After a bit of hoohah, on having no bed due to a mix up over rooms, we have a late start to Friday morning at Pantheacon. There is just enough time to register and collect our presenter badges from the Green Room before getting to the opening ritual. On the way, we meet Jessika, one of our co-celebrants in the Ancestor ritual, so we share excited hugs and happy noises before we head off to the opening ritual together.
Before I start, a quick note about photos. It’s just not a thing at Pantheacon. There is a policy of no photographs without prior permission and everyone respects this. As a consequence, cameras and phones tend to stay out of sight. Therefore this post has a distinct lack of images. There is a fantastic video near the end though.
The opening ritual of Pantheacon 2019 is powerful. Over 300 people gather in a huge conference room, joyful, colourful and vibrant. Tribes coming together, diverse magical traditions in unity as an atmosphere of excited expectation builds.
Kanyon Sayers Rood walks into the centre of the room with a wild coyote call and mischievous eyes, and true power just took centre stage. Kanyon’s given Native name is Hahashkani, which in Chumash means Coyote Woman.
Coyote Woman talks of the native connection to the spirit of this land and the Ohlone people. She welcomes us to Ohlone land, then honours us with four songs, teaching “Earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit.” in her native language. After each song she asks us to say “Ohhh.” Honouring the song, the gathering, and the people. We are all family she says before singing her ‘Grandmother song.’
Glenn has been with Pantheacon right from the start, 25 years. Panthecon’s ringleader steps up and talks about family, relationships and growing pains. I think they are starting, my legs are aching from all the walking in SF, and we have done a hell of a lot of growing over the past few years.
Next, different people are asked to step up from the furthest East, South, West and North to honour the directions. Max speaks for the furthest East, Jessika West, whilst I keep quiet for a change. Then a call goes out from individual voices, to the Gods, Goddesses, ancestors, faerie realm, future generations and all animal kind.
None of the the celebrants are pre-determined or rehearsed. We are all the Priests and Priestesses and take part as we are called. And so the circle is cast. Our seasonal celebrations at The Assembly Rooms in Glastonbury are held in much the same way.
It’s powerful to stand in such a circle.
The energy builds until the focus turns to grounding, and a gentle finale as we sing the song ‘Singly Done.’
Step by step the longest march
can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch
singly none, singly none.
And by union what we Will
can be accomplished still.
Drops of water turn a mill
singly none, singly none.
(Words: Anon, Miners union preamble; Music Trad. Irish adapted)
After the opening ritual Pantheacon continues with such delicious offerings as ‘Healthy Boundaries in a Pagan Community’, ‘Fire in the Hands, a Pagan Approach to Healing’, ‘Tarot Divination and Ethics’ and ‘Building Consent Culture’. In contrast to all these teachings, ‘Pagan Speed Friending.’ offers a chance to immediatly make some new friends.
We don’t stay for speed friending, instead our whole weekend turns into an epic fast friending exercise. We make so many friends. If you are reading this and we made a connection at PCon, please get in touch to say hello.
Each day at Pantheacon there are seven sessions of talks, from 9am to past midnight. Talks are around an hour and a half long. Rituals and concerts may be longer. Each session has up to eight different events on offer. There are loads of hospitality rooms also offering small meditations, talks and meet and greet opportunities. As a result, you can never get to see everything you want. I use my Glastonbury Festival strategy of choosing two or three things each day and regarding anything extra as a bonus.
Also, there are a few things we have to do over the weekend. In the afternoon I really want to go to Orion Foxwood’s talk ‘Re-consecrating the Underworld, Restoring Heaven to Earth’, but I have a rehearsal with RJ Stewart.
Taliesin Dreams within Dreams
Firstly, Robert tells me the story of his psaltery, a beautiful stringed instrument of German manufacture. He draws my attention to a painted image on the front of a Viking ship on the waves. I remember this image in a dream from almost 20 years ago.
The dream began with two people, a white haired and bearded old man and a woman with long dark hair. We all sat around a circular table which had been covered with a black velvet cloth. A large crystal ball sat in the centre.
Then the couple told me to gaze into the crystal ball and go on a journey. As a result, my dream consciousness opened up into another level of dreaming. It was summer, I was stood on the side of a cliff by the ocean. There was great excitement because a Viking ship was coming in on the waves.
I looked down and there on the cobbled path I saw a coin. Picking it up I could see it had a head on it and it was a fixed to a chain, so I put it around my neck. That part of the dream ended and I found myself back in the room, sitting at the table. It was just as i had left it, covered with velvet cloth, the crystal ball and the two people sitting there.
The woman asked me if I had brought anything back from my journey. I remembered the coin around my neck and tried to show it, but I couldn’t lift it from my chest. I leant forward and pull down my top to show them where the coin was now imprinted. They recognised it, sat back and remarked “Ah Taliesin.”
I had never knowingly heard the name Taliesin.
I didn’t know what it meant, so the next day I went to visit a friend who I believed would know of such things. He directed me to some fascinating books and I proceeded to learn about the history of the great Bard Taliesin.
Later that year, Max and I were initiated into the British Druid Order as Bards of Avebury by Greywolf and Bobcat (Phillip Shallcrass and Emma Restall Orr) in 1999.
After some years raising a pagan family, celebrating the wheel of the year and practicing wizardry, we moved to Glastonbury. In 2006 I volunteered as a keeper at the White Spring. Then some years later, went on to win the Bardic Trials to become The 8th Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin, Glastonbury in 2013.
As a result of all these connections, I wrote this version of The Tale of Taliesin toward the end of my initiatory year and a day. It powered through in 20 minutes, Awen inspired.
Finally, here I am in a fancy hotel at the biggest Pagan Conference in the world, rehearsing my Taliesin poem with RJ Stewart. Getting goosebumps over a painting of a Viking ship and a twenty year old dream. A real sense of a story coming full circle.
After the rehearsal, I find Max in our room and we go to ‘Furious Revels,’ a ritual led by River Devora. People wearing bestial masks, grotesque costumes, furs and antlers carrying drums, rattles, horns, bells, brooms and whips are gathered. Then we all cavort through the hotel.
Furious Revels is a wild and noisy dance to drive out the doldrums and prepare the Doubletree Hotel for Pantheacon. We made a wonderful noise, dancing and whipping up the air throughout the lobby and out into the parking lot. Max blows his horn and enjoys a rare chance to be as loud as he wants. If you know Max, that is pretty loud.
Fire in the Head – Fire Truck in the Parking Lot
Oh, the pain of Pantheacon programme clashes. Next on our agenda is a difficult choice. There are three things we want to go to scheduled at the same time. Will it be ‘Holly Tannen in Concert,’ or a performance of ‘Celtic Pirate Rock’ or ‘Fire in the Head’?
‘Fire in the Head, Igniting the Spark of Awen in our Lives.’ presented by our dear friend Jhenah Telyndru, comes out on top. We make our way to one of the large conference rooms and find the last seats in the circle.
To start off with, Jhenah talks about the history and lore of Awen, then she discusses the three rays of inspiration and what they represent and tells the tale of Taliesin. She is a wonderful authentic teacher.
We consider the old man Morda and the young innocent, Gwion from the story. The conversation opens me up to a new level of understanding about how the old gives way to the new.
From earlier posts, you will know I have been pondering the relationship between that which is dying and that which is thriving and my role as an Elder Bard within it. To receive and remember the ancestors, to inspire and serve future generations. To hold with tradition, yet flow with progression.
With around 15 minutes left, Jhenah invites her to join in with an exercise to directly tap into the Source and ignite the spark of Awen. We all stand and take up a specific posture. The meditation goes deep.
Jhenah guides us safely back. Back in the room, before we could ask any questions, the fire alarm sounds. I didn’t expect almost 200 people igniting Awen to have quite this effect!
Pantheacon Evacuation 2019
A recorded voice repeatedly tells us to evacuate the building, it is a strange recording, repeating the the statement with exactly the same intonation each time and with no rising panic. Drew however is right outside the door, telling us to keep moving and get outside. I was looking out to see if anyone needed any help, since the elevators we all switched off. We were reasured anyone with mobility issues would be helped down the stairs. Consequently, we go and stand outside with everyone else. Hungry and with no coat I need to do something else. Curious about what’s happening out front, I leave Max there and quietly slip away to the main entrance. There’s a massive fire truck!
Several firemen are standing around with people in the lobby who do not look in the slightest bit alarmed. A fit young man in uniform comes out of the building carrying a massive axe. He is smiling and joking with the Doubletree staff. Now I know there is not a problem, and I’m all excited like a little kid seeing her first ever fire truck! Soon Max comes to find me and tells me we go inside.
Now we have barely enough time to eat before we have to be at the concert with RJ Stewart. By the time we chase up to our room eat some snacks and get back down to the concert room it is just about to start. We take our seats and listen to a Master Bard, as he delights us with stories, classic folk songs and wonderful new compositions. At the start of the second half Faelan Shiva, an amazing belly dancer, with a fantastic drummer join him on the stage. Then Robert introduces me to tell The Tale of Taliesin.
Here it is.
After the concert, we go down to the bar to meet with Robert and his friend Holly. They are collaborating on a talk tomorrow. It’s a wonderful evening, with us finally going to bed really late, still not quite realising how famous Holly Tannen really is.