Much of what I most enjoyed this year was talking to friends and co-religionists and new acquaintances over meals, and in hospitality suites, and the various public spaces of the rather maze-like hotel, but I do want to mention a few public events I went to.
First off, I’ll mention a fairly disappointing panel on sacrifice. My hopes weren’t high for this one, and I almost didn’t go (and I left early), as it was hosted by Rynn Fox, a woman involved in eating horse meat in Canada and calling it a sacrifice, though it was bought on the market (it being legal to consume horseflesh in Canada). I think there is a difference between offering and sacrifice, the making holy of something and taking it out of this world into the sacred. As my friend and colleague Saigh Kym Lambert, who is a devotee of the Morrígan and Macha dunsgathan.net/caithream/, has said buying meat, slaughtered in cruel fashion (as is always the case with horse slaughter, as horses have a very different anatomy than cattle), is a far cry from sacrifice, and is an insane thing to offer a horse goddess. There is little record of horse as sacrificial animal in Gaelic tradition anyway, but as another Druid colleague said to me, if we consider the possibility as in royal inauguration (like in Gerald of Wales’ report) it would be an animal that would have been treated like a king. A modern person would have to raise the animal exceptionally and it would be an emotionally fraught experience to make such sacrifice. Even a devastating loss. Putting that aside momentarily, I felt I should check out what would be said.
There was a range of panelists, including atheist pagan and anthropologist, Amy Hale, Sam Webster of the Pantheon Foundation, and Mamba Chita Tann (a Vodou priestess). Various valid points were made, such as someone with professional slaughterer/butcher training is needed if one does animal sacrifice, and that is required in Afro-diasporic traditions; that there are the dangers of stupid young people thinking this is a cool thing to do, among other points. I wanted to comment on both the over-emphasis on animal sacrifice in what had been said, and also on the distinction between offerings and sacrifice but was repeatedly passed over when I raised my hand. Then because a lot of people did want to join the discussion, a highly controlling format was set up—people were told to get in a line for a mike; well, I was sitting in the middle, and a huge bunch of people from the front immediately surged into line; it was pretty clear the rest of us would not get to talk, so I found it an opportune time to leave. I will be writing more about sacrifice on this blog.
At this point I don’t go to many rituals at the’Con. I’m energetically sensitive; and I’ve explored rites of many different religions over the years, but these days I mostly like to focus on those of my own traditions or ones close to them. I also prefer to avoid rituals for deities I worship, which are being done in a Wiccanate format. For years now at the ‘Con one of my favorite rituals has been the Lupercalia put on by the Ekklesia Antinoou. While far from having a Roman-oriented practice (and not subscribing to some of its theological points), I am a citizen and a mystes of this syncretistic group. The magister, P. S. Virius Lupus has (re)constructed a Lupercalian rite, among many others of the Ekklesia, which allows plentiful opportunity for praying to the main deity and others, in a setting that is powerful and serious. The rite also involves a foot race that has a bit of chaos to it and ‘raises energy’ like nothing else at the ‘Con in my experience. In ancient times this was performed by young men, but innovatively in the Ekklesia, it is open to all genders. There is also a moment for ritual laughter, which can be quite cathartic. Lupercalia shares with other Indo-European rites of early spring, like Imbolc, ritual lustration and purification; in the Lupercalia this includes being whipped lightly by goat leather thongs (in this rite simply on the palms of the hands).More here:aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/pantheacon-2014-lupercalia/
Another rewarding panel I attended was the Pagans and Privilege one. Hosted by Thorn Coyle, panelists were Crystal Blanton, Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, Charlie Glickman and the ever-so articulate and amazing Filipina/Jewish transwoman Elena Rose Vera. Racism, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, classism, intersectionality and much, much more were discussed within communities of the pagan umbrella. It was an excellent panel and lots of fruitful dialog with the large audience. I’ve said enough elsewhere about the closing prayer (and I was happy to see Thorn address it on her own blog). Talks like these make the PantheaCon worth it. And from my Caucasian-blinkered perspective it does seem that PantheaCom is getting more ethnically diverse, though great work obviously needs to be done.
I’ll discuss the presentation I put on on Experimental Reconstruction in a separate post.