I don’t even want to tally up how much Pantheacon cost this year, after plane tickets, hotel, food, and conference fees. Not to mention missed work. But it was a priceless experience for me. Here’s the highlights:
1. Atheopagans. At the top of my list is the Atheopagan events which were organized by Mark Green, and which Mark Green reported on here and I will be reporting on at HumantisticPaganism.com. It was great talking to and circling with other Humanistic and Naturalistic Pagans and really feeling a sense of community in a way you just can’t online. But it also was really cool that people with different beliefs showed up to the panel and ritual. I know there had been a concern that the events might get heckled (and maybe some concerns from others about how we would conduct ourselves), but the ecumenical (from the Greek oikos: “house, habitation”) spirit of Pantheacon permeated the whole weekend, including the Atheopagan events. The capstone was when my friend, anarchist and polytheist, Rhyd Wildermuth briefly joined Mark Green, Jon Cleland Host, and me during lunch on the last day of the Con to discuss ameliorating the conflict between our respective subcultures.
2. Bloggers. The Patheos Pagan bloggers panel was lots of fun too. How can it not be with such great people to share the mic with? Thank you Jason (Raise the Horns), Niki (A Witch’s Ashram), Rhyd (A Sense of Place), Crystal (Daughters of Eve), Jenya (The Urban Pagan Homestead), and Angus (Ask Angus). I only wish everyone had gotten the chance to hear Jason do imitations of us all during the mic check. It was awesome to meet people in the flesh whose blogs I read and other people who read my blog. I never tired of hearing “You’re John Halstead?!” — which could be taken in so many ways. Elsewhere at the Con, I got the chance to briefly meet other Patheos bloggers, including Tom Swiss (The Zen Pagan) and Lupa Greenwolf (Paths Through the Forests), as well as Annika Mongan (The Cross and The Pentacle) who blogs with me at Witches & Pagans — I look forward to talking with them all more in the future. And I learned that one of my favorite people, Shauna Aura Knight, will be joining the Patheos community soon (at the central hub, Agora), and has already joined Witches & Pagans with a blog called “Pagan Leadership: Community Building, Facilitation, and Personal Growth”.
3. Solseed. We spent time with friends who we had met before and met awesome new friends, including some who I’ve only known from online. I especially enjoyed our time with Brandon and Shelley Sanders, who in addition to being awesome people are co-founders of Solseed, a unique tradition which teaches that “science tells the truth, all life is precious, and the purpose of humanity is to nurture life.” Definitely check it out! There were lots of other people who I wanted to connect with but couldn’t and others who I met but couldn’t talk with as long as I wanted to. If you’re one of those folks, I’m going to be trying to reach out through social media in the next couple weeks, but please feel free to contact me too.4. A sacred experience shared. We attended a workshop with Ruth Barrett where she demonstrated an intuitive ritual making process with a volunteer. I’m not going to go into details because it was a sacred experience and it isn’t mine to share. But it was an honor to hold space for that magic (a word I don’t use often, as my regular readers know, but really apples here). If you didn’t get to attend the workshop, check out Ruth’s book.
5. Connecting through ritual. We attended some great rituals, including the “Wake Up to Spirit” ritual put on by the Come As You Are (CAYA) Coven and a ritual by North Bay Reclaiming called “Connecting to Allies”. There was one part of the CAYA ritual where we took a moment to look into every person’s eyes in the room, one at a time (about 200 people), reciting “The divine in me greets the divine in you.” It was a profound experience, and by the end, something in me broke open. I had a similar experience near the end of the Reclaiming ritual just as the chanting reached a crescendo.
6. Where did that come from? Speaking of being broken open. Listening to some constructive criticism from my wise and kind friends, Niki Whiting and Adam Blodgett, over dinner triggered something in me that woke me up at 5 a.m. the next morning with a need to spill my soul out onto the computer screen in a way I don’t think I ever have before on this blog. It was simultaneously excruciating and wonderful. Thank you both. I will do my best to hold that space open.
7. Politics. On the more political end of things, I attended a great workshop on consent culture by Lasara Firefox and one of those “I was there” kind of events when Alley Valkyrie and Rhyd Wildermuth talked to a jam-packed and overflowing room about anti-capitalism resistance. If you missed it, check out the “Pagan Anti-Capitalist Primer” zine Alley and Rhyd created.
8. The Priestess and the Pen. I met Sonja Sadovsky, author of the recently-published Priestess & the Pen: Marion Zimmer Bradley, Dion Fortune & Diana Paxson’s Influence on Modern Paganism, which happened to be the only book I brought with me to Pantheacon, and she was kind enough to sign it. I finally got a chance to start reading it on the flight back home because there was no time during the Con. I’ll be reviewing The Priestess and the Pen here shortly, but here’s a preview of my review: “Buy It!” I didn’t get enough time to talk to Sonja at the Con, but I hope to be able to talk to her about the book before I publish the review.
9. How do you say “polytheist”? I learned a new way to say “polytheist”: [po-li-thee-ist] instead of [pol-ee-thee-ist].
10. My wife. Spending this time with my wife made the whole experience twice as awesome. Not only does she manage to make me look and sound better when I’m standing next to her, but none of these experiences would seem complete without being able to share them with her. I love you Ruth!