Now that I have gone over a few of my experiences at the most recent Patheacon Pagan Convention, I feel it is appropriate to go back in time a little. I did not find this community on my own, and I also had to allow it to find me. I have already recounted my foray into comparative religion, but this conference truelove lead me to understand that I was not alone.
The year 2007 was a catalyst for so many things in my life. I would be graduating high school, most of my friends had already gone off to college, and I was head over heels in love the way only teenagers can be. I had already been involved with some of my boyfriend’s Unitarian Universalist youth groups, which mostly consisted of board games, for a few months before his family extended the invitation to join them for the convention. I had no idea what I was in for, and had to convince my protective parents to let me spend the weekend in a hotel without them. I already had my senior project going on comparative religions and was able to maneuver this as an educational trip as much as a social one. Parents discussed it together, and I was in.
For what I was in for though, I still wasn’t sure. Would it be a lot of lectures on the practices of spirituality? Would there be Hollywood style witches casting spells? Would everyone judge me for not having a declared path? Would everyone think me too normal or too weird? As I would continue to learn, the truth is always somewhere in the middle.
I was dumbstruck when we first arrived to the hotel. It looked like a regular hotel on the outside in the middle of a airport financial district. No ladies flying around on brooms- yet. As soon as you walk in to registration though, you begin to see the freak flags flying (said with deep love of course). Even on the Friday, with people still mostly adorned in their street clothes, you see hair of all shades and textures. Light whiffs of patchouli or incense or soap and body odor pass by. There are post menopausal women who have refused to shave their mustaches, men in kilts (which I, admittedly, was used to seeing because it was my boyfriend’s choice of wardrobe). You hear drums, the jiggle of bells, light but constantly excited conversation. Everyone is here to learn, here to express themselves fully, and have a complete experience, mind body and soul.
Leafing through the schedule of events, I saw so many things of interests. Dances, discussions on new and ancient cultures, on politics, on divination, training classes and rituals and so much more. The event itself is ripe with individuality and practically demands you embrace your personal power. I was genuinely excited to learn, to have a chance to dress up without being an outcast, to celebrate and socialize with all of my outgoing boyfriend’s friends and acquaintances.
And as much as I was truly interested in these workshops and experiences, I ran into a bit of a snag. It so happened that my boyfriend and I were to have a hotel room to ourselves. This revelation threw all other motivations out the window and onto the lower floor terrace. We were 17, had been dating for five months, and were already sexually active. We were obsessed with each others bodies, our own pleasure, and any break was an excuse to got at another round. We had sex 24 times over the course of 4 days. Young and inexperienced, of course I got a UTI (urinary tract infection- also known as honeymooner’s illness) as soon as I got home. None the less, this sexual awakening allowed me to truly embrace my sensual power like never before.
High off of human contact and orgasms, I was a creature of lightness of being devoted to my partner inside and out. I remember dancing without shame to drums for the first time in public since I was a child. I remember talking about my childhood experiences seeing auras and talking to animals with people who had similar experiences. I remember laughing until my ribs ached. I remember being awestruck and equally suspicious of the presenters. I let go of so much of the social constructs of being safe, being respectable, trying to fit it. I remember getting home and feeling what I can only describe as hungover, although I had not part-taken in any physical substances.
I realize now that I experience energy as a physical sensation, and without the skills to ground myself or the ability to discern boundaries, that in a way I was high. High off of freedom and love and sex and self-expression and the power everyone else was sharing as well. My re-introduction to magic then, since I was an innocent, was sex magic. It emboldens and frees me from limitations or overthinking. It is a primal, instinctual practice where you are in literally in touch with your own body. I was able to exactly know my own pleasure and my own emotions fully without question, and felt powerful sharing them with someone I cared so deeply about. In fact, though I have had other lovers and sexual partners over the years, I have yet to find another sexual/spiritual connection as I had with him.
But, over the years and the heartbreaks and the new experiences good and bad, I roughly continued on my own path. I attached myself to yoga, animal spirits, tarot and many others. I practiced grounding and boundaries, flexibility and communication. I came to the hard realization that even though I might FEEL like I am communicating my intention and power, that does not mean I am actually communicating.
This process was done while avoiding Patheacon. It held too many memories of what was and what I thought there could be. It was also an indulgent expense, including room, food, and everything else that had been taken care of before. I visited the vendor room that was open to the public once or twice within an 8 year stretch. I moved around, worked hard, and tried to save up money to once again embrace my personal power for myself alone. It took 8 years to overcome the idea that I needed someone else to allow me to enjoy myself.
So my second full experience was extremely different. I slept in my car. Attended nearly every workshop within the schedule, bought almost nothing and introduced myself to the hospitality suites. These suites are rented out by groups of people to hold specific events that aren’t on the convention schedule. They introduce you to people of like mind, and often have free food and drinks. I did my best to make connections and be extroverted in a time where I felt the need to create over strong boundaries. I did connect to people, but remained true to what I wanted alone. It was much more an experience of survival and practicing to show I could thrive on this experience on my own. There were still spiritual highs, but they were somewhat short lived without a group to share it with.
And now, this most recent time, I finally feel like I have done the experience proper. I had a room off-site I shared with close friends. I enforced us to do our own thing that was unique to our interests, and we were able to share that together. I attended a variety of workshops, and visited the hospitality events as well. I got drunk and I danced and I gained knowledge and connected to myself and my beliefs as part of the larger whole.
I am so grateful for having this experience in my life, and hope to continue its development in my life forward. I love how it has changed and developed along with me, and that it provides a place I can share myself and have others share with me. I am grateful for the diversity and celebration this world has to offer, and that I get to be a part of it. Let us hope it continues to grow and humanity along with it.