This year I was invited to present my work, Priest of the Goddess at the 2015 Coph Nia festival. To quote their website Coph Nia is, “a 5 day outdoor alternative spirituality festival for gay, bi, queer and questioning men. Held at an interfaith sanctuary in Artemas, PA, Coph Nia is open to long-time practitioners and new seekers of a wide range of spiritual paths including Wicca, Paganism, Heathenry, Druidism, Shamanism, Thelema, Ceremonial Magick and more. Sponsored by the Ordo Aeternus Vovin, an initiatory Thelemic order for gay and bisexual men, Coph Nia features vendors, concerts, rituals, workshops, nightly bonfires, dancing, drumming, chanting, signing and many social events including our annual Masked Ball & Sensual Feast.”

I was a little intimidated going in. You see, I have been to pagan festivals for gay and bisexual men in the past and had a horrible time but I also met my current partners of six years at one so it can be a toss up. For the most part I avoid them like the plague. These festivals though well intended often end up becoming so sex focused that my experience resembles something more like going to a gay bar in the woods for several days. Once while vending at one of these festivals, upon arriving at the camp and getting out of my car one organizer shouted “I’ve got dibbs!” to another organizer from across the field.

For the record; I don’t think there is anything wrong with events that are about hooking-up in the woods, I just don’t think they should be marketed as being something different. I’m sex positive but I draw the line when things get predatory.

I knew the organizers of Coph Nia from other events in the pagan scene and knew that they had a particularly interesting vision for the festival so I agreed to come and share the male Goddess mysteries that I had been developing. I was going in with my boyfriend who was also teaching and several friends so I knew I would be safe regardless of the general festival scene. I figured just go in, teach, and hopefully someone will connect to the material and if they do then it is all worth it. I built an armor that I didn’t need.

I really enjoyed the whole festival but there is one particular thing about it that I thought set it aside from all the other gay/bisexual men’s festivals and that is consent culture. The organizers take a very strong stand against the bar-mentality and overly sexualized focus, so much so that during the ritualistic part of the sensual feast the leaders had us all chant “May our yes mean yes, our no mean no, and our hell fucking no mean hell fucking no!” I was speechless. This thing that was always the worst part about going to one of these events was being addressed and discussed and wiped out head-on.

From the first meeting when the organizers were explaining the event we were all told that if at any time we felt uncomfortable or that we were getting unwanted attention all we had to do was let them know. They wanted us to actually be able to focus on spiritual development and brotherhood and not have to worry about feeling vulnerable.

Where has this been my whole life? Why was this the first time I had ever experienced it?

What these men are doing is beautiful and I really wanted to share it with the rest of the pagan community. They are building a consent culture that totally is going to change the way we address sex in the pagan scene. It was responsible and respectful and all about the sacredness of boundaries. I never once felt like I was being preyed upon, I never once felt uncomfortable having my shirt off. It was beautiful. I wish there were more places doing it like them.

I was so impressed I am going to bring the festival organizer on the show to talk about this and about how awesome the event was. Look for that this fall. 

In the mean time check out their website for info!