Reflections on Pantheacon 2019

I have just returned from Pantheacon, where I work as a volunteer staffer and have made presentations on Atheopaganism every year since 2015. I had a lovely time connecting with friends, making new ones, and meeting folks I’d only known before through the Atheopaganism Facebook group.

Pantheacon 2019 was significantly smaller than in previous years, but it still had 1,800 attendees. That’s still the largest indoor gathering of Pagans in North America.

It ran very smoothly, from my perspective working in the reception room for the presenters. Very few crises or miscommunications.

And I received exceedingly generous words of praise and thanks, for which I am humbly grateful. A priestess told me that she uses my writing in instructing her students. Others said my work is wise and true.

I try. i really do. If I hit the mark sometimes, I am thankful. And grateful for being seen.

I went to a couple of terrific rituals: the Dionysos ritual and the Spark Collective ritual. Both really great.

For some reason, Pantheacon felt like something that is fading this year. The attendees are definitely more predominantly gray than they used to be. The presentation descriptions often seemed stale and old-fashioned.

The world is moving on and I don’t know that Neo-Paganism as originally framed and initiated by white middle-class Americans is keeping up.

Pantheacon is overwhelmingly white. The country isn’t, any more, but Paganism remains so.

Interactions I had with people of color, some of whom I know well and love deeply, were warm and friendly. Still, I understand some people of color felt dismissed or excluded, and I have every reason to believe them and support their concerns. The programmatic offerings were mostly of European derivation, because that is what “Paganism” has meant for the past 50 years.

Probably time to let that go, and to recognize that a new reality has arrived. A lot of things need to change, like the Wiccanesque focus on a deific gender binary, and the typical presentation of “goddesses and gods” as white. Still, I imagine the conference didn’t get many submissions for presentation on topics that weren’t Eurocentric. And they can only work with the presentations they receive.

That said, although the theme of this year’s conference was “Respecting Diversity”, they didn’t select my work, either, this year, nor any nontheist Pagan material of any kind, even though Atheopaganism is explicitly anti-racist.

I made my presentations in friendly hospitality suites rather than on the official schedule. Not sure what’s going on there, but people DO get rotated on and off the schedule, so I’m not taking it personally.

We’ll see what happens next year.

So from my perspective, it was a good con: not a great one, certainly not a terrible one.

But well worth doing.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Reflections on Pantheacon 2019

  1. I have to think at least some of this year’s decline is the result of the ridiculous, unprofessional and underhanded way Pantheacon de-platformed Max Dashu and Witchdoctor Utu from the presentation schedule. When anyone’s personal grudge or half-informed disagreement can be transformed into a “safety” matter with no transparent or consistent standards, who would want to waste their time and money?

    It’s very likely there are other issues of course. Maybe people have less free time and money to commit to far-off conventions and other programs.

    It is clear from history that Pagan events cannot afford to have too many years where the quality is merely “not terrible.” Cons which are not growing are dying (though they never officially die, just “go on hiatus” into eternity). 1,800 attendees may well make it the largest Pagan gathering of its kind, but the only numbers that matter are the costs vs revenues and whatever ticket number is needed to cover those costs and produce the next year’s event and ideally to build enough reserve to survive an off year now and again.

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    • I disagree with the suggestion that Dashu and Utu were “underhandedly” deplatformed–they should never have been invited to present in the first place. But I agree that some may not have attended due to the dustup.

      I doubt that Pcon is in any danger of withering on the vine, personally.

      Like

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