Last week I attended my third ConVocation in Detroit, Michigan, and I had a blast. I didn’t even think about work for four days! I’d also managed to avoid the rounds of strep throat and flu that have been ravaging my school, so I was healthy enough to do everything I wanted. That was a serious blessing, and I took full advantage of it. I can’t believe how much I enjoyed just setting aside normal life for a little bit. I think I need to take more real vacations!
For as much as I enjoyed myself, however, I was a little disappointed by the convention. One of my absolute favorite things to do at ConVocation and similar events is to experience ritual…particularly ritual different from how I usually practice. But ritual was thin on the ground this year. Worse, the few options were reduced further at the last minute by Devin Hunter and Storm Faerywolf’s inability to attend (Devin was ill and Storm’s flight was cancelled…a good thing, as it let him be with Devin when he eventually went to the hospital). In the end, I was only able to actually make one ritual event — the Blue Equinox Oasis’s Gnostic Mass — thanks to cancellations and incredibly poor scheduling by ConVocation’s organizers.
Up until the “dinner block”, ConVo’s event organization is usually nicely regimented. Usually the only fault I can see there is scheduling too many popular events in the same time block. But after five pm, all that organization disappears. Rituals can be scheduled at any time and can be any length. What this means is that if you do want to attend rituals or organized events in the evening, you’re probably going to find that the things you want to do partially overlap by up to an hour. It doesn’t matter if there are nine different options over the course of the evening: unless you decide to stay in one room, there is literally no way to attend more than one event. To me, it would make far more sense to divide the time into two hour blocks and ask ritualists to stay within 1 hour, 50 minutes. That way, participants could move from a 7-9 to a 9-11 spot pretty easily. You could even offer an 11-1 “midnight” slot for the “darker magics” (hah!).
But not only were the evening rituals pretty thin pickings, there were few ritual events offered in the daytime as well. In previous years, there’s usually been at least one ritual or meditative offering in each time slot, but this year it just seemed like it was lecture after lecture after lecture. By the end of ConVocacation, the only thing I attended that even had a meditative component was Literata’s “Aphrodite and Athena” exploration (and it was lovely).
Even though I was itching for more ritual, I did enjoy the events I attended. They were as follows:
- Opening Ceremony
- Jason Mankey’s talk “What’s so great about the Great Rite?”
- Ellen Dugan’s talk “Earth Magick: Getting your hands dirty”
- Jacki Smith’s talk “Magic = Healing”
- Ivo Dominguez Jr.’s talk “Ancestralization: A pagan approach”
- Jason Mankey’s talk “Drawing down the moon: The magick and mystery of deity”
- Pat Camarena-Rose Barbary’s talk “Tarot intensive: The four suits.”
- Jason Mankey’s talk “The magick of initiations, elevations, and dedications”
- Ellen Dugan’s talk “Tarot tips and tricks”
- Jason Mankey’s talk “So many witches!: The word ‘witch’ in the world today”
- Blue Equinox Oasis’s Gnostic Mass ritual
- Masquerade Ball
- Literata’s talk/meditation “Aphrodite and Athena”
- Morgana Moonwater’s talk “Magick every damn day”
I actually hadn’t intended on going to all of Jason Mankey’s talks. They were all more or less oral versions of different sections of his latest (and greatest!) book, Transformative Witchcraft. I’ve been reading and re-reading that book ever since its release this January, and didn’t feel a great pull to go through so much of that material orally. I’d only intended to go to his “Great Rite” and “Initiations” talks, but got roped into the other ones by friends. They were all lovely, as per usual, and Jason was a huge hit. Everyone I talked to who went to one of his talks absolutely raved about it.
I was especially pleased to attend Ellen Dugan’s “Earth Magick” talk. I’m feeling more and more of a draw towards herbals and crystals, so her primer was right up my alley. I, however, was utterly charmed by her “Tarot Tips and Tricks” talk, which she volunteered to do on the fly when Storm and Devin were unable to attend. I’ve been reading tarot for some time now, and I was surprised by how many notes I took during her talk. Someone in the room had bought the lone copy of her “Witches Tarot” in the vendor room and she borrowed that deck in her talk. A major side benefit of that was her short asides about creating the deck and some of the individual cards. In just 90 minutes, I felt like I had a much greater appreciation for the structure of the Tarot than I had previously. To top it off, my coven mate got her very first tarot reading ever from Ellen during the course of the class! How cool is that?
Jacki Smith, Ivo Dominguez, Jr., and Literata all had events that touched me fairly profoundly. Jacki’s talk revealed to me that I’m actually not as “okay” with some things regarding my family and father as I thought I was, and that I have a lot of work to do in that area. Ivo’s talk finally helped me to get my mind around the idea of the afterlife and working with spiritual and biological ancestors. My coven mate was practically buzzing during his talk, she enjoyed it so much. And of course, I adored Literata’s exploration of two of my favorite goddesses, and I loved the meditation she led us through.
I was a bit let down by Pat Camarena-Rose Barbary’s “Tarot Intensive”. She attempted to go through all the minor arcana cards in a 90 minute slot…and simple math would have proven that to be highly ambitious. She really only got through two suits, and her talk more or less amounted to reading a PowerPoint…so I could have happily skipped that.
I was also disappointed by Morgana Moonwater’s “Magick Every Damn Day”. I had thought that maybe she’d give a few ideas for integration and lead some practices, but the talk was mostly a ramble about her life. It was charming, but less useful than a structured talk would have been and ultimately a bit boring. I was also concerned about Moonwater’s representation of herself as having “Gardnerian lineage” and speaking of her upline as Gardnerians. During the course of the talk she mentioned her mentor was a Wayland Raven and that he had been “eldered” by Silver Ravenwolf. Silver, however, is not a Gardnerian witch. While Silver does trace a lineage across a few traditions that ultimately connects to Gerald Gardner through Raymond Buckland’s Seax-Wicca, that lineage certainly does not make her a Gardnerian. After the convention, I asked the Gardnerian community for a vouch for Moonwater, but was unable to find anyone who could do so. Nor could I find anyone in Silver’s Black Forest Tradition who could provide a vouch either for Wayland Raven or Morgana Moonwater. Moonwater seems to be a very capable and talented witch, and I am sure she is a wonderful high priestess for her coven in Flint. But a Gardnerian she is not, and I am sorry that she presents herself in a way that would make one believe she was.
Even with my few disappointments in individual classes and my huge disappointment about the overall lack of ritual opportunity, I had a lot of fun at ConVocation 2019, and I really look forward to next year’s offerings!