So, we took the plunge and went to Pantheacon, annual Pagan gathering that takes place in the Bay Area of California at the San Jose Doubletree. It occurs annually over the President’s day holiday and is easily one of the largest American Pagan gatherings. It pulls people from as far away as Europe and Australia. The conference is sponsored by Ancient Ways (a metaphysical supply store in Oakland) and proved to be very well organized. Now in its 21st year, the conference staff and organization are both well-managed and experienced. They were prepared for all the events with proper signage queuing, staffing- the whole bit. It’s Pagan Disney, only with Magick (the k-kind).
Easily the most positive aspect of the conference is meeting people. It’s an opportunity to connect and energize with authors, elders, leaders as well as newcomers to Paganism. Basically, the conference is broadly sub-divided into tracked events that appear on the hotel program and events that occur in the hospitality suites of various groups and organizations. The hospitality suites have the obvious advantage of being targeted to their specific interest. So they have the major advantage of offering a “track” focus so you can stay in your specific interest.
In terms of event activities, they ran that gamut from launching new books to theological discussions to social issues to hands-on workshops. While I personally enjoyed the hospitality suites, my husband and I also enjoyed the hands-on workshops. We participated together in the wheat-weaving workshops by the Woven Circle; and yeah, you may not know this, but you really want to go. We were given wheat stalks to work with and shown how to make (and then made) the two styles of Brigit’s Cross – two Compass Favors- and learned about the generalities of straw art including that there’s a national association to join (no really, who knew?).
Basically, every event that I attended was worthwhile in some way. Some of the sessions were solemn, such as the sessions I attended on race and on cultural appropriation of imagery, which were emotionally draining. Other sessions were very academic on the Pagan History Project. But the sessions range from serious and sober to light-hearted, playful and illustrative. Looking forward to next year, there are some events I won’t attend but they may be to your personal liking. One of the good things about PCon is that there’s something for everyone. The important thing is to talk with those who have gone before and ask what to expect so you can make a decision as you organize a schedule (more on that below).
As for the audience and participants, overall people were very friendly and supportive. As I noted earlier, one major benefit of this conference meeting a host of fantastic people in our community. That’s not to say all was perfect and friendly. There was the occasional VBP (sorry, very bitchy Pagan) especially during peak times when the elevators were at their fullest. This convention sells out not only the hotel it’s in, but overflows to surrounding hotels, meaning there are a LOT of Pagans milling about. In general, these people are easy to ignore and you can rest in comfort knowing they have to sleep with themselves at night.
So the down and dirty is this: You definitely want to go (start saving your shekels now). As a N00b, there is some advice I can offer.
- First, ask people you know who have been there before to help you orient. EMLC was well-represented. They and Faery Seers (who had a hospitality suite and who are in our local Pagan community) created an opportunity to stay grounded during an experience that can become overwhelming because of the options.
- Second, get the program as early as you can. It will have the main track sessions so you can whittle down which ones you might want to participate in.
- Third, keep in mind the hospitality room activities are not listed until the final printed (and PDF) program comes out about 3 weeks before the event. You definitely need to look at this because events will be listed that were not included in the first go around of the program. For example, none of the events in the COG hospitality suite were listed or described until the printed schedule.
- Fourth, plan your meals. There are a few places to eat nearby but more, importantly, hotel dining will be significantly more expensive. Whatever you decide on food, make sure you budget appropriately.
- Fifth and finally, take time to explore while giving yourself permission to not do it all. There’s so much happening that it is easy to get exhausted.
Overall, then, PCon is an experience you want to have under your belt. The next PCon is far enough off that you can begin planning and saving now. I and husband have few regrets: we’re looking forward to the next one.
About the Author:
Qabal is awesomesauce drizzled on top of a cupcake filled with epicness.
Well… That, or a Witch