Post-Cons debrief: PantheaCon, part 1

Hi everybody, I’m back!

/waves

Con was one big long blur this time ‘around, and not in a good way, unfortunately. I started the week of PantheaCon with a bad sinus infection, which, despite a round and a half of antibiotics, lasted past PCon and into ConVocation as well. Then, at ConVocation, I picked up the classic flu and a stomach bug of some kind, which lasted until several days after I got back home. By the time I was feeling well again, it was just in time to pull an all-nighter to get my most recent article done for Patheos. I finished out that first week back by leading a Runes ‘n Lore class for the local UU.

While out of town, I recruited to blog at another heathen site (info on that to come soon!) which I’m working on a new article for…. so I’m only just now getting a chance to catch my breath and become part of the human race again.

Aside from sicknesses, here’s how PCon went. (ConVocation will be its own post.)

The trip started well, with me landing in the Bay Area in time for dinner and a chat with River Devora and Rynn Fox for their Matronae ritual. The next day was a day for shopping and setting up of things, followed by an evening with Freyja’s Aett rehearsing our “Facets of Freya” ritual in person for the first time (though most of us are in the Bay Area, I’m currently in IL and several others are in the SoCal and Sonora areas).

The next day I registered and checked in with the various Hospitality Suites–the Heathen Hospitality Suite in particular, which I’ve been attending and offering blots and such at for over a decade. This was a really tough PCon for Heathens–lots of discord in the Heathen community–which will warrant its own post very soon. (I’ll touch on that a bit more later in this post as well.) I spent some quality time bonding with and thanking the landwights of the DoubleTree, and caught up with a few friends before getting ready for my first ritual.

Friday’s ritual was Yeshe Matthews’ and CAYA”s “All Acts of Love and Pleasure”. This was meant to be a replacement for the usual late Friday night Pombo Gira ritual. Yeshe had emailed me last fall to see if I would be interested in participating–she and her team were gathering a wide variety of people who worked with Love Goddesses, and they felt that Freya should be included. (Yay! I feel like my “outreach” on Her behalf has produced some fruit!) Yeshe really wanted to emphasize the feminine power and consent culture aspect of this ritual, which Pomba had was sometimes been lacking.

The ritual itself was a new creation, and for the most part, I think it went well. The structure was “Introduce and/or channel deity X, play danceable song, introduce deity Y, play danceable song….” etc. I think we had seven Goddesses represented in all, including the primal, non-gendered essence of Venus. It was quite cool to be among some many Love Goddess types, which is what I always loved about the Temple of Aphrodite rituals at the Sacred Well in Oakland. When it was my turn, it turned out that Oshun had already delivered a pretty similar message to the one my “Love” Freya gives when I carry Her–“You are all beautiful! Love yourself!”–so I ended up changing up my message on the fly. I ended up half-carrying Her and half leading the crowd through a quick vision of Freya as seen by the dwarves who created Brisingamen. We ended with a loud series of “Hail Freya!”, though, so that was nice. (The Lady does love to be adored.) After my piece, I had them play Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, which to me in a quintessential Freya song about loving and accepting one’s own inherent beauty and value. I danced through the crowd interacting with various attendees as I went. I think my Lady was pleased. 🙂 Though the ritual was fun, as a hard polytheist, it felt a bit jarring. If I end up doing it next year, I think I’m going to discuss with the ritual team to figure out some way to add in an altar or a way to have the crowd make offerings to the individual deities before invoking them. Without those elements, the whole situation felt a bit like a “wham-bam-thank you-ma’am” encounter, but not in a good way.

Saturday started bright and early with a blot to Njord in the Heathen Hospitality Suite. (Next year I will have to remember not to schedule an 11 pm ritual followed by an 11 am ritual the next day. Sleep is a valuable thing, especially when you’re sick.) The blot drew a small crowd–hospitality suite audiences are always unpredictable. However, it was a short but sweet blot, and I ended up tearing up quite a bit as I tried to convey Njord’s message that He is right there, just waiting for a chance to give gifts to people; all they need to do is ask. My main bright spot that morning was that a guy who was a dead ringer for Njord (and knew Him well, as well) was in the blot. Not many people know Him or carry His energy, so it was a gift to me to have Him there “in person”, as well. May many more people know His blessings! I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics to the Njord song from Hrafnar Kindred’s songbook:

Over the sea a shining ship comes sailing

The giving god has gained the golden shore

Abundance he brings for all our needs availing

See our ship safely in, Good Father Njord!

At the Suite, I also ran into a pair of guys from Colorado from the “Foundation for Northern European History and Polytheism”, which is (to me) as interesting of a name as one can come up with. Their group apparently inherited a large sum of money from a local gythia when she died, specifically earmarked for the creation of a building where Heathens and other Northern European polytheist groups can come worship. They have an archeologist on the team and they are planning to build a replica of a 9th c. hof. You can read more about their effort here. The enterprise seems to be very much in its early stages, but I hope it works out!

After hanging out in the Heathen Hospitality suite for a bit, I’m sure I did things, but I have no idea what they were. (Likely I sat around and caught up with old friends, which is about as much as I had energy for this Con. Yay, antibiotics-induced fuzziness!) In any event, the next thing I remember is running through the hallways of the DoubleTree with River, both of us dragging carts of ritual equipment, to get to the “State of Heathenry” panel at 9 pm. This panel had been thrown together at the last minute due to the discussion around Ryan Smith’s (“Enough is Enough”) and Steven Abell’s (“Yes, enough”,  recent blog posts, both on Patheos.com. As both River and I both had commitments immediately following that time slot–I had to prep for my Facets of Freya ritual at 11 pm, and River was helping run a handfasting at 10 pm–we both ended up leaving only a half hour into the panel. From what little I was able to see, though the room was extremely highly sharged with emotion, the event was a tightly-moderated discussion led by the PantheaCon programming coordinator. (Subsequent reports from various parties have been mixed.) I have much to say about the entire month or so worth of events that led up to this discussion, most of it not pleasant or helpful.  Suffice it to say that I feel even more clearly the need for me to promote and practice what I see as a moderate, inclusive Heathenry.

PantheaCon, part 2: to be continued.

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