Future PaganCons: Won’t You Include Us Too?

I’m getting some post-PantheaCon discussions coming through my social media feeds, with much said on the topics pertaining to inclusion–the need for great heaping gobs of it–for “everyone.” Reading these posts, I always have the pitiful question, “does that mean people like me too?” Generally, it doesn’t. 

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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Environmental Illness. My decorated chemical cartridge respirator.

I ‘ve never gone to PantheaCon or any other neo-pagan convention because my disability is seldom accommodated. I didn’t go to this last PantheaCon either–the very last, ever, apparently–but some friends of mine just got back from it. These are people who have a long history with the event and with some of its founders. I’m talking “Old Guard Pagans” who have been active for a long time in Northern California. One of them brought back a stack of ephemera from the conference so I’m looking through the flyers and postcards, as well as the conference program, to see what I missed.

And, frankly I’m also looking to see if any one of these organizations, events, or teachers bother to put the magic words, “Come Fragrance Free,” on their ephemera. But before I get too curmudeonly and critique-ish about the program and ephemera, I need to say a few things first and ask a few questions.

Here’s the Pathos.

Please take a few moments to consider the following. Can you imagine:

Living like an “almost hermit” for a major portion of your life, simply because consumer toxins, including fragrances, are in wide use?

Becoming ill, asthmatic, or brain-fogged after ordinary outings such as trips to the grocery store, dental and medical appointments, buying new tires, meeting a friend for lunch at a restaurant, going to a concert or event, attending a class, filing out forms at government agencies such as DMV or Social Security, venturing outside when a neighbor is doing laundry, taking public transportation, using a public swimming facility, and pretty much any other activity that involves other people and poor indoor air quality?

Finding out that friends, family members, and lovers or spouses prefer their toxic products to spending time with you?

Finding that you’ve lost the love and concern of people you deeply love, because accommodating you is just too much work and they’ve grown tired of it?

Not having a job, as there are practically no fragrance free workplaces, and not being able to get disability benefits either?

Having your options for affordable housing severely limited due to toxins used in building products and home furnishings, as well as by people who could have been roommates?

Finding that most of your social contact takes place online, but then being shamed for it?

Being told that your sufferings are imagined or exaggerated, or the result of negative thinking? Being told you don’t “look” sick or disabled?

Seeing medical and mental health professionals who have little or no idea what you are talking about?

Being constantly exposed to substances that make you sick, tired, brainfogged and frustrated, just in order to have something that remotely resembles a normal life?

And finally, can you imagine all of the above and also being denied physical entry to spiritual communities, fellowship, and solace? 

I could go on.

Welcome to my life and the life of every other person I know who copes with “Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance,” also known as “multiple chemical sensitivity,” “chemical injury,” or “environmental illness.” We not only cope with “invisible disabilities” but are also invisible ourselves, as we “don’t get out much” and most dialogue about inclusion & disability and environmental health & justice take place without us. For most people, we do not exist. And there are no social programs to assist us with our special needs. There are no celebrities or major philanthropists championing our cause. As for allies–there are only a few.

Now For the Curmudgeonly Part

Back to my examination of the PantheaCon program and ephemera. In the program, I don’t see any of those magic words that address disability accommodation and indoor air quality, such as “please attend fragrance free to allow people with asthma and enviornmental illnesses to attend.” The program also does not have a section with disability access information. I do notice “no smoking” and “no incense, smudging or candles” policies are in place, and those are certainly helpful to preserving some semblance of breathable air. However, the lack of restriction pertaining to fragrance use in public spaces, workshops, and rituals makes the PantheaCon (and any conference) a dangerous place for someone like me.

I also skimmed through the “Event & Ritual Etiquette,” looking for some awareness of “share the air” manners, but there’s nothing. None of the hospitality suites, workshops, ads, or group events contain accommodation language either, EXCEPT for the following:

(1) Katrina Rasbold’s The Limpia: Cleansing the Mind, Body, Spirit workshop (p. 20) specifies that “no smoke, scents, or scented sprays are used in this workshop.” Reading this makes me want to adore her!

(2) Dree Amandi’s Aromatherapy Magick-Spellcraft warns that “we will be actively using essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils in this space.” Such warnings are also deeply appreciated, though use of such substances in a workshop may also affect my ability to attend adjoining workshops in that time frame, or workshops which take place in the same room or nearby afterwards.

Workshops that might be expected to use this inclusive accommodation language would include anything with a breath,  “eco,” or healing theme, such as: Selena Fox’s Circle for Planet Earth and her Brigid Healing RitualEcoActivism & Climate Change, which was put on by Circle Sanctuary EcoActivists; The Power of Yoga–Energy and Healing with Lisa J. Hamlin; Chants for the Earth with Starhawk and Evelie Delfino Sales Posch; Eco-Magical Activism with Starhawk; possibly The Healing Isle with Christopher Penczak, though the talk of “potions” and “plant essence” makes me nervous; Theurgic Activism Panel; Tomorrow’s Pagan Panel: and Envisioning the Future of Paganism with Solstice.

Such compassionate and inclusive language would also be nice for Elysia Gallo’s Pagan Speed Friending, as I couldn’t risk being “speed friended” by a well-meaning person off-gassing toxic petrochemicals in the form of personal care products. And for anyone talking about inclusion and diversity as part of their program–likewise. Set an example of inclusive welcoming by asking people to be considerate on behalf of those who depend heavily on the “kindness of strangers.”

Of all the many pieces of ephemera gathered by my friend, only one is inclusive of people with multiple chemical sensitivities and respiratory ailments. This is the postcard advertising the “JeWitch Camp,” an event with “Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Starhawk, and Friends.” It has the magic words: “come fragrance free.” (And again, I want to adore them!)

I think you get the idea.

I won’t say I never go to conferences, ever, but the ones I attend are professional conferences which enable me to gain CE credits to update my professional certifications and/or may help boost my diminishing private practice–my only means of work. Still, I don’t go to more than one every few years, and I build in recovery time and escape routes and limit my attempts to socialize. It sucks, frankly. Read my Fragrance-Free FAQ on my professional site to know more.

Why Are Pagans OK with Polluting the Air-One of Our Four Essential and Sacred Elements?

Ea is a word in the Hawaiian language that first means “sovereignty, rule, independence.” Its second meaning is “life, air, breath, respiration, vapor, gas; fumes as of tobacco; breeze, spirit” (Pukui, M.K. & Elbert. S.H. (1986). Hawaiian Dictionary: Hawaiian-English, English-Hawaiian. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, p. 36). To me, the connections between these two categories of meaning are highly significant.

And I want to know why–when air is our sacred elemental symbol of mental powers and intelligence–we humans are short-circuiting our brains with deliberate inhalation of toxic, petrochemical fumes, via consumer products? And why are we so stupid as to deliberately pollute our air, INDOORS and out, along with our water and soil? As pagans, shouldn’t we be extra aware and respectful?

And why isn’t consensuality considered? Why is the physical violation of other people’s bodies with airborne toxic chemicals not a matter of discussion? We ban smoking in public places. Why not scents and fragrances and essential oils, which contain some of the same cancer-producing and respiratory irritant chemicals found in tobacco smoke and vaping?

The answers to the above questions have lots to do with capitalism, entitlement, and industry pressure on legislation and policy. And they also have a lot to do with who we feel is worthy of “accommodation” and assistance. There is something in the American psyche  that despises the “snowflake”–those seen as weak are deemed unworthy. And people with significant adverse reactions to chemical toxins are among the “snowflakiest” of us all.

In 1998, Scientific American published a study that claimed that the air in the average American home is MORE polluted than the air around most outdoor Superfund Clean-Up sites. Here’s the PDF: SciAM-EverydayExposure-3 As for me, I’d love to have a study done on the air quality in the average pagan conference in an average hotel. And then I’d like something done by way of solving this problem, so that we may all breathe freely in fellowship with each other. Pagan conference organizers, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. What say all of you? Or can you still not hear me and those who are like me? A 2018 study showed that one in four Americans suffer from environmentally caused illnesses (Ann Steinemann study–download here). So, with this increase in illness, how long can you ignore the effects on people in pagan communities? How long can you refrain from a proactive examination of this issue of indoor air pollution, and from creating policies that seek to diminish the health consequences of attending your events?

Spirits of the Air, I conjure thee–give us the awareness to do better, help us heal your sacred substance, and that of the earth, and of all living bodies–else we be doomed to choke on our hypocrisy and ignorance as all living things perish around us, through our selfishness.

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Surgery, Surgery

Let’s overshare, shall we? I got some unwelcome news the other day–though it wasn’t exactly a surprise–and sadly, I doubt my sojourn at an Adventist hospital will be anything like the video below. No medical staff in TERF bangs and black leather lab coats. No long-haired singing surgeons. And though the one I’ve got promised me two small tattoos on the inside of my colon, I doubt I’ll be sporting a teensy skull and crossbones in my “anatomy, anatomy… ”

Shucks. My own body is sooooo not “Zydrate” cool. And unlike the character of Amber Sweet in Repo! The Genetic Opera, I won’t be getting anything as simple as an eyelash transplant. Truth be told, I’ve got two different sets of surgical events coming up in my near future. The question at the moment is whether they can be done on the same day by two separate surgeons or not.

But there’s actually a point to this blog post–I’m not just sobbing into a witchy cup of herbal tea.

Surgery as a Liminal Space Challenge

If I have to go through this (and it appears that I do), I want more than the best possible outcome for my old lady body. I want my steel tempered and my temper adamant. I want my Will ‘o the Witch firmly in place, and a surfeit of crispy, creamy offerings tossed to the Guardians of all Thresholds, well in advance. I want to hallow the hospital ground and make like an earnest animist with the spirits of surgical instruments. And even though the Adventist god is not one of mine, I’ll offer respect there too. Pre-surgery hypnosis? That’s on my list. As of this moment, I am in training.

Organizing Preparation

In the next couple of days I’ll be creating a program based on physical, magical, mental, and spiritual steps I can take to prevail in this liminal space challenge. I’m not boasting here–I’m scared and I don’t want to be. I figure if I can approach preparation, surgery, and recovery with everything I’ve learned in my life to date, I can replace that fear with proactive, powerful mindsets and actions. I may fall short of the bad-ass triumph I imagine today, but I’ll certainly be much better off doing this than approaching my wyrd passively, as a “patient.”

So I’ll reaquainting myself with certain books in my library, such as Jason Miller’s The Elements of Spellcrafting and Aidan Wachter’s Six Ways.

Miller’s book contains a method for enchanting not just the larger goal (“a successful surgery and recovery”) but also every single step along the way. He writes:

“How enchantable is your body? How enchantable are your habits? How enchantable is your environment? These are questions to ask when we are doing healing magic. Magic, energy healing, and alternative medicine all help, but they are not going to rewrite your DNA, replace your gut bacteria, or remove the need for effort and change on your part” (pp. 40-41).

Exactly. Words to live by.

As for Wachter’s book, lots and lots of ways to work with the unseen beings and energies of what he calls “The Field.” I’ll be looking to this book (and others) for ways to court and nurture alliances, remove inner and outer obstacles to success and healing, and ways to call in the logistics and support help I’m going to need–that kind of thing.

Other practices that I’ll fold into this will include Ho’oponopono (the real kind), medical self-hypnosis, wards against fragrance and chemical exposures while in the hospital, enchantments for transportation and the highways, blessings and protections for my cats while I’m away, and so on.

Asking the Spirit World for Help

As I’ve said often, I’m a polytheist. I have some wonderful deities that I honor on an almost daily basis (sometimes I miss a day). And I work with and honor my ancestors and make offerings to the local wights. I probably need to get with the wights over there near the hospital, to ask them for safe harbor and safe passage. And there will be a lot of consultation and divination throughout.

There’s a lot to do. I also have to figure out medicare in the middle of all this.

But I do have time to over-prepare. After this blog I won’t be saying much more than what I’ve written today. I believe in secrecy during magic, in cultivating a quiet and determined mind. But I write this blog today because there may be the start of a roadmap here for someone else facing surgery or medical procedures.

The most important element is to approach each surgery as a liminal challenge, a rite of passage, and as an opportunity to “level up.” I expect to be even more of a bad-ass after this, with a much improved quality of life.

“May there be peace between us for all of our days.”

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Back to My Days of Devotion for Loki

You know, being a polytheist is even weirder than it sounds! There I was, solidly in the middle of my Thirty Days of Devotion to Loki–something many Lokeans do in July–when I was switched over, like a train on tracks, to an intense focus on Mauna Kea, plunged back into service to a pantheon I thought had released me. But this isn’t the first time something from Hawai’i has claimed me abruptly, and I guess it won’t be the last.

It’s been immensely healing this last week to have been been of some small use to the Kia’i (protectors) of Mauna Kea: sharing and signal boosting on social media, writingblogging, and doing some amateur sleuthing. In addition, I’m back in touch with people and a community I always adored–the activists of Hawai’i nei–and so it’s all quite inspiring.

But today, just as I finished my latest blog post on the adverse impact of the TMT project, Loki quietly reeled me back. “Ssshhhhh,” he seemed to say, “you’ve done what you needed to do, for the moment. Now rest, come back to me, realign yourself with your daily practice. Come back to your deities and your ancestors. And when you’ve got more to do and write, I’ll be with you.”

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Artist to come. Public Domain.

It felt lovely. It felt like coming home from a strenuous business trip. I began to take care of myself. I actually cooked food for lunch (instead of living on chips, ice cream, and artichoke tapinade as I did yesterday) and took a nap. Ahhhhhhh…

Who knew that Loki could be such a gentle advocate for grounding and balance?

Today is Day 26 of my Thirty Days practice. Let’s catch up.

Here’s what I did the last few days.


Day 21: “Music that makes you think of this deity.”

There are many pieces of music I associate with Loki, and his many moods and aspects. But here’s one piece of music, Sign of the Times, that I overplayed in the first days of “getting to know” Loki, which caused him to disappear the CD from my car until I promised to not play it too often. I couldn’t find it for two weeks, then I was driving one day and said out loud, “Hey Loki, how do you do it? Do you really disappear things or just make it so we can’t see them?” I asked the question and then bam, the CD bumped against my feet while I was driving. Honestly, I’d looked everywhere. Three or four times!

I love this song. The video is somewhat ridiculous, though…


Day 22: “A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with.”

Hmmm. A quote that Loki might resonate with? How about this one from John Water’s Polyester?

Lulu: I never wanted to use macramé to kill!


Day 23: “Your own composition – a piece of writing about or for this deity.”

I’ve written so much for and about Loki. Most of the blogs on this website, for example. But here are the limericks I’ve written for him. And Loki’s Torch-A Lokean Collection is coming out on August 1st! It contains a couple of pieces of mine.


Day 24: “A time when this deity has helped you.”

Loki Blesses the Meds, Émile Coué Sanctions the Method


Day 25: “A time when this deity has refused to help.”

I don’t think I’ve experienced an outright refusal. There are times when it’s clear he’s doing something else, or the problem is not in his purview, or he’d rather I handle it.


Today, Day 26: How has your relationship with this deity changed over time?

How hasn’t it changed?! I am not prepared to unpack this right now. But I am pondering it. The biggest surprise was when the “god spouse” option arose (it happened after dedicating Lokabrenna Tiny Temple).


So, there. I’m caught up. Now to do my temporarily interrupted daily practice: lighting candles, reading poems, giving thanks…

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Hail Loki!

A Homeopathic Dose of Madness

I’ve joked in the past that my epitaph will be “Not Insane” (a line from an old Firesign Theater routine), and I can tell you honestly that the only mental health diagnosis I’ve ever gotten was (is!) “adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood.” It’s supposed to be a passing phase, based on difficult life changes, but the “hits” just keep on coming, therefore I think I’ve had it longer than most people. A therapist friend who knows me well says (unofficially) that she thinks I’ve graduated to post traumatic stress disorder, but I, uh, erm…well, I kinda don’t want to go there.

It is true though that my tendency to suddenly flee toxic relationships (or even incidents) has accelerated in recent years, especially if my gut erupts in feelings of nausea even thinking about the person. In Hawai’i, the na’au (the gut) is the super-smart “heart,” the seat of emotions. And in Western medicine, we know the enteric nervous system can tell us a lot. So that “mixed anxiety” of mine (I’ll take it shaken, not stirred) includes a deep, visceral reaction to people and things which cause me to suffer. So I have to work hard at keeping hyper-reactivity from taking over my life: meditation, self-hypnosis, my spiritual practices, loads of “quiet time,” creative writing (like this blog and my novels), reading, and avoidance of and withdrawal from the people and situations which feel harmful. Like the jet test pilots of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, I try hard to “maintain an even strain.”

But that’s not exactly what today’s blog is about. I just wanted to lay the foundation first. That’s because I’ve entered a new phase in the last couple of years, turning from my formerly avid amateur engagement with Hawaiian culture toward a renewed interest in Western magic, Neo-paganism, and Celtic/Northern spirituality. And because I’ve turned into a god-struck old lady (not the first to do so, by any means). But not just any god either. As readers of this blog know already, Loki is my patron, though I’ve always been an animist and a polytheist and continue to cultivate relationships with other massive beings (aka “gods”) and some of the less spiritually bulky ancestors and land wights.

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Loki illustration from D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths.

Some of my oldest and most beloved friends might be finding this new phase of mine hard to take, though they are (by now) used to the ever-changing parade of “Amy’s special interests.” And it’s true that isolation, loneliness, moments of despair, and a “what the hell” attitude unique to this age bracket has propelled me into an even more determined exploration of what it means to engage with non-material realms. I was always into the occult, anyway, so why not run with it now for all I’m worth?

That picture of Loki at right seems to indicate that even he might be questioning my sanity at this point. (That’s a joke.) But for those of my friends and family who might be worried about this pagan, god-struck phase, I ask them to consider that I am placing a deliberate, homeopathic application of “madness” into my life in order to keep the rest of me sane. Because honestly, without the support of my devotional practices and a feeling of being held by my ancestors and gods, I might not manage to remain here for much longer. And that’s a fact.

That, and the fact that my cats need feeding and my kids need me to not go there.

As an artist, a writer, a thinker, a mother, an eccentric, an activist, and a sorrowing human soul, I am living into this next phase of my life (the Baba Yaga phase?) with as much robust curiosity and creativity as I can muster. And I don’t mind looking ridiculous. I will, Scorpio-style, do this to the hilt. You, dear reader, are witness.

It’s life.

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