Someone asked me today why we still go to this convention, given all the posturing and posing that goes on there. I thought about that. This is my answer:
* PantheaCon is put on by the Pagan community for the community. Hundreds of good, otherwise busy and very talented people work very, very hard to make this convention happen and they do a pretty darn good job of it, overall. (The logistics alone are frankly boggling, and my witches' hat is off to them for organizing this event and keeping us all safe in the process). I believe we should support events like that.
* Yes, we do meet a wide variety of Pagan types, there, and some of them are creepy or anonying, but I go in order to find the "Ordinary Pagans"; the ones with some common sense. Every year, I'm glad I went because I've meet some great people I might not have met otherwise.
* Some of the rituals, drumming circles and dances are great. Our people put a lot of work, imagination and love into creating these events and PantheaCon is a lot of fun. One has to be willing to find that fun, but it's worth it when you do. (1)
* We get the latest gossip. Granted, they no longer have as many Problem Children there as they once did, but many of that sort still come. Given what we do, we need to know who these are. For us as individuals the Pagan festivals and conventions are where we find True Tribe. For those of us who are organizers, these events are where we go in order learn just who we want to avoid. (2)
PantheaCon now takes place in Silicon Valley and the people who come need to be able to do real world things (like plan ahead) in order to get there. As a result, we meet a few more professional Pagans every year, along with Pagan parents (and some great Pagan kids), Pagans-with-jobs-and-life-skills, (Yes, Virginia, they do exist) and those brave, funny, good-in-a-pinch Pagans who are in recovery. These are great people and the very sort we're looking for. More of this kind of Pagan attend every year, which makes for a nice change.
* I get to take some interesting and well run workshops. To be honest, I'm not thrilled with the Program these days but I still find one or two things worth attending. My Inner Critic has just reminded me that I live in a glass house
* I network like mad at this things, as do the other Full Circle staff. We give the newcomers contact information for our Networking Coordinator and various staff as well as links to our FCE Calendar and Newsletter so that they can find other people with sense, and avoid the loonies. We all know how lonely it can be out there, especially for the Solitaries. New people tend to come into Paganism all wide eyed and hopeful and they can quickly be disheartened. By offering guidance to good sites, books, groups and teachers, we can give them some support along their path.
* I get to see all the new books at the book stalls and talk to the Book Sellers. The Book Sellers in their turn, make some very good money from me, so it's a win/win.
* I see friends there who I don't get to see at other times. It took me 15 years to find some of these Pagan friends, and I cherish them for their wit and wisdom. This is one reason why I feel for the newcomers, who, if they are healthy, are just beginning to wonder "Is there anyone here I can relate to?"
* I've been Vending there since '96, and I enjoy it. Pagan Vendors are a great group, overall. They see the best and the worst of our people (which makes them more clear eyed than most), they work hard, they know how to laugh, and they appreciate Pagan culture. The ones who are good with money (and not all of them are) understand prosperity in very real world terms. If working in retail teaches us anything, it is that markets can change overnight, and those of us who make a living (or even a side living) this way understand the nature of gratitude and true abundance. Also, the traveling Vendors experience Pagan groups inside and outside the state in ways that I do not and I learn a lot from talking to them. Furthermore, my business partner Magpy and I use this venue to offer some great close out sales and some unusual finds to our folks. This makes people happy and clears out the inventory at the store. (3)
The Vendor room is run on a professional level by Thalassa (Blessed be her name) and her sexy, efficient, experienced crew, so it's an easy gig among my own people.
* My booth is always next to the booth owned by my buddy Anne Hill at Serpentine Music. What can I saw about Anne? She is just the best gal I know. She's a devoted and excellent mom, a savvy business woman and a practical, ethical Witch. She is also creative, empowered, funny and compassionate. Anne is the co-author of Circle Round and Sing, and the founder of the Gnosis Cafe Dream Studio, and she writes the most wonderful Blog.
I'm a practical Witch so, for me, it's the best of all worlds.
The only thing that will get in the way this year, will be the house hunt. We are moving out of state in two months. If things get hairy - or I have to suddenly go out of town - I might have to cancel the workshop.
(1) After years of requests, pleading and begging from their supporters the PantheaCon crew has finally:
a. Put the damn program on-line and
b. Offered it to us in a timely manner.
In the old days, no one knew what the program was until they got there, which made it very hard on people who could only attend for one day, and who wanted to know what classes and rituals were being offered in advance so that they could choose which day to go. When the organizers finally got the Program online, they would wait till the very last minute to post it, which made it hard on those of us who were trying to give them a hand and promote the bloody thing. After all, why should people be excited about a convention if they don't know what's going on?
Well, they have it on-line, now, but it's a bugger to read. Why is it that in all of Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, they can't seem to find people who know how to build a user friendly website?
The offerings this year look a bit better. We'll see. I could wish they would add more flavor to the program, though. The scholarship they once offered in past years has gone way down. They do seem to try to find new voices, but it's too much of the same old stuff. At latest they aren't as sex obsessed as they have been in past years.
Sadly, the organizers really suck at advertising this thing. They don't even bother with with free advertising that's available to them in print or on-line. I'm the one who had to post it at The Witches Voice, which is something I did for them months ago. Come on people! It's not hard to use things like Craig's List or get listed in the calendar section of The Wave. (I swear some of these folks are still hiding as if it were the old days...)
I'm not sure what sort of outreach they really do to try and bring in new teachers, authors and workshop leaders. It still feels very "clique-ish", old guard, hippy-dippy and clannish, overall. This has been a constant complaint for the last ten years, but that is changing bit by bit. If they really want to grow this thing (and I believe that they are actually very ambivalent about that) and support people new to Paganism (of which there are many) then they need to get out of their well meaning rut and do the work.
(2) To be fair: Every convention attracts loonies of one sort or another. I go to WorldCon every year, which has plenty of loonies sprinkled among the Fen, and I've met almost as many at business and technology conventions. Wearing a suit doesn't make you sane.
(3) We closed our retail store in 2004 when my Dad got sic so we could be there for him. I left it closed after he died, as we were busy helping out my mother. I haven't decided if we will re-open it or not.