“Oh, look, there’s the moon, and it looks like a boat over the city,” said our guest keynote speaker, Ronald Hutton, as we left the restaurant Friday night. “It never looks like that in England because of our latitude,” he added. I missed the sighting at the time, but as I drove home, crossing over the wide Broad River bridge, there it was, peeping out from behind the mist. Just as quickly the thin crescent-sliver slipped back behind the moving clouds and the sky was dark again.
It so happens that the Egyptian glyph which looks like that boat-shaped moon is called “ia” and is often found on the head of Thoth (Djehuti). This seemed particularly appropriate to me as we began a day of talks at the Sacred Lands and Spiritual Landscapes symposium. Thoth is, after all, the inventor of hieroglyphs, god of wisdom and learning, his guidance present from before history.
The subjects at hand were similarly lunar; one could almost feel the mental waxing and waning, shifting and changing, throughout the day. Some of our presentations were sharply analytical, and others bore out the highly-experiential nature of Pagan theology. As Wendy Griffin, our Academic Dean, noted in her remarks, Cherry Hill Seminary is a seminary, so we address not just the scholarship of Pagan studies, but also the very human life paths involved in ministerial service. I observe that, as with the mists and the moon on Friday night, those goals are inseparable but not always sharply-defined.
Like a moon-drawn tide, about 75 people swelled the symposium for less than 48 hours. Looking around the room on Saturday, I was elated at the diversity represented: 18 states and one country overseas, multiple ages and ethnicities, and a range of spiritual backgrounds. Sacred Lands was attended by a national CUUPS officer (John Beckett, who blogs on Patheos.com). The Henge of Keltria, the founder of Mother Grove (Byron Ballard from Asheville, NC), ADF (Archdruid and CHS trustee Kirk Thomas), OTO, Covenant of the Goddess, and a great many other traditions. Two Christians were among our participants, as well as others who do not identify with any particular religious tradition. While we were pleased to host many guests who are prominent, equally important were the many names and faces new to us. Naturally, we have a special fondness for the several Cherry Hill Seminary students who made the trek.
All of us came because we prize learning and discourse. In the process of scholarship, we strengthened the bonds of community, too. Such is the mystery that is Cherry Hill Seminary, for it has always been a challenge for me to adequately articulate in just how many ways it has changed my life. Learning, personal growth and leadership are mutually-beneficial traveling companions. So may they continue to be as we continue navigating through a sometimes cloudy, always stellar, journey of learning.