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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PantheaCon upon Reflection

Thursday Night thru Saturday Afternoon

To avoid the hassle of driving busy Bay Area freeways during the day, and because I’m not an early riser, I drove down to San Jose late Thursday evening.  I anticipated that this would allow me a few more leisurely visits with other early arrivers, especially those from afar, before the Con got nuts.  I was right.

I had printed out schedules of the events I was most drawn to ahead of time, together with some hospitality suite schedules and meal dates made in the previous weeks.  Over the years I’ve relaxed my schedule by not applying to do a presentation of any kind, rather only sitting on panels now and then when asked, or performing a ritual role when invited to do so.  I try to get to the most appealing presentations, but some of them are too crowded.  I know that some of them I can see at other venues.  If I happen to get involved in a compelling discussion or a tête-à-tête and miss something I wanted to attend, I can follow where I’m drawn, or I can break away if I absolutely have to be somewhere.  This year I played it loose.

Since our room reservation began on Friday night, Jeffrey and I stayed in a room with Angela and Merry.  They’re always fun and we laughed plenty.

On Friday morning Brandy Williams, Ted Gill and I enjoyed a long overdue catch-up.  Brandy gave me some clarity and encouragement about a writing project; I’ve been working on it this week. 

I attended the CoG meet & greet in the CoG/NROOGD/NWC suite in the afternoon, thus fulfilling my NCLC-CoG annual attendance requirement (not that that will be the only Local Council meeting I attend this year).  Pleasant, no drama, how nice!

As the first programs were being offered, I was considering one called “The Ephesia Grammata” given by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, mainly because I’d been following, and only mildly engaged but very interested in, the feedback on “Don Frew on saving Pagan lives, ‘Wiccan privilege’ and interfaith” at Gus diZerega’s Pointedly Pagan blog at Patheos, I was planning to join a gathering to discuss matters therein face-to-face in the CoG suite later in the weekend, and thought I might take this opportunity to learn more.  More about that below.

“A Thousand Ways: Exploring Devotional Ritual Models,” by Silence Maestas was in the same time slot.  Considering what I’ve been working on (“Cultivating Bhakti”), that subject tipped the balance and that’s where I went.  Her delivery was clear, if a bit rushed for having so much ground to cover in a 90-minute session and still allowing a little time for Q&A.  I took notes and gained some different perspectives.  It was well worth my time.

Five programs interested me in the late afternoon time slot, including Richard Reidy’s and Brandy’s.  However, as a goddess-oriented Feminist Witch in service to the all-male Wiccan circle I visit in San Quentin, I’ve become more aware of wanting to seek worthy models and views of male deities.  So I arrived a bit late for Jason Mankey’s talk “Finding the God: Male Archetypes of Deity in the Craft.”  I was disappointed.

I must have been doing other things when Gus diZerega introduced his new book, Fault Lines: The Sixties, the Culture Wars, and the Return of the Divine Feminine.  I’ve been reading parts of earlier iterations of this work, and, having lived a life that fits into the title, I’m eager to read it.  I bought a copy from Gus later in the weekend.

In something of a blur of meals, socializing, and visiting hospitality suites, I arrived late for Holly Tannen’s and Ruth Barrett’s concert.  This is one performance I try always to see.  I recommend it to newer attendees and others unfamiliar with their work.  Luckily I’d chatted with Holly earlier, and had a fine visit with Ruth and Falcon the next day.

I’m happy to report the return of Clifford Hartleigh Low‘s Green Fairy Party, consistently one of the best parties ever.  Had a great chat with joi wolfwomyn out on the balcony and another with holy man origynal sinnerjee a bit later.  Friday turned out to be my biggest party night.

Saturday morning, what a conundrum!  Nine presentations I wanted to attend, including the panel on sacrifice, which later heard was outstanding; one on memory; one on “Rethinking Community for the Solitary Pagan”[1]; and Sabina Magliocco’s on animal spirits.[2]

My sweetie Corby was coming down for the day especially to attend the Turning Earth Singers’ workshop.  He is joining that group, and they are lucky!  He has sound musical training and a beautiful, strong baritone.  However, he got lost and phoned me in frustration.  When he finally arrived, that event was over; meanwhile, I missed all of them.

We passed on “Hekate in Turkey” with Don Frew and Anna Korn, because we’ve seen much of it and can see it another time. Also passed on Orion Foxwood’s talk because it’s my policy to avoid standing in lines whenever possible and I’m not comfortable in overcrowded spaces.  I’ll see him In March anyway when we’re both presenting at the Sacred Space Conference.  Instead, we went to Sam Webster’s “Tantric Invocation of Hermes.”  We both like Hermes a lot, and we’ve worked with Sam and his late wife Tara on Hermes and Hekate New Moon devotionals in the past, so we expected it to be time well spent.

Again, the “Wiccan circle” at San Quentin hungers for more about the gods, Thoth/Hermes/Mercury in particular.  I think I can bring them Sam’s detailed handout in order for them to learn that process.  Of course, I’ll check with Sam for permission first, but since he’s an open source kind of fellow, I think he’ll be amenable.

Saturday afternoon I was interested in Timotha Doane’s and Kristen Olivers’s “Hekate: Witness and Ally, and Jeffrey Albaugh’s on working with folktale. I couldn’t bring myself to a presentation on privilege that claims to have a “Kick-Ass Panel.”  I knew I’d hear plenty about it later anyway, because I’d planned to go to the discussion in the CoG suite about “Wiccanate privilege” in interfaith.  We ended up hanging out, wandered the vendors’ room, and chatted with various friends.

After dinner Corby went home.  By then it was too late to get into Chrisopher Penczak’s “The Sabbat of the Mighty Dead,” which interested me because of my own understanding of, relationships with, and experiences of what I call the Mighty Dead.  I know others hold different concepts about the meaning of that term.  Not only am I interested in all of them, but I also like to take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the rituals of others who have different styles of performing.

Saturday night onward in subsequent blog.

[1]   I do not currently have a single magical working group to which I belong, although I’ve never been a solitary in the sense of practicing alone.  I’ve always preferred to meet with others.  I still do mainly work with others, only as a guest or for a special ritual of one kind or another.  Rather than calling myself a by the inaccurate term solitary, I tend to refer to myself as a floater.

[2]   Sabina’s presentations are always deep, rich, and fascinating.  Also crowded, which means I sometimes pass because I can see her elsewhere.

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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


  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Wednesday, 05 March 2014

    I'm sorry I missed Sabina's presentation. I've been a fan of her "Witching Culture" for some time. I chose a different event at that hour (difficult choice).

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