Currently viewing the tag: "Z Budapest"

This is my witness of the silent meditation led by T. Thorn Coyle to protest the Z Budapest ritual at Pantheacon 2012.

[Note: I use the term “cisgender women” or “cis woman” to distinguish from “transgender women” or “trans woman.” Both groups may identity with the word “woman.”]

8:33pm I arrive in the City Foyer, a long hallway on the main floor of the DoubleTree hotel, and make my way toward the San Martin room. I find a corner in which to sit. I feel the strong need to write down all of what is happening.

Beside me sits a man with a spinning wheel in front of him. He pedals gently and spins the roving into thread.

8:35pm I watch a coordinator of Pantheacon show Thorn the statement prepared by Z Budapest. Queens in white face and glitter makeup gather and shimmer while cisgender women line up to enter San Martin.

Thorn speaks to the coordinator.

“My aim is just to keep the energy smooth.”

The coordinator responds.

“It’s an imperfect world. I’m doing my best.”

The coordinator exhibits genuine concern for those gathering behind Thorn.

“We are on your side.”

A group of three cisgender crones sit beside the entrance to the presentation room; one on the floor, and two on chairs. The one on the floor sits with legs crossed, eyes closed, and focus directed inward. She rocks, chanting and muttering words under her breath. It appears that the three are holding space.

Thorn walks back and forth in front of the growing group of protestors, instructing them on “keeping the energy smooth.”

8:40pm The cisgender woman continues to rock, her voice more audible than before.

Thorn stands, faces the protestors.

“Let’s all take a breath together. Find your center.”

I write down: For Thorn, protest is magick. Leading is the art of expanding the boundaries of sacred space.

8:42pm The number of cisgender women in line for the ritual: 9

The number of people sitting in protest: 22

I stand in the corner, watching.

Coordinators ask if anyone wants water. I see no one take water. The protestors sit and kneel behind a barrier of white tape on brown and beige conference hotel carpet.

The crones continue to pray and chant. A cisgender woman standing at the front of the line holds beads in her hand, repeating what sounds like a Vedic chant.

Thorn speaks.

“Take a breath and enter silence.”

Both sides are holding space, seeking peace in the face of the other.

Thorn places a sign before her. It reads: All Bodies Are Sacred.

8:45pm A processional of The Amazons & Living Temple of Diana lines up, their faces marked with black paint around their eyes, their attire coordinated as if for ritual. They hold drums.

All are holding space.

I see one cis woman stare at the silent protestors with a bemused smirk. Others in line with her look at the floor.

8:47pm The crone rocks, eyes closed. She lifts her hands up to the sky, to her left, to her right; entreating. The cis woman in line continues to chant with her mala.

8:50pm More gather to kneel beside Thorn.

The Amazons sing.

“We all come from the Goddess…and to her we shall return…”

Their voices fill the space. The begin to walk from the far end of the hall, between the protestors and the ritualists, moving slowly and intentionally.

At the end of the processional of singers is Z Budapest.

8:51pm Someone at the front of the door is attempting to film **, and there is an argument between her and the Pantheacon coordinators. I overhear something about “consent to be filmed.” This argument is the only palpable conflict yet. Until this point, it has felt like two groups holding space.

But, the energy feels different now.

The singing continues.

8:54pm Z Budapest speaks, and the camera person has been given permission to film her. She is offered her prepared statement, which she takes, but she does not speak from the paper. She asks the Amazons if they are present to support her, to which they respond that they are present to support all; they are “in between.” Lady Yeshe Rabbit says,

“There is no them; only us.

Z looks at the group of men who have gathered behind the cisgender women. They are led by Hyperion of The Unnamed Path.

“There are my guardians,” Z says to them.

“No,” Hyperion responded to her. “We are only here to bear witness and hold space.” ***

Z begins to speak off script, and the following are excerpts from her spoken statement.

“I am not your enemy….

I understand the new consciousness….it’s very Aquarian.

I love the transsexuals… interesting costumes… very colorful…”

I am struck by the fact that she is a person, where up until now she has been spoken of primarily as a symbol.

I hear one of the protestors begin to weep.

“Every minute a woman dies in childbirth…EVERY MINUTE A WOMAN DIES IN CHILDBIRTH. And from there, it just goes on….

I am your mother’s mothers….

I am the elder on whom you can build revolution!

9:00pm Z Budapest turns and enters the San Martin conference room.

The singers leave as they came.

The Pantheacon coordinator faces the protestors, and reads them the prepared statement which Z chose not to read.

Then, silence. Stillness. The only sound, the spinning of the wheel and the chanting of the crone.

9:12pm Glenn Turner counts the number of silent protestors in attendance. There are 89 present.

9:15pm Thorn walks up to the front, and chants the OM. The protestors break their silence.

“I love you all so much. It’s an honor to sit with you…”

The protestors begin to rise, many embracing. Thanks are expressed. Someone passes out girl scout cookies. They silently move through the hallway, away from the sounds of the cis women laughing, chanting, calling the quarters.

There is a spirit of relief and exhausting.

The crones stay behind, and continue to hold space.

*** UPDATE on 2/23/12 When first published, this post did not contain a quote from Hyperion. I was unable to make out the exact words he said to Z, and because of this I did not include his statement in my notes or in my account of the event. I appreciate his coming forth to clarify, because it is important to understand the motivations and intentions behind all those present (as best we can).

** It has been reported that the camera person was Bobbie, Z Budapest’s wife.
For more insight into Hyperion’s perspective, and a link to his website, please read through the comments.

I brought my little tin-can altar to Pantheacon, and set it up in my hotel room on the glass, circular end table next to the lounge chair. The conference program was rather stern about not burning incense or lighting candles anywhere in the hotel, but I chose to believe that the rules didn’t include small tea lights and mini-tapers on end tables. Honestly, if I’m standing naked before an altar I can guarantee you that I’ll be the first to notice if something catches on fire.

Bringing my altar with me provided a feeling of continuity at the start of the unfamiliar experience, and doing ritual this morning offered a similar sense of familiarity as I try to make sense of all that’s happened over the past few days. I’ve resisted posting platitudes about Pantheacon, either on my blog or on Facebook, because the experience of this gathering was profound for me. It’s worthy of more than a quick summary.

I recognize that there is a great deal of controversy stirring about online regarding the Z Budapest ritual, and I’m going to give myself a little more time before I write about that. I was at the scene, seated with Thorn and the other 89 silent protesters, positioned directly across from Z when she emerged from the conference room to speak at the group. I wrote furiously in my little notebook to capture as many details as I could, and I intend to put a post together that not only describes the scene of the protest, but also reflects on some of the subtler points that we miss beneath the cacophony of internet chatter and bickering.

I think it’s important to remember — not only for me, but also for those who were unable to attend Pantheacon — that this conference was much more than a single controversy over gender identity and the policies of inclusion and exclusion to ritual. Those dialogues did occur, and are worth unpacking even further. But, we must try to place a single conversation in its proper context, even if we believe that the message at the heart of that conversation is revolutionary, or urgent.

Pantheacon was, itself, a kind of ritual. We gathered in a hotel, sanctified the space, and proceeded to seek knowledge, explore community, and challenge our assumptions about who we are, what we believe, and why we practice as we do. It was a complicated ritual, and, as with most rituals, there is always room for improvement.

Pantheacon was a dynamic and enriching experience. Participating in it affirmed for me a number of things, not the least of which is that I have no qualms about identifying as a Pagan anymore. The discussion about that word, while fascinating for a time, is much less important to me than it was just a few months ago. Not only am I comfortable using the term “Pagan” to broadly identify what I do, I make the distinction that what I do is not all of who I am. Moving into this awareness is liberating.

I intend to explore these revelations in the coming days, as well as to describe what I discovered about my relationship to ADF Druidry, OBOD, and Celtic Reconstructionism, what it felt like to invoke the spirit of Inspiration into ritual space, and what immediate challenges I believe have been presented to me for my own spiritual growth and development.

I’m not going to try to do this all at once. I don’t feel an immediate urgency to understand Pantheacon, right now. I’m going to take my time, let it steep for a little longer. After all, the energy raised in a ritual truly begins to serve its purpose once the ritual has ended, no? If that’s true, then the real effect of Pantheacon begins now.

Rather than become overwhelmed by that truth, I approach my altar and light a candle. I center myself, call upon Those who I call upon, and carry on with my life. I hold on to the thread of continuity which led me to Pantheacon, and I trust this it will lead me to more enchantment, more challenges, and more opportunities to serve my community, my land, my Gods. I do all of this with a deeper sense of self, a burgeoning belief about my purpose as a writer, a teacher and a creative soul, and with the feeling of profound gratitude.

That is where I begin on the first day after my first Pantheacon.