Pantheacon Report: 2018 Edition

Every year all kinds of people come to San Jose for the 3 day Pagan conference, Pantheacon; which I have attended for 6 years now. And true to my nature, I write about my various experiences over the President's Day weekend. The following is a summation of my thoughts and shenangians as they occurred to me, with every day's divination drawn from Aleister Crowley's Thoth deck. Day 1: The Devil

Magickal Safety 101

Every person who practices magick, especially in a group, should take a class like this. Covering both self care and the well-being of others, Magickal Safety was scheduled at the very beginning of the weekend, organized and presented by Hannah Storyteller and John Medellin. Even us seasoned practitioners can learn new things.  For example this class, while certainly for newbies, covered a wide range of techniques someone at some point might have overlooked. I learned how to ground another person...which I never realized was a new experience for me. I have helped groups ground, and I certainly am able to do it quite quickly. But helping one individual was something different, with several approaches including the laying on of hands, guided breathing and even simply talking with the person (what is your name? where do you live?). Sometimes we get so caught up in the moment of ritual, especially an entire weekend full of it, it can become more difficult to 'turn off' or even calm down long enough for repose and rest. 

Fucking Mandrake

My experience with baneful and witching herbs was just beginning when I became pregnant and set aside those growing things for the safety of my new daughter. I had never seen nor held the flowers or leaves of the Mandrake, in particular. My experience with Mandrake has only included flying ointments, purchased in the past by Sarah Anne Lawless, never as an isolated simple. I have a mandrake root given by another witch, and seeds stored away for planting one day, but had not considered it’s uses for any other purpose than to aid in magickal flight as a traditional plant ally. So when I saw a workshop at PCon on the Magick of the Mandrake being presented by Christopher Penczak, I got curious.

When we arrived each person received a small cup of water in which a few drops of a mandrake flower essence were placed; some folks got 3 and others received 5 drops. After being seated and listening to a short background of the plant, including Mr. Penczak’s own experiences, we invoked the plant’s spirit and quickly drank our potion. We then were taken on a guided meditation to meet the Mandrake and be properly introduced. Like most of these kinds of things, I was two steps ahead: when everyone was still back at the meadow, I was at the hedgerow on edge of a dark woods. When the Mandrake DID appear, He came straight up out of the ground and walked over to me, on woodsy root legs with a crown of pretty flowers on His head. It seemed a curious creature walking upright, kind of like a clown wearing big shoes...it was a bit goofy looking. Then He sat down, as if on an invisible chair. I then heard in my mind the Mandrake Man speak to me beckoning me to come have a seat. He wrapped His root arms around me, hugging and caressing. Then He spun me around, to face His featureless face and wrapped my legs around Him. He then grew a long penis, which I sat upon and began to rock with, slowly back and forth.

I felt His root penis grow inside me, reaching out the roots to spread throughout inside my womb, hips, stomach, up through my breasts and arms. It was black, feathery and delicate, these roots. When it finally enveloped my heart Mr. Penczak told us about a green light shining from our hearts… and that is when my light began to ‘infect’ the Mandrake Man’s roots; it spread throughout turning the black roots into green. This exchange was pleasant, not at all intense but enough to where I was concerned an orgasm was sure to follow… and right here, in the Con, surrounded by all these strangers. I expressed this concern to the Mandrake Man and He gently respected my wishes, withdrawing Himself from my body. When we were again standing, face to face, I asked if there was anything He wished to tell me. I acknowledged the connection we had made together, and thanked Him for initiating such a strange and profound congress… but had the feeling there was something more to this experience.

It was at this point Mr. Penczak reminded us of the mythological origins of the Mandrake; how at the gallows the sperm of a dead man ejaculated from his penis onto the ground, which the Mandrake plant first appeared. This was when the Mandrake Man suggested to help me with something I had been considering: dark moon devotionals at a hangman’s tree less than a few miles from my home. The Mandrake Man said if I made a flower essence to ingest, He would protect me from any and all spirits of that place which might wish harm or follow me home. I was not expecting this, a protective quality of the Mandrake; I always understood it to be a witch’s herb for trance work or poisoning. But this plant is so much more...and I very much look forward to future lessons it wishes to teach me as I grow from seed.

Good-Bye Green Fairy

This was the final year of the Green Fairy Party. Whilst I am not a drinker, I have enjoyed having one small drink with good friends who have hosted this Bohemian and wyrd service at Pantheacon since 2008. As a backer of the fundraising I received a beautiful commemorative goblet and keepsake ribbon...when I went to collect I received so much more. From the depths of the bar, the man in the op hat poured for me a tiny, wee little glass of a special brew not given to just anyone. A concoction infused with damiana, wormwood, rose water and all manner of psychotropic herbs I carefully sipped this absinthe, which evaporated on my tongue leaving a sweet breathe of spiritual inspiration. I walked on clouds the rest of the night.

Pop-up Gnostic Mass

It was refreshing to see a heavy Thelemic presence this year. The free-range Thelemites of Healiopolis and the OTO chapter of 418 Lodge co-sponsored a true Gnostic Mass presentation at the 11pm hour. As a non-member, but rogue Thelemite, I find the Mass to be a reaffirming drama of the cosmology in which I have submerged my spirituality. The altar was brilliantly executed: being a printed backdrop with electric lights for candles (per Doubletree regulations) and the tomb being a camping style shower/toilet stall.

I could tell who only came to be lookie-loos and see the nude Priestess, when the time came for the communion they actually left. It is a GOOD thing for these people to have witnessed, even if they did not participate...because these McWiccan folks need to know where their OWN rituals came from. Gardner went through the first initiation rites of Thelema before creating his own tradition of a religion-based witchcraft. It is my fervent prayer that more and more Thelemites keep attending , presenting, and educating at Pantheacon in the coming years.

Day 2: Prince of Wands

Deity Possession

Over the past 2 years I have noticed a shift at PCon: most of the really juicy events are starting to only happen in the hospitality suites. The general activist trainings and magickal 101 things are taking up the slots in the packed schedule, with scatterings of good bits at weird times (and often canceled). One of the presentations this year was a topic that very few are giving workshops on, but very much is needed in the community: healthy Deity Possession. Facilitated by Sam Webster, the topic is one with loads of source material, both ancient and modern, which lays out the full process, levels of possessor work and the self care required to make it fully worth doing. Webster's source material included works such as Iamblichus' De Mysteriis and Divine Horsemen: Living Gods of Haiti by Maya Deren.

Essentially there are 2 kinds of people involved in true possession: the Controller (who ‘draws down’ the Deity) and the Channeller (who ‘catches’ the Deity). When this occurs there are varying levels of possession which is a bit like a spectrum, with one end being the faintest ‘inspiration’ (a ‘whispered’ motivation to do something guided by Deity influence), with ‘mantling’ somewhere in the middle (carry Deity but being fully conscience and in control of one’s own body to perform services such as oracle work), and finally the most extreme being full possession. Fully engaged possession is actually much rarer in the pagan community, with the exception of several of the African diaspora traditions such as Vodou and Ifa. When this occurs the Channeller isn’t even the backseat driver… they are in the trunk; people can perform amazing feats of strength, undergo extreme bodily harm, etc. The worst case scenario of this kind, if not done correctly, can result in the Channellor being completely merged with Deity; in other words the carrier is no longer present. Most modern pagans really don’t go beyond the middle layer of this spectrum, and even then aren’t doing it according to ancient traditions: the Channeller is secluded in preparation the days before an event, only coming out to give service as a vehicle of Deity, and then go back into seclusion AFTER for regaining control of the body and spirit. This is hard to do at events like Pantheacon, where the night before an event oracles can be seen partying in suites and the next day offering themselves up as priests of Deity in an unpurified body. Most of this is really just ego feeding, venerated as Deity or as being someone strong enough to hold and control Deity.

The Rite of Mars

The political scene invaded PCon, as it has progressively been doing over the past few years. While there is panels, workshops and other empowering activities there really wasn’t much I was particularly interested in, except the very intense ritual coordinated by the ritualists of the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn. I have been lucky enough to be studying with their founder, but to also be a participant of several planetary workings; Helios/Sun, Selene/Moon, and now Aries/Mars. It was ‘safe’ in that there wasn’t a particular political agenda given as their motivation, except to invoke the retinue of Martial Spirits and activate a magickal ‘war machine’...a huge iynx wheel that, when spun, sent these spirits out into the world to right wrongs, empower the just and defend the weak. I found it especially refreshing they asked for blessings on the civil servants; a group of workers who are often looked down upon by many Pagan-activist groups who see us (because I am now one of them) as being part of the PROBLEM and not the SOLUTION. I met many of them over the weekend, those of us quietly working within the machine of corrupted government to make a difference; it’s easy to be angry in the streets demanding change, it’s harder to work within the parameters of the system. It was part of my personal prayer to include an unbiased vision for everyone: to see the truth of what is happening in our world, so we can set aside personal opinions and DO what is right in ally-ship.

I also found out my natal chart included Mars in Aries, which explains my motivation to speak up when I see wrongs, especially in our niche community, and being compelled to protect those who are weak. There was an underlying theme of planetary magicks throughout the entire weekend: lectures on Theurgy, the Lunar Mansions of Astrology, all of which are causing me to look more closely at where the other celestial spheres play out in my chart. This only makes sense as I have been doing daily planetary workings for the past 2 years, as part of my priest training.

Day 3: 9 of Swords

Other Hybrid Moments

Between a rudimentary lecture about Crossroads and Graveyards that I left early, drinks with sushi, then initiating as a Chicken Qabbalist, there was a lot to process. Since things were again canceled, I spent the day shopping and eventually went back to my room early. I received a ton of compliments on my fishnet tights… as if these people had never seen them before.

Day 4: Ace of Swords

Fear

While there might have been pertinent information for others in the lecture by Tommie Starchild, I personally didn’t really get much out of it. After performing such workings as Chod and being an initiate of Hekate, I have plenty of experience with Fear. Mr. Starchild was very informative and spoke from a Western perspective, explaining in terms Pagans could understand; mindful presence, viewing fearful thoughts and emotions as a non-participatory spectator...all I kept thinking is “Man, these people really need Bodhicitta and Buddhism”. And it’s true! This is why their magick never works, why their communications with Deity is sometimes only internal psycho-babble. They are not so sure about what they are doing nor do they have a full comprehension of themselves; they are not coming to the Work from a place of compassion, loving kindness, equanimity and joy in the joy of others… what we call the Four Immeasurables. In my tradition these are pretty much the ONLY place from which my magick is performed; why I am able to do hex work without getting splattered with karmic shrapnel. I hope to see more empowering lectures given in the future, Mr. Starchild perhaps do a weekend intensive on these skills as most of these magick workers tend to be damaged or dragging around their toxicity.

In Conclusion…

Unless I am presenting next year (I DO have a proposal I think many would benefit from),  this may have been my last Pantheacon for a few years. Less and less is there anything I am interested in learning about, or that will feed my soul and renew my practice. I think the final straw was canceling of the Red Tent; the last vestige of feminine empowerment this community truly had at PCon. With threats of protest, the suite was shut down to keep participants safe; even though the EXACT same scheduling occurred quietly last year in the Red Tent for men, trans-women, women without wombs and all manner of exclusive programming to empower all, not just those of us who bleed. It saddens me there is no longer a welcoming space for women’s mysteries to be safely explored at this weekend-long event, especially in the highly patriarchal and oppressive climate of our world. We are forced to hide in shame of our bodies, our nature, our sisterhood...not something I would ever have thought to come out of the Pagan community.

More and more Pantheacon is for who I call ‘tourists’: attendees there to cosplay, hook-up for sex or feed off the magickal ammunition of others. I don’t need magick to give my life meaning… it is a byproduct of living my True Will. Magick just happens, naturally and unforced.  It does not gift us with ethics or morals, we come to magick with those already; magickal work only intensifies what is already inherent.

Liminal Book Review: The Witches' Ointment

The Witches' Ointment: The Secret History of Psychedelic Magic. Thomas Hatsis; Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont. 286 pages.

As the waning moon appears on a darkened horizon, I remove my clothes and light a candle with intentions of oneiromanic prophecies. From a hidden cupboard in an old 19th century secretary, I remove several tins with arcane symbols...magickal salves of soporific splendours made by a witch in Canada. Choosing the right one for my purpose, I dip deeply with Saturn's finger, marking my body with the opaque ointment. Stars in my armpits, inner thighs, palms and footbottoms and a final one to my third eye, I am careful to wash my fingertips in case I rub my eyes in the night. Climbing between cool white sheets, my breathing takes it's natural shallow waves to the belly. I say a prayer to Hekate, Domina who guides and keeps safe my spirit during these nocturnal journeys, and close my eyes. I can feel the herbs taking effect, creeping through my teeth and stomach like low-grade LSD. After an hour or two, I begin to dream...

My interest in flying ointments is what initially got me into exploring the study of witchcraft. As discussed on my last podcast, the night flight stories of witches seemed fantastical and entirely possible; even from a psychological perspective, the idea of acting out lewd and illegal fantasies while in the dreamscape of my mind sounded like a healthy expression. Reading the old recipes for true “witches' potions” were something out of a fairytale: bat's blood, opium, henbane, hemlock, belladonna and, of course, the fat from a unbaptised baby.

I first heard the interview with Thomas Hatsis on The Black Chair, a podcast I tune into from time to time, discussing The Witches' Ointment. Then there were lecture dates in the Bay Area, which I was sadly unable to attend. But, I was able to order the book and just finished as the new horror movie, The VVitch, was playing at theatres...(SPOILER ALERT) the opening scene includes a classical sequence of using baby fat as a base, churning with herbs, then smearing it all over her old body for the sabbatic flight. Hatsis deconstructs the myths from realities in a very concise and narrative manner; with folktales and historical account retold at the beginning of each chapter. Although oozing with solid academic research, the author's approach makes the data very digestible for those of us who do NOT like reading history books. Hatsis presents these 'confessions' and concludes that different experiences fall under the categories of either ointment induced experiences (used as an entheogenic tool for performing journey or magick), or blasphemy motivated nocturnal journies...but rarely were the two happening at the same time.

Whilst absurd to the modern practitioner, some of these recounted testimonies were given by actual folks who used these ointments, even if their chemical effects were unknown, and had intense experiences. Hatsis pinpoints when the stereotype of a satanic/diabolical witch's' use of Ye Olde Broomstik, including the fabrication of it as a masturbatory tool, is explored and debunked (we go from Heretic to Witch in less than two hundred years' span).

The dusk flowers adorned the altar, their scent lifted by my heightened senses. I did not plant these, but this ally appeared in my new garden as an old friend. The intense summer heat had made the liminal times sweeter for their delicate white petals, releasing their strange smell. In dreams I sense their proximity, my soul flew through layers of spiritual projection to a wild, overgrown and ancient garden. A dry fountain overgrown with periwinkle, ferns of every shape and conifer trees help to hide the rabbit-faced beings which surround and spy on me. Their silvery glamour does not shade their true intentions...

In particular I enjoyed the fourth chapter titled “Roots of Bewitchment”, which focuses on commonly known materials used in traditional ointments, for either 'soporferis medicamentis' (sleeping medicines) or 'pocula amatoria' (love potions) (p.76). Plants, animal secretions, minerals and other pharmacopeia are examined; a background including etymology of the names, historical uses, medicinal uses and folkloric connections. I had a particular interest in the Solanaceae family: the henbane, mandrake, nightshade and, especially, datura. As a young woman interested in the herbal arts, these plants called to my curious side of gardening. However cautious as I am, it was better to try ointments from more skilled herbalists than bumbling through another experiment which could potentially make me ill, or worse.

It was last summer that Datura stramonium made a home in my new garden bed. Although I had grown this plant a few times in containers (always with great success), the seeds sowed themselves and I soon had huge datura plants. Drought tolerant and sun lovers, these beauties opened every morning at dawn and nightly at dusk, making it a wonderful setting for nocturnal devotionals to Hekate. Sitting amongst them, the plants cooling from the days' heat, I would put my face close to them and inhale deeply of the trumpets. Sometimes called “mad apple”, I can see how this strange plant could be intoxicating to the point of fatality...but what a sweet way to go. The ointment from this plant was used extensively in the ancient world to help with insomnia; the effects of doziness I experienced to be rather rapid and the sleep deep but restful without feeling 'hung over' the next day. If I DO manage to stay awake after using the ointment, there is a euphoric but tense feeling... I actually have to fight off sleep but like a happy toddler.

The Awen comes straight into my mind...visions from my own imagination take on an absurd realism otherwise not experienced in regular lucid dreams. Poetry flows like colors, messages come to me in strange tongues and anticipation flows as wine in cups made of amethyst. I drink, deeply and awaken to write.

I was surprised to read Datura wasn't just used in shamanic journeying or to poison/bewitch unsuspecting muggles, but some users found the imagination whipped to the point of exquisite inspiration...something I experienced as well.

Writing in 1784 Prussian toxicologist J.S. Halle became on of the first writers to praise the drug for stirring the artistic mind: 'Mixing the ground seeds of datura with wine will produce an artificial, magic and fantastic tincture; if a poet would drink (this blend), it would provide him with his most exalted flight in odes.' This datura-wine elixir will 'fire the pictures of imagination in the most vivid manner, swirling the natural impulse of the muse beyond all enthusiasm of wine'” (p.100).

For further information on the safe uses of these herbs, and to purchase some excellent ointments, follow these links down the rabbit hole.

Evolution of witches' ointment

Article by author, Thomas Hatsis

Wise words of caution and use, Sarah Anne Lawless

More flying ointment history

Flying ointment feedback

Ointments for purchase

 

Datura from my garden.

Episode 4: Dirty Witchcraft

Been a while, but I had the time to spare for recording another podcast episode! In it I discuss my dirty traditions, gardening, books and some snarkiness at the end. Music by Inkubus Sukkubus. For feedback, questions or just to send me hate mail: wytchfawn@gmail.com . Keep an eye on this page for upcoming book reviews, a contest, and the next podcast... Episode 5: The Hekatean Special. [audio mp3="http://www.psychopompgroupie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ep4_Dirty-Witchcraft.mp3"][/audio]

Some links to products mentioned in podcast:

The magicks of Sarah Anne Lawless at her shoppe, the Black Arts Foundry

Seeds and herbs from the Unfettered Wood, purchased through the Etsy Store.

Books from Nephilim Press, Troy Books, Scarlet Imprint, and authors Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold & Nigel Pearson.

More information about the Esoteric Book Conference can be found here.

PBP: “I” is for Indica

I am a stoner. It is a taboo, illegal in some places, shunned by the norm of society, regulated, and probably makes it difficult for me to get a good job... all the things society and my parents wanted me to believe. I smoke legally for medical reasons. This isn't like those young guys who have trouble sleeping and stock up on edibles from the local dispensary for a night on the town. No, I smoke so I can bend over to feed my dog, get out of the bathroom long enough to check on my toddler, and I smoke to commune with my Gods. That's right, I am a Pagan and use cannabis, sometimes with other entheogens, to journey into other worlds for spiritual visions or advice. I never thought it would be taboo in the Pagan community, what with all the other tolerances which are embraced, but I guess every community has a limit. Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé ''Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz'' 1885, Gera, Germany

Cannabis is an herb, and a powerful one at that. Good ol' Scott Cunningham makes mention of it in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, under the safe term 'hemp' in my 1998 edition printing:

“Folk Names: Chanvre, Gallowgrass, Ganeb, Ganja, Grass, Hanf, Kif,

Marijuana, Neckweede, Tekrouri, Weed

Gender: Feminine

Planet: Saturn

Element: Water

Powers: Healing, Love, Visions, Meditations” (p. 121).

Cannabis has long been used in medicine and magic all over the world. In Europe, there was a medieval belief that tossing hemp seeds around a church building to see visions would show one's future spouse. In ancient China it was prescribed to relieve menstrual cramps and burned to exorcise disease causing demons. It was only during the last century in which the 'reefer madness' took hold and became criminalized... a harmless plant that produced three times more oxygen then most trees.

From the mobs and sheep, I can understand their fear. But why, in the Pagan and Witchcraft communities, is it something to be poo-pooed about? I don't see anything wrong, at an open outdoor festival, with smoking some with a little mugwort added to aid in any trance or prophetic work. It doesn't mean I cannot do it without the aid... on the contrary, I can fly like no one's business. But I have a medical condition which, whether I am excited or upset, set off a horrible chain reaction of gastric-intestinal instabilities I am too much a lady to mention... even on THIS, my oftentimes raw blog.

The thing is... it shouldn't MATTER that I am smoking pot. It shouldn't be even an issue if after a good harvest I want to throw some herb on the fire in offering of gratitude to my Gods. Why would anyone be offended? Because there is a stigma behind ingesting or taking into oneself mind-altering substances; I believe for the simple fact it enhances already dormant/active psychic skills and spiritual experiences. Controlling my mind, body, and eventually my spirit will happen no more through shame or hiding. This is an essential part of who I am. The only person who could ever tell me not to would be my daughter; I would never touch it again should she ask me. But I have a freedom over my body, what I put into it and offer to the Gods. Whatsoever grows from the Earth is good and has a purpose. The spirit of this plant gives hope to the very sick, dreams to those who wish for sleep, and the ability to seek out the calm corners of the universe, pull up the starry blanket, and rest in the arms of the eternal Ma. And some chocolate.

Cunningham, Scott. Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1998. Print.