality and the Gods”) , sing a song at the No Talent Show (as author and teacher Christopher Penczak did), dance one’s ecstatic head off at KOMOS!, and drum around the sacred fire at night while the stars whirled overhead. And through it all ran the magick of love, the most powerful magick there is. It allowed new relationships to blossom, and even allowed friends who had been quarreling for years to make up. Queer men don’t have a corner on that mystery by any means, but it seems that we can produce the equivalent of a seven-course meal from an Easy-Bake Oven when we set our minds to it.
BTW is a well-earned respite from the stresses of the mundane world. It also represents an opportunity to network with other men, expand one’s knowledge of other paths, and take a breather from the duties of Coven and Grove, Temple and Troth. We are truly grateful for those who come to BTW and groove on the message of community which we seek to incorporate in the fabric of the festival. We do not exaggerate when we say that the ongoing bonds of friendship between men of such widely divergent backgrounds is truly one of the most humbling and powerful side-effects of this event. When one leaves the posturing and distrustful bar attitudes at the gatehouse for the duration of the gathering, a new world literally opens up before you. A mellow world of friendship and cooperation. And laughter. Did I mention the laughter?
To all of the “old hands, ” those pros who have over the years endured the hurricanes and stinky portalets, the bright full moons, the chill dark nights, mud and mosquitoes with laughter and a helping hand, you are our brothers, and the world is a smaller and more joyous place because of you. To all of the newcomers who, with their wide-eyed excitement and manifest awe, make each year’s event so special, and to those who have not yet ventured Between the Worlds with us, we offer a warm smile and outstretched hand. As Jeff Altergott sings, “You’ve been a long time coming home. You don’t have to face the world on your own.”
Merry Meet, Hailsa, Fáilte, and Namaste.