So far, 2017 has been the year of Making Adult Decisions, or, as I like to think of it, making practical compromises between wants and needs. Last year, I was pretty upset to have missed Pantheacon and vowed that 2017 would not slip by without my attending a convention. But this year has not been kind to my time or wallet either. Teaching 3 separate classes has proven to be exhausting, grad school confusing (Do we write a thesis or not? Believe it or not…no one knows) and between unexpected car repairs and vowing not to take out any loans to pay for grad school, my financial cushion is not terribly expansive. Pantheacon would run me about $1500 between airfare, hotel costs, transportation, and food, and I just couldn’t justify it.
But I could attend ConVocation the next weekend in Dearborn, Michigan for under $300…so to ConVocation I went.
I was pretty terrified about going, actually. Unlike Pantheacon, no one I knew was going to be there, and no one I knew wanted to go along with me…so it had a high potential of being a really lonely weekend. Don’t get me wrong–everyone is really friendly to each other at conventions, but it isn’t like anyone thinks they will make a strong, life long friend there. But I’ve grown accustomed to loneliness these past couple years, and I figured I could handle it.
A lot of solitude turned out to be a good thing. Despite planning for my absence for a month, work still gave me a bunch of things to do last minute AND cancelled one of my requested days off, so I ended up juggling my highest priority workshops and rituals with writing midterms, corresponding with admin and my students about what everyone should be doing when my substitute teacher failed to report to duty, and revising the next week’s lesson plans to account for my students essentially doing nothing for two days (thank you so much, admin, for utterly failing to read or follow any of my sub plans). In the end, it turned out that all this work made me take better care of myself than I would have otherwise, and I slept and ate well, and generally avoided all the things that make life worth living. (I am trying really, really hard to find a silver lining, people.)
I did, however, get to go to some pretty awesome events:
- Jason Mankey’s lecture “From Grimoires to the Book of Shadows: A Short History of Magical Books”
- Jason Mankey’s lecture “From the Wica to Wicca: The Rise and Development of Modern Witchcraft”
- Sapphire and Shadowdragon’s gameshow-style contest “Iron Ritualist”
- Storm Faerywolf’s meditation ritual “The Rite of the Seven Jars”
- Laura Tempest Zakroff’s lecture “The Art of Sigil Magick”
- Michelle Belanger and Ellen Dugan’s talk “Psychic Empathy: Strength or Weakness”
- Jason Mankey’s Margaret Murray-inspired “A Ritual from the Witch-Cult”
- Magdalena Knight’s workshop “Giving and Getting Good Vibes”
- Devin Hunter’s workshop “Ecstatic Witchcraft / The Star Goddess and the Gates of Heka”
I do enjoy Jason Mankey’s talks, which past Pantheacons have proven highly useful to my British Traditional practice, and this year’s ConVocation was no different. His first talk was essentially a nicely condensed version of his latest Llewellyn book, The Witch’s Book of Shadows. Both this book and Mankey’s Athame book have surpassed my expectations for books dedicated to a single tool, and have even taught me some new things. I highly recommend them. I was also pleased with his “Wica to Wicca” talk, which to me was highly reminiscent of my time in real grad school, and my nerdy self was all abuzz. Jason’s said that a lot of this material will make it into his third Llewellyn book, and I can’t wait. In essence, Jason traces out a lot of the influences that have made 21st century Wicca what it is today, and I found it incredibly useful as both a British Traditionalist and as a practitioner who loves eclectic innovation. I definitely plan on incorporating it into future lessons for Craft students.
I personally found the gulf between the past and present typified by Mankey’s ritual offering, which was inspired by Margaret Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1931). I went to it because I was really curious as to what it would entail. Murray has a fixation on drunken orgies, and I was frankly so stressed out with juggling the Con with work that I could really have gone for a drunken orgy about then. But that wasn’t what Jason’s ritual was. In fact, it largely boiled down to him invoking Old Horny (off stage, I gathered), having everyone adore him (at which I EPICALLY failed), having everyone raise energy by forming a giant conga circle and jumping periodically while the God ran about talking about himself, and then everyone sharing a sabbatic feast of hosts and wine. There was definitely a clergy/congregation vibe going on, and a parasitical one at that. It felt like the only reason for everyone other than the clergy to be there was to create energy to feed the God (come to that, it felt like all the clergy save Jason-Channelling-Old Horny were there for was to serve as living props and feast servers). And you know what? That’s really not the vibe I get in any Wiccan circle I’ve been in, British Traditional or not. I usually feel that the Gods come to adore us as much as we come to adore them, and our interactions have a far more conversational feel. I, for one, am very glad that the Witch-Cult has evolved from what Murray conceived.
Some unexpected highlights for me were the “Iron Ritualist” competition, which had some fantastic activities to help people learn to ritualize on the fly, and I was utterly BLOWN AWAY by some people’s talent for ritual drama. I decided right then and there that I want to learn how to do what they do. I just have to figure out how. Storm Faerywolf’s “Ritual of the Seven Jars” was the runaway winner for the best spiritual experience I had at the convention, and it sort of made Feri practice ‘click’ with me for the first time. They have this conception of three souls which I never could work my head around until Storm took the room through the initial trance where we aligned these souls. I ended up buying his book to learn more, it was such a powerful moment for me. Devin Hunter’s Ecstatic Witchcraft also delivered a great spiritual experience, and the dance technique he took the room through made me feel about a thousand times better than I had all week…so I ended up buying his book as well.
Laura Tempest Zakroff was as amazing as always at her talk (and because of her, all my own students have been saying YAAAAAS! all week to me, which I love), and her sigil workshop has proven to be an amazing creative playground for me in the week after. Much of what she said clicked instantly with what I do as a pysanky-writer, and I’ve been tweaking various pysanky motifs into sigils. It’s great stuff. I also really enjoyed Magdalena Knight’s consent workshop, and a lot of the conversations it inspired. (I also learned that a distant cousin of mine is a sex therapist, thanks to her…I had no idea.) It has certainly made me wonder how consent can work within a structure like Wicca, where people may end up doing things they don’t fully consent to because they want to be seen as fit for initiation or elevation.
Overall, I had a great time at ConVocation, which delivered an experience like Pantheacon, but on a far more intimate, friendlier level. I can definitely see myself returning next year…hopefully with a lot less mundane work to do!