Pagan Voices: Reflections on the last PantheaCon

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Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices showcase our wisdom, thought processes, reflections, and evolution.  In this special edition of Pagan Voices, we spotlight community reflections on the last Pantheacon as well as share some thoughts from The Wild Hunt colleagues who attended. 

PantheaCon has ended. After 26 years, PantheCon was widely considered to be the largest indoor conference focused on Pagan practices and topics. Over its life, the conference became the prime gathering event not only for high-profile Pagans and Witches but also a place for newcomers.

Here are some of the observations by both long-time attendees, and relative newcomers.

Heather Greene, Author of Bell, Book, and Camera: A Critical History of Witches in American Film and Television, former Managing Editor of The Wild Hunt, and current Acquisitions editor, Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. attended the last Pantheacon and shared these comments:

Attending PantheaCon’s final event was a mixed bag of emotions. I hate to see the end of something that has been so influential and meant so much to the growth of our collective communities nationally. However, everything does have a season, as we might say, and it is certainly time for change and for adaptation. While the con’s attendance was noticeably down, this factor made it much easier to run into friends, which was exceptionally nice. Thank you to all those who successfully birthed and sustained PantheaCon for all those many 26 years. What a great gift you gave to the community.”

Jason Mankey, author of Transformative Witchcraft, who also attended this last Pantheacon, highlights the impact the event has had on his life, his practice, and his spiritual path while acknowledging some of the many problems that have haunted the conference.

I’m not really sure what to write about PantheaCon. It’s a festival that changed my life. Without it I don’t think I would have ever written a book, or started blogging at Patheos Pagan. I’d certainly still be a part of the greater Pagan Community, but it would be in a completely different way. My fist PantheaCon was 2005, and it was completely magickal. There was so much energy there, and it inspired me to do the many things I’ve been lucky enough to accomplish over the past 15 years.

This past weekend was bittersweet. It was sad to watch something I’ve loved come to an end, but in a weird way it was also kind of a relief. The Pagan Umbrella has become increasingly tattered, and there’s just no way to make everyone under it happy anymore. The amount of vitriol that’s been associated with PantheaCon the last five years especially has made the run up to every festival rather exhausting.

Many of the problems with PantheaCon were self-inflicted by the organizers. Having a ‘women only’ ritual in 2012 and then not allowing all women to be a part, was not only ridiculously stupid, it’s a stain on the festival’s legacy that will never go away. Those mistakes continued over the next eight years, and attempts to fix them, like the un-inviting of Utu Witchdoctor, only made things worse. Instead of facilitating conversations, PantheaCon ended up creating more divisions and conflict.

I’ll always treasure my memories of PantheaCon. I met literally hundreds of people there who have impacted my life in ways big and small. The ripple effects of PantheaCon (for both good and for ill) will continue to be felt for several years. Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes that were made there and grow a more accepting and loving Pagan Community.”

For some, it was their first and last time at PantheaCon, and somewhat similar to a rite of passage. Sidney Eileen wrote in an article for Agora on Patheos of “The Liminal” aspect of being poised to cross the spiritual threshold of leaving the old behind and entering into a new and bright potential with the new event, Between the Veils.

This was the end to Pantheacon, and it was also the beginning for Between the Veils.

The Nonbinary Ritual started just after sunset, as the world moved into nighttime.

Nonbinary pathways are often inherently liminal because they defy the standard paths and perspectives of our societies. Queerness is inherently liminal because it describes that which is outside the bounds of generally accepted normality. Celebrating nonbinary perspective and queerness is a liminal act, because it requires you to look beyond that which is established and generally accepted. In looking beyond, it changes the way you see that which is established and generally accepted.

I give my sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone who was a part of the Nonbinary Ritual, and a part of my day at Pantheacon. It was an amazing experience, and I will treasure it always.

Covenant of the Goddess shared this post on their Facebook wall:

Pantheacon has been apart of the Pagan community for 26 years. Thank you Glenn Turner and all those who have worked…

Posted by Covenant of the Goddess on Wednesday, February 19, 2020

 

Mark Green, writer at Atheopaganism reflected on their many years attending the PantheaCon, but also spoke of their vision for the future:

Midsummer Dawn will be simple. It will have no workshops, nor vending spaces. It’s just a camping trip intentionally focused on Pagan folk, with some rituals to connect us with one another and with the land. While not the four-day rush of Pantheacon, I think it will take us into joyful places together.

It will certainly have a far smaller ecological footprint, and that counts for a lot in my book.

What I most loved about Pantheacon was seeing my friends, and making new ones. In California—because fire is such a danger in the summer—it is very difficult to create a large outdoor festival for Pagans, so we have to go small. I hope my friends and folks I don’t yet know will take a chance on a low-cost event like Midsummer Dawn.

In the meantime: thanks, Glenn. Thanks to all the many volunteers who made the event possible over all those years. Thanks to those who sought to keep it accountable to progressive Pagan values. Thanks to those who helped to create the many golden moments I will cherish from Pantheacon.

PCon ribbons  [Image credit: H. Greene]

No PantheaCon remembrance would be complete without mentioning the ribbons. Often attendees post pictures on social media of their badges with the many ribbons attached. As before, attendees proudly displayed their ribbon streams that often trail to the floor.

From John Hiyatt at Gifts of the Wyrd:

Another of the fun activities was ribbon collecting. To many (especially the children), collecting little 2 x 4” ribbons to attach to the name badge was as much a part of the convention experience as attending workshops. The ribbons were of many colors and had messages from as simple as the name of an organization to clever sayings.

Some of my favorites over the years include:

You’ve Been Runed (this was my ribbon);  It’s the Money or the Honey (my husband’s); Mind the Ginnungagap!; What would Loki Do?; I’ve been Butterfly Mooned; Open the Whale;                My Other Athame is a Light Saber; What would Eddy Do?;    Bad Druid, Now Go to Your Tree;  Take a Liking to a Viking  

The Wild Hunt’s weekend editor, Eric O. Scott, was also in attendance this weekend. Here are his thoughts on the final Pantheacon:

I had only been to Pantheacon twice before, but both times were milestones; at the first, I had an encounter with the goddess Freyja that led to me proposing to my wife, and at the second, I met someone who would go on to be one of the most important people in my life. So although Pantheacon was never a fixed point in my calendar, it remained quite dear to me, and when I heard 2020 would be the final iteration I knew I had to go.
I can’t give an objective view of this Pantheacon. It felt like walking through a ghost story, but that had little to do with the programming or the organization of the event. It was more to do with my own sensation of retracing my own steps through the halls of the Doubletree from years ago, encountering friends I had not seen in years, hearing the echoes of ritual chants and drunken lullabies from a different time in my life. I attended a few parties, hung out in a few hospitality suites, and, as always, took in the last of Angus McMahan’s beloved Pagan Humor seminars. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what has changed in the past few years.
Mostly I think I’ll take this away from this weekend past. The first is a sense of communion with my fellow pilgrims, all of us having made our way to San Jose for the last time – or at least for the last incidence of this particular pilgrimage. The second is a sense that, after a few years of feeling disaffected from the public Pagan community, I am ready to return to it. Pantheacon reminded me that, for all the turbulence involved, I’m still glad to be a Pagan, and to know Pagans, and I am still glad to run into familiar faces – whether that’s at the place we once called Pantheacon, or anywhere else we manage to find each other in the years to come.