Diane Lonsway raises up the primal forces for Michigan Pagan Fest 2017 with her theme of “Root, Soil, and Stone” this year. The primal and elemental “materia magicka” of presenters and performers from far and wide that promise to engage, influence, and educate attendees. The woman who describes herself in words such as “laid back, humble, smart, can be funny, people-pleaser” brought home the goods with this year’s line-up.
Do you wish to see for yourself? Then take a gaze upon her schedule and be amazed.
(Full disclosure, I will be teaching this year at this event. Honestly, I get around.)
Plenty of opportunities for self-reflection abound, as this is also a campground based festival. This means that there is always time to play, read, relax, and enjoy the social activities that the Michigan Pagan Communities offer. Secure and safe, the family feeling and good vibes permeate the entire area.
Showers and indoor bathrooms make this a fun time, even for the novice at festival camping. Local hotels are giving a special rate for Pagan “festies”, and a staff of volunteers are there to answer questions. Diane is never far away, either, so you can also thank her for a great event in person.
Do not forget, that shopping and “ooh, shiney” is part of the experience. Vendors with wares that delight, dazzle, and inspire amusement populate the shopper’s area. The famous raffle bar rides again, as does the charity/food drive for Pagans In Need. Organizations that make a difference in the community are also slated to be in attendance. Who knows, you may find a calling to volunteer.
Food is available on site. However, you can definitely bring your own to heighten your experience….such as roasting marshmallows and having ring chants. I like Ghirardelli chocolates on mine. Just saying.
The children will have fun at the workshops created just for them. Last year, they even had a children’s ritual. My own daughter, being the early teen Empress she is, was more fascinated with fawning over the soaps at Twisted Willow Soap Company and chasing after a passing puppy, of course.
(This was all part of a failed plot to enamor me toward dog adoption. Umm, no, allerergen level 100 here)
New this year, Blue Crow Talent joins the bill. This is the only local Pagan friendly circus in Metro Detroit. They have major chops, were founded in Detroit’s circuit, and are set to play in Las Vegas, baby! I LOVE THESE FOLKS.
(I love Las Vegas, too. But I can never tell you about it. Not even my husband can get my epic adventure there as a traveling saleswoman on vacation. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.)
All event goers are expected to observe proper ritual fire protocol. This means being respectful to the Fire Keepers, and to what it represents. Do NOT throw trash into the fire. I cannot stress this enough here. Use your best Pagan Manners.
In this spirit, it would also be a good time to suggest you bring your feast bundles if you have them. These are kits that you make yourself. They include a large cloth napkin, washable utensils, and bowl. This is easier on the environment than just tote, toss, and trash.
Michigan Pagan Fest is located at the Wayne County Fairgrounds. If you get lost, call (734) 697-7002. The address is 10871 Quirk Road, Belleville, Michigan 48111.
Hope to see you there. Here is a chant for you to enjoy around those marshmallows. Remember: I love chocolate.
You read that title correctly,The Church Of a Poultrology had a full service and revival style workshop at Michigan Pagan Fest this year. Affectionately known as the “Chicken Church” by local Michiganders, it from the mind of Daemon Wilburn.
Daem, also known as “Mother Clucker”, is our local homegrown celebrity Pagan comedienne, teacher, storyteller, and aspiring writer.
Yes, Daem, I put you out there about your writing.
Dedicants came arrayed in varying degrees of yellow, feathers, and/or, jewelry befitting the faithful. The altar was lovingly set with representative sacraments to the religion. All were welcome.
There was, of course, an order of service. Members arose to read the litany. As seen here.
And of course, in all things polarity, there was the second part to the Charge.
The church then began its true service. A message of unity and human connection with the Divine in all of us. That element being known as the “Yolk”.
An Eating of Sins occurred. All the sins of the world were absolved by this rite. The Great Hen would be proud.
A call to membership was also shared. Truth be told, everyone is already a member. This is just a formality, according to church doctrine.
Because the church encompasses all times and all places, they accept nominations for sainthood. Members flocked to write the names of the sainted down for ceremonial recognition. Also, there was time for official ministry as part of the induction, and blessings.
The chicken is a noble bird. It is descends from the Tyrannosaurus Rex. It is a symbolic embodiment of divinity and the will to survive, evolve, and thrive. If you can wrap your mind around this concept, you are already halfway there to recognizing the Yolk in all of us
I recognize the yolk in you. The Yolk, the truest self. That light. That spirit. We all have it. And now many more recognize it now. The truth was served up by the Mother Clucker, who revealed it all that afternoon at Michigan Pagan Fest 2016.
Poultrology is about laughter and silliness. Isn’t that enough? – Daemon Wilburn
At Michigan Pagan Fest, Spike Larr walked onstage and blew her audience away. It was real. It was raw. It was everything it needed to be. It was so magnificent that it had to be given space here for everyone to see and feel. And so, she has given us permission to use her videos. Come meet Spike Larr, and feel her roar.
Would you like to tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a non-binary trans woman, a Pagan witch, and a fire carrier for Brighid, I have a beautiful 2 1/2 year old daughter named Jasmine, I live in Ann Arbor with my lovely girlfriend, I have 2 cats, they’re jerks and I love them. I’m an active part of the Pagan community here, (I like to think, lol) and I hope to give to and learn from others in the community in whatever way I can.
How long have you been a practicing Pagan?
Well not as long as I’ve been a wishy-washy-about-my-practice-Pagan; LOL. I got into Paganism and witchcraft, I’ll say, 5 1/2 years or so ago, while I was going to a Catholic school in California, funny enough. Both California and Michigan have wonderful Pagan communities. Very different, and they both hold a place in my heart.
Do you find the Michigan Pagan community accepting as a whole?
As a whole, I think the community was very accepting of my message. But yet there have been people within the community that I have had to call out for their transphobia, had to call out for claiming to be an ally but not listening when being told they’re not being one.And generally I’ve been able to work things out, but transmisogyny is certainly alive in the Pagan community.
But I also believe that people are trying to grow and do better. Many people knew me from before my transition and so they often screw up my pronouns, but the important piece is when corrected, they apologize, correct themselves, and move on. So in general I would say our community is moving in the right direction.
Incredibly. It was amazing just being able to share a piece of myself with the community, to stand up and say that, hey, I’m a trans woman, I’m part of this community too, and this is my experience, my feelings, my frustrations: this is me. And I got enormous support, even from those who I thought might just think I’m salty.
For me poetry is a form of therapy, can I assume the same applies to you?
I can’t be dishonest in my poetry. Things come out sometimes that I never expected to come out of me, and performing it, writing it, everything feels like the weight of my experiences are no longer just mine to carry, but are offered to the world as a force of change.
The message in your work is so moving and strong! It’s hard to imagine the daily struggle to be transgender. As part of the LGBTQ community, I see a lot of contempt thrown my way. Even in the community, someone very close to me is transitioning. She is constantly being referred to by her ” old” name and gender. Any advice?
This happens to me all the time. I didn’t change my name, but again people who knew me, and even some who didn’t, often use the wrong pronouns and titles, and most of the time it’s as simple as a gentle, but firm, reminder. Most people I’ve found are willing to correct themselves, apologize, etc. I know how hard that can be, and I know how humiliating it can be, but being firm and loving yourself for who you are is the first step.
How hard was it for you to come to the decision to be yourself? Do you feel your family and circle of friends was accepting?
It’s complicated. I’ve always been one to be so unapologetic in who I am that it scares some people. When I came out first as non-binary, a lot of people didn’t really understand it, and some felt that I was asking too much to be referred to with gender neutral pronouns. And my partner at the time felt like I had lied to her about a part of who I am, partially because I didn’t feel safe and so I didn’t tell her first.
*Explicit Language Warning
It was a really hard time for me coming out, but I also think I learned who was supportive and who wasn’t. Thankfully I have friends online in the LGBTQ community that I could talk to and that understood what I was going through. Now my situation is a lot better, i have a wonderfully supportive girlfriend and my family has come to understand that this is a serious choice that I have made to be myself. But it was a tough road to get here.
Thank you so much for the interview. We definitely need more people like you!
I appreciate that! I think many in the Pagan community have so much to offer and I’ve learned so much from the headliners, the fire tenders, and just others I’ve chatted with in our community. I just hope that my lived experience and what comes out of it can be an asset to our community as well (smiles).
Serving as an ordained minister for a several years now, I have found it necessary to form my own moral matrix of beliefs and practices. The one-size-fits-most rule does not work in life when dealing with the myriad paths and traditions here in the Pagan and alternative worlds of spirituality.
Two years ago, I committed to teaching an outer court grove. During the Year and a Day studies, conversations arose about what the basics of being clergy are. This cause me to challenge the commonly held standards, and question who and what cultures codified them?
Cherry Hill Seminary, and other groups strive to serve as the established model arbiters of this. But they are not the only route to being living, practicing, clergy. More importantly, they do not represent me. Academic training is marvelous, but it does not invalidate the experiences and education of on the ground application of the skill sets needed in non-rarified spaces.
Authors such as Belladonna LaVeau broach the subject in published works. Her “Awakening Spirit: WISE Seminary, First Year Certification for Wiccan Clergy” serves as one of the standards for the new generations.
But what of the non-affiliated among us? What standards do we choose ? How does one be a “clergy alone”?
My first attempt to name my standards resulted in this list. In may of these, I highly recommend that those who have the feeling that they are not sufficiently prepped in certain areas to take additional classes and training. Many are free or low cost. Some are available through grants. Continuing education is an integral part of life long development for ministry.
1. You should have at least attained the age of 21. Why? Because you sometimes need to be able to enter a bar and pick up your damn covener/parishioner from the damned floor and take them to the car. You should also be able to have discernment and wisdom so that you can make the decision whether or not to take a person to the hospital or other care facility.
2. You should also be able to enter into contracts and be able to understand them. You should also be able to compose correspondence, serve as a character reference for those in your care, and be able to testify if called on.
3. You should know the laws on Confession. And be able to use them to protect yourself and your client. This is in reference to the protections afforded and the responsibilities. This is the rite of the seal of the confession for a Pagan minister/priest.
4. You should know the laws on Mandatory Reporting of information to the civil authorities in your state. In many states, by being an ordained minister, you are required by law to report harm, intent to harm, and abuse. In different nations, so when traveling it is critical to know the laws of the land in which you practice. Persons who fall under these laws are
5. You should know the laws and requirements governing marriages and weddings in your state and for other countries. Also, you should know the requirements to officiate a marriage for someone who has divorced and what paperwork you need.
6. You should know the protocols, rules, and laws on Hospice, Medical Advocacy, Medical Directives, DNR orders, and rudimentary statutory will forms so that you may aid your client to get these resources.*
7. You should know the laws on Birth, Paternity, Foster Care, Kinship Programs, and Adoption so that you refer to sources of information and advocacy for your clients.*
8. You should know the laws on Prison Ministry, even if you do not do this service, and update your knowledge of Prison Chaplain requirements in your state.*
9. You should know the laws on Burial Rites, and have a resource guide for those making end of life decisions.*
10. You should have at least a rudimentary knowledge on Substance Abuse Education and Treatment Programs. Even better, at least some training in this area.*
11. You should have access to mental health service providers, and be experienced enough to know when SOMEONE’S PROBLEMS LIE OUTSIDE OF YOUR SCOPE OF LAY SPIRITUAL COUNSELING. You should know the laws on referring someone for treatment.
12. You have studied, or at least familiarized yourself with the basics of, military chaplaincy and the rights of the people of your faith group
13. You have earned the respect of you, yourself, and others in your peer group as someone who is of good character and consistency*
14. You have cultivated the qualities of leadership in yourself and can undertake hard decisions with fairness and firmness, yet be able to temper them with mercy and discernment
15. If you are of a martial bent, you have the mettle and the character befitting a spiritual leader, and a channel of inspiration and bravery in battle
16. You act as a Judge in the community, impartial and fair, with Wisdom
17. You should have a set of basic rituals on hand. This is to include ritual music, chants, and songs.
These include occasions, but not limited to, the following:
II. Wedding/Handfasting/Commitment Ceremony
III. Divorce/HandParting Ceremony
IV. Memorial Services
V. Funeral Service/Rites
VI. House Blessings
VII. Blessing a Person
VIII. Rites of Passage Ceremonies
X. Warrior Rites
XII. Surgical/Medical Pre Prayers
Rev. Terrie Brookins pointed out to me something critical when she proofed this. You should also be able to WRITE rituals as well. If you don’t know how, try to learn. If you just cannot, then find a great ritual writer. Why?
since not everything is readily available on Google and often times, clergy members are on the spot, in the woods, with no cell signal.
Also, be mindful of the health and safety of others during rituals and devotions. Allergies, food intolerance, food allergy, sensitivities to smoke or anointing oil ingredients, aversion to ritual components, these are all factors to weigh. Be ready to adapt, adjust, and advocate.
18. You explain what your beliefs are and some of their history.
19. You avoid shock and awe, but engage in quiet, polite, civil theological conversation in general with other ministers of their faiths about matters of spirituality and life
20. You should know the meanings behind every tool you use, every ritual, and every hand gesture you use in YOUR practices
21. You should have some sort of First Aid Training (this includes Mental First Aid)
22. You to walk into a room and hold your ground, soundly, in the face of those who would ridicule you
23. You should bring no disgrace to those who associate themselves with your ministry
24. You should bring honor to your faith, and associate nothing false
25. You advocate for the weak, no matter the faith
26. If you are of a martial bent, you stand at the forefront of social causes to the best of your ability if your conscience moves you so
27. You should have no fear, nor eat your heart, when you witness something evil or wrong and call it out
*Never hesitate to call in someone who is an expert in this area for help. And always be aware of a pro bono lawyer or legal aid office that can help here.
In addition to these, there are some experiences that make really good clergy. Not all, but at least some of these are necessary for a balanced view of life. Some experiences leave the etchings that complete our belief windows.
1. You have lost someone close to you to death
2. You have had a major medical procedure
3. You have had a brush with death
4. You have had a child
5. You have dealt with someone with a substance abuse issue OR had one yourself OR both
6. You have volunteered to help those less fortunate and/or were yourself at one point in a place to need help
7. You have attended the practices, ceremonies, and ritual services of other groups on your path and on other paths and examined them objectively
8. You have led at least one person through a personal crisis, a “dark night of the soul”, or other close emotional trauma
9. You have been in an accident
10. You experienced marriage, or a long-term relationship, where you lived with the other person
11. You completed a term of military service
12. You have someone in your circle who is in the military
When I first presented this at Michigan Pagan Fest in 2015, Figment (Michael Poe) gave the gift of his wisdom when he pointed out a critical missing quality. You have to have a sense of humor. Sacred Mirth is a part of my belief system, and it serves as a mystic’s balm to the soul.
In a look back at this, I find that it has a long way to go. It did not encompass the factors of emotional intelligence, cultural fictive kin relationships, and more. These are all things that were an integral part in my college courses in my degree pursuit for a BA in Family Life Education.
It denotes an incomplete inventory. But the list is a good way to find out lay clergy roles, vs. professional. are actually a representative of your beliefs through that office. It is a self test, and a community test that may be used to check where you are in your practice.
The plan is for an upcoming series of workshops about this topic in the community during the later. The location is Metro Detroit, however, as that is my home base area. There are brick and mortar, floating, and virtual circles, churches, and kindred here that are putting faith to work on a practical level.
For those seeking Pagan clergy here in Michigan, you are spoiled for choice. The Universal Society of Ancient Ministryoffers material and food assistance through Pagans In Need, ministry services, educational scholarships, and a 13 step recovery program, as well as a resource guide.
Pagan Pathways Temple offers ministry, a gathering space, and classes. They are also the organization that has taken up the mantle of hosting the annual Pagan Pride Day celebration in Detroit. In addition to this, they are filming the series “Unveiled”.
The Michigan Council of Covens and Solitaires offers an Adopt A Family program, as well as having membership which includes clergy and educators.
And of course, there is also Crossroads Tabernacle Church, ATC. This group is responsible for many innovations and advances in Pagan Ministry. They also hold services that serve Washtenaw County, giving life to ritual solstice gatherings.
There are many more here. There are probably many where you may live. Take some time to see them. Also, here is a great site to get you started for building a chant library. Hedra’s Pagan Chant page is a valuable resource. For one person’s perspective, please enjoy the video at the bottom of this article.
Diane Lonsway is the firebrand behind the Michigan Pagan Fest that has become an international phenomenon. Beautiful in mind and soul, forthright, and down to earth, she embodies the drive and vision that can be found among the best of us. She is also, as typical of many people who do the work involved to make things really happen, a name you may not know. She took a moment to allow a brief interview on who she is and what she does for this powerful event.
How would you describe yourself if you were talking about you?
Laid back, humble, smart, can be funny, people-pleaser.
What would you say describes you specifically as an event organizer?
I’m organized, experienced, and friendly, hate drama, listens to my attendees and staff.
How does this affect the way you see the world?
It’s my world and I only see it that way lol.
How did you get started, where did you begin your journey?
Started at the Florida Pagan Gathering in 1998 helping with sound than moved onto video, photography and the website. I still do the photography and website and eat with the headliners.
Who would you say was the most influential on your style.of management and organization?
Roger Coleman who founded FPG and the current board president of FPG, Ann Marie.
What makes Florida and Michigan different? In what ways are they sort of alike?
MPF is smaller and location is easier to handle. We run on a dozen or so minions and volunteers. FPG requires so much more staff. FPG is a non-profit, MPF is not. We host many of the same headliners and musicians.
How are the communities in respect to their attendance and preference of programming?
I have seen FPG close to 700 people and as low as 350 with other festivals popping up in Florida. Programming is similar.
What do you look for when you are headhunting headliners?
My personal friendships and knowledge of many them helps. We ask who people would like to see and go after them.
When you decided to take on the Land of the Fresh Water Seas, what was your biggest challenge?
It was an accident! We didn’t actually decide to do a festival at first. I am friends with Spiral Dance from Australia and one of their tour stops in the U.S. canceled on them. They got a hold of me to see if there was someplace that would host them in Michigan. I had the perfect partner to help start this. She knew all the local people to assist and I knew all the headliners and had the experience of working FPG for many years.
In talking we decided to call some of the headliners whose numbers I had in my phone. Called Edain McCoy and she said absolutely, emailed Raven and Stephanie Grimassi and they were in. Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone also had a cancelation on their U.S. tour and when they heard we were having one they called me. So our first festival (although expensive and in the hole) was filled with amazing headliners and musicians.The first two years it was owned by a non-profit. I have personally owned it for the last five. The biggest challenge has been staying in the black. When you see and hear the attendee’s excitement, enjoyment and finally blissful exhaustion after it’s over you put all the aches and pains of doing this aside and realize why you do it.
What has been your greatest victory?
Breaking even to live another year.
You call your volunteers Vikings? Why?This is new this year for our site/vikings people. Regular staff is called minions. Then we have our guardians. Vikings are setup and tear-down and emergency weather assistance for tents and canopies and have to stay the entire weekend. We just tossed out names when coming up with this department and it stuck. Volunteers are on-site only, they do not attend meetings.And what would you say is the biggest motivation behind your volunteer morale?People like being part of something bigger than themselves. For some it is the only way they can attend due to finances. We like to be drama free and treat our volunteers with respect.
Is this a labor of love?
You have no idea.
RD has been a big personality. Can you describe this larger than life entertainment dynamo?
He helped start the Atlanta underground drag shows. He has 2 doctorates. Enjoys the entertainment world and sings like you wouldn’t believe!
What can we expect this year at the festival?
We have 75 workshops, 24 vendors, Opening, Main, & Closing Rits, Peruvian Fire Ceremony, Bardic Circle, Variety Show, Midsummer Masquerade with Tommy Toons and of course camping and hotels.
It expanded too, right?
Yes, currently we are a four day festival.
What should folks pack who are camping out?
Depends. We have the option of the slumber partywhich is bring everything but the tent and claim your spot in the huge building. If tenting it. Extra stakes (from experience) for your tents. If you have forgotten anything, Walmart and Meijer’s are right around the corner.
Any special tips for festival etiquette?
Always ask before taking someone’s picture. Do not throw anything into the sacred fire for the entire festival. No means no. Enjoy yourself!
Now, if you had a theme song for this year. …what would it be
“Wind of Change” – Scorpions. Most words apply
This year, Diane has once again brought renowned people to the festival that just keeps getting better. This year lasts from Jun 23 – 26, 2016. Headliners include Judika Illes, MR Sellars, Orion Foxwood, and Lady Bona Dea. Music, workshops, fire, drums, and magick. Sounds like a heady mix to put the wind in anyone’s sails. Thank you, Diane, for being who you are and doing what you do.