My, oh my, I’ve been a procrastinating little mystic. Roughly three to four months behind my writing schedule. I simply loathe backdating because it’s misleading and presents the writer in a faux light of “look how super duper organized I am!” If one backdates by a few days or a week, that’s understandable. But I will not place this post back in February to give the illusion I originally wrote it in February. Or backdate to “hide” it. That would be a lie.
I’m late on writing this entry. That’s a fact I own.
PantheaCon was a remarkable experience for me in so many colourful shades. To be honest, I do not recall exactly how it came to be I decided to attend my first PantheaCon. I believe it might have been as simple as being asked to go with some of my good friends back in February 2010, just after they returned from the con. Innowen, The Blue Muse, mentioned how amazing it was and that she would be returning. She also said she would present a tarot class idea to the organizers and see if she could get approved to lead a workshop at PantheaCon 2011. Then I was asked if I wanted to go.
Why the hell not? I had the funds. As soon as the organizers made the announcement that rooms were ready to be reserved for 2011, I jumped at the chance. But I wasn’t fast enough. Within two days all the rooms were completely booked at the hotel. So I opted for a room at one of the nearby hotels within walking distance to the Con. After that, all we could do was wait a year for the Con to roll around again.
In that time of waiting, Innowen received the awesome news her workshop got approved. We also acquired two more friends who would be joining / bunking with us as their room reservation got inadvertently cancelled.
As February 2011 started peeking around the corner, our excitement started to percolate. When I originally made the reservations and bought my Con ticket, I was unemployed, figuring I would have the time to attend. Well, things changed and I became gainfully employed with a very cool company. The company had no issues in me taking the time off to travel to California for a Con. Granted, it would be time off without compensation because as Murphy’s Law would have it, PantheaCon occurred one week before I was eligible for vacation days.
That didn’t stop me. I worked over-over time a few weeks prior to make up for the inevitable ding that would occur in that period’s paycheck.
I rang in 2011. Within a blink, it was suddenly February. Within an exhale, I was driving to Innowen’s house Thursday evening so we could have a mini-slumber party. On the way to her place, the moon decided to blush.
Friday morning around 5:00am Innowen and I carpooled to Tay’s so we could all hop in one car and get on the road. *starts humming “On the Road Again”*
We were all buzzing in the car on the drive down. Mostly from caffeine, but also from the fact we were going to be at one of the largest pagan conventions in the country. Mingling and talking with thousands of other Pagans, Wiccans, Ceremonial Magicians, Shamans, Witches, Mystics, Writers, Dancers, Musicians, and those that live comfortably without a label or with several. Along our journey, there were many sights to behold.
I did get a small bought of car sickness. Nothing major. I was just stupid. No breakfast, coffee only, and sitting in the backseat made for a very gurgly Ember. Fortunately a quick stop at Burger King is just what I needed. After two bites I could feel myself returning to normal.
Eleven hours later we arrived. First thing first, we checked into our hotel which ended up being not as bad we originally thought. It was roughly a two block walk from the Con, free wi-fi, free parking (Good grief, the Con hotel charges $8/day for parking even if you are staying there. Gotta love California.), it was less expensive, and it was clean. Two queen sized beds allowed all four of us to sleep comfortably.
Next goal, get our Con info. Once I checked in, I received my badge which was the only proof of purchase for PantheaCon. You lose the badge, you’re screwed. Well, okay, not screwed, but you’d have to pay for another registration to get a new badge. Also, thanks to Innowen, I learned that one of the fun traditions of the Con was to collect ribbons to fasten to your badge. I noticed mine came with the first one which was black with prismatic lettering stating PANTHEACON MEMBER. A volunteer asked if this was my first. Yes. Thoughts of Con hazing ala “Rocky Horror Picture Show Virgin” flooded through my mind. Nope. What they gave me was a pink ribbon with the words “Blessed Be” and that was it.
For the rest of the weekend, Innowen and I tried to secure as many ribbons we could possibly get our paws on: after workshops, in the hospitality suites, and some simply being handed to us (one VERY YUMMY security guard in a utilikilt gave me a “Badass Witch” ribbon). A few attendees were a tad over-enthusiastic with the Ribbons of Aquirement and had them so long they wore them as sashes. I stopped mine when it hit my knee.
Because it was Friday evening and because the hour was quite late, I opted not to attend any workshops. Instead I strolled around, had dinner with Tay and Kat, met some folks, and then collapsed into bed around 10pm. I don’t care what you say, even if you’re not the one driving the 11 hour trip, it’s still exhausting.
My first official day at PantheaCon and my redheaded self was in a whirl as to where to go (let alone what to wear!). Before going to bed, I did circle in the program 2-3 events I wished to attend in every time slot; in case the one I really wanted to go to was packed or cancelled, I had a Plan B and a Plan C.
First stop: Haitian Vodou Ceremony
I was unsure when I would get this opportunity again; the opportunity to witness a legitimate Haitian Vodou ceremony. I am always curious and fascinated how other religions, spiritualities, pantheons celebrate the Divine. I believe it is one amazing cauldron one can stir and be inspired by. This was no different. Out of respect for the Vodouan practitioners and believers, I followed their rules by taking a shower the night before and donning white clothes. Unfortunately, there was a disclaimer in the program than any woman on her cycle or any person having an open wound could not participate in the ritual itself; however, they were more than welcome to stay and be in the audience.
As I recently had a birthmark removed and the open wound was still healing, I opted to be a witness.
Everyone there was very kind, very open. I chatted with practitioners and asked questions. They were more than happy to share and I felt very much at ease.
I will not go into details of the ceremony itself out of respect for the Divine, but I will say I loved how they explained the history of Haitian Vodou and how it’s adapted over the years from different cities. I also learned the reason for the cleanliness and no bleeding wasn’t necessarily a Vodou aspect, but because the deity they were invoking finds blood and filth unseemly as he was an Orisha / Lua of the earth.
There was dancing and chanting. A lot of dancing and chanting. While the priestess swayed in rhythm before the altar, I noticed when her footing stuttered slightly. Her head started to lop to the side like a rag doll’s and she gently pinched the bridge of her nose as if her eyes were becoming unfocused.
I knew exactly what was going to happen next. The signs were familiar to me. She was drawing in the god.
Seconds later, she did just that by collapsing onto the floor as her attendees wrapped her body in a white sheet and covered her eyes. The Orisha / Lua must not be looked upon. The priestess shook and rolled on the floor. Words were being said, but I could not hear. I did, however, get a flash of a Sight. It took me by surprise as I saw a massive gold serpent overlaid upon the priestess, like cellophane.
As soon as it started, it was done. Her attendees helped her to her feet and brought a chair. She looked wiped. I could only imagine the raging headache she would possibly endure later in the day from having invoked the god.
The ritual was finished and people were packing up. Before I left, I went to one of the priestess’s initiates and told them of what I saw. I did not wish to bother the priestess as such an experience is very draining and I did not wish to impede on her space. The student looked at me a bit wide-eyed and said, “You need to tell her this. This may be the message she needs.”
“Ah. So I need to play my role as Messenger. That I can do.” She smiled at me. I went to the priestess and waited my turn to speak as she was giving directions to her intiates. When the time came, I told her what I saw.
The priestess looked thoughtfully down and smiled to herself. “He must like you,” she said and left if at that.
It wasn’t until after the ceremony I learned that the earth Orisha they summoned was known as a Serpent God.