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.