Pantheacon 2019

It’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from Pantheacon, that enormous pagan conference in San Jose, CA.  I had a reservation this year at the Doubletree, and arrived

PCon2019OhloneRegWild

A view of the Ohlone Regional Wilderness from the back windows of the Doubletree Hotel.

fresh from the airport on Friday evening to a scene of complete mayhem.  Three or four suited-up firefighters stood about, axes in hand, adjacent to the registration desk, and fire trucks with flashing lights were visible through the side entrance.  Crowds of Con attendees swarmed the desk, either trying to check in, or trying to find out why they couldn’t get on the elevators to get upstairs to the hospitality suites.  When I arrived at the desk, I gave my name to the clerk, and was horrified to hear that she had no room available for me–in spite of a long-standing reservation.  Whaaaat?  I stayed very calm, and watched while an angry guest cut in front of me and promptly cancelled his room reservation because he couldn’t get on the elevator.  Nice timing.  So, a moment later, unruffled, I had a room after all. I was glad I had stuck to my mindfulness practice.

My room was on the 9th floor, diagonally across from the Coru Cathubodua hospitality suite.  My first thought about the 9th floor was, “oh, great…I won’t get any sleep due to the parties.”  It turned out to be a fun experience, and not as loud as I’d expected.  I unpacked,

AltarPantheacon2019

My simplified Pantheacon altar.

settled in, set up my altar, and set wards on the entrances to help keep the environment calm.  Then I went out to the suites to browse and meet people.

If you’ve been following the controversy swirling around Pantheacon this year, with a few presenters becoming uninvited for reasons that some found spurious, you’ll know that some people were worried about the feel of this year’s event.  I think the numbers were actually down, with about 2000 registered on Saturday morning.  It didn’t feel particularly fractious this year, and I had a lot of conversations over the course of the four days.  Here are a few highlights of the Con.

I attended a session on “How to Start and Run (not Ruin) a Group.”  It was held by Thorn TradWicca-Mooney Mooney, the Gardnerian priestess from North Carolina whose book, Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide, was just published.  I read it a few months ago, and thought that she had abundant good sense.  She had with her a friend from Maine, Julia, who organizes The Witches of Downeast group.  Their presentation, held in the Northwest Circles  Association hospitality suite down the hall from my room, pulled in about a dozen participants.  While there was the inevitable guest who tried to back seat drive the presentation, the discussion and presentation were useful and highly relevant to the group formation work I’m currently doing.  We’ve all had groups that simmered and fizzled, and some that just imploded.  I particularly liked what they had to say about the utility of Meetup groups, and how they have worked with them successfully.

Selena Fox, the warm, wise elder of Circle Sanctuary, led a midday workshop in the Amici Mortem hospitality suite.  For those who aren’t sure, Amici Mortem means “Friends of Death,” and those friends turned out to be a great deal younger than I expected.  I was older than most of them, and was impressed to hear several people express interest in training as death doulas.  Fox described the establishment of a green pagan burial cemetery at their sanctuary.  She spoke with knowledge, curiosity, an open mind, and a great deal of experience in coordinating the ceremonial elements of death rituals.  If you haven’t met her, Selena Fox is one of the community’s great treasures, and is welcoming and kind to everyone.  I have a particularly fond feeling for her, as my mother used to subscribe to the old Circle Network News back in the 1980s, when witchy publications were scarce indeed!

Coming up next:  Pantheacon, Part II.

-Talasyn

 

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Sacred Sites in Cornwall: St. Nectan’s Glen

I’ll start this post with the disclaimer that I have travelled a number of times to Cornwall, but am very far from having a comprehensive knowledge of the region’s sacred sites.  There are so many things to see.  Here are some of my favorites.

North Cornwall
St. Nectan’s Glen
is located in the village of Trethevy, north of Tintagel, and south ofBoscastle.  There is a small parking lot on the west side of the road where you may leave a car. I passed the glen on an earlier trip in 2005, but in the summer of 2016, while staying in Devon, we made a special day trip.

The path along the gushing stream to St. Nectan's Glen.

You’ll cross the street and walk down a path adjacent to a tiny stone church, and from there, into the woods.  This is pilgrimage at its best on a small scale.  The approach to the glen takes some time, and involves liminal crossings of a gushing stream, and walking on soft duff, muddy lowland paths, and a bit of climbing into the hills.  I savored the walk, and used it as a meditation in preparation for some spiritual work I needed to do.  Upon arriving at the building perched atop the stone cliffs, we paid our admission fee, and were offered some musty wellies from a nearby shed.  (Bring your own if you’re sensitive to mildew!) We slowly descended the stairways, stopping on the viewing platforms to gaze down at the loud, rushing falls.  It is a faery glen, with mosses, ferns, and life sprouting everywhere.  At the bottom, the glen opens out, and the waters are shallow.

My partner examines a log filled with coins.

Let your instincts guide where you walk, and what you do next.  People have filled the glen with an abundance of clouties and other offerings.  I took a long time just standing in front of the spectacular round opening in the stone at the base of the falls, my glasses fogging from the spray.  Something in me cracked wide open, and I enjoyed a mystical unbinding of some energies that had been very stuck before.  This moment set the tone for the next three weeks of our

Stand in front of the falls and take your time.

pilgrimage. When we were ready, we made our way back to the entrance, returned our musty boots, and walked back along the stream, down through the woods.  On the return visit I felt so light and full of joy.  It was indescribable. 

I live in Oregon, and there are dozens of spectacular waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge.  This was a different experience entirely, with the spirits of the place speaking very strongly and benevolently.

I’ll add a great deal more to the Cornwall page over the coming weeks.  This is just the beginning.  Next up:  The Rocky Valley, the labyrinths, and that wild saddle of rock, Tintagel.

-Talasyn

 

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Winter Rituals and Folklore

Back in the 1990s I participated in mummers groups at Reclaiming Tradition witchcamps in British Columbia.  Combining my fascinations with folklore and ritual, mummers plays and costumed evocations were sometimes remarkably potent, memorable events.  For this reason, I love to see folkloric celebrations taking place during the dark times of the year.  Here are a few videos worth a look.

The Mari Lwyd is a tradition seen in South Wales around Christmas and the twelve days of Christmas.  Featuring a decorated horse skull, often with a mobile, clacking jaw, with the “horse” clad in white, and accompanied by a costumed retinue, the Mari Lwyd makes house visitations, with the retinue striving to be invited in.  Sometimes there are traditional songs, an offer of hospitality by the people at home, or a rhyming contest.  See for yourself how this tradition has recently been revived in a local school in Wales.

A spookier and more disturbing tradition comes from the Alpine regions of Germany and Austria.  Perchta (plural: Perchten) is a folkloric woman, possibly related to the Goddess Holda, who visits homes between Christmas and Twelfth Night.  She knows, like Santa, whether you’ve been naughty or nice.  This crew of antlered Perchten is from the Tirol region of Austria, and is creepy, wonderful, loud, and decidedly ancient AND postmodern.  Take a look.

A joyful Twelfth Night to you all.

-Talasyn

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Signs of Samhain

This afternoon, while out walking, I stumbled across a house that had put remarkable energy into making it spooky-wonderful for Samhain/Halloween.  The house, a beautifully maintained Old Portland from the first decade of the last century, looked better than I’d ever seen it look before.  Check out the chimney.

Not so many years ago I assembled some magnificent pumpkins and corn on my porch, but these deceased climbers have made my decorative efforts seem feeble.  There’s still time to come up with something deliciously witchy and worthwhile.  How’s your porch or doorway looking?

The hawthorn tree in my front garden is laden with berries, and they are suddenly a dusky orange color.  The leaves have begun to turn a bright yellow.

I live near an atmospheric old pioneer cemetery, and took a few photos as I walked through this afternoon in the chilly sunshine.  There are old gravestones literally being swallowed up by a huge old tree.  I wonder whether the coffins below are entangled in the roots.

Light your candles, invite the ancestors to your altar, and relish every day of this sacred season.

– Talasyn

 

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Polytheist Conference: Many Gods West

I’ve been going to Pantheacon in San Jose, CA over President’s Day weekend in February off and on for many years.  Meanwhile, oh so quietly, another conference of interest has been putting down roots to the north:  Many Gods West.  It’s specifically a polytheist conference, so should be a good fit for my interests.  This will be the third year for MGW, and I think it’s time I register and check it out.

MGW2017

Here’s the link to the conference website.  I’ll probably stay at the conference hotel to keep the access simple.  If we cross paths at Many Gods West, please come over to say hello.

-Talasyn

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Winter Solstice & the Dagda

Today I celebrated Winter Solstice in ritual with a close friend and long-time priestess.  We worked with the Dagda, Brigid, and a number of the land spirits at Bru na Boinne, where the most exquisite thing happens at every winter solstice.  A shaft of winter sunrise sunlight makes its way down the narrow stone passageway to Newgrange and floods the chamber with light.  It happens only for a few days on either side of Winter Solstice each year, making it a rare and special event.

And so we traveled there to work magic for personal and political ends.  It is the house of the Dagda, so we sought his permission for our visit, as well as consulting the land spirits.  It was a potent ritual for both of us, and has left us with a number of ideas, visions, and further ritual work to explore.

If you’d like to learn more about the Winter Solstice alignment at Bru na Boinne, this video provides further information.

Light is returning.  Sleep well.

-Talasyn

 

 

 

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Vigilance & Activism

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(image: http://tinyurl.com/han7zo4)

It is a few weeks since the Presidential election in the US, and I have determined not to recede into silence.  While many in the mainstream media are saying, “give Trump time to make his political appointments,” and “wait and see,” I have seen plenty.  The country is weeks away from passing into the hands of a narcissistic, ill-prepared, surly-tempered demagogue, and we are in serious trouble.  So many of us are equating this election result with the rise of Hitler in Weimar Germany in the early 1930s.  Our eyes are open, and we have the benefit of historical awareness, so we cannot be silent.

I’ve been thinking about the role of ritualists and magic workers in acting out, speaking up, and choosing to focus our will decisively.  Let’s stand together for social justice and political sanity in the face of hateful and destructive rhetoric and actions.  Street protests, calls to legislators, and keeping up pressure on the parts of government we can reach all have an important role.  But we are ritualists–witches, seers, magicians and druids, to name but a few.  Now is the time to draw on those skills to make social change and work the channels that we know how to work.

May the power of Brigid’s forge inspire us to action,

-Talasyn

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