You know all those friends you have on Facebook who are really dear to you, but you never see?
Imagine if there were a place you could go, once a year, where hundreds of them showed up at once.
A place full of interesting conversations, and great parties, and meaningful rituals, where hugs abound and laughter is in the air. Real love. Real talk. Real people.
That’s Pantheacon, the largest gathering of Pagans in North America. Every year, 1,800-2,500 Wiccans, Wicans, Witches, Heathens, Devotional Polytheists, Animists, Pantheists, and Atheopagans attend.
This year’s was particularly sweet. The conference itself ran smoothly, with little drama. I work as volunteer staff, and everyone seemed in a good mood.
John Halstead and I had two events accepted as presentations this year: a discussion group on non-theist Paganism, and a ritual, the Living Earth Devotional. Additionally, I threw a non-theist Pagan mixer after the discussion group. All went splendidly!
The discussion group, “Dancing Without Divinity”, was attended by about 50 participants (fortunately, in a much larger room than we had last year). We had an excellent conversation, sharing experiences of being non-theists (Atheopagans, agnostic Pagans, and those for whom the question of whether or not there are gods is unimportant) in the broader Pagan community, and discussing the relative merits of ecstatic experience versus contemplative experience as the goals of rituals.
The mixer afterwards, generously hosted by the Spark Collective‘s hospitality suite, gave some of the discussion participants a chance for more informal conversations, and went on for more than an hour. I met some new friends and reconnected with others I hadn’t seen since last year’s discussion panel.
On Saturday night, John and Ruth Halstead and Venee Lotusfire and I co-led the Living Earth Devotional, a ritual of dedication to service to the Earth. It culminated in a Knighting ceremony wherein those who chose to take the oath were sworn as Knights of the Earth. It was genuinely moving, and feedback was affirming and heartwarming. My co-leaders did a fantastic job; it was a real pleasure working with them.
At several points during Pantheacon, I found myself having The Conversation with excited and grateful (and in one case, genuinely spiritually confused and questioning) attendees who were thrilled to have confirmed that they were not alone, that it is perfectly normal and okay to be an Atheopagan. That we exist.
We’re still at that point, as a movement that is a subculture of a subculture. But that’s okay: things have already changed a lot. Whereas in 2015 we had no events on the schedule at PCon and there was a lively debate in the Pagan blogosphere over whether we were really Pagans or not, now we are represented as just another flavor of our diverse community, and most appear to have accepted that we’re in the big tent like everyone else.
Religious naturalism is on the rise. Various traditions of it from naturalistic Buddhism to Atheopaganism are becoming more popular and more visible all over the world, just as we are becoming more recognized and respected in venues like Pantheacon.
And why not? The natural world is awesome.
Like the time I had at Pantheacon this year. And the people I spent it with.