“Well, I have to disagree with that.” For a while I thought it would be fun to count how often I’d hear that phrase at Pantheacon, but I got bored pretty quickly. Ten pagans, a dozen opinions. I have been marveling at the diversity of people who gather under a common umbrella, including those who don’t like labels and go to great lengths to explain that they don’t want to be called pagans.
It’s the first day of my first Pantheacon and my head is spinning with the many fascinating conversations I have. I exchange stories with second generation Wiccan Eric Scott, talk with pagan writer Jason Pitzl-Waters who recently spoke at my former bible college, discuss inter-faith dialogue with a politically conservative heathen, listen to a talk on southern folk magick, and have several personal conversations with various people about their individual journeys.
The conversations range from heady intellectual to intimately emotional but there is a common thread that runs through all of them. Those I talk to all own their stories. Abuse survivors speak openly about their ongoing struggles and some recount experiences of rape without hushed voices. They also own their beliefs. The founder of Pantheacon mischievously declares herself an atheist, others explain that their goddess is the same as a christian god, and many talk about a confusing pantheon.
In the midst of disagreement and personal trauma, pagans are walking their paths and living through their struggles with a sense of faith and wonder. There is a theme in the presentations and conversations I have on my first day at Pantheacon. The word is “empowerment”.