It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from Pantheacon, that enormous pagan conference in San Jose, CA. I had a reservation this year at the Doubletree, and arrived
fresh from the airport on Friday evening to a scene of complete mayhem. Three or four suited-up firefighters stood about, axes in hand, adjacent to the registration desk, and fire trucks with flashing lights were visible through the side entrance. Crowds of Con attendees swarmed the desk, either trying to check in, or trying to find out why they couldn’t get on the elevators to get upstairs to the hospitality suites. When I arrived at the desk, I gave my name to the clerk, and was horrified to hear that she had no room available for me–in spite of a long-standing reservation. Whaaaat? I stayed very calm, and watched while an angry guest cut in front of me and promptly cancelled his room reservation because he couldn’t get on the elevator. Nice timing. So, a moment later, unruffled, I had a room after all. I was glad I had stuck to my mindfulness practice.
My room was on the 9th floor, diagonally across from the Coru Cathubodua hospitality suite. My first thought about the 9th floor was, “oh, great…I won’t get any sleep due to the parties.” It turned out to be a fun experience, and not as loud as I’d expected. I unpacked,
settled in, set up my altar, and set wards on the entrances to help keep the environment calm. Then I went out to the suites to browse and meet people.
If you’ve been following the controversy swirling around Pantheacon this year, with a few presenters becoming uninvited for reasons that some found spurious, you’ll know that some people were worried about the feel of this year’s event. I think the numbers were actually down, with about 2000 registered on Saturday morning. It didn’t feel particularly fractious this year, and I had a lot of conversations over the course of the four days. Here are a few highlights of the Con.
I attended a session on “How to Start and Run (not Ruin) a Group.” It was held by Thorn Mooney, the Gardnerian priestess from North Carolina whose book, Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide, was just published. I read it a few months ago, and thought that she had abundant good sense. She had with her a friend from Maine, Julia, who organizes The Witches of Downeast group. Their presentation, held in the Northwest Circles Association hospitality suite down the hall from my room, pulled in about a dozen participants. While there was the inevitable guest who tried to back seat drive the presentation, the discussion and presentation were useful and highly relevant to the group formation work I’m currently doing. We’ve all had groups that simmered and fizzled, and some that just imploded. I particularly liked what they had to say about the utility of Meetup groups, and how they have worked with them successfully.
Selena Fox, the warm, wise elder of Circle Sanctuary, led a midday workshop in the Amici Mortem hospitality suite. For those who aren’t sure, Amici Mortem means “Friends of Death,” and those friends turned out to be a great deal younger than I expected. I was older than most of them, and was impressed to hear several people express interest in training as death doulas. Fox described the establishment of a green pagan burial cemetery at their sanctuary. She spoke with knowledge, curiosity, an open mind, and a great deal of experience in coordinating the ceremonial elements of death rituals. If you haven’t met her, Selena Fox is one of the community’s great treasures, and is welcoming and kind to everyone. I have a particularly fond feeling for her, as my mother used to subscribe to the old Circle Network News back in the 1980s, when witchy publications were scarce indeed!
Coming up next: Pantheacon, Part II.