Atheopagan Events at Pantheacon 2019

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:

  • An Introduction to Atheopaganism: 11 am Friday, 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!
  • 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!

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!


Reflections on the FFRF Conference 2018

So…the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference was…interesting.

It’s a great organization. Lobbying and legal work to prevent religious incursion into governmental and public spaces. Very important stuff.

I got the sense that most of the attendees felt a deep relief at being in a place where they could admit their atheism. And that seemed to be the end-all-and be-all of the conference’s message: we’re atheists, and that’s good.

Presenters were stellar (Salman Rushdie!) And their points about the deep wrong of theocracy and enforced religiosity–even to the tragic murders and forcible exilings of nonreligious people in the Islamic world–were powerful.

That said, it seemed so passive: people sitting in chairs, listening.

I couldn’t help but compare to Pantheacon, with its interactive workshops and participatory rituals, its parties and laughter.

The Freethought (atheist) community is good at thinking. It’s good at being rational and thoughtful and liberal-minded. At being serious.

But it’s not very good at creating community.

The Pagan community writ large often isn’t very good at thinking, frankly. It draws conclusions about the nature of reality based on wishful thinking, confirmation bias and purely subjective experience, and then doesn’t interrogate those conclusions, choosing instead to protect and defend them.

But it is great at creating shared love. At bringing people together in a sense of broadly shared values and causes.

Here, we’re working to wed those strengths: to create rich spiritual practices rooted in life-affirming values, contextualized in a solidly reality-based understanding of the nature of the Universe.

It’s quite strange, having a foot in each world, viewed a little askance by both. But as I experience each, I can tell that each has something powerful and essential to offer.

Thank you for being a part of our collective efforts to bring them together.


Thanks to anonymous donors for the opportunity to attend the 2018 Freedom From Religion Foundation conference!

Woodland Dreaming: Missing Ancient Ways

I’m back from Pantheacon, and had a wonderful festival again. I was involved in three conference offerings—a ritual for activists (“Arming the Earth Warriors”), a mixer for non-theists, and the annual ritual by the Spark Collective, of which I sit on the Core group—and all were well-attended and received. Our non-theist ritual had nearly twice as many attendees as did last year, so things are growing.

As for the conference itself, it was a flurry of reconnecting with friends I rarely get to see, late-night parties (followed by early-morning work shifts), resultant sleep deprivation and diligent efforts to make sure I remained fed, hydrated and grounded. It’s an otherworldly environment where there is always a lot going on, and there is no possible way to be everywhere you would like to be at any given time.

I’m glad to be on staff at Pantheacon, which allows me to attend and have a room for free in exchange for hours of labor, and to be a part of producing it for the greater community. People come from all over the world to attend.

There used to be another gathering produced by the same people who put on Pantheacon. It was an outdoor festival that took place in the summer, and it was called Ancient Ways. I found myself thinking about it this weekend.

Ancient Ways had, in many ways, a similar format to Pantheacon: there were a schedule of workshops held in various gathering places, some large scheduled rituals, and an area where vendors set up pavilions to sell their wares.

That said, the atmosphere was completely different. Attendees camped in tents,  throughout a broad meadow or in the mixed oak/bay laurel/madrone woods surrounding it. A central building housed a space for workshops, a commercial kitchen and space where those who needed indoor accommodations could stay. And there were hot and warm pools for swimming and lounging, trails with magnificent vistas of the California coastal mountains, showers and bathrooms with flush toilets. It was a beautiful place, and it was clothing optional, so if you wished you could truly be out under the sun as Nature produced you.

All these places are gone or radically changed. Harbin Hot Springs, the venue, burned in the Valley fire that ravaged Lake County in 2016. It is rebuilding, but it will not be the same.

But that’s not why Ancient Ways is no longer held. It shut down long before that, with declining attendance even as Pantheacon, at an urban convention hotel, continued to grow. Ancient Ways ran from 1983 to 2008, and then, it was over.

What this says about the Pagan community is…complex. I believe that a part of what killed Ancient Ways was simply that many habitual attendees were aging. They were no longer comfortable camping on the ground, or they needed a place to plug in C-PAP machines, or the long windy drive to Harbin became too much for them. And what I have observed is that overall, Pagans—to their credit—have fewer children than non-Pagans, so a “replacement population” wasn’t really coming up.

The organizers, too, were getting older. They might not have wanted to camp, either. Or maybe it just didn’t make enough money to seem worth it.

But oh, to walk naked under a full moon, with the shadows of the trees dappling the ground! To loll in the warm water with friends, murmuring and laughing. To dance around a ritual fire in the wild, and not around electric candles in a hotel ballroom.

To my knowledge, there is no longer a Pagan festival on the West Coast in a natural setting which accommodates 300-500 people, as did Ancient Ways. We are in fire country, and it is exceedingly difficult to find a place where you can safely have a bonfire in California summer. The closest thing I have found is Ignite, a delightful Fire Circle community event, in July in the Santa Cruz mountains. Its capacity is about 75 attendees. (If you have a chance, I strongly urge you to join us for this joyous, meaningful, beautiful gathering.)

But Ancient Ways rituals were awe-inspiring. The sheer number of people involved in the rituals made for a primordial power, lit by the dancing flames, our feet in the good Earth’s dirt, tree branches arching into the light at the periphery. Together in our diversity, in our tribal sameness, under the winking stars.

It felt like what Paganism is supposed to be.

I miss it.