I’m on the plane right now, headed back home from Pantheacon. It’s been exciting and exhausting. This year, I didn’t feel like I had to fill every time slot with something, which was good because I was wiped out as it was. There are a few events that I want to devote an entire post to, like the discussion on Wiccanate privilege with PSVL and Don Frew, the Kali Puja ritual, and Shauna Aura Knight’s ritual facilitation workshop. But right now, I want to share some of the other exciting things that happened while they are fresh in my memory.
The first real treat was that my wife, Ruth, attended with me. I’ve written about Ruth often here, and if you’ve read my blog much, you know she is Mormon. So it was great to finally introduce her to some of my fellow Patheos Pagan bloggers in person. Everyone was welcoming and very interested to know what a non-Pagan Mormon thought about Pantheacon. Ruth enjoyed it all immensely, especially meeting and talking to other Pagans. She’s always been more adventurous than me. If you haven’t been, Pantheacon is kind of like a cross between an interfaith conference, a Beltane ritual, Gay Pride Day, and the Island of Misfit Toys — all in a good way. Ruth loved it all. I loved having her with me and sharing this part of my life with her.
Before the Con started, we drove up to San Francisco and spent a morning at Muir Woods National Monument, the closest thing to a Pagan temple for me. Words fail. That would have been worth the trip by itself. But that was just the beginning.
At the Con, we attended two events put on by Jason Mankey of Raise the Horns: a workshop on the god “archetype” (did he really use that word?) and the 1899 ritual. The workshop on the male archetype in the Craft was interesting and entertaining, as I have come to expect from Jason’s presentations, but I especially enjoyed the 1899 ritual. I’ve wanted to attend one of Mankey’s rituals for a long time and this one was especially fun because it showcased Jason’s love of Pagan history. The premise was to present what a Wiccanesque ritual would have looked like in 1899, 50 years before Wicca. I loved hearing Swinburne’s Hertha read in a ritual context. Jason and his co-ritualists were dynamic. There was an interesting part where we placed rocks soaked in wine in our mouths and recited a long oath (yes, there’s historical precedent for that). I did get a bit of a shock when I heard the names of the monotheistic Judeo-Christian god invoked at the four quarters, but of course, Paganism would have been all mixed up with Christianity in 1899.
We also attended a ritual organized by Thorn Coyle, which called the Guardians of the quarters and the zenith, center, and nadir. I didn’t have the same kind of transformative experience that I had a Thorn’s “exorcism” ritual two years ago, but it was still a positive experience. What I found interesting was that Thorn used two different names for each of the Guardians, one representing the “inner” and one representing the “outer” (at least that’s how I understood it). So for example, for the Guardian of the Nadir, there was “Fire in the Earth” (outer), which will be familiar to those who have studied Feri, but also “Focus Deep” (inner). Food for thought.
Ruth and I went to the Woodland concert, and they were even better live than their recording. They played one of my favorites, “Shadows”, which made me super happy. And then we went to Pomba Gira, a dance/ritual put on by the American Magic Umbanda House. Everyone wore sexy red and black and we danced to heavy drums and rhythmic, chant-like, overtly sexual lyrics. It was a sexually charged event and I was glad to have my wife there. That was Valentine’s night. Nuf said.
The Old Time Good Spell Feri Pagan Tent Revival was also lots of fun. It was a cross between a Christian tent revival and a Pagan Feri ritual. Last time I was at Pantheacon, I attended the ritual next door to the Feri Pagan Tent Revival and I knew from the sound that leaked through the walls and out into the hallway that I had missed out on something great. I vowed that this year I would not missed it. And I was not disappointed.
Ruth and I also attended a workshop by LaSara Firefox Allen and her husband Robert Allen entitled “Mystical Love: Encountering the Divine Other”. It was kind of an introduction to a kind of Bhakti yoga. They spoke about the experience of a transcendent “divine love”, and we practiced some “eye gazing” with our partners. At least as interesting as what they said was how they said it and how they interacted with each other and the attendees. I would really like to have the chance to attend a longer seminar with them in the future.
We also attended Margot Adler’s chant workshop. As you probably know from reading this blog, Margot is an idol of mine, and her book, Drawing Down the Moon is part of the reason I am Pagan. Several of the “chants” were actually short songs, which challenged my very limited musical ability, but I enjoyed singing a lot. And listening to and watching Margot was a treat in and of itself. I learned a few chants that I want to incorporate into my rituals with my kids, which I think will help make the rituals more energetic and more of a group experience.
Our flight was cancelled due to a snow storm in the Midwest, which meant we had to stay an extra day. But that also meant that we got to attend PSVL’s Beard Blessing Ritual — which, by the way, was open to all, all genders and sexual orientations, whether bearded or not. PSVL did a separate blessing for the bearded and the non-bearded. It was a treat to see my wife and a small group of other women, including Margot Adler, being blessed together. I also got to learn a little about the cult of Antinous. I thought the invocation of the obelisk was especially interesting and I was impressed by PSVL’s ambition and talent, as anyone must be who knows em. It was also interesting to compare and contrast two different kinds of devotional ritual, PSVL’s devotion of Antinous and the devotion of Kali-Ma by Sharanya (more on that later).
One ritual I regretted missing was the Coru Cathubodua Priesthood ancestor ritual, “The Great Queens”. I happened to see their procession on the way to the ritual, and really wanted to follow them. I hope to catch one of their rituals next time. I also missed out on meeting several people that I hoped to run into like Corvus Cardia and Sam Webster. Next time I hope.
Last but not least, we got to spend a little time with Patheos bloggers, John Beckett, Niki Whiting, Jason Mankey, and PSVL, and Angus McMahan dropped by. We had dinner with Niki Whiting of A Witch’s Ashram and her husband Adam Blodgett — absolutely awesome people by the way — and talked about doing ritual with our kids, natural/home birth, and Feri. I also got my copy of Adam’s Chibi Tarot, which I had been looking forward to. It’s the absolute best tarot for kids. I know, because I’ve looked. I had been looking for a kid-appropriate tarot deck for a while and was lucky enough to come across Adam’s Kickstarter campaign. If you love tarot and have kids, or if you just love tarot and are a kid at heart, you have to order a copy. Adam calls it “Mario Brothers meets Rider-Waite”.
Oh, and Ruth and I almost got mugged in an office park on the way back from dinner on the last night of the Con, but that’s another story.
Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I’ll share my thoughts on the Wiccanate privilege discussion.