While these conventions can be more costly than camping festivals, they are packed full of programming and bring a diversity of people to the forefront of our community expansion. Part of the beauty of events like this include the combination of Pagan authors, speakers, practitioners, ritualists, healers, musicians, and emerging or locals talents. And, of course, no one can deny that these events provide an opportunity to shop at incredible Pagan markets.
So what can we expect this year from the upcoming conventions? How do these conventions serve the community in 2015? What are people looking forward to the most?
All conventions have their own cultures. Each one appeals to different people for different reasons. Whether it is the presenters, concerts, merchandise, or the chance to engage with others, conventions seem to serve a multitude of community needs within modern Paganism. Thousands of people pay the entrance fees and hotel costs, and some even purchase plane tickets tickets, just to attend these conventions from the west coast to the east coast. In many ways, these events serve as a pilgrimage for many Pagans and have value in the larger picture of community.
The myriad reasons why Pagans seem to go out of their way to attend conventions are just as diverse as the responses below.
Author and artist Lupa Greenwolf will be presenting at PantheaCon and is an honored guest of Paganicon this year. Over the year, Lupa has been an avid participant and presenter at many pagan conventions.
As an author, practitioner, and publisher, Taylor Ellwood participates in multiple conventions around the United States both as a presenter and as an attendee to simply connect with community.
There are a few different things that draw me to conventions. Some of it’s business, some of it’s fun. On the business end, I go there to present workshops and other activities, both to share neat things I’ve been working with spiritually, and to promote my writing and artwork. I also vend my art and books at a lot of local conventions, Pagan and otherwise; a lot of these things I simply wouldn’t be able to afford to attend if I weren’t selling my work to pay my way. Conventions are always a great networking opportunity, especially larger ones where you may have people from all over the place.
But that’s the work end of things.I wouldn’t go to these events if they weren’t also fun. I’m a really, really busy person, and conventions are sometimes the only significant social time I get during the craziest parts of the year. They pull together a bunch of people I might not get to see in person otherwise, and they get me out of the apartment! I don’t get to attend as many workshops as I’d like most of the time, just because I’m often preparing for my own presentations, or attending to a booth, or catching up with long-distance friends. But there’s usually something that I absolutely must go see while I’m there, and it’s nice to just sit back and absorb someone else’s wisdom and experience for a while.
I’m really looking forward to PantheaCon next month; I’m already making plans to see people there (and maybe do a little hiking out in the wilder areas out of town.) And then I’ll roll right into MythicWorlds in Seattle, which always has some of the best energy and people-watching. I also just sent in booth applications for both the Northwest Tarot Symposium and Sister Spirit’s Pagan Faire here in Portland; the first one is shiny and new, while the latter is an old, well-loved favorite. And I’m always happy to be with my Faerieworlds folks in the summertime. Closer to home, I’m already making plans for the third year of my own event, Curious Gallery, which while it isn’t blatantly pagan, it is deeply inspired and informed by my dedication to nature.
I like to participate in conventions because it gives me a chance to meet other Pagans and magicians that aren’t local to my area. Additionally I enjoy the opportunity to interact with people who like my work and might not otherwise get to meet me.
I’m most excited about attending Between the Worlds, which is a conference that is only held every few years. The next one won’t be until 2020 so I’m excited to go to the one happening this year.
Brenda Titus is a professional hypnotist in Orange County, California, and a regular participant in the annual PantheaCon festival held in San Jose, California. This year Brenda will be adding to the event’s workshops with her own slot, bringing her skills to the participants of the festival.
Lisa Spiral is a long time Priestess and the author of two books through Immanion Press. She goes to Pagan festivals routinely and has flown from the midwest to California for the past several years to participate in PantheaCon.
I first attended PantheaCon 5 years ago having no idea what to expect. A friend had been going for years and suggested I go. My first experience was CAYA Coven’s “Wake up to Spirit” ritual. It moved me so deeply, I felt like a part of me had in fact “woken up” well beyond what I expected. I filled myself up to the brim that weekend with workshops, rituals, energy beyond my understanding at the time. I went home with an energy hangover and a deep desire to return!
Over the years, my motivation to return has changed. While I have Pagan community and family at home, people who are deeply part of my personal growth and my life throughout the year, my once a year visit with people that I only see in person at PantheaCon is also a very important part of my motivation to participate. I have had profound experiences at PantheaCon that were propelled by well crafted rituals, performed by people that I have grown to trust, and fueled by serious group energy.
I don’t know if I can pick one thing that I am most excited about, so I’ll have to pick 3:reconnecting with people (at rituals, parties and on the fly), rituals & workshops that will help me on my path for the year … The thing I’m MOST excited about is that this year, for the first time, I get to give back as a presenter. The experiences that I had at PantheaCon over the last 5 years have definitely propelled my career as a Hypnotherapist, so I am thrilled to present “Connecting to the wisdom of the soul with hypnosis.”
I really enjoy seeing old friends and the opportunity to network. There is often interesting programming and I find it useful to learn and grow outside of my “comfort zone.” As an author I also think it’s important to put my name and face out there in the community.
This year I’m very excited about the expansion of the discussion of Race and Paganism. I think we have a unique community mindset that is ready to actually examine privilege and look for ways to move forward in this area.
While there continues to be a lot of disagreement and confusion around the concept of community and Paganism, these conference are some of the few times Pagans get to practice community in action together. Having collective experiences and shared space among the many different groups underneath the large umbrella of Paganism appears to foster a feeling of community that we often lack otherwise.
So how do these conventions serve the Pagan community? I find this question to be vital in most of the things we choose to do, and conventions are no exception.
They’re a coming together time. We get to have a temporary space where we can share ideas, catch up with people, and let new movements find their footing. It’s a great seedbed for zeitgeist. And for some people, conventions are one of the few opportunities they may have to interact with other Pagans, particularly those of a similar tradition. It’s easier to hit a critical mass that can make great changes in the community at a convention because of the sheer volume of attendees and the relatively public nature of the setting. You may only know a few people there really well, but they know people, and those people know other people, and an idea can spread very quickly, especially if it’s sparked by something in the moment. Look at the situation with transgender women and Z. Budapest at PantheaCon a couple of years ago; that probably wouldn’t have had nearly as much of an impact if it had been one transgender woman being told “No, you can’t join our small Dianic coven, sorry. – Lupa Greenwolf
I do feel conventions serve the community. They provide a space for Pagans to be openly Pagan and have the experience of meeting and working with other people who share their interests. – Taylor Ellwood
These conventions (all, not just PantheaCon) serve the Pagan community because they bring people from various regions, varying traditions and philosophies together to learn with and from each other. What I learn at Pantheacon, I bring back to my own community. This is also a time for regular “coming together” to focus on community issues in order to bring about change. I’ve seen this over the years in regards to gender issues, leadership, safety, people of color, etc. One con does not set the agenda for the entire Pagan community, however important conversations that need to be made in person take place, which help carry forward into growth and paradigm shift. – Brenda Titus
I think the conventions serve the community in a number of ways. They are a very public event, and therefore make an opportunity for new people to see there is a community and for the larger community to acknowledge our subgroup. I think it’s a great chance to touch base with people we don’t get to see regularly and it’s easier for some of us than camping at festivals. I think it’s incredibly important that these conventions represent the diversity in our communities. It’s very easy to see Paganism from our own practice or tradition lens and forget about all the variations that are out there. Intra-faith work is just as important to me as interfaith and these conventions are strong intra-faith opportunities. – Lisa Spiral
January starts the convention season and 2015 is shaping up to be a fascinating year. The Conference on Current Pagan Studies, PantheaCon, ConVocation, Paganicon, Sacred Space and the Between The Worlds Conference all span across a 3 month period. As this year’s convention season unfolds, we get to see the best and the worst elements of community come together in small moments of time that become memories, spark ideas for collaboration, shed light on the need for continued activism and more. Friendships are formed; opportunities for networking or birthing new ideas come to the forefront; and problem areas within them modern Pagan community are often exposed.
Conventions have become part of the foundation of the modern Pagan culture. Good or bad, every year we tend to learn something new about ourselves individually and collectively. We get the chance to ask ourselves how participating in the greater Pagan community, or culture, supports collective goals and advancement. How do we use these opportunities to promote understanding and intrafaith dialog? How can we create a collective culture of tolerance, inclusivity, excitement and respect among the many different, unique and viable parts of our modern Pagan experience? How do these very moments shape the community at large? These are important questions in today’s time.
Descriptions of the five mentioned conventions are listed below, including links for more information.
The Conference on Current Pagan Studies will be held January 24 – 25 in Claremont, California. This year’s theme is Fecundity and Richness of the Dark. There will be two keynote speakers. Vivianne Crowley will present “Stepping out of the Shadows and into the Light: Evolution and Tensions in the Future of Contemporary Pagan Witchcraft.” Orion Foxwood will be presenting “Consecrating the Underworld: The Eco-Spiritual and Co-Creative Implications of Faery Tradition”. Other presenters are included in this two day conference, which highlights some of the academic areas of Pagan research.
PantheaCon will be held February 13 – 16 in San Jose, California. This year’s theme is Pagan Visions of the Future; Building a Pagan Safety and Social Net. This four day event will feature a wide and diverse array of workshops, panels, concerts, and rituals. The schedule is packed with anywhere from five to eleven workshops in each time slot. With several thousand participants each year, this is the biggest Pagan convention in the United States. This year’s schedule includes authors and performers, such as Jason Mankey, Selena Fox, Rhyd Wildermuth, Alley Valkyrie, Taylor Ellwood, Shauna Aura Knight, David Salisbury, Courtney Weber, T. Thorn Coyle, Christopher Penczak, Pandemonaeon, Lou Florez, Orion Foxwood, Celia, and many, many more.
ConVocation, located in Detroit, will be held on February 19 – 22. This year’s theme is Journey’s End: A New World Begins and the guests of honor include Andras Corban-Arthen, Kerr Cuhulain, Dorothy Morrison, Diana Paxon, M.R. Sellars and Mother Moon. The featured presenters include Jason Mankey, Ellen Dugan, Michelle Belanger, and others. ConVocation, which has been run annually since 1995, boasts about 100 workshops and presentations, and has approximately 35 vendors for Pagan shopping.
Minnesota’s Paganicon, now in its fifth year, will be held between March 13 – March 15. According to the website, “Paganicon is organized by Twin Cities Pagan Pride and a host of volunteers to provide an educational and social venue for Pagans, Wiccans, Heathens, Druids & other folk, craft, indigenous or magickal traditions.” This year, Selena Fox and Lupa Greenwolf are the guests of honor, along with performances by Tuatha Dea. The program schedule has not yet been released and there are still several upcoming deadlines should anyone want to be involved. Presenter registration deadline is February 1, and the final schedule will be released February 15.
For this year only, the Between the Worlds and Sacred Space Conferences have merged. One admission price will give you a joint experience including the list of guests from both conferences. The joint event will be held March 5 – 8 in Hunt Valley, Maryland. This year, there will be presentations by T. Thorn Coyle, Aeptha, Ivo Domínguez, Jr., Katrina Messenger, Dorothy Morrison, Christopher Penczak, Kirk Thomas, Michael G. Smith, Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, Judika Illes, Diana Paxson, Literata Hurley , H. Byron Ballard, and more.
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This is great! In the northeast, EarthSpirit does A Feast of Lights every year around Imbolc (http://www.earthspirit.org/feastol/fol.html), with a drum & dance event, ritual performance at the Stag King’s Masque, workshops by many excellent teachers and — our newest innovation — a clothing swap! If you’re local, there’s still time to join us this year, even.
While I’m glad to see Sacred Space/Between the Worlds get a mention, this article is awfully West-Coast-Centric. There really are Pagans in the Midwest and on East Coast.
In fairness, the article does mention two cons in Maryland (admittedly being co-located this year), two in the Midwest, and two in California. That doesn’t seem very geocentric to me. And Crystal is limited to reporting those cons that exist; do you know of any that were left out?
I noted that Sacred Space/Between the Worlds got a mention. It would have been nice to see people interviewed who attend/present at some non-West Coast cons.
Having quotes from diverse people is always a good thing. This time I only quoted 4, but sometimes I have much more. Out of the 4 people I quoted, Taylor is a presenter at the Between the Worlds festival. Which I think it great. I tried to get quotes from people who would be at each event. The only event I wasn’t able to do that with is the one in sounthern California. But Lupa will be at Paganicon, Taylor at BTW and the other two ladies will be at Pantheacon. Hopefully next year I can identify even more conventions to highlight. 🙂
Mythicworlds in Seattle -February?
oh my bad that’s East coast 😀 I’m Australian and looking forward to finally being able to go to one of these sorts of events.
Dang….y’all need some copy editors or something? A lot of errors riddled this piece.
Aside that, interesting seeing so many different perspectives. I think the differential between festivals and conventions is one takes place outdoors (very pagan-y) and the latter is indoors, out of the realm of nature. It would be cool to have something in the middle of these two extremes.
One of the few reasons why living in Europe sometime sucks: No Pagan conventions of that type. In my time, there’s a New Age convention each year, but actual paganism is only a tiny tiny fringe there. At least we do have some Viking festivals !
Not at all being snarky, but perhaps this is a void that you might look into filling? Sounds like an opportunity.
I first have to get a real Pagan group started and then we should think about it. There probably are some stuff once in a while down south but living in Northern Scandinavia makes it a little bit difficult to get there.
Riddu Riddu is pretty Pagan in flavor.
You KNOW about Riddu riððu ? I am SO dumbstruck ! I have been there a two occasions and I agree that while it’s not officially Pagan, it indeed is quite Pagan friendly.
Still cannot believe you know about it…
I invite you to check out my Broomstick Chronicles blog now and then. http://besom.blogspot.com/2015/01/aar-annual-meeting-iii.html
Europe has academic conferences. Europe has participatory cultural gatherings such as folk festivals. Europe has conventions for science fiction fans. Why wouldn’t Europe have Pagan conventions? These are all pretty similar logistically and organizationally, and there is at least potentially an overlap among the people who organize, present at them, and attend them.
The way we got to large Pagan cons in North America was by beginning with small, regional ones and scaling up. Start small and the event can be organized by a small group of volunteers without getting overextended financially or logistically. You build from there as you gain supporters and experience.
I wouldn’t recommend the New Age model as this is often highly commercialized, with all the focus being on professional presenters who are there to promote sales of their books and classes, and the attendees having no role except as passive consumers. A less celebrity driven model that also welcomes presentations and activities led by nonprofessionals and leaves space for spontaneously organized stuff is more of a community builder and certainly cheaper.
+1. See if there are any fan-run science fiction conventions around you, especially ones that have been running for a good bit of time, and volunteer for it. Even if you don’t like science fiction. You’d walk away with information on how a small community con works or (if the con is dysfunctionally managed, and a lot of them are) doesn’t work.
I actually forgot but there is a also a Shaman festival not far from home. It’s still quite Sámi oriented but I never had the occasion of going. I guess I will try doing so this year.