Things End

I’m in an odd space right now.

On the one hand, excitement about The Book and the newness of all the Author Stuff like promoting it, doing interviews, etc. is really thrilling.

But on the other, beloved things are coming to an end, and I’m sad about that.

Pantheacon, which has been the largest gathering of Pagans in North America, has announced that 2020 will be its last year. The owner of the event is retiring and no one else has been willing to take it over.

Now, I’m skeptical that this will come to pass. There is enough of a population of people who love the event—and enough money to be made from it—that some person or group will come along and keep it going in some form. I hope that is the case.

Meanwhile, a ritual group that I have practiced with for many years, The Spark Collective, appears to be on its last legs. Attendance has plunged, and we are hemorrhaging money. We had conducted monthly ritual circles, but the Core Group, of which I am a part, has decided to cut back to quarterly gatherings in 2020 to see if we can succeed at that scale.

As I said, I’m sad about these changes. To me, they signal even fewer opportunities to spend time with people who share, by and large, in my values and worldview.

I led last night’s Spark ritual. The theme was Autumn: the Coming of Darkness, and the four directions I called corresponded to the phases of grief: Cherishing, Mourning, Surrendering, Remembering. As it turned out, what I ended up grieving in the tiny, less-than-critical-mass ritual was Spark itself, as it had been, with robust attendance and palpable energy in the room.

Things end. Even things that have existed for a long while. I just hope that new things then spring up to replace them which provide something like the context and experiential flavor of what has gone before.

All that said, I’m willing to do work to make it happen, too. I went onto the Spark Core group because I wanted to serve the community with those events and that space. If Spark is going away, I will have more time and energy available for other things. if Pantheacon is to rise again in a new form, I’m up for helping to make that happen.

Unlike members of major religions, we can’t just expect that religious community will be available to us simply by joining an existing church, temple or mosque. We have to create it. And—as with all human endeavors—that is often a process of two steps forward, one step back.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Atheopagan Events at Pantheacon 2019 [UPDATED!]

Though we were disappointed that Atheopagan submissions for presentation at Pantheacon weren’t accepted to the official schedule this year, that’s not slowing us down! We have three events scheduled in hospitality suites this year, including the popular annual Nontheist Pagan Mixer.

The events are:

  • FACING FORWARD: A talk on nontheist Paganism: 1-2:00 pm Saturday, in the Fire Family Suite (Room 247). How is human religious behavior evolving? Where is it likely to go, and how does nontheist Paganism fit into that trend?
  • Nontheist Pagan Mixer: immediately following “Facing Forward”, from 2-3:30 in the Fire Family Suite (Room 247). Wine and snacks served. Enjoy fellowship and conversation with like-minded Pagans!
  • An Introduction to Atheopaganism: Now at 12-1 pm SUNDAY, in the CAW Suite (Room 251). What is the Pagan path of Atheopaganism, and how did it evolve? What are its ritual practices, ethical principles and cosmology, and why are these well-suited to people of today? Come here this introductory talk and ask all your questions!

I’m grateful to the Church of All Worlds and the Fire Family (Spark Collective) for hosting these events. If you’re going to Pantheacon, be sure to join us!