So it begins. My Facebook feed has officially become at PantheaCon feed, interrupted only by an occasional Bernie - Hillary banter. Today l join a couple thousand folks at one of the most well known and diverse Pagan festivals.

I arrived a day early and already ran into more old and new friends than I can count. But it wasn't always like that. PantheaCon was my first large Pagan event and I went by myself, knowing hardly anything about the convention. In retrospect, here's a few things I'd do differently (or not), if I were a new Pagan coming to PantheaCon.

1. Follow the 2-6-1 rule

I didn't know about this 2-6-1 rule, but it is time honored wisdom. Follow this 2-6-1 rule, because self-care is sexy: Eat at least two meals, sleep at least six hours, and take at least one shower each day. Or was it one meal, six showers, and two hours of sleep?


2. Give yourself permission to miss events

Once you read through the schedule, you'll long for a time turner. More often than not there are three awesome things scheduled at the same time. You won't be able to go to them all, but that's OK.

My first year I tried to do everything and later wished I hadn't. So much happened in between sessions. So many wonderful conversations developed while waiting in line for a workshop. Looking back, most of my memories are from encounters outside of scheduled events. Don't get me wrong, the workshops, rituals, and concerts are amazing and people are putting an incredible amount of work into them. However, if magic happens outside of your scheduled events, as it almost inevitably will, make room for it. It just might change your life, as it has mine.

3. Make time for music

PantheaCon is not a music festival so it is easy to dismiss the concerts embedded in the schedule. I did so my first time. It was all rituals, workshops, and panels for me. But when I finally wandered into a concert, I felt space open up inside of me. I let me body dance and my mind wander and noticed how I hadn't given myself time to process and integrate anything I had learned.

This year I am making time for concerts. Sharon Knight and Winter are playing songs from the brand new album Portals which many of us supported on IndieGoGo. I'm looking forward to taking this time to sit back and listen.

4. Take notes

That amazing thing you just learned and will remember forever - it'll be gone by Tuesday. Just because something seems like an unforgettable moment on Friday, it doesn't mean you'll be able to recall it come Monday or Tuesday. Take notes frequently. I really wish I had kept a journal my first year. There were endless "aha" moments that had all faded by the time I tried to write them down. What I wouldn't give to have a better record of my first year...


5. Browse hospitality suites

When I first came to PantheaCon, I did not yet follow a path or tradition. I was drawn to Witchcraft, but also liked Druidry, Heathen lore, and didn't know what else might be out there. I knew I wanted to be under the Pagan umbrella, but I had no idea where I'd end up. So I browsed the hospitality suites. I learned from the brochures and conversations, but more than anything I picked up on the energy in each suite. Some felt "off" to me while others felt a lot like home.

Now, a few years later, I would tell my younger self to trust her intuition. The suites that seemed "off" sometimes had appealing literature and events, but my first impression was right. Those paths were not a good fit for me. The ones that felt like home almost all became a part of my wider community, even if I am not studying in their particular paths. This is the beauty of pluralism, you do get to choose what fits best for you, and I can't think of any better place to sample Pagan paths than PantheaCon.

6. Eat good food

Eating at least two meals per day is in the 2-6-1 rule, but I would add the importance of eating nutritious food. And that's not necessarily easy to come by, if you're a foodie and a health nut, like yours truly. Nowadays I bring my own food. At the very least, have healthy snacks around.

Also, don't eat at every single hospitality suite. You'll get food poisoning. Well, factually speaking, chances are you won't, but that's what happened to me my first year. I thought sampling hospitality suites must also include sampling the snacks in every single suite. Some paths shouldn't be mixed. Apparently some hospitality suite snacks shouldn't either.

If you're looking for good hospitality snacks, I'd recommend the Reclaiming suite. Full disclosure: I do so as an act of shameless self promotion. I volunteered to buy and prepare snacks that live up to my foodie standards. Yumm!


7. Go for a walk or a swim

No matter how grounded you think you are, you're probably more under the influence of PantheaCon magic than you think. I was flying so high my first year, I didn't know where up and down was (as above, so below, so what does it matter, right?). Last year I started to go on little walks and swim in the pool and I felt so much better. This year regular walks are built into the program, since I didn't get a room at the Double Tree. If you can, get out of the hotel (or into the water) at least once every day.


8. Visit the vendor room

The vendor room is one of my favorite places at PantheaCon. It's always buzzing with activity and you'll run into people you have just met, again and again. Many of the vendors are deeply connected with the wider Pagan community and you can learn a lot from chatting with them. If you have the extra cash to spend, bring it, it's worth it. I went for broke my first year, but didn't regret it. That amazing sweater I bought from Practical Rabbit - I've worn it almost every day for four years. It' is finally starting to come apart and I can't wait to replace it and then some. I'm happy to know that the money I spend is staying in the community and supporting my values - and friends. 

9. Look for PantheaCon posts afterwards

In some ways the four days at the Double Tree Hotel are really the beginning of PantheaCon. Controversies arise, difficult questions are asked, new ideas are discussed at the convention, and it doesn't end there. It continues on the blogosphere, on social media, on Pagan news channels. PantheaCon stirs the cauldron of a diverse crowd that gathers under the umbrella term "Pagan".

There was much I didn't understand my first year. References to past events, phrases I had never heard, tensions that made no sense to me. In the weeks and months after PantheaCon, however, I got to know the Pagan community through online reading. If it all seems overwhelming now, don't panic. There will be plenty of blog posts, podcasts, and online discussions untangling another year's PantheaCon.


10. Enjoy the moment

Above all, stay safe and enjoy your first PantheaCon. There's nothing else quite like it. You're here, and you get to be a part of this colorful, crazy bunch. Take a look around. Skip a workshop and just sit across the cafe to watch people.

One of my favorite first year memories is of the druid procession. I was proudly waving the little flag I had just made and marching through the hallways of the hotel, lost in the drumming and chanting. When we walked past the front doors, a group of very "normal" looking people walked in and stopped dead, staring at us. Jaws dropped. Literally. I stared right back and laughed. We really must have been a spectacle. And I got to be a part of it.

"Yeah, check me out, I'm with these weirdos now!" I wanted to shout. Nowadays PantheaCon feels more like a family reunion, and I love that. But there's nothing like that first moment when you realize you've joined a magical crowd. Look around, take it in, and let yourself enjoy the moment.