Drinking the Kool-Aid

(Or Why You Really Should Come to the Between the Worlds Festival)

I hate trying to sell people on attending the Between the Worlds Queer Men’s Pagan Festival for several reasons: I’m not a “sales” oriented person and hate the “hard sell” approach, I tend to believe when the time is right, the path appears and people really meant to attend will find their way there (sooner or later) but—most of all—I hate sounding like a Moonie who has drunk the Technicolor Kool-Aid and been inducted into some crazy cult and that’s how it tends to come off when I’m trying to explain just how incredible the Between the Worlds experience is to someone who has never experienced it. The fact that I keep trying, in spite of all these things, should tell you something. As my BTW brother and dear friend Darkemoor so rightly put it, “You have no idea what you’re missing.”

How do you describe an initiation? Spiritually, an initiation is a new beginning, the first steps on a path, a milestone and an achievement to be sure, but more importantly, it’s an experience that changes you in fundamental ways. Many describe it as a death and rebirth, tearing down and building up again. It’s also an experience that’s incredibly hard to capture in words and explain to someone who has never gone through it. I hesitated to use the term “life-changing” because it’s one of those Moonie, drank-the-Kool-Aid kind of terms that gets thrown about far too freely; still, Between the Worlds has been life-changing for me, and many men, on many levels.

Why is so profound? I think it traces to the idea of sacred space (or sacred space-time, if you like) but not only pagan sacred space, but queer male sacred space, sacred space for us, space we fit into seamlessly and easily in ways we never even realized before.

“But isn’t that terribly exclusionary?” you might wonder. “A sacred space just for queer men? Should we be cutting ourselves off, ghettoizing ourselves, in that way? Why not just be a part of larger pagan sacred space and community?” We can be, and I think we should be, but we should also not overlook what makes us unique.

Just as there are men’s mysteries and women’s mysteries, so I have learned there are queer mysteries: spiritual experiences unique to our people, experienced and enhanced in our sacred space, facilitated by our elders and rituals. There is a tendency in modern gay rights to proclaim to mainstream society “We’re just like you!” But that’s only partially true. Yes, we are just like other people in that we have fundamental needs and rights that should be recognized, but to proclaim we’re “just like everyone else” is to overlook our unique history, perspective, and potential. Sometimes we’re not like everyone else, and that’s important, too.

Imagine for a moment a world where we—the pagan men-who-love-men—are the “normal” ones. Where our lives, our beliefs, and our feelings are completely accepted, completely normal, not just accepted, but celebrated, treated as sacred and holy.  Breathe into that image for a moment. You might notice a slight lessening of a pressure you never even noticed was there, a feeling of freedom, of breathing a little easier. That’s a small hint of what it’s like to step into queer sacred space, like passing through a kind of magical airlock, where the pressure of the outside world, the world where we’re always in the minority, lifts and it’s like the transition from water to air.

Although I could go on and on relating the many specific and wonderful things about BTW I’ve experienced over the years, that’s the ultimate argument about why you should come: because queer sacred space, among our people, is home. Fifty-one weeks of the year, we have to live in the world, and be part of it and be glad of it, but for one of those weeks, we can walk Between the Worlds, and refresh, strengthen, and grow our hearts and spirits in brotherhood.

Come join us. We’ve got great Kool-Aid….


-Steve Kenson