Finding the Common Ground at PantheaCon

Finding the Common Ground at PantheaCon February 17, 2015

10387678_10153043082923232_6618936316211491736_nOver the last few years I’ve tried to express the idea that our differences are often much smaller in person than they appear to be online. I found that to be the case numerous times at the PantheaCon festival this past weekend. There is just no substitute for direct and personal engagement with people.

PantheaCon is a very busy couple of days for me. This year it included two workshops and two panels* along with numerous social events. I should know better by now, but I found myself up well past midnight every night of PantheaCon (though I was always back in my hotel room by sunrise, if just barely). I generally found myself up late because the social part of PantheaCon is so engaging. Sure the absinthe is nice, but it’s the conversation that keeps me awake.

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My journey of discovery began at the first workshop/ritual/discussion on the docket at PantheaCon, The Good The Bad & The Blogging, which was a panel Niki Whiting and I put together for Patheos Pagan. I had previously met everyone on that panel with the exception of Rhyd Wildermuth, and he was exactly not what I was expecting. Rhyd has written some of my all time favorite pieces here on Patheos, but we’ve also disagreed on things from time to time. I was expecting him to arrive with a scowl on his face and a lecture in his pocket, instead I met a warm and funny individual. I found myself instantly liking him despite our occasional differences. (That’s our panel up there . . Me, Niki Whiting, Rhyd Wildermuth, John Halstead, Crystal Blanton, and Jenya Beachy. Thanks to Angus McMahan for being our moderator and just killing it!)

10981212_1032476323448136_857866285482194030_nPantheaCon for me is often about my own workshops and I don’t think they disappointed anyone. Full houses saw me ponder and pontificate on the Horned God and bang my head to some occult-infused Heavy Metal. I had ran through both workshops earlier in the week and both were massive failures. There’s something about talking about something with people that just clicks for me. I’m always about two minutes away from barfing at the start of a workshop, but once it gets going the crowd just lifts me up. A great workshop needs a great big Greek Chorus because “audience” isn’t the right word. I need people responding and interacting with me, that’s what works.

Sunday was supposed to be my lazy day at PantheaCon. There were no workshops to present, I was just going to aimlessly wander, but that didn’t last too long. Instead of going to a workshop I ended up at the bar in the hotel lobby talking to Gwion Raven and a few other Reclaiming Witches for the better part of nearly three hours. I’ll admit that Gwion and I probably have a bit of a bromance going on at this point, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that our conversation was one of the best “workshops” I’ve ever been a part of.

Gwion and I are both Witches, but away from that it often feels like we live on different spiritual planets. His rituals are ecstatic and spontaneous, mine are often written out line by line. I tend to keep my politics mostly out of my religious practice, his politics completely infuse his spiritual traditions. We are completely different Witches, and yet while we spoke on Sunday afternoon our differences just kept melting away.

10497021_10206107035461852_6126793853484141506_oWe might conduct our rites in dissimilar ways, but our end goals are essentially the same. We are both seeking and finding the same light at the end of the tunnel and in the middle of the cirlce. I know this isn’t coming out as the earth-shattering revelation that it was to me in the middle of our conversation, but trust me on this. Sometimes it’s so easy to ignore the end game and instead focus on the differences. “I don’t like the way they call quarters” or “their rituals just aren’t for me” and those feelings don’t have to go away, but beyond the surface stuff many of us just share so much! One of the things we don’t do enough of in this community is talk about why we do the things we do. The how is easy to explain, the why is often much harder.

Late on Sunday I found myself conversing deep into the night with a Dianic Witch, and again there were all of those points of shared practice. Here was a High Priestess with a passion for the things that I value in the Craft. We talked of loving our deities, and our covens, and the joy that comes from simply being a Witch. The differences between us were more stream than ocean. This was a Witch fiercely embracing life and the Craft and it resonated with me. What do a Dianic and Gardnerian Witch talk about? Pretty much everything and it feels like home.

There were moments at PantheaCon when I found myself shaking my head. Hearing someone tell me that there is “something missing in Witchcraft” is disheartening. There may be something missing in your practice, but there’s very little if anything missing in mine. I’m glad that people feel empowered enough to say nearly whatever they want at PantheaCon, but we should always be mindful of broad generalizations. Witches do what works, for them. My practice doesn’t need any outside seasoning.

My brain is a bit scattered this afternoon, just too much going on and not much break in between, let’s hope I didn’t write anything that’s going to piss somebody off . . . . .

10516642_10153040382825910_5352348804171100681_nA Few Other Notes about PantheaCon 2015

-Angus McMahan should be a blazing star in the firmament of Pagan presenting. No one makes me laugh so hard while infusing every story he tells with true heart. It’s something special to see year after year and remains my favorite part of PantheaCon. Your Mom loved Saturday night!

-Crystal Blanton saying she reads most everything I write made me blush and was one of the highlights of my weekend. Crystal is amazingly awesome and I just love her, I do. She doesn’t always say what’s comfortable, but she always says what’s right. I’m glad to call her a friend.

-If you ever get out here go to the Green Fairy Absinthe Parties. Clifford Hartleigh Low is the best host on the planet. If you’re running a hospitality suite the point is to be hospitable, Cliff takes it to another level and makes me feel like I’m at home.

rsz_110615436_10153045985578232_4687794135085973213_n-Some of you know I have a Llewellyn book coming out next year. As a result I was invited to attend their author reception. Sitting around talking to LaSara Firefox, Oberon Zell, Gus DiZerega, and just sharing a couch with Lon Milo DuQuette was dizzying. All of them take special care to remind people they are just human, but the fanboy in me is always overwhelmed, really overwhelmed. Let’s hope I didn’t say anything too stupid.

-Selena Fox is a treasure, and I got to spend over a half an hour chatting with her on Sunday night. Just so much positive energy in one place! Fabulous.

-I have the greatest friends in the world. I used to not say “I love you” very much. I find myself saying it all the time these days because I really mean it. If I said it to you or gave you a kiss, well, you know I how I feel about ya.

-I need to finish packing for ConVocation . . . . and with that the adventures continue.

*Don’t cry for me Argentina but my events at PantheaCon are never spaced out. Each panel was directly followed by a workshop. Pcon yearly makes me feel like a boxer.


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