Friday, October 26, 2012


I heard it said that it is the place, not the event, and now I understand. I understand that it is the place that matters most; that the purpose of the event is merely to bring the people to the place. It is a place beyond tolerance, beyond acceptance, beyond even welcoming; it is a place that absolutely revels in its diversity. There, family structure matters not, nor gender, nor orientation, nor race. Singles, dyads, triads, more-ads, men, women, transsexuals, transvestites, straights, queers, bisexuals, blacks, browns and whites are all warmly embraced and loved; each free to be as he or she wants and needs to be. The place is All World Acres, but most often simply referred to as the Sanctuary.

The event was Utopia, held October 18-21 in the Tampa Bay area, and I was in attendance.  It is one of three adult-only pagan festivals held annually at the Sanctuary. (Body Magick is held in the spring, where the main ritual is the Wheel of Life, as described on a post here. The other adult festival held at the end of November is the Kinkster, devoted to BDSM activities.) At these events, the mundane world is left behind and free expression prevails. Clothing is unimportant and optional, as every imaginable variety of dress and undress can be found. Sarongs are very popular among the women, some topless, some fully covered. Even some of the men can be found wearing them.

During Utopia, the days on Friday and Saturday were filled with workshops, many energy related. We worked our bodies, doing such things as expressive dance and sensual yoga (couples yoga). And we worked our minds with discussion groups covering a wide variety of topics, such as polyamory and self-identification. During the latter discussion, we were each asked to define our labels for the group. I identified as the following: husband, father, polyamorist, male, heterosexual, pagan, semi-practicing Catholic, dominate, nudist, writer and motorcyclist.

Utopia in many ways seemed similar to Body Magick, but more festive and less solemn. Friday evening began with a hilarious drag queen performance, so funny the audience was figuratively, and in a few cases, literally rolling on the ground. Saturday afternoon brought forth an almost equally funny dance contest, with the ladies seducing their men with suggestive dancing. A couple calling themselves John and Jane Doe easily won, and as you might guess, both John and Jane were men. Their performance, while incredibly outlandish, was priceless.

The most notable difference between the two festivals became apparent during the main ritual on Saturday evening. Gone was the solemnity of the Wheel of Life, replaced with a very humorous, yet serious, rite. The people formed a circle around the fire and the priestesses read from prepared text. In time, we each were given an opportunity to speak briefly about specific things. Then, food and drink having symbolic significance were passed to each of us. At the conclusion, the people were obviously uplifted and hugs abounded. It was spiritual, but as mentioned, in a much different way than the Wheel of Life.

Following the ritual, the people danced to wild music well into early morning. This dancing was the type that can be found at any night club attracting young adults, not the prayerful dance around the alter of fire. The music lyrics were often highly suggestive and the dancing became more seductive as the evening wore on. It became clear that the dancers were warming up for the inevitable pleasure that would come later; and sure enough, the sounds of love making could be heard emanating from tents throughout the night.

In keeping with tradition, the festival closed with the village counsel meeting on Sunday morning.  A talking stick was passed among the attendees and we were each given an opportunity to speak.  I have come to appreciate and enjoy these sessions very much.  People expressed their feelings and perspectives, revealing a wide spectrum of emotions.  There was much laughter, and at times, tears of joy and release.  A common theme was the vast appreciation for the freedom to be who and what we each are, for the unconditional acceptance found at the Sanctuary and for the opportunity to bond with like-minded folks.  I will never fully understand what it is like to be homosexual or transgendered or genderqueer or pansexual or otherwise outside of the gender/orientation norm.  But I have witnessed firsthand what it means to these folks to be accepted and not judged.   

In my Wheel of Life post, I mentioned the lovers near where I sat, a man with black tiger stripes and a beautiful woman. During Utopia, I met and spent some time with this woman, and she is indeed beautiful. Upon first meeting, I related to her how I was unable to take my eyes off of her as she and her partner made passionate love. I told her how much I felt the intensity of their energy and how much at that moment I wanted to trade places with her lover. Amused by my flirtation, she laughed a little laugh and then went on to tell me how sad she was at their recent break-up. I too was genuinely sad for her loss and for the emotional pain she continues to endure. However, because of her external and internal beauty, I have no doubt she will soon find a new partner or new partners. Such is the poly way.

Upon reflection as I conclude this post, the wistful part of me wishes the leaders, priests, rabbis and ministers of conservative mainstream religions would be required to regularly attend pagan festivals to gain an understanding of the true meaning of tolerance. Maybe then, they would soften their positions and stop railing against such matters as homosexuality and women's reproductive rights. Maybe, they would begin to back off of their firmly entrenched, absolute, dogmatic views and begin preaching in a more balanced and accurate way regarding these important issues. But, of course, the realistic part of me knows better.

I now have two festivals under my belt at the Sanctuary, the religious home of the Temple of Divine Ecstasy. As I look back on the books I've read, the things I've written, the places I've gone and my many new experiences since retirement, it is tempting to wish I had done these things earlier in life. But earlier in life, I was not the me of today. I have learned and grown from my recent adventures, and hopefully, I am a better person as a result. If so, the festivals have played a positive role and I hope to attend many more.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reiki Master

I worked in the mortgage industry for 30 years and then sold real estate during the last 13 years of my career. After retiring on January 1, 2011, I embarked upon the study of polyamory, paganism and energy, topics that led to what at first was mere curiosity about Reiki. Over time, curiosity evolved into a serious interest in practicing the art (or science) of Reiki.  

Years prior, I was first exposed to concepts surrounding nonphysical energy through the study of tantra. I learned about such things as the energy centers and pathways, but over the years remained a skeptic. For a long time, I believed that the seven major energy centers (chakras) were little more than graphic representations used to explain the very real feelings and emotions experienced during tantric exercises.  Today, I know better and credit the process of becoming a Reiki master for a far more advanced understanding of energy in general, and more importantly, of the energy self.

Nonetheless, I have a keen understanding that realities exist beyond human perception. For me, a total understanding of the workings of Reiki falls into this category. Every day, I enjoy the wonders of the internet, while lacking a comprehensive grasp of its workings. Sometimes, it is enough to know that something just works.

On September 9, 2012, I achieved my third degree, or master level, Reiki certification. I was attuned by my teacher, Richard C. Fiallo, Reiki Master, from Healing Today.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Fertility Blessing for My Love and Her Husband

Divine Source, of this perfect and fully connected Universe, bless My Love and Her Husband as they join in physical union this evening; bless them always and in all ways while they continue down a path to bring new life into the Universe.  They have taken steps to improve fertility odds, and this is good, but grant them freedom from worry and stress, for this is defeating.  Grant them the wisdom to understand that the primary purpose of physical love is neither procreation nor pleasure, but rather, to connect with the Divine, however perceived, in sacred sexuality.  Only thus, it will be done as You will it.  They share a great love for each other; let this and the connection with You be their focus.

If sperm and egg connect, bring them great Joy; if not, bring them peace and continued love for each other and for You.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Wheel of Life

Alone, I recently attended a four day pagan festival presented by the Temple of Devine Ecstasy.  The main ritual took place on Saturday night and is called, very appropriately, The Wheel of Life.  One of the workshops was about Polyamory, and when asked how many of us identify as poly, all but a small handful of attendees raised their hands.  And for four days, I was surrounded by an abundance of boundless love.  To tell the story of the entire festival would require a book, so I decided to share with you my recounting of the main ritual.

It rained off and on all day long.  It was early Saturday evening when the rain came once more and several in the throng, including me, were getting worried.  The main ritual would begin this night at nine o'clock sharp, rain or shine, but no one wanted rain to dampen this sacred sexuality event.  The high priestess was unconcerned and told us not to worry.  She said, "It will not rain.  It never rains during the main ritual."

The ritual was still a couple of hours away, but the atmosphere surrounding me changed.  I could feel the energy and the excitement among the people.  The fire tenders were busy chopping wood; the naked bodies of lovers chosen to participate were being painted; colorful, ritualistic costumes were beginning to appear; and we were told to position our chairs or blankets in the ritual area early, because this sort of distraction would not be allowed during the ritual.    

About thirty minutes before the ritual began, the priest and priestesses spoke to us.  I learned that the ritual is divided into two parts.  During the first part, the most sacred, no talking would be allowed.  We would enter the ritual area as a community in single file, circle the fire one complete time and during the second trip around the fire,  we would fall out and stop in front of our chair or blanket.  We would remain standing until everyone found their rightful place.  No one would be allowed to enter or leave the ritual area during this part of the ceremony.  We were cautioned to make a bathroom stop beforehand. 

Having resided in the campground, reverently called the sanctuary, for a couple of days prior, I was familiar with the main ritual area.  Four towers delineated the ritual grounds in quarters.  Each tower was painted a symbolic color and represented the directions of north, south, east and west and one of the elements of earth, fire, air and water.  A fifth, non-material element, spirit, would also be represented in the ritual.  The fire, of course, was the centerpiece.  It was carefully measured so as to be big enough to provide light and warmth, but small enough to avoid over-heating the lovers and dancers.    

Shortly before nine o'clock, the rain stopped right on cue as predicted.  As we entered the sacred grounds to the rhythmic beat of the drums, I was reminded of the Catholic Eucharist and how the community comes forth to the front of the alter to receive Holy Communion.  The Mass contains many sacred components, but the Eucharist is always the most spiritual.  Entering the ritual area, I felt as if I was approaching the alter. 

The ritual seemed to borrow heavily from Native American traditions.  Three circles around the fire were formed.  The community and the drummers took their positions in the outer circle; the middle circle was for the dancers and the inner circle for the five sets of lovers, four dyads and one triad, each representing one of the elements of earth, fire, air, water and spirit.  When all of the entrance movement wound down, it suddenly became almost eerily quiet.  Then, one-by-one, by their respective quarter, the lovers were called forth to their blankets in the inner circle.       

The community was seated and the dancers, women in colorful costumes, some bare-breasted and some not, and one man in a loin cloth danced clock-wise around the fire.  Dancers after a time will zone-out; it is called trancing.  They are conscious enough not to bump into each other or fall in the fire, but they become otherwise unaware of their surroundings.  The beat varied, at times slow, then faster, then slow again; the dancers stayed in perfect rhythm.  They connect with the Divine dancing; it is how they pray.

One of the drummers befriended me when I first arrived on Thursday; his tent was pitched directly across from mine on the other side of the road.  He explained a little about drumming, the ritualistic role of the drummers and the pride taken in their durability and stamina.  He proudly showed me his drum, which had blood splatters from cuts on his hands caused by lengthy drumming.  The drummers will drum nightly for those who wish to dance around the fire, but during the main ritual, they have a last dancer standing mentality.  They understand the sacredness of the ritual and the importance of their role.  If needed, they will drum all night.       

Some of the lovers' body paintings included symbols relevant to the direction or element of each.  Other paintings were more extreme.  One man's entire upper torso was painted orange and he had black tiger strips closely spaced up and down his back.  The reflection of light from the fire and two lanterns on either side of the blanket formed a striking image, as he coupled with a beautiful woman.  I kept a close eye on them and on the triadic partners, as these two sets of lovers were positioned in closest proximity to me.  Never before have I witnessed triadic lovers love so tenderly together.  The configuration was male-female-male and the woman was soon in a highly blissful state.  Soon, all of the lovers were in the throes of passion.  They were not fucking, or just fucking; what I observed was nothing less than heartfelt lovemaking. 

The drums beat, the dancers danced and the lovers loved.  The sounds of pleasure pierced the air.  The energy generated spread to the entire community and it was uplifting, spiritual and beautiful.  It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  We were told beforehand that the ritual is all about community; that we were all participants; and it absolutely felt that way to me.  I have entered beautiful cathedrals, prayed with the congregation as a community and experienced a powerful spiritual uplifting.  Many would laugh at the comparison of a pagan ritual with the Catholic Mass; yet, I saw the similarities, or more accurately, I felt the similarities within me.   

In time, the drumming stopped and the drummers cheered.  The community joined in, cheering and clapping wildly.  After a short time, the drumming resumed, signally the transition from the first to the second part of the ritual.  The first part was solemn and religious, while the second was more celebratory and went on much longer.  The dancers were still dancing and the lovers were still loving, but were now joined in greater number by the community.  The drum beat seemed quicker and more jubilant; loving partners in the outer ring made love on their blankets; people were free to come and go, and they did so.  The ritual continued for hours.

Around midnight, feeling tired, I retired to my tent.  Lying very still, I slowed and deepened my breath, ran my hands up and down my body, and was able to trance out and experience moksha (that is, to touch the Divine).  The pleasure was nice, but afterwards, a melancholy mood came over me.  I thought of Connie and the other women who touch my life.  I missed them dearly.  I attended many workshops and rituals involving intimacy in various forms with a partner.  Most of these exercises involved touch, energy exchange or both.  And throughout, I was sans partner.  This ultimately took a toll on my psyche.  I want to return next year, but will not do so without a woman in my bed.     

I was still awake around one o'clock in the morning when the drumming stopped.  Within minutes, a torrential Florida downpour cut loose and it rained all night.  Fortunately, it was the last night of the festival because my tent flooded.  But the bigger issue in my mind was the timing of when the rain began and ended.  I laid awake trying to figure that one out.  The window of dry weather lasted four hours, almost the exact same length of the ritual.  The high priestess never had a doubt.  Did the monotheistic God that Jews, Christians and Muslims worship intervene?  Or was it a polytheistic happening, gods or goddesses who may have lived thousands of years ago, now deified with their own mythos?  Or was it entirely coincidental?  The answer, of course, varies depending on your belief system.

I discovered more than spiritual connectivity between paganism and Christianity.  One of the presenters worships Inanna, a Sumerian goddess who lived somewhere around 5000 BC.  The presenter spoke eloquently about her relationship with Inanna  and also about Inanna's death.  Inanna traveled to the underworld where she was perceived as a threat; she was executed, buried, and in three days, rose again.  Sound familiar?  Was the Christian story of Easter borrowed from the Inanna myth?  Or did it come from one of the many other resurrection stories passed down through the ages?  Or is the biblical account of Easter literally true?  Again, it all depends on your belief system.

Admittedly, I know almost nothing about paganism now, but over time, I will study it and learn; my appetite has been wetted.  I also know that I am very spiritual and unconcerned with religious doctrine.  And my participation in the Wheel of Life was probably the most spiritual experience of my life.  I will never forget it.

I will close by mentioning one more ritual I participated in as part of the community.  A woman was initiated into a higher church ranking in a beautiful ritual on Friday evening.  Her previous position was that of an Acolyte and on that night, she became a Priestess.  (I inquired about the next step in the church hierarchy and was told it would take her at least ten years to become a High Priestess.)  As a way of honoring her and continuing her initiation process, the new priestess was chosen to be one of the lovers in the main ritual, which is considered a very high honor.     

During the village council meeting on Sunday (similar to a conference wrap-up session in a more mundane setting), a talking stick (resembling an Indian rattle) was passed among the community and everyone was given the opportunity to speak.  Many moving comments about the community coming together and bonding closely were spoken; some also referred to the festival as a life-changing experience.  One woman and her partner in particular moved the crowd. 

They were given the honor of being one of the five sets of lovers in the main ritual, but were not originally chosen.  She spoke of problems in their relationship and the healing effect of the Wheel of Life.  After a time, she broke down, unable to continue speaking.  He stepped in for her and finished the story.  He told of how the new priestess found out about their difficulties and unselfishly, without hesitation, offered them her place in the inner circle.  They protested and she responded, "I am now a priestess.  It is my duty to serve."

Such was the love that surrounded me for four days.