Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio. This week, we have a post-PantheaCon theme running through all our selections, so enjoy!
“A prayer that is dear to me may have alienated some of the people packed into the ballroom. Why am I writing about this? I didn’t follow my intuition and make the prayer more inclusive. Why am I writing about this? In that moment, as moderator of a panel I had convened, I was in a temporary position of power. This wasn’t one of my classes or rituals. This was a more “public” coming together. Most people, in those moments, choose not to pray. That is a valid option. However, for me, at a convention like Pantheacon, to not pray is to secularize. We are at the convention for sacred purposes. In the coming and going, in the rush from thing to thing, it can be easy to forget. I choose to ask us to pause. To breathe. To center. I also choose to pray. What I want to think about in future, however, is how inclusive that prayer is. For me, as a non-dualist and a polytheist, that prayer includes the cosmos. It includes every human, tree, and star. It includes myriad Gods and Goddesses. It includes the wights and fey beings. It includes the ancestors and descendants. It may not sound that way to everyone. What will I do in the future? I’m not yet sure. I want to ponder the gift this woman offered me: a chance to re-think. A chance to not assume. A chance to reach out, to touch Mystery. A chance to fail. A chance to try again.” – T. Thorn Coyle, on prayer and privilege at PantheaCon 2014.
“Meeting people makes all the difference. Jason Mankey, John Beckett, Niki Whiting, and John Halstead and his wife had Mega-Patheos Pagan Breakfast the other day, and the world didn’t explode…and, three of the five people named in that previous clause came to my Beard Blessing Ritual this morning, and two of them weren’t Jason Mankey or Niki Whiting, and they all had a great time! (As did several other well-known BNPs, including Don Frew and Margot Adler!) For a 9 AM session on Monday, that was pretty feckin’ good…and, we had more people attend that event than any other I held/was personally responsible for all weekend. [...] The most moving thing of the weekend was the sanctification ritual for Lady Olivia and Hyperion, which many notables who had met Lady Olivia attended, not to mention a huge number of The Unnamed Path practitioners, and Hyperion’s bereaved partner, and his mother (who was awesome!–she said, “I’ll always remember Eddy as the kid I helped learn to tie his shoes…and now he’s a saint, and I’m the mother of a saint!”). It was beautiful, and well-auspiced by a variety of birds that arrived and departed at significant points in the ritual, and was probably the most important event during the whole weekend as far as actual spiritual work was concerned.” – P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, giving an initial run-down of experiences and reflections from PantheaCon 2014.
“The hospitality suites were the highlight of the convention for me. I spent time in the suites of Coru Cathubodua, Hexenfest, ADF, FoDLA, Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, and (briefly) Solar Cross Temple, plus some informal hospitality from Jason Mankey. The suites are part miniature meeting rooms, part quiet place to escape the convention buzz, part public relations venues, and part discussion salons. If you don’t know anyone, a convention – any convention – can be a lonely place. The hospitality suites are a place to find the one-on-one and small group conversations that form and strengthen relationships. And what happens in the hospitality suites stays in the hospitality suites. Right, Anomalous Thracian? Right??? Somehow I think not… The most powerful experience of the weekend was the ritual to open the Temple of the Morrígan. The Coru Cathubodua put some serious work into creating a living temple, one whole room “for reverence of the Morrígan and the family of Celtic Gods and heroes.” The temple deserves its own blog post – I’ll have it done late this week or early next week. The hardest thing I had to do all weekend was leave the Coru suite at midnight. Fine conversation was still in full swing – some theological, some practical, and some just fun – but my body was still on Texas time and I was drained. Thanks to all the folks there: Morpheus Ravenna, Rynn Fox, Brennos, Amelia Hogan, Corvus Cardia, Grant Guindon, Anomalous Thracian, and everyone else I’m either overlooking or whose names I didn’t get. Your hospitality and friendship are awesome!” – John Beckett, extolling the virtues of the hospitality suites at PantheaCon, specifically the Coru suite.
“It really is more than one convention. With up to 13 sessions running roughly six times a day for three days, the variety is endless. While we all intersect at times, everyone experiences their own convention. There are people I see walking the halls that I never see anywhere else. PantheaCon has multiple incarnations. This really hit home for me when I attended a session outside my normal rounds. Suddenly I was in a room with nobody I recognized, people who probably attend every year but just never cross paths with me. I had stumbled upon the Thelemite incarnation of PantheaCon. OK, so it wasn’t really a stumble. The session was called “Stars in the Company of Stars: Thelema-Individuality-Connection,” and its presenter was prominent Bay Area Thelemite, James A. Eshelman. I knew what I was getting myself into. Using Thelemic terms, Eshelman probably delivered the most important take home message of the convention for me: Yes, as Aleister Crowley wrote, we are all stars. But we are not isolated. Stars exist in galaxies of other stars. They are independent bodies, yet constantly interacting with each other. That’s exactly my experience of PantheaCon: we are all stars in the company of stars.” – Tim Titus, on being stars in the company of stars.
“It could easily be said that the main highlight for me was my first degree initiation. But the second greatest highlight was on Sunday morning, when I attended a ritual called “Yes They Are!” This ritual, put on by the Circle of Dionysos, was about deities for queer persons from various traditions, and various members of the Circle portrayed these gods and goddesses. The one who’s lesson touched most deeply was the Morrighan, when she castigated all present for not doing enough for trans persons. I burst into tears during her part, and I had not cried like that in a long time (probably since P-con 2013, in fact) and it was a gift to be able to feel that much emotion. I made a mental note to find and thank her after the ritual. But I didn’t need to seek her out. My crying was noticed by more than those persons sitting near me. When Aphrodite gave her lesson, walking around the circle talking about the different ways in which people love, she paused before me to stroke my cheek telling the assembled that some people love with their tears. Antinuous, who spoke immediately after the Morrighan and before Aphrodite injecting a lot of humor that was lost on me at that point, came to me later. At the end of the ritual when the majority of people got up to dance joyously, I sat and wept again. Soon I felt hands on both of my shoulders. When I could bring myself to open my eyes, there was a woman seated on either side of me stroking my back and three men kneeling in front of me, one of whom was Antinuous. Eventually, the woman who portrayed the Morrighan approached me saying, “I feel like this is my fault.” I assured her that was not the case, bowing to her and thanking her. She knelt in front of me no longer as a priestess, but as the Morrighan again, offering me fierce comfort and I sobbed into her shoulder. As I left, Eris approached me to be sure I was alright. This goddess was portrayed by the same witch who’d portrayed Pancrates at the “Trans Deities for All” ritual at PantheaCon 2013. Eris reminded me that I was beautiful and if I heard any voice in my heart that said otherwise that said voice was not mine.” - Connie Anne McEntee, on the ‘Yes They Are!’ ritual, and experiences at PantheaCon.
“During lunch with Richard and Matt, another Kemetic brother, I had insisted on the need for Kemetics and other Reconstructionists to show up at Interfaith meetings. I was referring to an article by CoG’s Don Frew on Interfaith. I do show up for Interfaith work and I have some public speaking scheduled in Palm Spring next month, but I wear many hats, and usually people see me as a Wiccan priest only, missing the rest of my practices. Matt grabbed the ball by the horns, and after leaving Tony Mierzwicki’s presentation, and the socializing and networking that ensued, I found myself introducing Matt to Don Frew, instead of leaving the hotel and grounding myself from this overextended weekend. The event was Engaging “Wicanate Privilege” a discussion about the latest articles in The Wild Hunt and other Pagan blogs questioning if Pagans were cohesive enough to be described as a movement at all. I had stayed out of these divisive debates, since being both a Wiccan and a Reconstructionist, I find them very upsetting. We had some good results from this meeting, I will not report on it since I know Don will do a much better job of it than I ever could. I’ll just wait for his blogging on this, but I have to say that it was intense. It was a great honor to be in the same room with so many Elders.” – Lord Lugh, on interfaith and Wiccanate privilege at PantheaCon.
“Ruth and I went to the Woodland concert, and they were even better live than their recording. They played one of my favorites, “Shadows”, which made me super happy. And then we went to Pomba Gira, a dance/ritual put on by the American Magic Umbanda House. Everyone wore sexy red and black and we danced to heavy drums and rhythmic, chant-like, overtly sexual lyrics. It was a sexually charged event and I was glad to have my wife there. That was Valentine’s night. Nuf said. The Old Time Good Spell Feri Pagan Tent Revival was also lots of fun. It was a cross between a Christian tent revival and a Pagan Feri ritual. Last time I was at Pantheacon, I attended the ritual next door to the Feri Pagan Tent Revival and I knew from the sound that leaked through the walls and out into the hallway that I had missed out on something great. I vowed that this year I would not missed it. And I was not disappointed. Ruth and I also attended a workshop by LaSara Firefox Allen and her husband Robert Allen entitled “Mystical Love: Encountering the Divine Other”. It was kind of an introduction to a kind of Bhakti yoga. They spoke about the experience of a transcendent “divine love”, and we practiced some “eye gazing” with our partners. At least as interesting as what they said was how they said it and how they interacted with each other and the attendees. I would really like to have the chance to attend a longer seminar with them in the future.” – John Halstead, giving an initial run-down of his PantheaCon experiences.
“The next phenomenon I observed was in Daily Practice Sucks: Moving Daily Spirituality Forward by Lisa Spiral. The session was popular, I counted almost 100 people in attendance. What was shocking to me was that when asked about a daily practice, only about 5% of the room raised their hand. Several years ago, I read the results of a Gallup poll on the religious behavior of Americans. The overwhelming majority of the people polled said that they attend church or temple, not necessarily for an experience of the divine, but for the fellowship with their community. Spiritual experience takes a backseat to the potlucks and other social events their religious community offers. It occurs to me that there is a division of intention in the Pagan community. On one side, you have the Pagans, Witches, Heathens and others who want to develop themselves spiritually, who want to experience communion with the divine, who are excited about coming into relationship with their Gods, ancestors and spirits. On the other side, you have Pagans who are like the majority of church-going Americans – they come to festivals, rituals and other events for the camaraderie with like-minded friends.” - Tonja Vernazza, giving some impressions of PantheaCon.
“My workshops are generally a combination of humor and information. People go in expecting to laugh at a few jokes, I didn’t want people entering 1899 with the expectation of laughter. I glower at the assembled crowd as the file in, most of them continue to chat. On the spur of the moment I change the opening of the ritual and end up walking around the circle attempting to put the crowd into a more serious mood. I’m not sure that I’m successful, though everyone does stop giggling. We get back to the ritual’s script and those who have chosen to help me are near flawless. Quarters are called, the circle is cast, threats are hurled at the audience, and I go off script once more. A short segment focused on the sharing of signs and gods is turned into a much longer piece as I prance and scowl and end up telling a few jokes. My priestesses do a lovely job of letting me go off-script and come in exactly when needed to.” – Jason Mankey, providing a timeline of a ritual he conducted at PantheaCon.
“Complaining is all about making one’s feelings known – specifically, feelings of dissatisfaction. Sometimes, it’s necessary, and some complaints can certainly be legitimate. But listening and learning are all about gathering information, and (barring an emergency), it’s best to do as much of this as possible before complaining. Often, complaints turn out to be misplaced simply because we haven’t taken the time to learn more about what’s causing our dissatisfaction. Panel discussions can be great forums for analyzing that dissatisfaction and identifying the source of it. At Pantheacon, the Pagans and Privilege panel was particularly effective in this regard, because it exposed a large group of attendees to a variety of perspectives within the community. The more we seek to learn about one another, the less time there is for complaints and, often, the less basis there is for them. The diversity within the umbrella Pagan community means opportunities for learning and listening abound, and never more so than at a convention of this scope. I’d like to personally thank the organizers for giving us a space to get to know one another a little better. I know some of my complaints were resolved before they were even uttered, just because I took the time to listen to others’ perspectives.” - Stifyn Emrys, on the PantheaCon spirit.
That’s all I have for now, have a great day!