The Urgency to Understand Pantheacon

I brought my little tin-can altar to Pantheacon, and set it up in my hotel room on the glass, circular end table next to the lounge chair. The conference program was rather stern about not burning incense or lighting candles anywhere in the hotel, but I chose to believe that the rules didn’t include small tea lights and mini-tapers on end tables. Honestly, if I’m standing naked before an altar I can guarantee you that I’ll be the first to notice if something catches on fire.

Bringing my altar with me provided a feeling of continuity at the start of the unfamiliar experience, and doing ritual this morning offered a similar sense of familiarity as I try to make sense of all that’s happened over the past few days. I’ve resisted posting platitudes about Pantheacon, either on my blog or on Facebook, because the experience of this gathering was profound for me. It’s worthy of more than a quick summary.

I recognize that there is a great deal of controversy stirring about online regarding the Z Budapest ritual, and I’m going to give myself a little more time before I write about that. I was at the scene, seated with Thorn and the other 89 silent protesters, positioned directly across from Z when she emerged from the conference room to speak at the group. I wrote furiously in my little notebook to capture as many details as I could, and I intend to put a post together that not only describes the scene of the protest, but also reflects on some of the subtler points that we miss beneath the cacophony of internet chatter and bickering.

I think it’s important to remember — not only for me, but also for those who were unable to attend Pantheacon — that this conference was much more than a single controversy over gender identity and the policies of inclusion and exclusion to ritual. Those dialogues did occur, and are worth unpacking even further. But, we must try to place a single conversation in its proper context, even if we believe that the message at the heart of that conversation is revolutionary, or urgent.

Pantheacon was, itself, a kind of ritual. We gathered in a hotel, sanctified the space, and proceeded to seek knowledge, explore community, and challenge our assumptions about who we are, what we believe, and why we practice as we do. It was a complicated ritual, and, as with most rituals, there is always room for improvement.

Pantheacon was a dynamic and enriching experience. Participating in it affirmed for me a number of things, not the least of which is that I have no qualms about identifying as a Pagan anymore. The discussion about that word, while fascinating for a time, is much less important to me than it was just a few months ago. Not only am I comfortable using the term “Pagan” to broadly identify what I do, I make the distinction that what I do is not all of who I am. Moving into this awareness is liberating.

I intend to explore these revelations in the coming days, as well as to describe what I discovered about my relationship to ADF Druidry, OBOD, and Celtic Reconstructionism, what it felt like to invoke the spirit of Inspiration into ritual space, and what immediate challenges I believe have been presented to me for my own spiritual growth and development.

I’m not going to try to do this all at once. I don’t feel an immediate urgency to understand Pantheacon, right now. I’m going to take my time, let it steep for a little longer. After all, the energy raised in a ritual truly begins to serve its purpose once the ritual has ended, no? If that’s true, then the real effect of Pantheacon begins now.

Rather than become overwhelmed by that truth, I approach my altar and light a candle. I center myself, call upon Those who I call upon, and carry on with my life. I hold on to the thread of continuity which led me to Pantheacon, and I trust this it will lead me to more enchantment, more challenges, and more opportunities to serve my community, my land, my Gods. I do all of this with a deeper sense of self, a burgeoning belief about my purpose as a writer, a teacher and a creative soul, and with the feeling of profound gratitude.

That is where I begin on the first day after my first Pantheacon.






15 responses to “The Urgency to Understand Pantheacon”

  1. Drum ADF Avatar

    It is interesting – you go to a festival, you see so many things, you experience, you live, and then you return. Yet, something has changed, and you realise it is yourself – at least that is what happened to me

  2. Angus Avatar

    Looking forward to your impressions. I’ve been to 8 Pcons now, and it’s always interesting to hear from first-timers. 
    But please, don’t ever use ANY flame in the hotel. Ever. Any. One person caught, or setting off the sprinklers for a floor and the entire Con could be thrown out of the Doubletree. 

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Angus.

    2. RBTharp Avatar

      Angus, thanks for listening to the open flame warnings 😉 I’d like to re-iterate that the Doubletree and all hotels in general have a zero tolerance policy in the rooms. Unfortunately many of the guests insist that ‘a small flame’ or smudging are harmless. They could be, but trip the wrong smoke detector and we can have an evacuation drill right in the middle of a con. I’ve had to knock on doors and ask the occupants to ‘kindly’ put stuff out. They often don’t realize that if the CAT staff doesn’t ask nicely, the hotel will just evict (the zero tolerance thing). Several of us participated in unloading the entire hotel at a BayCon years ago when a room did catch fire. We applaud safe Pagans 😉 

      Robert, PattheaCon CAT Unit #44

      1. Teo Bishop Avatar

        Thank you for your comment, Robert. Thankfully, I did not create a scene (or a disaster) at this year’s Con, and consider your point taken about the candle. No matter how brief my morning devotional, or how small and tended my tea-light flame, or how safe I am (which I am), the rules are the rules. I totally get it.
        Thank you for all the hard work you put in to making this con such a wonderful experience for me. I’ll remember you next year as I bring my tea-light onto the balcony. 🙂
        Blessings to you.

  3. Rob Henderson Avatar

    Personally, I’ve been eagerly awaiting reports from PCon about everything unrelated to the rite/protest that happened there, as I assume they did.  (I certainly hope they did!)

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Yes. There was plenty else that happened at the con! 🙂

  4. David Dashifen Kees Avatar

    Wish I could have been there.  Maybe next year 🙂

  5. Sisterlisa Avatar

    aww thank you for sharing. Your words are so graciously put together and I value every post. I do look forward to how you will express your feelings on that other matter. I have seen a few things around facebook about it already. :/

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I’ll do my best, Lisa, and thanks for the comment. I appreciate your support.

  6. Sonneillon Avatar

    I don’t know if you read Jadelyn’s blog over at Witch Words, but she has a great post up about trans* exclusion re: Z. Budapest. I still am unable to link anything to this blog, so here’s the naked link:

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the link, Sonneillon. I’ll give the post a read after I get my thoughts together.

  7. Ellen Avatar

    I have been waiting for some calm and clear … I am one of the masses not at PantheaCon who is trying to understand, and out things in a perspective that enables me to see where all of this fits into my space. 

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Well, I hope that over the coming days you’re able to find some good information, Ellen. Thanks for taking the time to comment.