Have you ever come back from a vacation or a spiritual retreat and had the world just sort of slap you in the face? Reality can be harsh. We refer to this process as “re-entry”. It’s that adjustment period when we need to remember that there won’t be someone else preparing our meals or making our beds or reminding us where to be for our next amazing discussion. Laundry and grocery shopping and picking up the kids are actually extremely important tasks that need to be done and we have to do them, but it can be really hard to wrap our newly-blissed-out brains around these every day tasks.
We’re returning from a terrific Pagan conference full of ideas and inspiration and we’re acutely aware that we have day jobs and obligations that are significantly less exciting but oh so very necessary. So on the ride home from PantheaCon we asked each other why we attend these events and what do we ultimately get out of going to them?
What is the value of attending a Pagan conference?
Gwion: PantheaCon is many different things to many different people. I like to describe it as a gathering hall for the diverse and varied Pagan traditions to come and celebrate each other. PantheaCon creates a place where magical and political and cultural ideas are shared and exchanged and expressed and expanded upon. I can throw off my serious ritual face and enjoy what it is to be a modern Pagan while tossing back my favourite adult libations of choice. It’s a place to put on my serious ritual face and dive head-first into the Mysteries and come back from the experience exhausted and transformed. In short, PantheaCon is a colourful, noisy, sublime four-day ritual and carnival of all things Pagan and I love it.
I’ve attended this conference for years but “my” PantheaCon this year was so rich, so abundant and so different than I would have imagined it to be. I found myself surrounded by peers and colleagues and by incredibly wise and earnest people that I just bumped into for the first and probably only time in an elevator. My sense of it all, and I’m really only just able to put this into words, is that our community of Pagans is not as provincial and remote from the over-culture, the dominant culture as “they” would have us believe. You see, I met pagans from every part of the United States. I met Pagans from outside the U.S. I talked with Pagans doing the very hard work of transforming the world one child, one protest, one legal argument, one planter box, one school board meeting, one Facebook post, one public ritual at a time. And that’s incredibly inspiring for me.
Phoenix: It’s really easy to get super insular in our home communities and that can also lead to getting stale. When you see the same folks at every ritual, when you know all the inner drama of your tradition, when the people you circle with are also your closest friends, it can sometimes feel like you are all alone on a little island with this little community. Although my local Pagan community is pretty large I can easily get sucked into the “onlyness” of my tradition. And although I love my tradition, I can sometimes get caught up in it and forget that there are so many other options out there.
This is the importance of a Pagan conference for me. It is a reminder that there is more to the Pagan world than my little corner of the table. There is so much more and so many more of “us”. That fact makes me really excited. The Pagan world is bigger than me and I am a part of this ever growing movement.
Plus, Pagan people are just so amazingly cool and fun to be around. At a conference I get to witness other Pagan folk interacting with hotel staff and restaurant staff who have no idea who we are or why we are all dressed so weird. I swear there are no other groups more polite than Pagan groups. My faith in humanity often falters, but being in Pagan space helps to shift that cloud of doubt and let some rays of hope shine through….maybe the human race isn’t doomed after all.
How does attending PantheaCon or any spiritual conference affect your daily life after the conference?
Phoenix: Like I said to Gwion when we started to talk about these ideas, this is a difficult question. I am really hard on myself, always pushing myself to do more, experience more, achieve more. Sometimes at these conferences I come home feeling beaten up. Why couldn’t I do more! Why haven’t I achieved more! What am I doing with my life? Why can’t I move into the Priestess House and serve my community or be the witch in the woods? But really this is just the fire of inspiration fueling me forward. I love my faith so much, I love working with the Goddesses of the world so much, I love sharing what I know. I come home from a conference with more knowledge of myself. I come home from conferences ready to make changes to the world because I know that there are other people out there who want it as much as I do. My daily life changes because I have better perception of who I am.
Gwion: I go to two or three main spiritual conferences a year, sometimes as a participant and other times as a teacher or presenter. I usually come back full of ideas and it takes me a while to sort out just what the most critical pieces are. How that shows up in my every day life is that I’m constantly churning through my own thoughts, re-examining how I interact with the world and imagining how I would/could approach things differently. I have to be careful to include my partner and my kids in these processes, otherwise I find myself pulling back and becoming distant or distracted. So that’s the trick – giving myself the space to dream and re-imagine while remembering to take the garbage cans out to the street on Thursday night!
So what’s our takeaway?
We both agree that the highs and lows that come from a conference or spiritual retreat do feed into our daily lives and at first it can be hard to make dinner, feed the dogs, or vacuum the house. What we recognize is that it is in the taking of these simple and small steps when we get home that continue to bring the magic into our daily lives. The “big” things can happen at a conference, but once we get home it’s about integrating those big feelings and making them a part of the day to day living. A conference, witch camp, or retreat is only a short period of time. The rest of the year we are dealing with the mundane aspects of life. Taking the energy from a conference and letting it infuse the rest of our lives is where the magical rubber meets the road.