Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pantheacon 2011 - Stregans, Remarkable Men and Women, and Low Magick

As you know, I was gone to Pantheacon the last few days, so that’s why there hasn’t been an article posted on this blog for that duration of time. I was also very busy at that event, so I didn’t get around to giving you a blow by blow report on what happened. So, now that I am still stuck here waiting for a late flight to get home, I thought that I would write up a report on how things went and what my experiences were like. There was a massive snow storm that shut down the Minneapolis airport for half a day on Monday, thus canceling my return flight. I had to scramble to get a replacement flight, and there wasn’t much to choose from. I will have to take a red-eye circuitous flight from San Jose, to Atlanta, then to Minneapolis, getting there Wednesday morning. Oddly, I will have flown in a triangle around the country during this entire trip.

Here are some notes that I wrote while the convention was underway.

The last affects of Pantheacon 2011 are winding down this Monday evening, and I thought that I would relate some of what I experienced while commingling with lots of strangely attired and pagan persona possessed people, including myself, of course. We descended on the few so called “normal” folks who were staying at the hotel for purely mundane reasons, and the hotel staff who expertly tolerated the crowds of unusual characters. It was fun, and it was informative - but more importantly, it met all of my expectations and exceeded them.

It would seem that Pantheacon is the kind of event that takes a few years for one to build up the kind of contacts and the social network necessary to make the con an event that is highly enjoyable and filled with the interaction of friendly and interesting folk. At least, this is true for me, an old cantankerous and dodgy sorcerer from the Midwest. It takes me a while to get to know people, and for people to get to know me - a veritable sign of the waning years of middle age. I am definitely not plugged in and hip as my much younger counter parts in the pagan world, so I stumble and creep along like some aged dinosaur, but I eventually get to where I want to go.

Anyway, as you know, I was stuck with the necessity of performing both of my presentations on Friday, which was a bit of a bother, but it turned out to be quite fortuitous. That meant that Friday was pretty much taken up with preparing for and giving the two lectures. Both were newly made and first-time presentations, but they consisted of material that I knew very well.
The first lecture was on the Decan Faces, a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and it went off pretty well. There was a bit too much information in the lecture notes, and it will require some tweaks to get it to a state where I will feel contented with it’s final form. This is a typical sentiment for me, being the avowed perfectionist when it suits me. One odd note was that all of the doors for the lecture rooms were locked and I had to get someone to open up the doors, and then the room wasn’t set up properly for the lecture. I guess someone thought that attendees needed their own tables to work on whatever was to be “constructed” for the workshop. My first lecture was moderately attended, and the feedback that I got was quite positive.

Later in the day I assembled my materials and went to give my second lecture, which was on Lunar Magick. Where the previous lecture was moderately attended, this lecture had more attendees than chairs, and soon the room temperature got up to the mid 80's, which was quite uncomfortable for some. This lecture was delivered adequately, although there was a bit of a problem with the end. I will probably go over the last section in the near future and iron it out, perhaps doing a bit of reorganizing. The attendees didn’t notice any of these minor issues, and the lecture was perceived as useful and successful. Some people later thanked me for this lecture and told me how significant it was. The most important point in the lecture is that using the Lunation cycle requires the witch or pagan to break their workings up into multiple sessions, so as to take better advantage of the changing lunar energy. I had stated in the beginning that I wasn’t an astrologer, and one of the questions that I took at the end was about the nodes of the Moon, which was off topic and a bit obscure for me. Thankfully, an astrologer was attending the lecture, a very learned man named Jim Schultz, who was able to answer that and a couple of other astrological questions - many thanks to him.

I also met and was introduced to Robert, the writer and owner of the “Doing Magick” blog. He was friendly and engaging, and we had some interesting conversations later on. I must admit that I was surprised at how he looked and expressed himself, all done in a down to earth and kindly manner, I guess you could say that I imagined that he would look and behave quite differently, based on the persona that I sense is projected in his writings. The reading imagination is an interesting tool when no real life imagery is supplied.

Another person that I spent a bit of time with was Ivo Dominguez Jr., who I found to be quite affable, friendly, and very humorous. Ivo is a very quiet, self disciplined and down to earth individual, but his wit and observation of human folly is quite insightful and enjoyable. Ivo is also very generous and socially accessible. I would have liked to have spent more time talking with him, but the reality of Pantheacon is unlimited distractions set within a very short time line. There were other old friends to meet and new friends to make.

One old friend that I truly enjoyed meeting again was Tony Mierzwicki and his lovely wife, Jo-Anne. Tony attended my first class and we spent some of the afternoon together getting caught up with each other. Tony is a delightful man; sensitive, highly intelligent, compassionate, and with the body of a Heracles, he presents a striking contrary image to the typical couch potato occultist. I regretfully communicated that I would miss his presentation on Monday afternoon, but as it turned out, I was able to happily attend it, and spend a good portion of the rest of the day talking with him and his wife.

Lon Milo Duquette was at the convention, of course, and I got to chat with him a few times, most notably with a well made martini in the OTO Hospitality Suite. As always, I found Lon to be eminently charming, hilariously funny, but also deeply insightful and down to earth. I picked up an autographed edition of his newest book on Low Magick, and he signed it “How Low Magick Can You Go?” I will be reading this book (and others) and will hopefully have something to relate on the comment. We both chuckled over it, and shared some other humorous observations about life in general, and occultism in particular. I bought the book a little later at the Llewellyn Author’s Presentation, which had a lot of new authors and books to examine. They also had free cake and a book raffle, but I had to leave after a short while, it was getting quite late for me. I was plagued by being two hours ahead of time in regards to my inner clock, so I found myself getting pretty sleepy by the time 11:00 pm rolled around. That would have been more like 1:00 am for me.

Saturday was the day that the del Bosco Sacro Stregan clan arrived at Pantheacon. I was very glad to meet David Griffin again, and to also meet his wife, Aegeria, and also to finally meet Dianus and Diana. Both Aegeria and Diana had been heavily afflicted with a recent bought of influenza, so that, and the long drive, slightly diminished them all with a veil of fatigue that they worked mightily to keep parted. Even despite these hardships, they were happy to be there, and that happiness was quite infectious, I must admit. They were dressed in long hooded capes and robes, and Aegeria had a drum to beat a cadence as they walked in a procession to the lecture hall. Thus, the long awaited presentation began.

The presentation of the del Bosco Sacro Stregan family was done in the style of an ethnographic interview, where Aegeria, acting as the anthropologist, asked a set of questions to Diana, which were replied by her acting spokesperson, Dianus, and translated by Lupercus (David). Questions and comments from the audience were discouraged during this presentation. This was an unusual presentation methodology, and some found it either unwarranted or unnecessary. However, I can understand why this methodology was used and I thought that was necessary, but it did place a restrictive barrier between the presenters and the audience. It made the proceedings far more formal and restrictive, and less interactive and engaging. The reason for this enforced structure was to ensure that the presentation was able to fully respond to all of the questions that were presented without detraction or disruption. It was also my understanding that the presentation was being recorded for future use. Anyway, the presentation had to be cut short due to desire of some in the audience to be able to ask questions individually, and that such a venue could not be held in the hallway after the event was completed. Aegeria’s list of questions were quite excellent, representing pretty much what everyone would have liked to have asked if they could have done so in an informal atmosphere. Afterwards, I had lunch with the whole group and was able to talk to them extensively in private, although Dianus’ command of English was limited at the present time. To communicate in any depth required David’s ever thoughtful interpretation in both directions.

Having personally met and talked and communed with Diana and Dianus, there was no question of their knowledge and abilities. They represent an authentic traditional teaching, which they were not shy to demonstrate on the following day. For a number of reasons, mostly due to fact that Diana was only recently bed ridden, the ritual event was not performed the following day. Instead, Dianus and Diana performed individual demonstrations of their techniques for a smaller and more intimate group. There were also some initiations performed, but everything was done completely on a voluntary basis, representing a very high degree of personal and spiritual integrity. I am unable to say more about this, of course, but what I saw and experienced in their company did more to eliminate any further doubts about their claims or the presentation of their knowledge. I can safely say that I am completely satisfied with what Lupercus and Aegeria are doing within the various pagan communities. All the various claims of nefarious manipulations, illegitimacy or a lack of ethical guidelines whispered by anonymous individuals can be seen for what it is, petty jealousy and spiteful judgements based on ignorance.

I must admit that I spent a lot of time with these four individuals, and got to see Diana and Dianus experience the wonders of the vender’s market place. I am certain that few Europeans would be able to see such a collection of specialized items for sale as were on display at Pantheacon. I could see the wonder in Diana’s eyes at all that she saw and got to examine in detail. That experience alone was quite a pleasurable past time for me as well as the four of them. Spending time with them meant that I didn’t get to attend as many of the workshops and lectures that I might have otherwise, but the sacrifice was well worth it. Spending time with these good friends and spiritual allies was the equivalent of attending quite a number of Pcon events.

Another interesting person that I met and had deep conversations with was Dr. Robert Word, a most pleasant fellow with a very keen intellect. Talking with him was like conversing with someone who had an almost encyclopedia like grasp of history as well as occultism. Other individuals that I met and got to talk with were Donald Frew, who was responsible for getting me deeply attached to Neoplatonism and who single handedly showed me that my intuitive spiritual perspectives and beliefs were based on the various teachings within that discipline. I also talked briefly with John Michael Greer (I promised him a drink, which I didn’t get a chance to honor), and I look forward with talking with him at the upcoming Pagancon in the Twin Cities.

I also attended the author’s panel put on by Weiser, and the theme for that panel was the republication of the book “Demon Lover” by Dion Fortune.  The author panel was supposed to have read the book and to comment on it. Although the authors presented a number of interesting and engaging perspectives about the book, little was actually said of Dion Fortune. I felt that many of the pagans who may have attended that panel would have only known Dion Fortune by her rather pagan books, such as the Sea Priestess, Moon Magic and the Goatfoot God. Demon Lover was a more obscure fictional story written by Fortune early in her career. However, Fortune’s fictional work was quite different than her non-fiction occult writings, both publically and within her spiritual order. I would have hoped that the panel would have started off with a short biographical note about who Dionne Fortune was, when she lived, died, and her overall contribution to occultism and esoteric studies. For instance, her actual name was Violet Firth, and she was much more known for her occult practices that mixed Christianity with forms of Theosophy than she was for her Golden Dawn or pagan associations. I think that Dion Fortune wouldn’t have liked to be referred to as a pagan occultist. Anyway, I was a bit disappointed by this omission, and was even asked to add some biographical detail off of the top of my head, which was kind of embarrassing, since I was hardly prepared to do so. Yet I managed to speak intelligently, although briefly, about Dion Fortune. Perhaps I may write a blog article about her in the future.

Because my flight was canceled, I got to attend Tony Mierzwicki’s presentation on Greek Religion and witness his invocation of Athena. I thought that it was an excellent lecture, facilitated with an eye-catching power point presentation and an English translation of the Orphic Hymn to Athena. I also spent some of the afternoon with Tony and Jo-Anne, walking in the lovely sunshine and proto-spring like weather outside. It was an enjoyable afternoon and evening, but the next day (Tuesday) saw few if any of the attendees left over. I had a quiet day of reflecting on what I had experienced, and some time to continue my reading of Jake Stratton Kent’s new book, volume one of Geosophia.

It was grand time of reflection, only interrupted when I had to undergo the horrifically torturous process of flying home. The only flight that I could find that was reasonable (only one stop over) traveled to Atlanta from San Jose, and then to Minneapolis. My journey was triangular, so that was kind of a bit of ironic humor. I had to endure a nearly four hour flight sitting next to an older unshaven man, with a bush hat and redneck teeth, who was traveling back to Ashville. While he wasn’t rattling the mucous in his throat, loudly snoring while sleeping, he was alternatingly coughing, sneezing or blowing his nose. He even spit some of what he was coughing up into an empty peanut bag, much to my horror and disgust. At least by the end of the flight I had discovered his middle name - it was Phlegm. Needless to say, I got no sleep on that flight, nor on the next, stuck and cramped as I was in the middle of the row. By the time I got home the following morning, I was quite tired and a bit cranky. I got over it all and settled into a pleasant sleepless reverie until my significant other came to pick me a couple of hours later.

So that was my Pantheacon experience - of course there were lots of other events and details that I have left out, but I think that I shared enough of it to give an idea of what it was like. Perhaps you might consider going there yourself someday, if you weren’t there when I was there. Anyway, time to get back to work and some more mundane things to occupy me for the nonce. There will certainly be more articles coming up, but for now, I need to do some writing and researching, punctuated with some fond memories.

Frater Barrabbas    

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