PantheaCon 2017: Class Reviews

Ninety percent of my PantheaCon time was spent taking classes (with one ritual and concert thrown in for good measure), so I thought I’d do a review of the ones I attended. Now, if you’re familiar with PantheaCon, you know that this is just a fraction of all that’s on offer, and the program changes every year. So your mileage will definitely vary.

I also have to say that I got something out of every class I attended, and most were very well-presented. The ones I didn’t find as useful or engaging tended to come down to the presenter’s presentation skills: either not being prepared, not having the timing down or letting audience participation get away from them…

That said, here’s the scoop on those I took

Altars for Devotion and Practice
Phoenix LeFae
A
A good class to start the weekend with, Phoenix balanced a talk about the practicalities of altar and shrine building with a hands on activity: creating our own travel altar. Phoenix is a very personable presenter, and she comes from the hoodoo tradition, so her approach was both pretty and practical. She explained the differences between altars (a temporary space for working) and shrines (permanent), and gave a lot of really useful tips for creating our own sacred spaces. Then she gave us each a small tin box and let us loose with craft materials to make our own traveling altar to keep with us during the con. I would definitely take another of Phoenix’ classes.

Honoring Spirits of Place and the Home
Morgan Daimler
B
This was the class that triggered a complete change in my focus for the con, and many of the classes I took later were because of this one. Morgan went into great detail about land spirits: what they are, how to make offerings to them, what to do if they’re angry, etc. I was pretty wrapped up in the idea. Sadly, she had a little bit of trouble managing her time, so the house spirits part of the class was rushed and I had really been looking forward to that part. But still, it was a pretty powerful class for me and I’m very glad I attended.

Working with Water Spirits
Annwyn Avalon

A
I hadn’t intended to take this class (see above), but I’m so glad I did. Annwyn is a water witch with a great depth (see what I did there?) of knowledge in this area. This was a very thorough overview of the types of spirits (mermaids, faery women, kelpies, etc.), ways to work with the spirits, etc. I think if someone were more skilled in water witchcraft, they might feel this was a high-level overview, but I found it very useful.

Tarotpalooza
Thalassa

A
I’ve heard about Thalassa (she’s very well-known in tarot circles) but have never attended one of her workshops. If you are at all interested in the Tarot, and you get a chance to hear her talk, go. Just go. Yes, it was a very interesting and engaging talk about the tarot: the history and meaning behind it, and why it works as well as it does. But Thalassa is a true character: truly funny and charming and real. Great way to spend 90 minutes.

Introducing Runes into Your Practice
Dave Schulz

B-
This was really more of a Runes 101 class than about working runes into your own practice. It also seemed a tad disorganized (I think the crowd was much bigger than Dave expected). I think since I already knew the basics, it actually helped me and I found it a good refresher course.

A Concert with Lon Milo Duquette
Lon Duquette

A
I was convinced to attend this and really enjoyed it. Lon is a true talent, really funny and folksy.

Geomantic Dowsing: Mapping the Earth’s Energies
Adam Sartwell
A+
This was absolutely the best class I attended, hands down. Adam gave so much information on dowsing, Ley lines and how to map the energies of the earth that I spent almost an hour just transcribing the notes. Adam is also a very personable, comfortable presenter. Very, very good class.

Connecting with Your Urban Spirit
Diana Rajchel
C-
I was pretty disappointed by this class, because it was really taken over by the audience, who started playing “Let me show you how much I know” and dragging the presenter off topic. I think it didn’t help that Diana was ill. I ended up leaving 20 minutes early. I did feel, when I transcribed my notes, that I got more out of it than I thought, but I felt like Diana had much more to teach us, so that was disappointing. She is writing a book about Urban Magic, so I’m hoping that will have more of the meat I missed here.

Oracular Seidh
Seidhjaller
A
I wrote about my experience here earlier, so I won’t go into that again. But as an event, this one is top notch. The ambience with the chair and the veiled seeress is powerful, the singing and chanting is primal, and the warders who watch over the crowd are the very best. It can be very emotional and powerful, which is a double edged sword, but as an oracle, this is a unique opportunity.

PantheaCon 2017 Overview

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After a rough year, I decided it was time to press the reset button on my spiritual life.

What better place to do that than one of the largest pagan gatherings in America: PantheaCon, held annually on President’s Day weekend in San Jose, California.

Despite arriving before the opening ritual on Friday and staying through Sunday evening, there was not enough time to take every class, participate in every ritual and see everyone I wanted to. Still, I took some amazing classes, met up with old friends, rebuilt some old bridges, bought some beautiful handmade witchy crafts from pagan vendors, got a great tarot reading, and made at least one new friend.

The two big experiences of the weekend:

I was given a new spiritual direction.
For weeks, I pored over the PantheaCon program to decide exactly the classes I wanted to take. I built a detailed schedule of panels (a mix of home witchcraft, shamanism and divination) that promptly went out the window on Day One, when I realized I am being led to work with land and elemental spirits.

I ended up taking classes on land and house spirits, mapping earth energies, working with water spirits and doing urban magic. I took a few other classes, but this was definitely the “theme” of the weekend and it has opened up entirely new paths on my spiritual journey.

I had a rough ritual experience.
Every year, the Asatru/Heathen group Seidhjaller (associated with Hrafnar Kindred in California) performs Oracular Seidh at PantheaCon. I’m not the best person to educate on seidh (pronounced, approximately, “say-th“), but it is essentially a form of group oracle where the entire room goes on a shamanic journey with a single seeress, who then answers questions for the group. 

I’ve been involved in Heathenry and worked with Hrafnar in the past (though I no longer truly consider that my path), so I was very familiar with the ritual, songs sung, etc. I hadn’t planned to go, but did so at the last minute. I was, surprisingly, the first called to ask a question.

I explained I’d been fighting cancer for a year, and asked for any advice. The seeress gave me advice about listening to my doctors and not well meaning friends and then asked if I had more questions. I said no and thank you (the cue to the seeress that the question is over), and the priestess running the event called on the next person. Suddenly, the seeress gestured to me and said:

“Oh, by the way, it will spread, but not bad and they’ll get it the second time.”

I wasn’t prepared for it, so it caught me off guard and frankly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I sat there silently sobbing for the rest of the event (about an hour), and needed a lot of time to ground and refocus before I was fit to leave. (I did have help from the group’s warders, including one who brushed off an opportunistic spirit that had attached to me.)

It was so upsetting because, though it sounds like good news in the end, spread would still be an awful thing to deal with and cancer treatment is, to be frank, barbaric. Hearing I’d have to go through it again, was…

Yeah.

Now, I need to be clear about a few things. First, and most importantly, I may have misheard this, and I have friends who are double checking to independently verify that I heard what I did. But I have to assume I did, so here are two things to keep in mind.

1.) The seeress was led to say what she was led to say. The delivery wasn’t great, to be totally honest, because I thought the question was over and was not prepared to hear that. But the message is the message. That’s not the seeress’ fault.

2.) This isn’t some crazy notion. The chances of my type of cancer spreading or returning are, sadly, very high. And my type of cancer does spread in very specific ways and to very specific organs. Some of those types of spread are, indeed, way easier than others to treat, and many people do have to go through two treatments, and then are cured and live long, happy lives.

So this message is not different from what I have heard from my doctors and what I know about my type of cancer.

Overall, I’m really grateful I attended PantheaCon. I received new spiritual guidance, got a difficult but needed message and really feel like I’m starting fresh on this path. If you ever have the chance to attend, do it!

I’ll be giving more detailed reviews of classes and other experiences soon.