The first full day of workshops and discussions is done and I must say that it was what I had hoped for – a wonderful experience of learning, sharing and new ways of thinking.  The overwhelming majority of presenters are local to Australia and New Zealand with others being given by visiting nationalities.  A wonderful mixture that has shown me the international attitude for the most part is one of acceptance and engagement for the benefit of those they are dedicated to helping – their students. From discussions on sacred spaces to walking labyrinths and presentations on newly developed apps for exploring the deep search for belonging, everyone was open to multiple interpretations and understandings of what faith and belief are. The most significant revelations of the day, however, did not occur within in the workshops.  Rather they were during a conversation over tea.

As I sat talking with two gentleman from New Zealand enjoying light conversation and for a moment a third gentleman named Jeremy sat down with us.  As it was, the break was mostly over but the two of us continued to talk on “stuff” which was mainly regarding his earlier presentation.  I had too many good things to go to at the same time and his workshop was one that I had decided to bypass.  So what did I give up? A tremendous endeavor that he and another person have undertaken in order to develop an app/website that helps individuals of any faith tradition navigate the deep questions and shifts that many of us encounter in this thing called life.

As he continued to talk to me about it he explained that his perspective was truly from a Christian standpoint since that was his faith tradition (his words) but had done this work in a very conscious manner so that anyone from any tradition could use it comfortably.  It was at the moment he ask what denomination or tradition I represented and I told him – Pagan, most specifically Druid.  He was/is British and was immediately interested in having a conversation so he could better understand what that meant. So we talked.

The conversation came around to his explaining that he had dated a Pagan-Christian for a while but it didn’t last and it had always left him with a sense of wonder on the topic.  As we moved forward through a couple of questions he asked if there was an unbroken line of tradition that could be claimed by Pagans.  It wasn’t a question asked with the intent of determining validity to tradition or faith, it really was an honest question. So I answered him the only way that I could.  No, there wasn’t one that I knew of, not that was centuries old like he was asking.  I explained that there were many factors that made me come to that conclusion.  First was that many traditions were oral, such as if it was a family based tradition.  Of those I truly would have very little knowledge.  Second that many things were oral and when the history keepers, teachers and such were either killed or converted much of the stories they had to tell went with them. Last, but not least, what was written was often destroyed by the churches and that this was an act of conquering and assimilation.  Now I do have to say that I never eluded to any “central belief” or church or organized faith structure having been present.  Rather, that what different people did , fractured at best multiple times by those that would be their conquers. There was never any chance to have a recognizable and continuous line of history and practice. In other words, no, the church didn’t want us so it did what it could to eliminate us.

As he sat there and thought about it I went a little further and explained that what had been done, however, was that the good Christian monks would write down the tales and stories as folklore without credibility so there were enough references and points of common knowledge save that many of the customs could be reconstructed and that is what modern pagans do well. At that moment I could the see the light bulb go on.  He smiled and said that makes sense.  How could anyone have an unbroken lineage if we kept trying to destroy you?  He got it.  He made the analogy of new traditions in Christianity begin considered cults until they gained enough following to be “real” but explained we have a right to claim validity more than anyone and we should.  The system was created to steal that right away.  He told me he appreciated the conversation, probably one of the most insightful one he had had to that moment, and that he had new perspective on his own religion as well as others.

It really was amazing to be understood rather than trying to converted.  This truly is a wonderful experience and it just keeps getting better