The 2012 Sacred Space Conference took place this past weekend in Laurel, MD, welcoming magickal practitioners to the four-day conference filled with teaching, ritual, healing, and fellowship. This year’s featured presenters included Lyratah Barrett, Director of the New Seed Sanctuary, a Magickal Order and Contacted Mystery School in Philadelphia, PA, who presented on alchemy, devotion and ceremonial Magick, the authentic self, and initiation. Ivo Dominguez Jr., an Elder of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel and author the recently released: Casting Sacred Space: The Core of all Magick Work and Spirit Speak, presented on the structure of Karma, the triple shadow, divine embodiment, and casting the Triangle of Stillness. While John Michael Greer, the current Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America and author of over 20 books, including The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered and The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, lead sessions on Victorian sex magic, healing through the elements, Magickal education, and Paganism and the future.
The conference also included local and regional presenters from up and down the East Coast, teaching and holding rituals on topics including: the Fae, the Egyptians, the African traditions, the healing power of sound, the elements, Qabalah, thoughforms, just to name a few. “We had a good number of exceptional high-level classes and workshops offered. I heard praise for virtually all of our sessions,” said Gwendolyn Reece, a Sacred Space Board Member and Teacher, who helped organize and run the conference.
Participants also talked about their conference experiences, “I thought the conference lived up to its name—people from a wide variety of backgrounds came together and made a space that was sacred to us where we could interact, learn, practice, and worship together,” said Literata of the Rose Coven in Arlington, VA. “This was my first year at Sacred Space. I attended because I had heard good things about it and because I wanted to see some of the featured presenters. I particularly enjoyed the presentation by Ivo Dominguez on the shadows of the triple self. His conception of the shadow has the potential to help us build an understanding of parts of self that doesn't rely on strict hierarchies and stark dualities.”
Another conference attendee, Terri Simon of the Circle of the Silver Phoenix in Laurel, MD who has also participated in several past conferences, said she attends the conference because, “I like to expand my horizons and Sacred Space is a great place to learn new things, have new experiences, and generally increase the size of my head.” She added that one of the highlights of the conference for her was “walking through Leanne Pemburn's Bindstars and experiencing the elements in a new way. It's something I can take back to my students and help them understand something new.”
A Space for Healing
New this year was a dedicated Healer’s Room. “For the first time last year the conference reached out to a couple of healers and had them in the vendors room,” explained Reece. “That was an experiment that turned out to be very successful and the healers wanted to return.” In addition to Neighborhood Acupuncture and Copper Moon Healing providing acupuncture and massage therapy once again, this year Reiki practioners Ix Chel Wellness and The Cleansing Breath wanted to participate so organizers experimented with giving the healers their own room. “The hope was that it would provide a more quiet and nurturing environment for people to receive healings than being co-located in the hustle and bustle of the vendors room," continued Reece. "From my perspective, the healers have become an engaged and integral part of the conference. I think they add a lot to the conference experience.”
The healing room also allowed the conference to reach out to other guest at the hotel, “During some of our sessions, the healers were able to treat some of the guest as the hotel and introduce them to some spiritual aspects of reality they would not have otherwise encountered, so that is an interesting unanticipated result.”
A Better Space to Grow
This year also saw the return of the conference to Laurel, MD after being held in Timonium, MD for the last two years. “The hotel in Laurel is a much better venue for our conference. The meeting rooms are better, the hotel is nicer, and there are not guest rooms above the Conjure Dance and the Party,” said Reece. “Additionally, we wanted to make it more possible for people from both the DC area and Baltimore to commute without the expense of a hotel room.”
The move proved to be a success with an increase in attendance of 35% over last year, making it one of the largest indoor Pagan gatherings on the East Coast. “As an organizer, I am extremely pleased with how the conference went,” commented Reece. “It takes a tremendous amount of sustained effort over the course of a year from quite a number of volunteers to pull off an event like this, but it was worth it.”
“The energetic environment of the conference was very positive and I believe everyone was enriched and recharged by being in community with our peers,” Reece added. “Part of the challenge of Sacred Space is that it is difficult to spend as much social time in community as desired while also wanting to be in multiple programs simultaneously.”
For conference attendee Simon, the conference is all about, “Good teachers, good people, good experiences.”
Sacred Space 2013
Already looking ahead to next year and beyond, organizers are hoping that the conference continues to grow and provide diversity both in the teachings and in participation, especially among different traditions. “There is no doubt that we have more success within certain communities than others. It is our hope that those who have attended will encourage the members of their communities to both submit program proposals and attend, which will increase the quality of the conference as a whole,”said Reece.
Next year’s conference will be held at the same venue in Laurel from March 7-10, 2013. Featured presenters will be:
• Paul Beyerl, herbalist, author, and founder of the Hermit’s Grove
• Christopher Penczak, founder of the Temple of Witchcraft and author of more than 15 books including the recently published, The Gates of Witchcraft.
• Luisah Teish, author, storyteller, priestess, and teacher in the Ifa/Orisha tradition of the West African Diaspora.
Proposals for classes, workshops, and rituals are now being accepted with a submission deadline of the Summer Solstice. “We can only offer a diverse selection if we have diverse options from which to choose", explained Reece. “So, this is a call to the broader community! If you have mastery of a topic sufficient to offer an intermediate to advanced class or if you have a powerful ritual for that type of audience that you wish to share, please think about submitting a program for consideration.”
The proposal form can be downloaded from the Sacred Space website: www.sacredspacefoundation.org/teacher-proposal-form/
Featured presenter John Micheal Greer and presenter Byron Ballard.
Featured presenter Lyratah Barrett.
Featured presenter Ivo Dominguez, Jr. and presenters Katrina Messenger and Michael Smith.
In the Healer's Room, Niall Sheehan of Neighborhood Acupuncture takes a patient's pulses during a treatment.
Adam Miramon of Ix Chel Wellness providing a Reiki treatment.