The Last Pantheacon, and What’s Next

Pantheacon, the largest indoor gathering of Pagans in North America, is no more. For a variety of reasons, Glenn Turner, the organizer, has decided to close it down and is retiring.

I have been associated with PCon for a very long time. I attended the first one (I think), and have been to most of them over the 20-odd years it continued. It was a chance to see friends I didn’t see otherwise, to learn new things, meet new people, enjoy performances and generally to enjoy a majority-Pagan space for awhile, in stark contrast to the ordinary world.

In recent years, it has provided opportunities to present and share about Atheopaganism, to meet fellow Atheopagans, and to discuss our growing path.

The love was palpable. The parties were epic. (Many of) the rituals were powerful.

It was a good time.

This year was no exception. I enjoyed myself greatly, our round-table discussion on nontheist Paganism was packed, one of the rituals I led went terrifically (the other was kind of meh, to  be honest). I was glad to be there.

That said, Pantheacon had its problems. It was slow to respond to problems with bigotry and lack of safety on the part of oppressed minorities, and as a for-profit enterprise, it was not in any way transparent about its finances nor its decision making.

I have written before about how the Pagan community is changing. While there is a movement to have a new event in the same hotel and over the same weekend, but under new vision and management, next year, I believe that we have simply become too big for a single major event to accommodate us either in our diversity nor in our numbers.

I think and hope that smaller regional events will begin to connect Pagans from their local areas not only with one another, but with their land and biome. Certainly the experience of traveling long distances to get together with fellow Pagans does not bring us into closer encounter with the Earth.

Accordingly, I am organizing an event in June called Midsummer Dawn. Held in a group campground at a magnificent local state park, Sugarloaf Ridge, it will be an opportunity to get together with like-minded others, hike in magnificent country, enjoy one another’s company and conduct a couple of evening rituals.

Midsummer Dawn will be simple. It will have no workshops, nor vending spaces. It’s just a camping trip intentionally focused on Pagan folk, with some rituals to connect us with one another and with the land. While not the four-day rush of Pantheacon, I think it will take us into joyful places together.

It will certainly have a far smaller ecological footprint, and that counts for a lot in my book.

What I most loved about Pantheacon was seeing my friends, and making new ones. In California—because fire is such a danger in the summer—it is very difficult to create a large outdoor festival for Pagans, so we have to go small. I hope my friends and folks I don’t yet know will take a chance on a low-cost event like Midsummer Dawn.

In the meantime: thanks, Glenn. Thanks to all the many volunteers who made the event possible over all those years. Thanks to those who sought to keep it accountable to progressive Pagan values. Thanks to those who helped to create the many golden moments I will cherish from Pantheacon.

Join Us for Atheopagan Events at the Final Pantheacon!

I am presenting at the final Pantheacon, Feb. 14-17. I hope that those of you who are also attending will join me for these Atheopagan events.

An Introduction to Atheopaganism.  Saturday at 12 PM in the Spark Collective hospitality suite, Room 247. 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 hear this introductory talk and ask all your questions!

Nontheist Pagan Mixer. Saturday at 2 PM, Spark Collective suite room 247. Wine and snacks served. Enjoy fellowship and conversation with like-minded Pagans! Books will be available for purchase and signing at this event.

NOTE CHANGED TIME:  Roundtable Discussion: Nontheist Paganism and the Greater Community. Sunday 3:30 PM, Reisling Room. We are a part of this community! Let’s talk about our practices and experiences, and what makes us similar to and different from other Pagans. Please attend this session if you possibly can–we need Atheopagans well represented!

Ritual: Surviving Trump as a Pagan. Sunday, 9 PM in the St. Martin/St. Sebastian room. When your society has gone crazy and genuine malevolence is the order of the day, how do we sustain ourselves, our hope, and our safety as Pagans? Come get a boost in this nontheist ritual.

Spark Collective Ritual. I will also be the ritual leader of the annual Spark Collective Ritual, at 11 PM Sunday in the Cedar room. An energetic and ecstatic ritual style, the Spark ritual is upbeat, positive, juicy and FUN!

 

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.