Sunday, February 26, 2012

Another PantheaCon come and gone...

PantheaCon, or "Pagan Vegas," as I like to call it, is over for one more year.  I didn't get as into it this year as I did the two before, and I'm not sure if that's because the programming wasn't of as much interest to me overall, or because I was painfully, ridiculously, neurotically nervous about presenting my workshop the whole weekend.  (Except for that, the workshop went great, by the way!)  So rather than waxing poetic about my experiences this year, I'm going to make five lists, with five items each that sum up my experiences at this year's PantheaCon.

1.  Five Things I Learned:

1.  The most simple ritual can still be the most powerful.
2.  These are my people, and this is my tribe... I can be silly, outrageous, opinionated, awkward, joyous, solemn, quiet, weird, and unapologetically myself around them.
3.  Organizing Pagans really IS like herding cats (this is related to a few hiccups concerning my workshop.)
4.  Druids know how to make some REALLY good booze (ok, I knew this from last year, too, but it's really worth mentioning again...)
5.  Transgendered people are having to fight for their rights, their place, and for understanding, love, and acceptance even in the Pagan community. ***

2.  Five Awesome People I Met:

1.  Lexi Renee:  http://www.theyoungwitches.com/profile/LexiRenee
Although young, this girl certainly seems to have her shit together.  She's a first degree priestess, a Reverend, a tarot reader, she works as a medium and a psychic, and she's writing a book.  I'm not nearly so well adjusted to the Pagan path, and I'm almost twice her age.
2.  Loren Davidson:  http://www.lorendavidson.com/
I KNOW I've met this guy somewhere before.  I've certainly seen him around.  Damned if I can't remember where, though, so I'm going to say I just met him officially.  Really cool dude... saw that my name was "Autumn Damiana," and he offered me some of his awesome damiana liqueur, which I haven't had in YEARS.  Anyway, he's a musician, and I think he's on his fifth album, which is very impressive.  I'm going to try to catch one of his live shows if he plays somewhere nearby, it looks like fun stuff.
3.  Kay Pannell
Can't find any websites for her, or I would list them.  She taught a workshop called "Magical Stones" that was really interesting, because she's both a Wiccan and a geologist.  So the workshop took a look at the magical properties of stones from a scientific perspective, which was a little bit mind blowing.  Supposedly she's eventually going to publish a book about this topic, which I (and everyone else at the presentation) would love to have.  We're all just going to have to bug her to get it done.
4.  James Wanless:  http://sustainyourselfcards.com/
This guy also taught a workshop, one of the last of the weekend.  He said a few things at the beginning that gave away his age (closing in on 70), which I found incredible considering the energy and vitality that was literally radiating from him.  Not really knowing what his presentation was about (other than the fact that it mentioned "sustainability"), I wandered in to give it a look.  I'm glad I did, because I wasn't aware of his Sustain Yourself card oracle, which really resonated with me.  Rather than being based on the classic tarot format, his cards are more primal and entirely nature-based.  He has, however, also published a tarot deck as well.  I highly recommend checking out his site, my experience using his cards was fantastic.
5.  Melanie Marquis:  http://www.melaniemarquis.com/
I went to her "Gender Bending" ritual at 11:00 on Sunday night just to meet her and get more information about her book, "The Witch's Bag of Tricks."  I've noticed that she has articles throughout the Llewellyn annuals, and her article "Coven of the Dead" in Llewellyn's 2011 Witches' Companion made me really sit up and take notice.  The ritual turned out to be very moving, and after talking to Melanie for a bit, I discovered that she and I have some very similar tastes and opinions on writing, crafting, and witchery in general.  I bought her book, and am about halfway through it right now... also highly recommended.

3.  Five on my "Must-See" List Every Year:

1.  The Pomba Gira Devotional (American Magic Umbanda House):  The red-and-black ball of the weekend featuring Pagans dancing and trancing out wearing their slutty best.  'Nuff said.
2.  The Old Time Good Spell Feri Tent Revival (Dustbunny Feri Initiates, Students, and Guests):  Wouldn't a traditional Southern Baptist church service be fun if it wasn't for all that religion and dogma and crap?  It would probably be just like this.  Halle-fuckin'-lujah!
3.  Druid Ritual with Danse Macabre (House of Danu):  Ordinary guests of the hotel are completely bewildered by this one.  As part of this ritual, we chant, sing, dance, drum, and otherwise make spectacles of ourselves as we parade throughout the ground floor of the hotel waving banners, making music, and calling out to our fellow Pagans we meet along the way.  Hotel staff, who are pretty used to our presence, still get quite a giggle out of this one.
4.  House of Danu Hospitality Suite and Party:  This is usually immediately following the Druid ritual, and is  entirely optional, although I wouldn't miss it.  There is always great company and conversation, excellent music between the DJ and live music by Danse Macabre, and awesome Druid mead, beer, and/or cider.  This party is the main reason my friends and I are considering getting a room at the hotel next year.
5.  Opening and Closing Rituals (Glenn Turner and Friends):  So far, I have never missed the opening or the closing rituals, and at this point, PantheaCon probably wouldn't feel the same if I did.  These rituals define and enclose the entire weekend, like a circle cast around sacred space.  They serve as the "merry meet" and "merry part, merry meet again" of the programming.

4.  Five Things I Now Know About Presenting:

1.  Ask LOTS of questions.
I should have done more of this, as there was some confusion on both my end and the programming end about how many people my workshop could accommodate, how many the room could accommodate, when/how it would be closed,  who my Gryphon (volunteer worker) was, etc.
2.  With that said, BE FLEXIBLE.
I wasn't happy when I was initially told that I would only be able to have 30 attendees at my workshop, because I bought supplies for 50.  But I went with it.  Then when the time came and we saw that the room WAS big enough, we just stole extra chairs from the hall outside and crammed more people in.  I also pretty much threw out the extensive notes I had made for my speech about 10 minutes beforehand and "winged it" as best as I could, because it felt more natural than trying to read from a script.  Good planning is important, but if your plans fall apart, you need to be able to deal.
3.  PCon needs more arts and crafts!
I've mentioned before that I would be presenting my workshop in the same time slot that Orion Foxwood would be speaking.  His was one of the most popular presentations of the weekend, and you know what?  My workshop was still full.  In fact, people started lining up outside the room almost an HOUR beforehand.  As a friend told me last year, "anything where you get to take home free shit is always going to be popular."  So arts/crafts are a safe bet if you want to get on the schedule, and I might have to keep presenting them since hardly anyone else is.
4.  Check in early at the Green Room.
You won't have to wait, you can ask questions and make any last-minute adjustments, and they give you an extra badge ribbon!  Yay for ribbons!
5.  Recruit your friends!
If you tend to stress and psyche yourself out in a bad way before running a workshop, giving a presentation, or having to speak in front of an audience (like I do), make sure you surround yourself with supportive, level-headed friends!  (THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH, MIKK AND TERRALUNA!)

5.  Five Anecdotes:  "Only at PantheaCon..."

1.  Flying Spaghetti Monster!
I've been touched by his noodly appendage!
2.  The many, many ways people of all ages will whore themselves out to get another badge ribbon (I swear, they're like the PCon version of Mardi Gras beads...)
3.  "Event and Ritual Etiquette."
My boyfriend, who is a hardcore Star Wars/comic book geek (and is therefore no stranger to going to conventions), looks at the program guide and says to me, "here's the difference between MY kind of conventions and YOUR kind of conventions:  there's no official policy on sex and getting high at the ones I go to!"  To which I replied, "yeah, well, they also had to mention that you can't go naked or have sex in the pool or the hot tub!  That means you KNOW someone has done it!"  We were both cracking up about all the fun stuff spelled out in the program guide.
4.  The fact that there are workshops that include alcohol (where the hell was I??!)
5.  "I saw your peeps outside my office this morning!"
This didn't actually happen on-site, but my sister was at work on Monday in her building right by the Marriot (one of the overflow hotels) and said she saw a bunch of "interesting looking" (meaning:  weird) people outside her window and started watching them.  She then remembered what was going on and called to leave me the above message, which made my day.

So that was it!  Hopefully by the time next year's PCon rolls around, I will have done all the things I said I was going to do for this year's, such as come up with some creative costuming, do some major writing projects, maybe book a room to stay at for at least part of the convention...  Not that I want PCon to take over my life, where I start planning for the next year's the day after it's over, or anything like that (I know some Burning Man attendees who do this) but then again, considering how well I'm known for my procrastination, maybe it's never too early to get started...

*** Yes, I'm aware of all of the controversy surrounding events and discussions concerning the transgender community that have taken place at this year's and last year's PantheaCon.  I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about everything that is taking place and being said, and I'm glad there is so much discussion going on so that I and everyone else in the Pagan community can examine our feelings and perhaps delve into why some of us have such knee-jerk reactions or are taking a particular stand one way or another.

I have known a few transgendered people, have met many more, and was blessed to be part of a workshop this year where a few people from the LGBT community (some of them transgendered) shared what incredibly challenging and sometimes horrific experiences they have had.  I feel nothing but love and support for these individuals, and really didn't realize how difficult some of their lives have been, and it deeply saddens me that some of them confessed to feeling ostracized, neglected, judged, or mistreated even at the hands of other Pagans sometimes (PCon events, however, were not part of this discussion.)  I had no idea that this was happening, and hearing it, I felt the way I would feel if I discovered that a member of my family was being abused by another member.  It was an eye-opening experience to hear these things, especially first-hand from real-live, flesh-and-blood people that laughed and cried as they shared their most intimate thoughts, feelings, and personal stories.  I felt honored to be part of it.

With all the arguments going on in the Pagan community concerning "genetic" (born) women and transgender women, the one thing I see is that everyone involved has something in common, and that is the feeling of being marginalized.  Is there any way that this similarity can be used to mend fences and find common ground?  Maybe by each side acknowledging that the other side(s) feel(s) this way, and using this understanding to promote further constructive dialogue can mutual respect and civility be restored, by all parties?  I know that it's naive and unrealistic to say "can't we all just get along?" but in my heart, I pray that the Goddess, who loves each and every one of us as we are, will help us make it so.  We Pagans have enough shit to deal with trying to go up against the prejudice, bigotry, tyranny, and intolerance OUTSIDE of our tribe to be fighting against each other within it.

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