PantheaCon is a meeting of the pagan tribes. The umbrella of modern paganism covers a huge variety of religions, and multiple permutations of each one. Paganism is a flowing, growing, evolving new religious movement that incorporates ancient traditions.
PantheaCon is one of the few places that seems able to successfully combine practitioners who seek to renew and reconstruct ancient traditions with innovators who may have founded their own tradition last month. Some seek spiritual growth; some seek only a great party. In one place, we all thrive.
It really is more than one convention. With up to 13 sessions running roughly six times a day for three days, the variety is endless. While we all intersect at times, everyone experiences their own convention. There are people I see walking the halls that I never see anywhere else. PantheaCon has multiple incarnations.
This really hit home for me when I attended a session outside my normal rounds. Suddenly I was in a room with nobody I recognized, people who probably attend every year but just never cross paths with me. I had stumbled upon the Thelemite incarnation of PantheaCon.
OK, so it wasn’t really a stumble. The session was called “Stars in the Company of Stars: Thelema-Individuality-Connection,” and its presenter was prominent Bay Area Thelemite, James A. Eshelman. I knew what I was getting myself into.
Using Thelemic terms, Eshelman probably delivered the most important take home message of the convention for me: Yes, as Aleister Crowley wrote, we are all stars. But we are not isolated. Stars exist in galaxies of other stars. They are independent bodies, yet constantly interacting with each other.
That’s exactly my experience of PantheaCon: we are all stars in the company of stars.
We are individual; we are one with each other. We follow our own paths in life and at the convention, but we interact with each other and are interdependent within the entire body of PantheaCon. Individual, yet connected, we never know how much something we do can influence someone else we have never met. I’d like to acknowledge a few shining stars among the company of stars under the roof of the Doubletree. Each of these people had a profound effect on me as well as others they may never meet again:
- Yeshe Rabbit: Whether she is drawing down Aphrodite in ritual or making a sale at The Sacred Well, Rabbit always bares her self and her soul to bring love to everyone she contacts. This year was another triumph for her, and every person who attended her many events went away feeling loved and just a little more magickal.
- Devin Hunter: His willingness to help someone with a spiritual question, even while he was “off duty,” may have begun the healing process for someone who really needed it.
- Raven Grimassi: He took the seemingly basic Wiccan concept of the Wheel of the Year and recharged it with beauty and inspiration, reminding many of us why we chose to walk this path in the first place.
- Christopher Penczak: Who has an uncanny ability to bring 200 people at once to a profound spiritual experience, both intellectually and in trance, all without fire or incense. Like Grimassi, Penczak is on the forefront of responsible innovation within Wicca and Witchcraft, and he shares that with anyone he can.
- Shauna Aura Knight: A wonderful speaker who has broken ritual down to its bones, her workshops on ritual facilitation will improve the quality of ritual experience for every person who attended them, helping more and more groups have more effective and magical rituals. Shauna has an active Indiegogo campaign to help her fund more Pagan leadership education. You can check it out and donate here.
- Jason Mankey: His research into forms and archetypes of The God has revitalized the Wiccan understanding of male deity. Despite claiming to be about masculine and feminine, Wicca is often Goddess-centered. Jason’s work is already having visible effects in improving our relationships with the divine masculine while still loving the Goddess.
- Crystal Blanton: Who is always seeking ways to give to her community. Crystal lives the life of witch as guide and helps everyone she meets learn from her experiences.
- Lydia M. Crabtree: Who gave a wonderful experience to children in her “Candy Ritual.”
- T. Thorn Coyle: Always looking for an opportunity to serve, she and her organization, Solar Cross Temple, organized a blood drive for the second year in a row. She didn’t just give; she gave all of us an opportunity to give.
PantheaCon is a large universe and there are many stars. These are a few that made the experience better for my convention, but everyone who attended can point to his or her own galaxy of stars that stood out brightly for them.
On the last night, I was at the front desk, checking my bill with the hotel. I was dressed in sweats and a T-shirt, “normal” compared to the swirling combination of ritual robes, leather kilts, and giant witch hats around me. My convention badge was too low for the lady helping me at the desk to see.
I asked her how she was doing with this crazy group. I loved her answer: “It’s OK, they’re nice.” When I showed her my badge, letting her know that I was one of them, she continued, “You guys are all really nice, so even though you’re a big group you’re easy.” She said that many of the smaller groups who use the hotel are picky and mean to the staff, even if they look more mainstream.
I’m proud of our universe as we shine both individually and collectively, lighting the way for each other even as we seek our own paths.