Third of a series of posts with my notes from the Heathen Women United conference on 6-8 July in Preston.
The first post is Experiences and notes from Heathen Women United 2nd Annual conference which includes my notes on the first panel of speakers and the second post is Notes from HWU conference cont. which includes my notes on the keynote and guest speaker talks on Saturday 7th July. This post will cover the second panel of talks and a little about the evening entertainment.
The first panel was called Urd and this second panel was called Verdandi. It included three speakers presenting information about aspects of contemporary Heathen practices.
The first to speak was Annie Humphrey currently studying for a PhD in medieval history in Ireland and originally from the North Eastern United States and her talk was titled “Heathen Motherhood in Theory and Practice”. Annie spoke eloquently from personal experiences as well as from her observations and much of what she spoke of resonated with me. She began by talking of how the role of mother could perhaps be better described as that of the nurturing parent and how even in the Heathen and pagan communities there tended to be a lot of stereotyping around parental roles. There can be assumptions that being a mother is the peak of what it is to be a woman which are often painful to those who do not have children either by choice or circumstances. Annie also spoke of how you loose your individual identity in many ways in becoming a mother, you are seen more as “mum” than whatever else you may be.
The second to speak in this panel was Barbara Davy from Canada speaking on “Women, Heathenry, Paganism and Ritual in Contempory Canada”. Her slides had the subtitle “to become Ancestors of a Living Future”. Barbara first spoke about her experiences as a guest at a Dísablót (rite honouring the female ancestors for those not familiar with this term) where a human skeleton was seated at the table fro a community meal along with the living guests. Dísablót is usually held in the winter months around Yule although timings can vary. She went on to talk about her research on research and environmental values. Pagans and Heathens feel a stronger connection to the land and wider world to a statistically significant level compared to those who do not follow a Pagan or Heathen path. Ritual is also more important and Barbara suggest that it is ritual that leads to many of the differences she has noted in her research. Barbara suggested that re-emphasizing Ancestor Veneration could lead to a better sense of wider connections with wights and the wider environment as well as our ancestors.
The third speaker was Raoul Zimmerman from France. His talk was titled “Men and Women in Contemporary Asatru in France.” Raoul spoke of his fieldwork in both Iceland and areas of France with different Heathen communities and comparisons between the areas. He reported that the Asatru community in France was much smaller than in Iceland and the groups he had come into contact with in France were heavily male dominated. He also noted that there was more racism in the French groups than in Iceland. In his experience the women in France connected with Heathenry in some way also tend to be much more open to ideas from wider Paganism.
There were questions at the end of the panel but I didn’t take any notes on the questions or responses.
The second panel took place after the second and before the third keynote speakers and I have written about all the keynote and guest speakers on Saturday in my previous post about the conference.
The final part of the day was a performance by Alison Williams-Bailey. This was a solo song and storytelling performance called “Creation Song: A Norse Mythology Storytelling Show”. Alison’s performance lasted about 45 minutes and was a powerful demonstration of memorisation of both song and story. I was happily enthralled as she moved, spoke and sang stories from Norse mythology. It was a wonderfully immersive experience.