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The Beauty of Diversity: Notes on Pantheacon 2012


 Pantheacon is an incredibly large gathering. Each year, I feel in awe of programming and how they manage to fit all the puzzle pieces together. Each year, I feel thankful to tech, registration, gryphons, and those trying to keep an overview of the workshops and rituals so that things run as smoothly as possible. To these people I – to quote priestess Rosmarinus Stehlik – “Bow in reverence.”

This year,  two panels I thought I didn’t need to add to my schedule – having not heard from them when programming was being settled – ended up both making. I was therefore only able to attend two things that I didn’t have a part in presenting. Since I thought I had a light-for-me Pcon schedule, I had already added a few other things to my roster: a quick “how to stay healthy at Con” talk, a discussion on Pagans and service, and a meet and greet. All of this meant I was literally running some of the time, and trying to eat, rest, or get some exercise and prayer in.

The panel I was able to attend was fantastic. “Shades of Faith” was organized by Crystal Blanton and had five women of color, some known to me – like Luisah Teish and Luna Pantera – and others not, speaking about their experiences as Pagans. Stories were told, smart words said, and connections made. I really hope to see more programming like this in the future. It was well worth skipping breakfast for. I wish I had been able to tape it for my podcast – this is a gentle nudge to all podcasters: if you see something at a gathering or festival that you think your listeners would be interested in, ask the panelists or teachers if you can record. That way, those who cannot attend for various reasons can still share in our collective wisdom.

The other thing I briefly attended was Glenn Turner’s “Occupy this Panel” in which around 30 people including Starhawk and Alley Valkyrie gathered to discuss the movement. As Glenn and I have inadvertently become “Occupy Oakland” buddies, I appreciated the chance to hear about the experiences of some others. 45 minutes into it, however, Peter Dybing and I had to leave to attend our “Pagans and Service” discussion that we were co-leading with Robert Russell of Sunna Kindred. That was very exciting! Around 17 people circled in the Haven suite, and ended up sowing the seeds for a mutually supporting Pagan service organization. Pagans tend to gather together but then go off to do our own thing – it is part of what lends spice to the gatherings – but by establishing more networks and coalitions our work as individuals and small groups can become more powerful and sustainable. As soon as there is news from this front, I’ll let people know.

I’m not sure how many people ended up being allowed in the room for “Opening the Seven Sacred Directions” – close to 200, I think. We worked together to orient ourselves within ourselves, with one another, with the planet, the cosmos, and even reaching beyond. Our reach is vast. We danced together, chanted together, sang together, found stillness together. By the end, the room was buzzing from sheer presence. I noticed I was still buzzing two hours later. Such is the power of centered people reaching out and connecting with forces larger than our own.

There were two other things I felt greatly honored to be part of. The first was the ritual of exorcism and de-possession that I worked on with Anaar, Morpheus Ravenna, Sharon Knight, and Winter. Calling upon the Star Goddess to hold and help us, we worked with five “poisons”: Shame, Fear, Obsession, Rage, and Greed. Helped by priests and priestesses, several hundred people moved in and out of the de-possession circle as the drummers held a different beat for each round. The dancers shook, swayed, stomped, crouched, vocalized, and moved the energies of the poisons from their beings, toward a huge singing bowl filled with water. Between each round, Morpheus rang the singing bowl, sending out a wave of sound toward us all, charging the water, and transforming the poison into power. At the end, the bowl was rung three times to further clear and cleanse us, and priest/esses dipped small bowls into the large, and asperged us all with the charged water, flung from rosemary sprigs. Then we aligned our soul together, coming to a state of greater wholeness.

The second honor was meditating with 89 people. I’ve written about that here and here. Silence held with love can be a powerful thing. My hope is that words and further healing shall follow.

I also sat on the Weiser panel and the Queer Spirituality panel, both of which had lively discussions and question and answer sessions. The Hindu/Pagan panel continued the dialogue from last year, in a deeper way. My hope is that each year, at least one Hindu/Pagan panel will occur, broadening both our alliance and necessary dialogue. Two of these panels were taped for Elemental Castings, so check back for those links in the next couple of weeks!

Luckily, I also had a little spare time and energy to engage in my favorite part of any gathering which is having conversations with people I don’t usually get to see: Christopher Penczak, Orion Foxwood, Luisah Teish, Peter Dybing, Tabitha and Chic Cicero, Ivo Dominguez Jr… and a bunch of people you’ve likely never heard of, who do the work and practice of Paganism in their communities all over.

There’s a lot I missed, as is inevitable in a large gathering, including attending any of Rachel Pollack’s offerings, and Crystal Blanton’s workshop on Restorative Justice. Hopefully I’ll get a chance some other time.

Pantheacon is diverse, and can become even more so, I feel. The more we gather with open hearts and minds, the more we are able to disagree with fierce compassion, the better able we will be to grow together as a community, welcoming those who have never before joined us, and welcoming back those whom we know well. There is much I would like to see happen in future, but for now, I feel filled with gratitude at the power we generate when we gather.

As Lon Milo Duquette said as the punchline to the Weiser author’s panel: “A Witch, a Seer, and a Crowleyite Walk Into a Bar… and the bartender says, ‘What’ll it Be?’”

I breathe in the possibility of this Being. Together. With you.

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