Witch at Large: Ruminations from a Grey Perspective

Seeing Paganism in terms of being a movement, explorations of our history, societal context, comparisons to other religious movements, and general Pagan culture.

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Hanging with My Peeps at PCon

This year’s PantheaCon nourished me.  I printed out a schedule ahead of time of events on the official schedule, as distinct from the many programs being offered in various suites throughout the weekend, that I wanted to be sure to attend.  I left plenty of space for serendipitous encounters.

I knew I had some responsibilities in the Pagan Scholars’ Den -- I dislike that term – for both Cherry Hill Seminary and the Pagan History Project with which I’m involved.  And I was scheduled to sit on one panel, “Tradition vs. Innovation.”  Beyond those things, I was open to see what arose.

Arrived Thursday evening in order to avoid morning commute traffic and my tendency to retire late and sleep late.  My first dip in the brew was attending a panel called “The Good, the Bad, & the Blogging,” featuring Patheos bloggers.  The varied panel gave a good cross-section bloggers on topics of interest to Pagans.  I was especially happy to make the acquaintance of one blogger whose work I admire and try to read when I can; that would be John Halstead who writes The Allergic Pagan.  Nothing to do with allergies, rather because he has a find mind and writes thought-provoking blogs

For reasons I don’t recall I missed several Friday evening offerings, including concerts by Celia Farran, Ruth Barrett, and Holly Tannen.  I’m a fan of all three women and rarely miss their local appearances.

I don’t usually attend much in the way of rituals, maybe only one to three over the course of a long weekend, meaning I missed “Hekate: Witness and Ally” and “The Rite of Grand Convergence.”  The latter interested me because it was an offering of Black Rose Witchcraft, whom I view as Craft cousins, though I must say the title of the ritual is rather grand.

I spent a good while in the Pagan Scholars suite, where Angela Pearson supplied me with Jameson’s.  I’m not much of a drinker, but I do enjoy an occasional, say annual, alcohol high.  Cole and Allie and I took a break in the parking lot, then went up to Clifford Hartleigh Low’s fantastic Green Fairy Party, where the host himself escorted me to the front of a very long line in the hallway and into the scene of festivity.

And whom should I see as soon as I entered but Erik Davis wearing a little feathered green cap and looking like Robin Hood.  Our paths had last crossed when he talked about ‘weird’ at the Brainwash Café at the same event where my grandson Ian Kappos was reading.  On the infrequent occasions when we meet, we always seem to have plenty of information to exchange, at least from my perspective.

On Saturday morning I missed Brandy Williams’ talk on “Lives of Pagan Teachers”; well, I did manage to get there for the last half hour, but it was all over and the room empty by then.

Unfortunately, the panel on “Tradition vs. Innovation” was scheduled at the same time as one on prison ministry.  I have plenty of experiences to share with regard to the latter, and would have benefitted from talking with others who are doing similar work; however, I haven’t yet mastered the skill of bilocation, so sat on the former panel.

As to “Tradition vs. Innovation,” I hope I conducted myself well and spoke with clarity and conviction.  Some of us panelists did find instances where we reflected and enriched each other’s commentary.  I found this especially heartening when it occurred with younger Pagans like Lou Florez


Went to Richard Reidy’s talk, “Ancient Magic for the Modern World – A Kemetic View” and did a spell that seems to be working.  Richard, of the Temple of Ra, always offers well-planned and informative presentations

Babalon Rising: Jack Parsons’ Witchcraft Prophecy.”  I found this talk by Erik Davis   fascinating.  Not only did he tease his threads out to include mention of W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), but even more, he cited my late friend Sequoia as a later manifestation of this current (to mix metaphors).  She would have been thrilled.  Old-time Pagans like Murtagh AnDoile, Elizabeth TigerRose, and Magenta Griffin had plenty to contribute to the follow-up discussion.  Great fun!

Gary Suto joined me for “Katabasis: Descent to the Underworld” a drag show performed by the Circle of Dionysus in the weird-vibed abandoned disco club on site.  This performance involved another spell that I think is working.  We met Erishkigal, Persephone, and even Aphrodite down there in the Underworld.  The amazing original sinnerjee filked the Village People’s “YMCA” around the theme of conversion therapy, the chorus being, “Why am I gay?”

I enjoyed plenty of party-hopping during the evening hours. 

Talked shop about working with inmates within the prison system with Christopher Penczak in the Temple of Witchcraft hospitality suite.

Met with others in the CoG suite concerning attending the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City in October.

Enjoyed socializing in the ADF suite with Sean Harbaugh and others.


Hung with authors in the Llewellyn hospitality suite, for fun conversations with Kristoffer Hughes and Sonja Sadovsky in particular.

Enjoyed hanging with Sisters Krissy Fiction, Shomie D. Goods, Hera Sees Candy, and other sisters both in and out of Sister drag.  I was delighted to find and old/new friend in Sister Lilith of the Valley of the Shadow of Death with whom I share friends and experiences from the 1980s and ‘90s.   We had a reflective talk about Raven Moonshadow at the Pagan Alliance party warmly hosted by JoHanna White

Blessed with a fine new friend, Jon Drum of ADF, whom I expect to be more involved with Cherry Hill Seminary.

On my last night there I joined hundreds for Orion Foxwood’s “The Flame in the Cauldron: The Awakened Spirit of the Witch.”  It’s been years since I’ve attended any of Orion’s presentations, mainly because they have such long lines and I cannot stand for long periods.  This year, however, I finally accepted the fact that as an older person with some physical limitations, I could go to the front of the line and enter ahead of the main crowd.  What a wonderful talk, concluded with ritual chanting!  Thus began the third spell of the weekend for me, connecting with and reviving the witch blood.

There are many other reports out here in cyberspace on the goings-on at this year’s PantheaCon that focus on the experiences of People of Color.  I did not witness any of the incidents they are talking about. 

Bear in mind, dear reader, that this annual event consists of about 10 or 12 simultaneous official  events around the clock and perhaps 2,500 attendees on ten floors.  That doesn’t count the many offerings in various suites during those same limited hours – alas! only 24 in a day. 

I had many more experiences, encountered so many other dear friends, old and new, than I can mention in one blog post.  This is my digest.

This is my personal experience – and this year was wonderful for me.

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Aline O’Brien (M. Macha NightMare), Witch at Large, has circled with people of diverse Pagan paths throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Brazil.  Author of Witchcraft and the Web (2001) and Pagan Pride (2004), and co-author, with Starhawk, of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (1997), Macha has also contributed to anthologies, periodicals, textbooks, and encyclopedias.  A member of the American Academy of Religion, the Marin Interfaith Council, and the Nature Religion Scholars Network, Macha also serves as a national interfaith representative for the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and on the Advisory Board of the Sacred Dying Foundation.  Having spent the last eleven years developing and teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary, the first and only seminary serving the Neopagan community, Macha now serves on its Board of Directors. An all-round Pagan webweaver, she speaks on behalf of Paganism to news media and academic researchers, and lectures at colleges, universities and seminaries. www.machanightmare.com


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