13 Things From Mystic South 2023

13 Things From Mystic South 2023 July 18, 2023

I’m back from this year’s Mystic South conference in Atlanta. I didn’t set out to have exactly a coven’s worth of comments and observations, but that’s how it worked out and I find that very appropriate.

photo by John Beckett
The back of the Crowne Plaza hotel. It’s beautiful, and also a great place for an impromptu Blot.

1. More people are learning how good this gathering is. The folks at the registration desk hadn’t added up everything when I talked to them on Sunday, but they were confident the final number would be over 500. It’s a well-organized event in a great location. I’ve been to all five Mystic Souths and I plan to be back again next year.

2. There are so many good presentations the schedulers have an impossible task. I missed a couple of presentations I wanted to see because I was teaching in the same slot… including at 8:00 AM on the first day of the conference. I wasn’t expecting many people to show up that early in the day but the room was almost full – and people were awake, too.

photo by Cathy Beckett
with Thorn Mooney and Corvus Mooney

3. Ivo Dominguez Jr. couldn’t be at Mystic South – he’s recovering from heart surgery. So the Mystic South staff arranged for him to do his presentation via Zoom. Ivo was able to teach his class pretty much how he usually does, including taking questions. There were a few technical issues. We worked through them, but the hotel doesn’t have the infrastructure to do this on a large scale. Still, it worked for this one, and I’m glad it did.

4. As he usually does, Ivo managed to say several things I really needed to hear. I’ve had such good success with sigil magic and with visualization that I tend to rely on those methods for pretty much everything. Ivo reminded me that there is also value in the kind of magic that uses magical materia and spellcasting language.

5. I was very happy with the turnout for and the response to my workshop “Exorcising Toxic Religion From Your Soul.” This is an important topic, even in a group with as many experienced Pagans as Mystic South. I spent eight years floundering on my journey because I hadn’t dealt with the religious baggage of my childhood. I’ve blogged about this several times, but this was a chance to present the process in a one hour setting.

photo by Cathy Beckett
Exorcising Toxic Religion From Your Soul

6. This was my first time to present “Magic For Difficult Times.” I had rehearsed it, but I still had to pull about two pages out of my notes – the timing is never the same when you do it for real. Or at least when I do it for real. I’ll tighten it up next time I do it. The key point of the presentation is that working magic is easy – it’s figuring out what to work magic for that’s hard. Given our current environment – politically, socially, naturally, religiously, magically – we need to develop a strategy, then make a plan to implement that strategy. And then we need to work the plan and make adjustments as necessary. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson famously said “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Times like these mean we need to turn pro.

7. In 2019 I said I needed to bring more books. I brought a lot more books this time – and Sojourner brought more – and it still wasn’t enough. The Book of Cernunnos sold out by early Saturday afternoon. I appreciate the support. This book is off to a great start.

8. I really enjoyed Kelden’s presentation on The Witches’ Devil. Many of us like to say “there’s no devil in the craft” but sometimes there is, both historically and contemporarily. I liked how Kelden differentiated between the “theological devil” that the Church talks about and the “folkloric devil” that ordinary people encountered and told stories about. Take a guess as to whose view I find closer to the truth. Even if you don’t work with the devil, it’s good to know who he is – and who he isn’t.

photo by John Beckett
Kelden getting ready to talk about The Witches’ Devil

9. Can I be honest? I really didn’t have much interest in Lithomantic Divination, but I figured anything Thumper Forge did would be fun, so I went. I was right – it was a lot of fun. And lithomantic divination turned out to be a promising divination system. It’s like throwing bones, but a lot simpler and easier to learn. Thumper was his usual self: both hilarous and informative.

photo by John Beckett
Thumper Forge demonstrating Lithomantic Divination

10. I love the conversations at Mystic South. Some were more like consultations, some were authors talking shop, and some were deeply personal. All were examples of things we can do in person so much better than we can do on-line, even with Zoom and other technology. It’s this way every time – the specifics are always different, but the quality is always superb. Special thanks to Laura Perry for initiating a very deep conversation that will be continued on multiple levels in the coming months.

11. I didn’t pick up on any themes or currents this year. I just saw a lot of resources for making your Paganism better. None of them were presented as “you should be doing this” but more like “here are some things that will improve your practice.” One example was a Baltic Morning Star Ritual by Rev. Cleo Ajana and Rev. Fr. Dee. It took maybe 10 minutes, but it was a great demonstration of how to do a brief morning devotional ritual.

12. I did pick up one big thing… or at least, I think it’s big. There were several accounts of people hearing from a deity they can’t identify, who appears to be the same deity. When Gods and Goddesses start calling people, They rarely call just one. Multiple calls and other communication serves as confirmation (moving from UPG to SPG), but it also lets those who are called know that they aren’t alone. I’ll have more to say about this specific situation in the near future.

13. Thanks to all the organizers, presenters, and participants who made Mystic South so good. Next year’s conference will be July 26-28, 2024. I’m already thinking about what I want to do.

photo by John Beckett

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