I bumped into many old friends, briefly met hopefully new ones (including the inspirational Mani and amazing April from the Gaian Times), bought some wonderful loose incense from Alchemy but there were two particular highlights of my day... Rufus Harrington and Julian Vayne. As is often the way, these two talks were not ones I was intending to go to, but nonetheless I ended up in Rufus Harrington's Hermetic Ritual Workshop and Julian Vayne's Paganism, Shamanism and Mysticism Workshop.
I have never been particularly interested in Western Hermeticism and the Golden Dawn Tradition but Rufus Harrington has really opened my eyes on this. He talked a little about the Temple of the Phoenix, a Wiccan Hermetic Temple, and took us through two brief workings to give us a flavour of Hermetic ritual. I was all pretty interesting in a general way and I was starting to wonder how this would weave in with my personal working when he said something which really caught my attention. That the Hermetic tradition gives you a temple space inside your mind which allows you to later process and integrate your later magical workings. Now this really appealed to me, I don't know if I'll go down a hermetic route or not but starting to build some sort of "clean room" in order to process and integrate magickal experience sounds like idea I really needed to have brought to my attention right now. I should also add that if I only had to hear one voice to meditate to for the rest of my life...it would be Rufus Harrington's. Truly mellifluous!
After lunch I went to Julian Vayne's workshop and I have to say it blew me away. I really wasn't sure what it was really going to be about and it certainly wasn't a beginner workshop. He started from the premise that as magick workers we generally use some sort of ecstatic technique in our workings be it dancing, drugs, sex, meditation, chanting, drumming etc. we all do something to alter our state of consciousness. The idea of the workshop therefore was to get everyone using their favoured method of ecstatic working (which it is legal and acceptable to do in public) to charge a simple bowl of water with the only intent being a celebration of our diversity. He made the very compelling argument that if we, as pagans, are not using our ecstatic techniques to embrace diversity (first amongst ourselves and then in the wider world) then those ecstatic techniques will be used by others to change the consciousness of people for the bad e.g by whipping people up into a frenzy of hatred for their neighbours. This was such an interesting idea and has fed into a thought process I have been having recently about how we as magick workers, and pagans can (and perhaps should) be bringing the divine directly into our earthly bodies and then taking that energy out into the world to effect real positive changes, rather than trying to ascend out of the world.
So lots of great food for thought, and great people to meet. A very inspiring day and well done to all the organisers for all their hard work!