PantheaCon: Unity, Diversity, Controversy

On Monday I returned from the 2012 PantheaCon in San Jose, the largest annual indoor gathering of modern Pagans in North America. This is my third year attending the event, and for me it has become not so much about the panels and presentations, though they are often wonderful, enlightening, and oft-times challenging, but about connecting and reconnecting with the people I write about, network with on social media, or collaborate with in organizations like Cherry Hill Seminary or the Pagan Newswire Collective. PantheaCon is part of the glue that holds “Pagan community” together, that rare occasion when you actually see and experience members of The Sisterhood of Avalon hanging out with Thelemites, Feri initiates sharing drinks with Asatru, and ritual magicians discussing their work with Vodouisants. For that alone, Glenn Turner and the convention staff deserve special praise and recognition. I think it’s vital to contextualize the uniqueness of PantheaCon, because we can sometimes lose focus on how important this event has become to so many, and just what a hothouse of our movement’s vast diversity and creativity is on display year after year.

Transgender Inclusion Issue Intensifies

On Sunday I had very briefly mentioned a story regarding a Lilith ritual at PantheaCon in which transgendered women were turned away, and a subsequent discussion between Dianic Goddess worshipers and transgender advocates over the exclusion. I initially linked to a run-down of the issues, discussions, and conflicts from the perspective of Artifex Mentis (Sarah Thompson) a Witch and Ceremonial Magician who identifies as a transsexual woman. This resulted in quite a bit of intense discussion on my blog (which is now collected in a PDF file until I can get those comments properly restored) from a variety of perspectives. Initially, I was going to wait for the the Bay Area PNC bureau’s forthcoming coverage before adding my own, but since my post on Sunday the discussion has spread throughout the Internet, and has included some incendiary commentary from a prominent Pagan elder. First, let’s run down some of the essays, discussions, and opinions that are currently taking place around this issue.

PantheaCon Day 3

My pace at PantheaCon today was far more sedate. I slept in late-ish after staying up late last night, and just barely managed to get to the 11:00am “Towards A Pagan Psychology: Earth Based Spirituality & Therapy” panel. I don’t have the names of the participants, but the conversation was deeply fascinating. A recurring theme was how polytheism allows all of them to be better therapists and councilors, freeing them from a dualism and rigidity in their thinking and approaches to treatment. After lunch, I attended the Immanion author panel, featuring Lupa, Erynn Laurie, Tony Mierzwicki, Frater Barrabbas, Sarai St Julien, Crystal Blanton, and others.