I am sitting here contemplating the many blessings I received as a result of attending yet another PantheaCon. I have been attending for more years than I care to number, and while each of them have given me something, this year was a particularly powerful and healing experience for me.
I came into the convention not knowing exactly where I stood with someone with whom I had endured a sharply emotional falling-out. But (as is the magic of community) when I found myself in their presence all of the egos on both sides fell away… and as we looked into each other’s eyes there was only love, and perhaps the shadow of past pain. When we later spoke I recalled kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold-dusted lacquer. The philosophy behind it is more than simple repair, but exemplifies the breakage as a beautiful part of the object’s history, as opposed to trying to hide and forget what was once broken. Though we had exchanged some heat and perhaps even thought our friendship beyond repair, only now could we be “true friends”; having been strengthened in the heat of the forge and made more beautiful by taking pride in what we had experienced and learned.
I also had a healing occur for me in terms of my career. For the past couple of years, I have not had a workshop on the schedule. This was due mainly to my applications being rejected for whatever reasons, which honestly had left me feeling a little rejected myself. This was a trend that I thought was going to repeat itself when, yet again, my offerings were passed over during the normal selection process. Then, two-and-a-half weeks before the convention was to begin, I received an email stating that –due to a cancellation– one of my workshops had been picked up and I was given a large room and a great time slot (Saturday night at 9pm in Oak, for those who care to know.) The only drawback was that our hospitality suite for Black Rose Witchcraft, was hosting a party at exactly that time… though this just meant that I had the opportunity to show up at my party late and make an entrance. 😉
In addition to my own workshop, I was also a part of some other stellar offerings this year. The Rite of the Grand Convergence was the night of Friday the 13th and was presented by the priests of Black Rose. It brought together 13 covens from several different traditions of the Craft from across the US and Canada. In addition to the Black Rose and BlueRose covens, we were honored to have been joined by representatives from the Temple of Witchcraft, Firefly House, Coven Aradia, Sisterhood of the Moon, Golden Gate Kindred, Blood Root Honey Priestess Tribe, the Green Men, Dustbunnies Feri, Ash Birch and Willow, Wild Flowers, and the Living Temple of Diana. Inspired by the mythical rite of the same name –said to have kept Hitler at bay during WWII– this ritual was geared toward casting a protection spell for the future generations of witches, and involved calling upon the ancestors and toning to raise power. Beginning with the participants entering through a “tunnel” of upraised brooms held by the priestesses of Sacred Fires tradition, each attendant was given a ribbon with the Latin phrase “Mutatis Mutandis”, later explained as meaning “the things being changed which need to be changed”. After everyone settled in, a choreographed “broom dance” performed by the priestesses of Sacred Fires ensued –each dressed in traditional black dresses complete with conical hats– as they swept away all negativity before casting the circle, while a group of singers sang along to recorded music. Only when the circle was cast (in the names of Diana, Lucifer, and Aradia!) and the priestesses ran off (cackling, no less!) did we call in the elements with chant and song (“IO Evohe! Io! Io! Io!”). Then the delegates from each of the participating covens were introduced, each being asked how they came to the rite, and each responding “In perfect love and perfect trust”. I was then called upon to Open the Western Gate in the style of traditional Faery, to connect to the deep past and invite the presence of the ancestors and the Mighty Dead, and then Devin Hunter invited everyone to join him in opening the Eastern Gate to connect with our descendants and the future. Drawing them both together into the present, in this space, we raised a cone, and chanted “Mutatis Mutandis!”; intending the necessary changes into being that will lead to the protection of those who practice the Craft, regardless of practice or specific tradition.
Saturday afternoon I was on a panel with some other publicly accessible witches for a discussion on “Tradition vs. Innovation”. Put together by the fabulous Phoenix LeFae, the panelists consisted of M. Macha NightMare, Yeshe Rabbit, Jason Mankey, Lou Florez, and myself, and we spoke from our experiences as members of lineaged traditions who are also trying to ensure the relevance of our Craft as we move into the 21st century.
Later that night I led my workshop, “Betwixt & Between: Encounters in the Faery Realm”. This was a ritual and trance journey into the Underworld to seek the realm of Faery with the intention of meeting a Faery ally, done in the style of BlueRose Faery tradition. Before the ritual, we discussed the prohibitions that are traditionally observed when dealing with the inhabitants of that realm (such as eating, drinking, sex, bloodletting, etc.) and went over a general outline for how we were to proceed. For the ritual, I was assisted by two Dedicants of BlueRose, Circe and Lynx, who called the Watchers as we raised the crossroads and cast circle in preparation for our journey below.
The journey was slightly disrupted by one of the participants who was obviously becoming somewhat unhinged. At first, this manifested by her whispering (quite loudly) things that were quite complimentary of me and the rite… but things changed as she started staring me down and shaking her head while mouthing “No!” then frantically tracing pentacles in front of her and throwing them my way. I gestured to her several times to remain quiet and calm down… which she did for a time… but then went right back into talking, even giving me “stage directions”. I will admit having been a bit blind-sided by this. In all the years I have led public rituals I have never had anything like this happen to me before, so perhaps I was due. In the middle of the trance –while leading it and trying to monitor the energy for nearly 100 participants– I was asking myself if it was disruptive enough to warrant potentially disrupting it further by ejecting her, when I saw that another of the participants had gotten up and was leaning over the woman, presumably telling her to be quiet. At that point, I knew that I needed to do something, so I instructed everyone to take a breath as I walked over and placed my hands on each of their shoulders and quietly informed them that they needed to remain silent or else leave the rite. The woman who had gotten up was quite reasonable and returned to her seat, but the disruptive woman became even more agitated telling me that Kali (I presume, the goddess) was very upset with me, even going so far as to point her finger in my face and proclaim, “You’ll be sorry!” All I felt I could do was to calmly repeat, “Thank you” as I beamed a sense of confident love-filled boundaries as I “pushed” the woman out the door with my smile and my aura. After she left, and the doors closed behind her, I briefly mentioned something about moving on from any possible disruptions with a breath… and we resumed the working. (While it certainly was distracting for some, later I would hear that several people were never even aware that there had been a problem, and had wondered to what “disruptions” I had been referring.)
This was definitely a lesson for me. Not having had this experience before I was proud of my priesting skills, as I was able to (kindly!) remove her from the space without damaging the integrity of the trance for the other participants. Fortunately, I was in contact with someone who knew her who assured me of her safety.
Checking in with the group after the rite, I was pleased to hear that nearly everyone had been able to complete the work without incident. I am hopeful that those few who were not able to get fully back into the deep trance space will be able to use the keys and steps I detailed during and afterward, so as to facilitate their own successful journeys later.
After the ritual concluded I was fashionably late to my own party; the Black Rose Ball, which turned out to be one of the top parties offered at the convention this year. For a while we had a line out the door for people waiting to get in and we had a really good mix of people. Thank you, Devin, for providing the witchy and cool music of the evening. I’m sure people will be asking you for the playlist for a while now. A big thank you to Golden Gate Kindred for all their help: to Jeremy McCown for running security, Zach Strong for his incredible mead, Setsu Uzume, Sophia Martinez, Ryan Smith for lifting, carrying, cleaning, running the Loki Blot (offered in our suite the next afternoon) and all-around general awesomeness. We couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you to Marcus Fisher and Rowan Rivers for tending bar and taking donations and to Nicole Rosdahl for bartending and helping set up the room, and to Suzy Nebula for providing food, supplies, and her crafting skills. And finally, a very big heartfelt thank you to Lisa Dawn for providing the room, decorations, and the booze! We are so grateful for everything you did to make this happen. The community is in your debt.
The party itself had a really good mix of people. I met some new friends and got to hang out with some older ones. Thank you to Christopher Penczak, Steve Kenson, Adam Sartwell, T. Thorn Coyle, Macha NightMare, Courtney Webber, Selena Fox, Sharon Knight, Lasara Firefox Allen, Crystal Blanton, David Salisbury, and everyone else whose names are escaping me right now. I am so happy that you came and hung out with us. Thank you for helping to make the party relaxed, informative, and fun! Your presence really made a difference. I hope you all can come back and party with us next year!!
One of the “mini-offerings” that the Black Rose Hospitality suite hosted was “Project Pagan Priest” a casual discussion group of Pagans who identify as male. We had 11 people hanging out with Devin and myself as we talked about what it is like to be a man in the Craft and how the patriarchy affects us all. One of the highlights came from Gwion Raven who talked about the need for more myths in which males are not perpetrators of violence as well as the need for societal acceptance of non-sexual touch between men. It certainly gave us all something to think about.
On Sunday afternoon we presented “The Rite of Humankind”, a poetic and visual retelling of the creation of the universe, centered around the Star Goddess. I was asked to narrate the story while my husband, Chas Bogan, provided a visual rendition in the form of shadow theater: an overhead projector beaming images he had created upon a screen while the priest/esses drummed, shook rattles, danced, and played the didgeridoo. Our theme was one of journeying by air… airplane to be exact. (“Please make sure your carry on luggage is stowed away under your seat or in a safe location.”) While it ended up being shorter than we had originally planned, I think it was a great success. Next time we will make sure that we have more time for the dancing. Because… dancing! 😉
And then, our final offering… We hosted another (this time largely impromptu) party in the Black Rose suite. As was the case the night before we had a full house (again, there was a line to get in!) and all had a blast. Thank you to Docteur Cæli D’Anto and Hellfurian Liontari from The Vodou Store for coming out and spending some time with us. And thank you to Blackcat for taking the time to share some of your thoughts on ritual and the Craft with me, and thank you to Kenny for being the smiling beacon of fun that we’ve come to count on for the past few years. I’m glad we had a chance to better connect. Let’s definitely keep in touch!
And finally, thank you to everyone else who attended the convention, whether I spent time with you or not. You all are what makes PantheaCon such a powerful and transformative event for so many people each year. I know that I am walking away feeling refreshed, renewed, reinvigorated, as well as inspired and hopeful for the future. May these blessings be freely shared.