Pantheacon Recap

Last year I wrote about my Pantheacon envy and said “maybe 2014 will be my year.”  This year I decided I needed to go, period.  I did and I had a great time.  It wasn’t a transformative religious experience, but it was a great experience of community and I’m very glad I went.

This is what I did while I was there.  I’ll have at least two and maybe more posts exploring some of the workshops and rituals, but I’m going to start with a high level recap.

One of the reasons I had always said no to Pantheacon is the crowds (2302 people were registered). I don’t handle crowds well and I really don’t handle chaos.  I got some great tips from veterans that helped. Big thanks to Jason Pitzl-Waters for recommending the Fairfield hotel.  No fighting for a reservation, no line to check in, no waiting for elevators, and easy access to cheap food.  It took 10 minutes to walk to the Doubletree.  If you have mobility issues or if you had to bring a ton of ritual gear it wouldn’t be a good choice, and I was warned that some years rain can be an factor.  But it worked very well for me.

It was crowded inside the convention, but it wasn’t chaotic.  There were lines for two events I went to, but I showed up 15 minutes early out of habit and the organizers directed people where to line up.  I did have to leave one event in a hospitality suite that was simply too jammed, but for the most part, there was no chaos and thus no stress.

The weather gods smiled on me. Some folks from the Northeast were either delayed or didn’t make it, and the previous week saw numerous flights cancelled out of DFW. I had no issues getting out and only a short delay getting home.

After I checked into the hotel I walked over to the Doubletree and checked into the convention – and promptly ran into John Medellin, who had just moved from North Texas to San Francisco. I spent a few minutes trying to get oriented, then found Jason Mankey’s “Male Archetypes of Deity in the Craft” presentation.  Jason had some technical difficulties with his PowerPoint, but none with his talk. I got to meet Jason, Niki Whiting, Angus McMahan, and John and Ruth Halstead for the first time.

The hospitality suites were the highlight of the convention for me.  I spent time in the suites of Coru Cathubodua, Hexenfest, ADF, FoDLA, Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, and (briefly) Solar Cross Temple, plus some informal hospitality from Jason Mankey.  The suites are part miniature meeting rooms, part quiet place to escape the convention buzz, part public relations venues, and part discussion salons.  If you don’t know anyone, a convention – any convention – can be a lonely place.  The hospitality suites are a place to find the one-on-one and small group conversations that form and strengthen relationships.

And what happens in the hospitality suites stays in the hospitality suites.  Right, Anomalous Thracian?  Right???  Somehow I think not…

The most powerful experience of the weekend was the ritual to open the Temple of the Morrígan.  The Coru Cathubodua put some serious work into creating a living temple, one whole room “for reverence of the Morrígan and the family of Celtic Gods and heroes.”  The temple deserves its own blog post – I’ll have it done late this week or early next week.

The hardest thing I had to do all weekend was leave the Coru suite at midnight.  Fine conversation was still in full swing – some theological, some practical, and some just fun – but my body was still on Texas time and I was drained.  Thanks to all the folks there:  Morpheus Ravenna, Rynn Fox, Brennos, Amelia Hogan, Corvus Cardia, Grant Guindon, Anomalous Thracian, and everyone else I’m either overlooking or whose names I didn’t get.  Your hospitality and friendship are awesome!

Because I did listen to my body, and because I was still mostly on Texas time, I woke up in time to make a 9:00 workshop.  Thorn Coyle was presenting “Invoking the Power to Dare” so I went there.  I’ve heard variations on this presentation before, and I read and reviewed her book Make Magic of Your Life.  But I’m actively working to improve my teaching skills and Thorn is one of the best teachers I know – I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to observe her in action.

After that was a panel discussion on Sacrifice and Modern Paganism.  All I’ll say about that panel right now is that it was a good start.  It could have had fifteen panelists instead of five, and it could have run all day instead of 90 minutes.  This was the only event all weekend where I took notes – I expect this will be another blog post of its own, probably some time next week.

I had a short wait to grab a sandwich and a coke for lunch, then I got in line for The Ole Time Good Spell Feri Pagan Tent Revival.  I grew up going to revivals (at least one of which was in an actual tent) and I’ve adapted that service style for Pagan events before.  The Feri Tent Revival was fun and inspiring, and importantly, it was an adaptation of Christian revivals, not a parody.  I moved on from Baptist theology and doctrine a long time ago, but I still enjoy good preaching.  If you’ve been around here very long you know I do some preaching too (I’ll be in the pulpit at Denton UU on March 9), but my style is more mainline Protestant than the energetic revival style of Sister Jenya and the Preacherman.

And then I went back to my hotel for a nap.  I’ve learned I get more out of a multi-day event if I get enough rest to do some things well rather than trying to fill every minute with activities.

My Saturday evening began with a presentation on the founding of the Pantheon Foundation, a new organization headed by Sam Webster designed to help build infrastructure for the modern Pagan world.  This is something we need to start doing, and I’m happy to make a (small) contribution.

From there it was on to entertainment.  I caught the last half of the Pandemonaeon concert.  I had heard Sharon and Winter play acoustically in Denton, but I had never heard the full plugged-in band play live.  I love their music and this was even more powerful than the recordings (but you’re going to record some new music, right Sharon?).  After that was the Hexenfest dance party with Jason Pitzl-Waters as DJ.  No, I don’t dance.  I’m not sure I can hold enough alcohol to get me to dance (and I didn’t have any that night).  But I’m in total agreement with Brennos from the Coru: “I love watching witches dance” – particularly to Sisters of Mercy.

John Beckett, Niki Whiting, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Jason Mankey, John Halstead – photo by Ruth Halstead

Sunday morning was the Patheos Pagan Bloggers Breakfast.  Niki Whiting arrived early and grabbed a table (thanks, Niki!), where we were soon joined by Jason Mankey, John and Ruth Halstead, Angus McMahan (who left before we took the picture – sorry, Angus, it was a “hey before we all go” thing) and my first in-person meeting with P. Sufenas Virius Lupus.  After that was the champagne fundraiser for Hexenfest, which I would very much love to attend but can’t quite make from Texas.

Sunday afternoon was the Great Queens ritual by the Coru Cathubodua.  Unlike the small intimate temple ritual on Friday, this was a whole ballroom full of people of varying interests and backgrounds.  The ritual invoked nine historical queens, including the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, Boadicea of the Iceni, and Queen Lili´uokalani of Hawaii.  Then Rynn Fox led a guided meditation that asked participants to call to and meet a queen, and to receive her blessings and her charge.  I’ve written before about how rituals need to be adapted to the size and composition of their participants – this one was.  It was simple enough to handle the number of people involved, accessible for those without a deep knowledge of the subject matter, yet with a depth available to those who were prepared and a power that was impossible to miss.

The next ritual couldn’t have been more different.  I had a part in the House of Danu “Warrior’s Call” ritual.  House of Danu is the California association of OBOD groves, seed groups and solitaries.  I attended their Gorsedds in 2009 and 2010 and have remained in touch with some of their folks.  This ritual began with a musical procession through the halls of Pantheacon – I was asked to lead the procession and carry the standard, which was kinda scary for someone who was still trying to figure out the maze that is the Doubletree!  The ritual itself was light and fun but it had a serious purpose – to respond to the threats posed by fracking and other acts of environmental desecration.

Thorn Coyle had invited me to participate in a Pagan Blogger’s meet and greet, but by the time the House of Danu ritual was over, the Solar Cross suite was about as crowded as a Tokyo subway or a California freeway.  I expressed my regrets and spent the rest of the evening in the FoDLA suite talking with Joel Schonbrunn and drinking his excellent mead.

I had no plans for Monday morning, but at breakfast on Sunday, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus invited me to the Ekklesia Antinoou’s Beard Blessing Ritual.  The idea struck me as silly, but Lupus invited me, and I had nothing else to do, so I went.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The ritual was done reverently in a style that was familiar from my Hellenic studies and Kemetic work (though far from identical to either), and the blessings themselves were humorous but at their core, quite serious.  I’m very glad I went.

I had time for one more workshop, so I participated in Sharon Knight’s Sonic Alchemy.  I love music and I have a great ear for it, but I have no musical education past a 6-week mini-class in the 8th grade, and I have zero singing skills.  Maybe less than zero.  So I participated as I could, and I got some ideas for incorporating chanting into rituals.

Saying goodbye at Pantheacon is hard, in part because the sorrow of parting comes so soon after the joy of meeting… but also because you keep running into people you want to talk to.  And sometimes you say your goodbyes and then before you can get out the door you run into the same people again.  It took about 45 minutes for me to get from the Sonic Alchemy workshop back to my hotel, and it could have been longer.

I’m very glad I went to Pantheacon.  I probably won’t go every year – it’s an expensive trip and while I’m blowing up my travel budget this year, I can’t do that every year.

But I had a great time and I will be back.

About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.

  • http://tommyelf22.wordpress.com/ Tommy Elf

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun while you were there! I’m hoping you can touch on a few of the topics/questions that Jason was mentioning in his initial PantheaCon post over on TWH….not sure what you have planned topically here, but hopefully you can wrestle those questions into a post or two. Glad you made it back home! –Tommy /|

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Jason has been to Pantheacon many times more than I have, and we have different approaches to our Paganisms. I probably will address his questions at some time, but I’ve got several other things to write about first.

  • Morpheus Ravenna

    Rule one of the Coru suite is you don’t talk about the Coru suite… ;)

    OK, kidding. But it was great getting to know you! Thanks for being part of a great con for me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Same here, Morpheus. You and the rest of the Coru were awesome. Wish I could have spent more time with you all.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    It was great to meet you, and to have you attend one of our rituals (one of the best we’ve done at PantheaCon, actually!)! I do enjoy the Fairfield, though walking with several bags of ritual gear isn’t always fun. And, I fully agree that the multi-tentacled beast which is PantheaCon can sometimes be very difficult to leave–last year, from stating our intent to leave and moving from the area of the vendor’s room to the doors to the parking lot by the elevators, took myself and my Anomalous Thracian colleage two-and-a-half hours, and that’s no joke (!?!). This year, it didn’t take nearly as long, thankfully, and part of that was due to the insistence of my new acolyte, who kept going “Lupus, time!” which is probably a good thing!
    As we often say: “Next year in San Jose!” ;)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      I really enjoyed our time together, PSVL, and your ritual was excellent. I liked how you had the participants toning while you read invocations – I’ll be borrowing that at some point in the future.

      I doubt I can afford to do Pantheacon every year, but I will be back before too long.


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