oberon zell-ravenheart

Report from OZ in the Emerald Country (we don’t live in the city…)

Saturday, August 1, 2009
Happy Lughnasadh—and happy 5th Birthday to the Grey School of Wizardry!

Sorry to be so long in catching y’all up-to-date on what’s been happening in my life lately, but no worries—it’s all good. Or at least mostly so. MG, John, and I finally finished the last details of the manuscript for our autobiography—provisionally titled “The Witch and the Wizard OZ”—and sent it off to our publisher Wednesday—just under the absolute final deadline! There were a few last-minute comments to add from John’s interviews with others, and I had to scan and caption the last of the 158 photos we are submitting for inclusion. But now it’s all done—huzzah!

Lessee—I believe I left off in my last blog entry with the delightful Pagan Picnic in St Louis. That was June 13-15. At the same time, Morning Glory was holding her first “Great Goddess Retreat”—something she’s been wanting to do for many years, but had been thwarted by our having to relocate and then coming down with cancer. And, of course, she had to wait for me to build the wall of floor-to-ceiling glass cabinets in which to display her collection of nearly 300 votive Goddess figurines. But finally, everything was in place, and she’s gotten enough energy back (thanks to all the prayers, magick, and healing energy she’s been receiving from so many people around the world!), that she’s now ready to start doing these retreats. This first was on “Our Lady of Love and Beauty,” and they will be followed by a succession of about one per month for a year or so. Then they will be developed into a series of “Golden Goddess Guides.” Also, our dear friend Alejandro Torres is videotaping these, and we plan to put them out as a set of CDs.

The following weekend was Summer Solstice—as well as the huge Pirate Festival down in Vallejo. We intended to do both—one on Saturday, and the other on Sunday. We haven’t been able to celebrate Litha for many years, because our business has depended on our driving out to Denver every year at this time for the International New Age Trade Show (INATS). But due to last year’s low attendance, we decided not to go this year, and instead we’d finally be able to celebrate Litha with our Tribe again—which we’ve sorely missed.

Our daughter, Gail, wanted to bring our granddaughter up to Greenfield Ranch for Solstice on Sunday, so we figgered we’d hit the Pirate Festival on Saturday, and then join her at the Ranch the next day. The Pirate thing was, of course, a real blast—and all our piratical friends were there in full getup—as were we. Then Sunday we drove up to the Ranch pond, where we met up with Gail and Alessandra—only to discover that the Ranch solstice celebration had been held the day before, and we totally missed it! So we just had a pleasant day picnicking and swimming with the kids. Maybe next year we’ll get it right…

June 26-29 was the NorCalifia Grey School Conclave, which we decided to host here at RavenHaven, since we have a pool, hot tub, and plenty of lawn for camping. We contacted the Fire Department and they came out to inspect our firepit so we could even have a campfire in the evenings. The Conclave went really well, with a  good attendance, so we’ll plan on hosting it here in future years. We also made a field trip to Isis Oasis—a spectacular Pagan retreat center in Geyserville—where we’d like to do more Grey School stuff in the future…

As we’ve done for many years, Julie and I spent the 4th of July blowing up the beach in Guerneville with the Pyro Spectaculars crew, putting on the big community fireworks show. Morning Glory, Gail and Alessa showed up later to picnic and swim in the river, but only Morning Glory stayed to watch the show, as Gail thought Alessa might be scared of the explosions (she’s only 3).

Saturday, July 11, was the Church of All Worlds Annual General Meeting, held at RavenHaven. We passed the new Canons we’ve been working on for years, and elected our Board for the next terms. I got re-elected to the Presidency, and Morning Glory was re-elected Vice President.

The following day we joined a number of our friends for a Romantic Cemetery Picnic at Gilliam Cemetery in Sonoma County. The theme was “Pre-Raphaelite,” so we all dressed as poets, artists, and other Victorian romantics and adventurers of the late 19th century, and shared delicacies, drank absinthe, and read poetry. Morning Glory sang the wonderful song—“Love of My Life”—that she wrote for our 20th anniversary 15 years ago.

On Thursday the 16th I went in for a consultation with Dr. Veluz—the surgeon who removed that whole section of my colon with the tumor last year—regarding the large ventral hernia that has erupted behind the surgery scar. He agreed that it needed to be fixed right away, and scheduled an operation for August 11. He says I should expect to be in the hospital for a couple of days. And I know I’ll be feeling pretty low for awhile after that!

The rest of that Thursday Julie and I spent packing up stuff for our vendor’s booth at Azkatraz, the big Harry Potter convention in San Francisco. We would be there for the next four days, through Monday, but we wouldn’t be able to stay for the final day on Tuesday because I needed that day to pack for Starwood, to which I would be flying out on Wednesday.

Escape from Azkatraz

Not only did we buy a booth for Grey School at Azkatraz (paid for by Mythic Images, which brought some stuff to sell); we also arranged for a two-hour slot in the program Monday for a “Grey School Meetup.” We figgered Azkatraz would be a natural venue to promote the Grey School, as anyone who is into Harry Potter would presumably also be interested in other aspects of Wizardry—and especially a real-life analog of Hogwarts teaching real Wizardry. Boy, were we ever wrong!

From the time we arrived and set up on Friday, July 17, we sensed that something seemed to be…off. There were only ten venders—for a 5-day event with a registration of over 1,000 and a very full schedule of workshops and entertainment. And as we watched the pieces for the art show being set up across from us, we were rather startled by the bizarre erotic subjects. One exhibit, for instance, consisted of virtually the entire cast of characters in the Harry Potter universe represented as anatomically-correct dolls in the forms of naked mermaids and mermen—complete with detailed little sexual organs. And then there were all the paintings depicting various characters in amorous embrace—particularly Snape and Hermione. What was going on? These were children’s stories!

So we got an education. We learned that there is a fan literary phenomenon called “slash fiction” that is enormously popular among a certain fan subculture to which the organizers of this event evidently belonged. The term “slash” in this context does not mean the same as in “slasher” movies. What it refers to is the diagonal symbol under the question mark on our keyboards, which is often referred to as “slash.” “Slash fiction” then refers to erotic fantasy written by genre fans in which various unlikely characters in a popular story series are paired up in romantic/sexual situations—usually homosexual.

This genre apparently began in the late ‘60s among certain Star Trek fans, who wrote reams of homoerotic fantasy involving “Kirk/Spock”—pronounced “Kirk-slash-Spock.” And now this phenomenon has been brought to Harry Potter. The most popular fantasies seem to involve “Snape/Hermione,” But there are apparently also a number of such fantasies involving “Harry/Draco,” and even “Harry/Dumbledore.” Julie and I were pretty freaked. After all, these are stories for kids, involving teenage characters. Writing them into such erotic literary scenarios—especially with their teachers—seemed to us like a rather twisted sort of child pornography. And this was all over the con! Half the workshops were about it—how to write it, where to publish it, and many other aspects I won’t go into.

The first day there were a lot of kids at the con—often dressed in Hogwarts regalia. But they were invariably accompanied by their parents, and after said parents took a look at the art show and the program book, and figgered out what was going on, there were no kids for the remaining days. Hall costumes were all of characters from the stories, and were overwhelmingly dominated by women costumed as Snape. Then there were some Dementors, and a few Voldemorts. While I was not trying to appear as any character from the stories, I did wear my Wizard regalia, and everyone thought I was trying to be Dumbledore. After several attempts to explain that, “No, I’m Oberon. But I am a real Wizard, and Headmaster of a real school of Wizardry!”—I just gave it up and let them call me Dumbledore, and pose for photos with me.

And that gets me to the second important lesson we learned: Harry Potter fans aren’t interested in Wizardry, Witchcraft, Magick, an online school, or anything that isn’t specifically and only about the Harry Potter stories and characters. The only successful vendor was the one selling licensed trademark Harry Potter merchandise—such as Hogwarts House patches and regalia, movie replica wands, Harry Potter games and toys—and pointy hats. I bought a really nice new one, as well as several books from the book vendors. And we sold two copies of the Wizard’s Bestiary by managing to convince some folks that the magickal beasts featured in the Harry Potter stories could be found in this book. This is true, and I do hope they’ll go on to read about other beasties as well.

We didn’t really; find out about the whole “slash” thing until Saturday, by which time Morning Glory had driven down to join us (we were driving back and forth every day—about an hour each way—to relax in our hot tub and sleep in our own beds). All three of us were in full regalia, and I thought we looked great. But we weren’t Harry Potter characters, and no one was interested in us, our merchandise, or the Grey School. For the Grey School Meetup on Monday afternoon, only four women showed up, whom we’d already talked to on previous days. Prof. Jim Fish and I did our best to present the School and entertain the crowd with little conjuries, and perhaps one or two of them will enroll. But it was pretty discouraging.

Mythic Images paid for our booth, and with the gas and parking, we figgered that we lost about $500 on this fiasco. To say nothing of utterly wasting four whole days when we were already pushing a deadline to complete our newest book, and then be gone to Starwood for a week.

Starwood 29

So, Tuesday, right after Azkatraz, Julie helped me pack for Starwood. This would be the 29th, and I will have attended 25 of them! I flew out early Wednesday morning, the 22nd. Xyaida and CloudsGazing from the Grey School picked me up at the Erie airport. I arrived to torrential rains and a sea of mud, but I still had a wonderful time—reconnecting with old friends, and making new ones.

Last year my dear friend Roger Byrd presented me with an astonishing life-size portrait painting by a truly talented artist who based it on my cover photo from PanGaia #47. This year he gave me a special gold Penkhaduce pendant on a sparkly indigo stone background, with a gold backing engraved with “Master Wizard.” I was speechless. He and his lovely wife Jan helped out a lot at our vending booth—and Xyaida and CloudsGazing also helped man the table. Roger and Jan also hosted the traditional Church of All Worlds CAWmunity potluck on Saturday. Roger was just elected to the CAW BoD as Member at Large for the Eastern Region, and will be serving as our new Nesting Coordinator.

Skip, Xyaida and I held a major workshop for the Grey School, as well as conducting a series of 4 “Elemental play-shops” each morning for the kids. And I did another workshop on “The Awakening of Gaia.”

It is my custom at camping festivals to spend the evenings wandering from campfire to campfire, hanging out with folks, sharing stories, etc. In previous years I’ve carried my drinking horn, which is always refilled at each campfire. This time, however, I carried a nifty light-up chalice, as Morning Glory had bought a bunch of light-up rave toys she thought would sell at Azkatraz (they didn’t), and I took ‘em to Starwood (all the chalices sold out). I was amazed at how many people told me they’d been reading my blogs, and wanted to know how MG and I were doing—especially health-wise. And so I was glad to be able to tell them we’re doing OK, and that MG has really come back to life in doing her Goddess retreats, and working on our autobiography. And now I expect they (you, that is) will be reading this account here—so I can thank you for your concern, and your well-wishes. MG and I both hope to return to Starwood next year for the 30th anniversary!

I spent some time at Starwood hanging out with my old friend Isaac Bonewits. We go back about 40 years, and he performed the handfasting ceremony for MG and me clear back in 1974. As some of you may know, WitchSchool recently set Isaac up with his own online school, called the Real Magick School. At this time he has about 300 students. But it’s just him. He has no faculty, and he’s only been able to develop three classes—which pretty much duplicate ones we have in our own Dept. of Ceremonial Magick. So he’s decided why reinvent the wheel? We already have the perfect school for what he offers, so why try and create another one?

So Isaac told me that he wants to simply bring his teaching into the Grey School. He will apply to become a teacher here, in the Dept. of CM, and tell all his students that he is shutting down his own school and joining ours, and that they should all enroll in GSW, where he will continue to teach what he knows. His classes are shorter than ours, but he feels he can probably combine, expand, and edit them into at least one class that doesn’t replicate what we’re already offering.

What we’ll do at our end is compare his three extant classes to our own curriculum, and offer appropriate exchange credits for any of his students who’ve already taken the equivalent with him—much as we currently offer exchange credits for Reiki, CPR, and some of the WitchSchool classes. I think this will be a fabulous win-win situation for everyone!

While I was away at Starwood, Morning Glory held her 2nd Great Goddess Retreat—this one for women only, on “Our Lady of the Beasts.”

I flew home on Monday, on three different flights (Erie to Detroit; Detroit to Atlanta; Atlanta to San Francisco) plus a two-hour shuttle ride from the San Francisco airport to my home. I got back at 1:00am, and fell right over.

I worked from 8:30am Tuesday to 4:00am Wednesday completing the final work on our latest book—our autobiography, tentatively titled “The Witch and the Wizard OZ” (unless Llewellyn can come up with something better), and got the disk into the mail by the ultimate deadline of Wednesday. Now I’m going to relax for a few days before plunging back into the fray! Our granddaughter, Alessandra, will be here tomorrow for her 3-year birthday party, and our pool will be full of little girls…

Brightest Blessings,

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