In my Prologue I discussed the first few days of my trip back to California — the first since my epic move away in the late Summer — and the community engagements and hospitalities and personal struggles encountered therein. Now I’ll move into the meaty bits of the Con itself, which may be a distracted bit of writing as I am presently dodging a downpour of rain and stealing high-speed wifi in a Southern New Hampshire shopping mall, which has somehow placed me amidst an alarmingly large group of presumably Australian high-school students all wearing creepy green hoodies denoting their presence here as some sort of ski-trip-team. Except that they’re all buying creepy amounts of clothing and perfumes instead of, you know, skiing. Maybe they don’t know what skiing is in Australia? Anyway, there are twenty or twenty five of them sitting in arm’s reach of me right now (these couches were empty when I sat down) and there is simply not enough whiskey in my flask to handle this. However, on principle, I will not be moved to abandon my fucking couch in the face of even these unspeakable odds. I will stay, seated, drinking, writing, Tippy-tappy.
So anyway. PantheaCon. Friday morning was a mad-rush of assembling stuff for the conference at the home of two dear friends, with ritual items and mundane items and food items and tons of liquor items (and some fresh meaty offerings to be fed lovingly to the wilderness en route) piled in around us in the vehicle. We had time to eat some meaty cow flesh on the way down, which I certainly partook of, but in honesty I was still a bit raw from some of the things that had come up for me the day before, and was finding it challenging to et my feet beneath me as we drove and eventually arrived at the Double Tree. It was certainly one of those “there is not enough coffee in all the world for today” sort of days, which I resolved promptly by consuming dangerous levels of caffeine and then an even more amazing amount of liquor, which served to suitably assist my feeling arrived and grounded. I began my day with a fresh bottle of Barbancourt 8-year, flasked for easy carry, and found my way into the company of a dear friend until the chaos of bag-stowing and room-finding needed to be addressed.
My first panel to attend was PSVL’s talk on the Ephesia Grammata at 1:30, which is a thing I knew very little about beforehand (which is sort of folly on my part, but this is why one knows PSVL!) and I was very excited to dive in, though wound up being a little late in getting into the presentation. And then, just as I was settling, I was summoned away via vibrating text to tend to some logistics with ritual particulars for later in the weekend, and needed to excuse myself…
Which began an awkward few hours for me. The ritual logistics were squared away and several particularly noteworthy boxes of “things and stuff” were left in a room out of the way. I met back up with my friend, and we fetched some lunch and headed poolside for what I was told would be the Ekklesia Antinoou‘s 3:30 Sanctification rites for Rev. Eddy Hyperion Gutiérrez of the Unnamed Path and Olivia Robertson of the Fellowship of Isis, both of whom left this world in a much better state than they entered it, earlier this year. The rites would be the formal process through which each was made an elevated Sanctus in the Ekklesia‘s tradition. On arrival I saw some familiar faces, and many I did not know but which bore the familiar expressions worn when grieving one truly loved by so many. We arrived early, socialized with some beloved friends and allies, and then… time went on. And the ritual leader from the Ekklesia did not arrive. Concern began to grow; this was not a figure known for shirking responsibility or being late to anything. Phone calls were made, texts were sent; all unanswered. My concern grew to genuine, deep worry; there were grieving family members awaiting a major ritual at the pool, and nobody involved in the ritual was present. And so, being me, I went on a search… for just under two hours, scouring the hotel, consulting Programming, Con Ops, on-sight medical staff and security to ensure that there hadn’t been any health issues or accidents. Searched and searched and searched and then.. finally… found somebody else from the Ekklesia.
It turns out that the ritual was at 5:20, not 3:30, and nobody really seemed to know where the miscommunication was. I was tired. I was relieved when I finally heard from the “not-quite-missing” ritual leader, and attended that rite… which was a blessed one. No, it was more than that. Much more.
There is a thing that I think gets missed sometimes in modern Polytheisms and Paganisms and otherwise spirit-traditions and religions overall; the living side of them. We speak of things too frequently in either the past-tense, or with a vein of “hypothetical” secular removal, even when engaging with wholly non-secular topics. We tend to treat religious events (outside of the “specifically personal”) of note and “lore” as being a thing that happened in some distant past, never to be repeated. Things that come up for us today in our ritual lives or our sacred devotions or with chance encounters with the divinities that guide our worlds, we tend to either dismiss as coincidence or only make sacred space for in the individualistic, “personal revelation” sense. Well fuck that. Fuck “personal revelation”, at least for the moment. What happened poolside at 5:20pm on the first day of PantheaCon was not about “personal revelation”, nor was it some dressed-up ceremonial theater to make the present humans feel good — or feel anything — because it wasn’t about us. It was about the making of two fucking gods-blessed saints. This is not a memorial or remembrance, or an abstract elevation; this is a permanent and causally significant rite that has etched itself into the fabric of all that is for all the time that will ever be, and these two blessed humans will live on not only in the ways that all of us do, but as members of the Sancti, who will be called upon by a living religious and ritual tradition as elevate guides, guardians, and divinely risen agents for as long as there is breath to speak the words and, I suspect, well afterward.
There is nothing past-tense about religion or spiritual tradition, about living or about dying. Orion Foxwood describes the engagement with the ancestors and the blessed dead as, at its foundation, a basic acknowledgement of the “continuity of being” that we are all a part of; and yet so many times when rituals or sacred tellings or divine happenings are discussed or engaged it is with this modernist secular step-back that “others” the whole thing as being somehow separate from us, as if the literal engagement with living spirit tradition might somehow infect us.
Well, you know what?
I fucking hope it does. Because what happened at that poolside on Friday evening? That was nothing shy of miraculous; the gods and the spirits and the Orisa and beings I could not begin to name were present, were singing, were dancing, were watching from the ledges above us and the literal second that the energies raised through prayer and chant and invocation had fully amassed around us and the Ekklesia Antinoou‘s formal Latin prayers were completed, a fucking legion of winged messengers burst from the hotel’s roof and carried all that had been done up to the heavens. I counted them, just as they counted us, and my eyes flooded and I smiled and I thought to myself: okay, I’m sort of glad to be here. Because, fuck.
And herein ends Post-PantheaCon THE FIRST. Stay tuned for THE SECOND, wherein Friday evening will be addressed and lead into Saturday.