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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pantheacon 2017

  If I had to guess I'd say the biggest pagan conference in America is probably Pantheacon, an event that happens each February in San Jose California. I had attended my first Pantheacon in 2015 and honestly didn't think I'd go to another since traveling to California is a bit of a challenge for me, logistically and financially, but somehow I found myself back there again this year. It will be my one big travel thing for 2017, and the only other event on my schedule is the Morrigan's Call Retreat.

Unlike my first time at this event, this time around there were some notable difference. Firstly although I once again taught a workshop in the ADF hospitality suite I was also on the main schedule with 3 presentations, and I had a book signing. Also unlike the first time I was staying in the Doubletree itself, not in one of the overflow hotels. Both of these things were rather significant changes. I was really happy (and honestly quite surprised) to have had my workshops chosen for the main schedule but teaching a total of 4 classes and having the book signing made for a busy conference. I was also staying in a hospitality suite - East Coast Pagans Hospitality Suite to be exact - and so most of the time when I wasn't teaching something I was there. In practical terms this meant that I didn't have very much time to visit other hospitality suites or get to many workshops.

I did attend one RDNA style ritual in the ADF suite which I really enjoyed. I'd never done anything in that style before and it was very interesting to see the similarities and differences in how it was structured. I've been a member of ADF since 2001 and I always like spending time with other ADF members, especially people I know online but don't see often in real life. It was fun teaching a class on the Irish Gods in their suite, and I liked the questions and discussions that followed. As I could say for many things at the conference, I wish I'd had more time to spend there.

altar for the aos sidhe
My main spiritual contribution in the East Coast Pagans suite was to maintain an altar there for the Otherworldly spirits. Usually when I travel I have some small place set aside for the deities and spirits I honor but I think because this was a space open to the public for 8 hours of the day it required something more elaborate. People were able to leave things on this one, and regular offerings of butter, fruit, and water were being made as well. I quickly made friends with the local crows disposing of the old offerings each morning.

I didn't have much time to socialize but I did find a few moments to get out to some of the other rooms nearby. I was able to visit the Heathen Hospitality suite, which I am so glad I did. I met several Troth members in person who I have only previously known online (having been a Troth member since 2006). They also had some of the best ribbons, in my opinion. Again I wish I'd had more time to spend there, particularly since I have a trip to Iceland coming up in 2018 that several people from that suite are also going on with Land Sea Sky Travel. I was also able to briefly stop into the Sisters of Avalon suite and visit with some familiar faces as well as picking up a very cool new oracle deck.

Pantheacon in general offered a chance to meet some new people, reconnect with friends, and meet people in person I'd previously only known online, which was a wonderful experience. I did find some time, eventually, to have some fun and to hang out with friends, to share stories and to create some new phrases including 'when in doubt cattle raid' and 'no fadas given', although my favorites may have come from my friend Jon of An Scealai Beag who was the source of  such quotes as 'Dagda approves'. One of the best things about the conference, I think, is that so many people attend from so many places and from so many different pagan/polytheist approaches that it allows for a lot of diversity and experiencing new viewpoints, as well as connecting to people from all sorts of different traditions and areas. And of course competitive ribbon collecting.

the beginning of the ribbon collecting

I attended one class which was taught by Lora O'Brien about Medb of Connacht which I highly recommend; Lora also offers the class online here (you may have to scroll down a bit to find it, but its there). Lora had a meet and greet/book signing afterwards and we had some time to talk so there was a bit of crossover between the class and that. I found the ideas brought up really intriguing, including the idea that Medb may have been both a name as well as a title for a priestess at Rathcroghan, and that Medb could have been active in warrior initiation rites. There's speculation in that last of course, but there is certainly a tenuous pattern of male warriors being trained in myth by female warriors* that could indicate a wider socioreligious pattern. Naturally being me I ended up getting a bit speculative about the meanings of Medb's sisters' names and why they may or may not have been fit rulers compared to her based on name etymology. That aside though it was a great class and I'm glad if I only was able to attend one in its entirety it was that one.

My own classes went well, as far as I can judge. The first was meant to be on land spirits and house spirits but ended up being a bit more on land spirits. I did one in the ADF suite, as I mentioned, on the Irish Gods. The second official Pantheacon workshop was on Macha, horses, and sovereignty in Irish culture. And finally I had one on the darker side of Fairy, which was looking at the Unseelie court , who and what they are, and how we interact with them. Turnout seemed good, the audiences were engaged and quick to ask questions, and for the most part we covered all the material I wanted to touch on.

Pantheacon is always an adventure, both the travel to get there and then the experience of being there itself. There are great workshops and diverse hospitality suites, vendors and adventures to be found. As with the first year I attended I think my favorite thing was the experience of community, of being able to spend time with friends I don't see often, or ever, and to relax and discuss everything from theology to linguistics with people who share those interests.

*examples could include Fionn and Cu Chulainn who were both trained by female experts in warfare; more widely in the Ulster cycle we see not only Cu Chulainn but also Ferdiad and Connla similarly trained by women, albeit the same one.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Looking forward at 2017

"Ata la i ndegaid aloile" [A day follows another]
- Etain, Tochmarc Etaine
2016 was in many ways a pivotal year for me, and I think at least some of that was reflected in the content of my blog. I can honestly say that nothing went exactly as I expected it to, and some things happened that I very much didn't expect, but overall I am glad for the place I am in now both with my writing and my spirituality.

 I put my blog on hiatus for the last month in order to finish a manuscript I was working on for a new book. The last blog I posted in 2016 was an excerpt from it and I decided as we moved into 2017 that I needed to focus all my attention on finishing it. I had three books contracted with my publisher, two new Pagan Portals which are by nature shorter texts (25K words each) and the full length Fairies book which I was anticipating would run between 80K and 90K. At the end of last year I was halfway done with the longer book and one of the shorter ones, and I was confident that I could get the longer one finished in a month if I focused exclusively on it.

I'm pleased to say that the Fairies book is done and currently going through copy editing with my publisher. I put everything I knew into it and I learned a lot researching it as well; I think it may be the best thing I've ever written. I still have the two Pagan Portals to write however so I'm not quite ready to hang up my keyboard just yet. I'm hoping that one of those, which I was already about halfway done with, will be completed this month. Additionally I have plans for a sixth novel in my series, although I'm not sure exactly when I'll get to that project.

Now that the longer book is done I should be returning to my regular blogging. I've been working on several translation pieces that should be ready soon so expect to see those coming up this month. I'd like to get back to doing a couple translations or more a month, ideally, and am planning to work through all the Echtrai. I've also had a lot going on in my own spiritual life that I want to share and I'd like to write about topics of interest to people who read this blog. The Fairies book took a lot out of me, more than I expected and more than any other book has before, so right now I'm just looking at what to do to re-set and begin again.

I'm also in the process of making some crucial decisions about exactly where to focus my energy and what venues to use to get my writing out to people. I have this blog of course, and have had it now since July of 2011, but I may look at restructuring or adjusting what I offer here somewhat. I have the books I write, both fiction and non-fiction. I write for Air n-Aithesc twice a year as well as occasionally having articles in other publications - for example I have something in an upcoming issue of Watkins Mind Body Spirit. I'll be speaking at Pantheacon in a few weeks and I'll be back at the Morrigan's Call Retreat again this year in June. Next year I have two sacred sites tours, one in Ireland and one in Iceland. So that's quite a lot going on really. I want to make sure I'm giving my full effort to everything I do.