Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pantheacon 2016: Sunday

Sunday morning at Pantheacon. Did you just groan when you read that sentence? I think all of us did - and I don’t even drink.

Call it a Con-over. SATURDAY had been one blissful, blurry 19 hour energy rampage. And now, here on cusp of the last full day of Pantheacon, all I wanted to do was lay in bed and cuddle with Admiral Karen.

So I did.

But at 9am my butt was in a chair to hear Mama Jenya tell us about life on a farm. The Dirt Heart Witch seminar was light on theses, but heavy on super cute pictures of animals that she later slit the throats of.
Farmer Jenya, chopping shopping local.

So that was riveting. Every adorable slide of something inquisitive and fuzzy might be followed by a slide of the same creature in a roasting pan with gravy being poured over its charred carcass.

It really pointed out the cycle of life, and how important it is to have thumbs when trying to get to the top of the food chain.

Okay, the Editor in me is saying: "Give blood 3
times a year - on 3 consecutive days??"
I was super hungry after 90 minutes of slaughter and laughter, but Cafe Ho-Hum was packed with hundreds of pretty pagan people who were temporarily taking a turn for the horrid. Ah, Sunday at Pcon - when all the shields are down, and “are my sex organs covered?” is the only fashion consideration.

So Karen and I went back to the room and stood around eating gorp and girl scout cookies until she left for an 11am workshop, and I left consciousness for an 11am seminar on taking a nap.

Hot tub, shower, shave and brief solo dance party I was feeling much better.

So with a spring in my step (foreshadowing), and a song in my heart (foreshadowing), I blithely skipped into an afternoon (foreshadowing) class on tarot spellcasting.


This turned out to be very 101. Wait - whats less than beginner? 50.5?

Pamela Colman Smith, my Hero. Her
advice on how to read her cards has
nothing whatsoever to do with simple
archetypes and summations: “Note the dress,
the type of face; see if you can trace
the character in the face; note the pose. . . .
Learn from everything, see everything,
and above all feel everything! . . . Find eyes within,
look for the door into the unknown country.”

Thank yous to Mary Greer, another of my heroes!
The teacher's slide show was on the fritz so they were forced to walk around the room, showing each card to us manually. Which is the .gif you see when you look up the word “Tedious” online.

Very quickly though many of us in the room perked right up - as the instructor summed up and categorized various cards as simple archetypes - 

“The Magician means ‘Ambition’.”
(well maybe, sometimes, depending on…..wait. That’s it? That’s ALL it means?)
“And the 3 of Pentacles means ‘Employment’.”
(OR it means ‘meddling friends’ ‘craftmanship’ ‘and don’t take Engineering advice from someone wearing a Snuggie’.)

- and also began categorizing various cards as either “good” or “bad”. Tarot is not that simple, however. To define a card by a couple of terms and use it just for that is to miss the whole, beautiful RELATIVISTIC aspect of the divination system. 

These were surprisingly helpful
throughout the weekend.
Tarot is a vibrant, dynamic ever-changeling, where nothing is black-and-white and everything (let’s imagine this next bit in 30 foot high letters of fire, okay?) EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON CONTEXT.

So, looks were being exchanged around the room as we were shown some 50.5 level ‘spells’ (put the cards closer together to attract things!) and more cards were summed up categorically.

In the hot tub: what were my
problems again?
I could go on and on about the theory behind this observation, in fact I may propose a seminar at next years Pantheacon about this very idea, but for now lets get back to our tale of Divination adventure.

Tarot does not have Categories! Cards are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ - it all depends on the question, the petitioner, the spread, and and and I just said I was gonna shut up about this, didn’t I?

Here’s the stage: We’re sitting ’in the round’. Several seats to my left is Debra, who is giving me weird looks like “That aint right, is it?”

Mykey, ever the dapper one.
On my immediate left is my friend Yolanda, who I can’t see, but who I can hear gasping after each ‘summation’. To my right is a lovely French woman named Julie (“jjUUUlee”) who keeps asking me if her English is sufficient for this class - as she cannot believe what she is hearing.

And jjUUUlee is a 101 beginner. 

Several seats away to my right is a Ceremonial. There is not a capital letter capital enough to show how much Power, Intelligence and Knowledge this Magickian radiated. 

Divers will be crowned Sun King
Now normally I do not resonate much with the Ceremonials. I find many of them to be excessively cerebral and dismissive of us lowly Folk Practitioners.

But from the way this guys mustache was quivering I guessed he was likewise having some mis-givings about attending this workshop.

Me? I just giggled through the whole thing. I did not agree with this teacher, but the whole class was completely, inadvertently, entertaining.

Maybe, maybe not. But in either case, that was 3
years ago. This triptych said "neener-neener"
to me, and I did not grasp its intent.
And then, payoff time. The teacher laid out an entire Waite-Smith deck face-up on a table and invited us to come up and take a card, all of which we would then use in a brief spell for all of us in attendance. What did we wish for us all? Hmmmm?

I could NOT resist the chance to totally fuck with this class.

And I was not alone in having this thought.

We went around the circle and people said why they chose various cards. These were all pronounced ‘good’ by the teacher and the people all held on to their cards.

Yep, we were Organized this year.
(Design by Ari Mankey, photo by Jason.)
Then she got to the Ceremonial. 

And with a suavely serene look on his face he holds up 13 - Death.

My hero! (The witchy store I managed was named “13” - after that card. Yay!)
Their air smells like they import it from
cross-country airliners.

“Why would you choose THAT one?” came the query.

“Because I am a Scorpio, and this reminds me of that sign” rejoined the Ceremonial, who might have totally sincere in this answer, but which was so obtuse that he lost all the rest of us. 

The Teacher paused, and then plucked it out of his hand. “Well, we’re not going to use that card.” she said curtly, and then quickly moved to the next person.

What were my problems, again?
I quietly showed the card I chose to Yolanda and jjUUUlee and they both looked at me like I was insane.

My turn came and I proudly hoisted the 10 of Swords aloft. 

“Why would you choose THAT one?” She sounded disappointed by now.

“Because its a day at the beach”, I replied, which got a good laugh.

Matches, feathers and rocks. Sure!
Getting serious, I made my case. “I chose this card because to me it says Completion. Finale. Whatever was vexing us is now finished. The tough part is over, dawn is breaking, and our travail is now in the past. And that is what I wish for all of us.”

“But he is in so much pain in this card….” was the rebuttal.

I looked at it briefly. “Really? I don’t think so. He’s dead. I don’t think he’s in any pain at all.

“Well, we’re not going to use that card.” and she plucked it from my hand. 

I glanced over to the Ceremonial, who nodded imperceptibly in my direction. Word, Bro.

The Dead Rock Star altar. Nicely done.
Both Yolanda and jjUUULee giggled, and we all sat through the rest of the class (“move the cards farther away to distance yourself…..”) in a sort of stunned silence. 

So for Pantheacon 2017 look for my seminar entitled: TAROT NO NO NO NO NO NO”.

After that entertaining ordeal I was raring for something deeper, well-researched and practical.

And there was a class that afternoon from Amber and Azrael Arynn K. Perfect. They are presenters that I trust implicitly.
What? Don't YOU meet hundreds of strangers
wearing a kilt and a pith helmet?

Their seminar was on something called the Golden Pentacle, which had everything to do with the gold, and very little to do wit the Pentacle. Basically it was Money Management 101, which is fine, and something pagans as a whole do not seem to do especially well. Still, this was 9 parts Tony Robbins to 1 part Scott Cunningham. But I will happily buy their book when they finish writing it. Well done, Ladies! Thank you!

Okay, food time before the slam bang finale of Pantheacon. Cafe Ho-Hum? No, we need REAL food. The sportsbar at the M8trix Casino? Too…..much. No, it was time to use our special “Get out of Pcon free” card and escape to our quiet refuge around the corner: NYPD pizza and dogs.
Mama Jenya, all coy. 

7 of us, just quietly laughing and eating gourmet hot dogs. Its become a tradition for us. Aaaaah…..

Okay, time to assemble that last outfit and hit the elevators for the climax of the convention: The Feri Tent Revival.

Now I had seen Jenya at two other events that weekend: The Deep Well - Great Heart Society, and just this morning the Dirt Heart Witch talk, but you aint really seen Mama Jenya until you’ve seen her PREACHIN’.
Somebody somewhere explaining their Trad to
members of the Suite Crawl. (Sorry, I was busy
with the scorecards and didn't take good notes.)

And she, (and the rest of the regulars) did not disappoint. We left sweaty and exhilarated - a lovely combination.

And now - End Game: The Pretty Hair Twins Hospitality Suite Crawl.

Impressive herd of ungulates in the ADF suite,
apparently their cattle raid at Cooley went well.
This started as a joke, more or less, 4 years ago. Jason Mankey and me were just kind of tired and bored on the Sunday night, so we decided to ‘hit the suites’ and see what was happening. It was fun - even the ones that were completely INhospitable. The Temple of Witchcraft won that year.

So the next year we got more friends together and become a roaming posse. Our home base, the ADF Druid suite won that year, mostly on the attractiveness of its guests. 

Last year we got a really late start and most of the suites were already closed. The NROOGD suite was the obvious winner in 2015 because they were still partying hard at midnight on Sunday. 

The idea was launched then to make the Crawl more formal and create a scoresheet.
The latin header translates (roughly) as: "Beauty Assistance
and Drug Treatments". I started with "Babes and Booze" and
ran it back and forth through the Translate app a few times.

And well, you know me, Mr. SysAdmin, I made such a thing. Our judging criteria, on a scale of 1-5, was: 

  • Friendliness
  • Food
  • Music
  • Good Booze
  • Pretty People
  • Decor
  • And perhaps plus or minus points awarded for the Unexpected.
Granted, this WAS Sunday night, but this room
did NOT score well on food.
The Winner this year? Black Rose Witchcraft, who scored well across the whole spectrum. What really put them over the top though was that they had music. Very few rooms had music going at all!

Second place goes to the Hanta Yo room, a modest affair behind the elevators on the 2nd floor. The movers and shakers of this group of Modesto women were light on the decor and tunes, but they scored bonus points for having a full NACHO BAR. 

I spent a full-half hour with these lovely ladies, completely losing my Pretty Hair Twin and the rest of the Crawl, while we discussed Central Valley Paganism, Women's mysteries and our mutual love of large boobies - while I stuffed my face with their food. Sorry about losing that crock pot lid behind the TV!

The NROOGDers were all geeked out, AND
got a bonus point for their excellent tea selection.
All well and good, but here’s the thing: There are 39 suites. Thirty-Nine! Trying to see them all in just two or three hours took a lot of the joy out of the experience. We were forever having to pull members of our posse out of some room so we could dive into another one. The whole thing started to feel rushed, and rather clinical.

So we have some ideas on how to improve the process for next year……aaand we’re just going to leave it like that. You’ve been warned…..

Oh, and if you really want to impress the Pretty Hair Twins Hospitality Suite Crawl - have an open bathroom. Just sayin’.

My pith helmet was more popular than me.
We managed to hit 26 out of the 39 though - so, 2/3! The end of the line was the end of the suites; 1067: The Hexenfest room.

Here people were swaying back and forth like they were at sea - but the Pirate Party was last night! 

Slowly more and more people started piling up in this room, like this was the lint trap at the end of the laundry cycle.

It was a lovely summary of the weekend. Many of the lovely, wonderful, powerful people who made this one of the best Pantheacons ever came staggering in.

Some of them took a bow.

Not all of them made it back up.

Angus McMahan

P.S. A week later and we are STILL texting about that tarot spellcasting class: 
Debra: “your choice of 10 of Swords was refreshing and thought-provoking, and like you - I see this card as 'Relief.' It's all over. You can't get any deader than dead. This card is very meaningful to me, and I always smile when I see it. Anyone who presents him/herself as a tarot expert, but is uncomfortable with the ‘scary’ cards... sort of misses the whole point!”
See you next year!

jjUUUlee: “I can't wait to read about that class and all those scary cards we should hide fromlol.”

P.P.S. And so ends another epic recapping of another epic Pantheacon weekend - one of the best Pcons, in my opinion. Nearly 6,500 words have been spewed across the recaps of FRIDAY, SATURDAY and Sunday, and combined with the 13,500 words spread across the six Pagan Humor posts, we have a tidy total of 20,000 words that I have now released down the intertubes. 

Thank you, as always, for reading. If you like what you read, please comment and/or Share on the platform of your choice.


  1. While Black Rose won this year, and they were really fabulous, I'd like to offer a few more shoutouts to various suites. All of the Druid suites are fantastic, even beyond ADF. I don't think we've ever had a bad experience in a Druid suite. Sure the party wasn't always cranking, but I've always felt welcome.

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Coru Cathubodua suite. I had a lovely chat with Morpheus while I was there, perhaps she doesn't hate me?

    The New Wiccan Church/COG suite was also hospitable and the Green Fairy Room deserves its own reward. The Pagan Alliance folks are always nice too.

    Thanks for another outstanding write up.

    1. Welcome home! I updated to give some love to the Hanto Yo! women.

  2. Omg and to think I almost went to that tarot workshop!

    1. You're lucky. I'm creating an "adult survivors of" support group for that one.

  3. LOVED this, particularly since I was in that mind-numbing tarot class! I could not BELIEVE what the alleged "instructor" was saying/doing! Yes, it WAS a 50.5 level class! And YES, teach that "Tarot No No No" class!
    Loved the Suite Crawl bit - that needs to be an annual tradition/report! Maybe if you allow yourselves to split up it will mitigate the "herding cats" effect of trying to get Pagans to do the same thing all at once!

    1. Oh there are plans......wonderful plans......

  4. At the con this year, someone asked me what my next nonfiction book would be and I said, "How to Not Suck at Being a PCon Presenter Because...Damn."

  5. Loved this! his was my first year and I didn't know about the crawl. Hopefully, I'll be blessed enough to go again next year and I'll join you!

    1. Please do! The Pretty Hair Twins Hospitality Suite Crawl is open to all. :-)