To paraphrase Charles Dickens, “It was the best of cons. It was the worst of cons”. PantheaCon is both a shining beacon of what is good and great and wonderful about the Pagan communities and a torch shining brightly on what’s problematic and downright terrible about the Pagan communities.
This weekend marks the final incarnation of PantheaCon. For more than twenty years, PCON has been the largest gathering on Pagans on the West Coast, and perhaps, in the U.S. I’m sure it will be magnificent. I can’t wait to attend and I’m glad, really glad that it’s the last one.
What I Love About PantheaCon
There’s been nothing quite like PantheaCon. I’ve attended for the past 15 years. Is that right? My goodness, how time flies. Here’s what I’ve loved about it.
- Access to other Pagan and Craft traditions that I knew very little about.
- Access to Pagan authors and activists, whose work I would not have discovered, had I not attended.
- Exquisite rituals, superbly planned and executed by experts in their ritual craft.
- Endearing rituals that were not so well planned but turned out to lovely anyway, despite themselves.
- Singing with Margot Adler.
- Endless conversations in the bar or restaurant or hallways that have changed my life for the better.
- Watching my beloved partner present at PCON and having folks come up and ask her to sign their copies of her book.
- Presenting at PCON in a packed room, with people excited to hear what I had to say that day.
- Getting to be “Loki” for a re-enactment of the Lokasenna and still having people stop me in the halls to comment on that ritual many years later.
- Meeting people who are now my dearest friends, co-conspirators, magickal collaborators, and covenmates.
- Standing in line for breakfast and seeing anywhere between 1500 and 2500 Pagan folks gathering together for a weekend of fun, learning, exploration, ritual, magick, and fellowship.
What I Value About PantheaCon
I’ve always found PCON to be extremely valuable. There’s a lot PantheaCon got right for many years. Here’s what I personally valued.
- PCON is a lot like a sampler plate at a restaurant. You get to try a little of everything if you want to.
- PCON reminded me that there are many, many, many ways to be Pagan. Pick a flavour of Paganism and they were likely there presenting.
- Panel discussions were nearly always part of the programming. Whether the panels were talking inter-tradition challenges or national politics or climate change or racism or transphobia or cultural appropriation or…You get the point. Bringing diverse people together, to have much needed conversations, about vital issues facing the pagan community was so, so, so very necessary.
- Very public displays of volunteerism. If you’ve attended PCON, I bet you can picture or name at least 20 people you see every year doing registration or checking in presenters. I bet for every 10 people I could name as volunteers there were 100 I never saw doing the hard work of making PCON happen.
- Displays of kindness. While there are always clueless, self-absorbed douche nozzles at every event, I’ve always loved seeing the small instances of kindness. Someone giving up a seat or letting a person get on the elevator before them. I’ve seen rooms shared, pay it forward cups of coffee delivered, folks comforted after a particularly moving ritual. I’ve witnessed countless acts of kindness. That is heartwarming and should be noted. It is one of the best things about us.
What Challenged Me About PantheaConI’m not talking about personal challenges here, but structural challenges. Things I thought PCON just missed the boat on year after year.
- Transparency. I get it. PCON is/was a for profit venture and as such, we don’t get to see the books because we’re not financially responsible or liable for the expenses. As a business owner, I have no problem with that. But…
- Why did PCON pay out the expenses for some presenters and not others?
- Why were some folks always guaranteed rooms when others were not?
- Why are some presenters featured three times on the schedule every year while others are passed over every year?
- Why weren’t presenters paid (payment could mean something as simple as a thank you card, chocolate on your pillow, or hard cash)?
- Why were the organizers and owners so very tone deaf on certain issues – like safety? While PCON did address many issues, it was always after the fact, after the hurt was inflicted. And look, I get it. The organizers are not responsible for the actions of every single person at their event. That would be an impossible expectation. However, they are responsible for standards and they are responsible for programming content and they are responsible to set the culture of their event. And it that way, PCON was often left wanting.
Goodbye PCON. Sorry (Not Sorry) To See You Go
I will miss PCON. I really will. I have no idea what I’ll be doing with my Februarys from here on in. I will miss hanging out with all sorts of magickal and wondrous beings. I’ll miss the annual meet ups with people I rarely get to see. Vending at PCON gave our business a nice boost every February and that will be difficult to replace.
I won’t miss friends and people I care about being ignored, gas-lighted, made to feel unheard, devalued, and hurt…I mean actually, really, truly accosted and hurt.
It’s time to gather for one last hurrah!
All things die. It’s PCON’s time to pass on into memory. Let’s remember the really excellent parts and learn from the mistakes.