Oh gracious. I started this post the day after PantheaCon and obviously am only now getting back to it. So let’s see how much I still remember of the con, and I’ll see about finishing this post…ever… :)
I am still landing from a really wonderful weekend. For those of you who may not have heard of it, PantheaCon is the largest Pagan convention in the US. This was PCon’s 19th year. I’ve been attending on and off for 18 years, and it’s been remarkable to see how this convention has grown and developed over the years.
This year I ran, helped run, or performed in 8 events, which I’ve decided is entirely too many for one 4-day conference… I started off the conference on Friday co-presenting a workshop called Real Food for Pagans with Soli from Syncretic Mystic and Kelli. We had a great turnout, and folks asked thoughtful and good questions. Yay for encouraging people to eat mindfully and well, and talking about how to eat well on a budget!
Friday night was the Furious Revels! I led a parade this year, in the style of Krampus parades and similar parades found throughout Europe. These parades are often done around midwinter, and in many places the intention of the parade is for folks to dress like wild monsters and make a lot of noise in order to chase away stagnant energy, bad spirits, and the last dredges of winter. I had proposed this parade as a way to help cleanse the conference, since this Con (like every large event) certainly historically has its fair share of energetic baggage that naturally collects when that many spiritually active people gather in one place. My much-beloved Anomalous Thracian (whose blog you should totally be reading!) co-led the Revels with me. We had horse skull-topped staffs and everything! Folks seemed to really enjoy the parade, and I even had a few folks tell me afterwards that they noticed an immediate shift in the energy of the hotel. Yay team! We did great work! I went home fairly soon after the parade and went to bed.
Saturday I got to help run the Finding Freyr ritual, led by Diana Paxson and a bunch of us from Hrafnar Kindred. Any ritual where I get to wear real antlers on my head and sexy dance with a leek is by definition an awesome ritual in my book :). The ritual seemed to really resonate with many of our participants, and we raised quite a bit of good energy. I’m sure Freyr is happy with the ritual! We sure had a lot of fun putting that ritual on :).
Saturday during the day I did a fair amount of wandering around. After several years of wanting to make it but never having the availability, this year I finally got to attend Eli Sheva‘s Seeing for the Tribes. This is an oracular ritual in the style of ancient Hebrew oracles, and I am really glad I went. I love Eli Sheva and feel incredibly blessed to have gotten to spend some time with her this weekend, and be able to participate in this ritual. I got some very helpful advice, too! Yay for high quality and gifted seers!
I hit the vendor’s room and got adopted by a new friend – a gorgeous red fox skin! I’m quite pleased and I believe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Among other things, I work very closely and very deeply with animals (living, dead and otherwise) in my practices, and I have quite a number of animal parts that I work with ritually, including skins, bones, antlers, teeth, and the like. My new fox (who informed me through a random stranger in the hallway that his name is Gladstone) proved to be quite the ally for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday night I had the incredible privilege to participate in a ritual called “Trans Deities for All: Meeting the Tetrad”. This ritual was based on the incredible work being done by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus (e has a blog here and a column here). E wrote a book about these new gods, called All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power: A TransMythology that is fantastic and worth reading. I had the absolute honor of getting to play the role of the deity Paneros (All-Love) in the ritual. Lupus led the group through a lovely invocation of the space, named all 78 of the Tetrad’s parents, and we did a brief “performance” introducing these deties, and in a sense letting Them tell Their stories of who They are and how They came into existence. We let the room break up into groups for discussion, then the 4 of us who were acting as priests for the Tetrad plus Lupus who was on hand for holding space for any other named deities stood to offer blessings to the attendees. This was probably the single most moving experience I have ever had at any PantheaCon ever, hands down. Paneros is a metagendered deity (basically, a deity who is third gendered/pan-gendered/ other-gendered), and the essence of Love in its most nonjudgmental, in its most simple form. While I was conscious and present for this, none of the words leaving my mouth were my own. I had the incredible experience of being the channel of an enormous amount of love and blessings. At least half or more of the folks who lined up to receive blessings from Paneros cried, and I cried with each of them. Several folks declared themselves devotees, and one man told me he wanted to build a shrine and possibly eventually a temple to Paneros. I am so blessed, so humbled at having been able to act as the intermediary for this, and there are not enough words to express how moving the experience was for me. I had folks coming up to me for the rest of the weekend to give me feedback on how moving they found the whole ritual. Gorgeous, beautiful work overall.
I was buzzing hard after the Tetrad ritual, and got to hang out with some of my co-priests afterwards to ground out for awhile. It took me a very long time to “disconnect” from the energy of Paneros, partly because it is an energy that is so very comfortable and familiar to me – it’s an energy that matches my identity very closely, in all ways. I finally landed some, and went on to a workshop put on by Erynn Laurie (author of many books worth reading) and Jessie Olsen called Wounded Spirits: Heeding the Call Through Trauma. The discussion was fantastic, and I was really grateful that they put this workshop on.
One thing that was said during that workshop was they defined “warrior” as someone who puts themselves in actual physical harm’s way on behalf of others. And they listed military personnel, firefighters, law enforcement, emergency service providers, and certain types of activists. Especially among pagan/neo-pagan circles, I see lots of folks taking on the word “warrior” as an identity, and this was the first time I’d seen a definition that I felt comfortable with, honestly. I don’t generally think of myself as a “warrior”, and was actually surprised to realize that, under their definition, I would count as one (from the years when I worked in direct-service crisis intervention). I am so glad there’s being both more discussion of the intersections between trauma and spirit work, AND more discussion of pagans/spirit workers in the military. Good stuff. I adore Erynn and feel very grateful for having gotten to spend a chunk of time with her this year.
Sunday I slept later than I intended, which was fine, and got to Con in time to have Erynn keep me company while I ate lunch (we tried getting lunch for her, but the restaurant service was horrid). I attended Hrafnskoldr Kindred’s Root Beer Blot, which was silly and lovely (and included home brewed mead AND home brewed root beer with vanilla ice cream!!). I’m a huge fan of any event that gives me homemade root beer floats.
I headed up to the Heathen Hospitality Suite after that and led a discussion and blot for Loki. I hadn’t originally intended on leading this, but my friend Mikki Fraser (who will soon have a book published on Loki! Stay tuned for more information!) contacted me last minute to lead this when he realized he wasn’t able to attend PCon. Conversation was *delightful*, we had folks from a broad range of opinions on Loki (and other issues) talking about lore, personal gnosis, the role of mythology in one’s personal practices, and all kinds of interesting things. Nothing blew up and everyone stayed impeccably friendly. I offered the blot as optional (no harm no foul for not sticking around for it) and several folks stuck around for a really lovely blot. We passed the horn around several times, hailing Loki himself (focusing on those aspects of Him that we wanted more of in our lives, like “gift bringing” and “speaking truth” and “bringing laughter”), hailing other gods that may help to mitigate His energy some or that tend to hang out with Him (Odin, Thor, Heimdallr, Sigyn, and a few others). We did a go-round for personal boasts and to honor ancestors and living folks who we think are swell. And a bit of the mead was put aside to offer to the hotel wights and the land wights. All in all, a lovely blot.
Lessee…what next… I stopped and got some dinner with my sweetie and some old friends, then got my stuff together and headed off to lead a workshop called “Enacting the Sacred, Embodying the Divine”. It went GREAT. I had a pretty full house, maybe 60 folks or so? maybe more? We got into great discussion around how we do what we do in terms of spirit work and devotional practices, and discussed how to do these practices more mindfully. This is work I’ve been developing for a few years, bringing embodiment and somatics-based practices into spirit and devotional work, and it was very well received. Folks were very engaged, and seemed to get a lot out of the work. We even (just barely) had time for an exercise exploring empathy from a felt-sense perspective (can I fully feel my own dignity? Can I fully recognize yours? Can we both hold dignity simultaneously? Can we feel the space the other occupies? Can we gracefully and thoroughly disengage when we are done?). The workshop could have gone on for another 3 hours, easily, and makes me realize I really should be developing curriculum for either a class series or for a full day workshop on this stuff. Exciting! I got great feedback from participants, and even got approached by someone involved with teaching some stuff that is similar to what I’m working on. We’ll see where all this leads, but it was definitely exciting.
Not entirely surprisingly, one of my workshop participants had some hard personal stuff come up during the workshop, so I did some emergency counseling for someone afterwards. I always try and hang around for a bit if I can afterwards, because I know that embodiment work can be so intense for folks. I helped my participant land for a bit, then wandered up to get ready for Sunday night Seidh.
Ohhhhh Seidh. We were scheduled for Sunday at 11 PM this year, which was a bit on the hellish side for all of us (especially Hilary and I, who had a 9 am class to teach the next day!). I was lead warder again this year, and had a really solid warding team. The warding was seamless and strong, and I felt really good about the whole bunch of us. I was so busy I honestly didn’t hear a single question or answer for the entire event. There were creepy crawlies to deal with on the spirit level, there were tissues and glasses of water to be handed out, and there was a young man who wandered so far out into the otherworlds that I needed to locate him, negotiate for his release from captivity, then literally physically hold onto him for hte entire 90 minute event so he didn’t go wandering off back into the mists and get lost again. *sigh*. One of the challenges of PCon is that there are SO MANY PEOPLE, all of whom have differing levels of experience and understanding, all of whom bring their own baggage to the table. Which is normal, but intense when you get 2000 pagans plus all their spirits and psychic baggage all crammed under one roof. But because I was lead warder, as long as he was under my roof, he was my responsibility. So that was… an adventure. We ended up talking for a bit the next day, and I told him I was concerned for his physical, mental, and spiritual safety. I only hope he took what I said seriously and found himself an elder who can help him.
We debriefed seidh and I wandered home, exhausted.
The next day was Monday. I dragged my poor tired butt out of bed and made it just in time to my 9 AM workshop. Hilary and I did a workshop called The Trickster is Needed, which was lovely and delightful, and we had a full house for a monday 9 AM workshop! The workshop was mostly us telling trickster stories from a bunch of different cultures (including a really lovely God and the Devil story from the American South I found in a Zora Neale Hurston book). We told different stories to illustrate different roles tricksters play in different cultures, and it was a lovely workshop. Folks were really engaged and it was fun.
After our workshop, I got some excellent time with Eli Sheva, who is one of my most favorite humans on the entire planet. She is the shophet for AMHA,and when I grow up I kinda want to be her. Or have her adopt me or something. It was a lot of holding space for other people for me throughout the weekend; it was such a relief to have an elder who could hold space for me for a bit. I told her all about my recent trip to Israel and showed her my pictures. We laughed and cried together, and it was incredibly meaningful for me. I helped her, Erynne, Lorrie & Diana load out of their room, then wandered back to the fireplace area to see folks. By then I was completely wiped out. I ended up counseling a few more people who sought me out asking for help or space holding, and had been invited to help a group of delightful folks hold an impromptu blot but by the time I had wrapped up my third spontaneous counseling session from someone who’d grabbed me on my way back from the bathroom, I was so exhausted I couldn’t see straight. I snuck out of the hotel through a side door and texted friends from the parking lot to let them know I was going home. I did a very vigorous spiritual cleansing in the parking lot, which actually helped a fair amount.
So PCon overall was fantastic. 8 workshops/events is entirely too many to lead or help lead, so I won’t be doing that again. Maybe if I keep writing/saying that, I’ll make it true through repetition… I ended up with a nasty flu afterwards that knocked me down for about 2+ weeks, and am only now feeling recuperated. So there we go, PCon report. Only a month overdue… :)