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My 2¢ On the Pantheacon Bruhaha

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on March 2, 2012 | Comments (9)

Those of you reading this probably know that I have been attending the annual Pantheacon convention in San Jose, California, for the past few years. I think it’s important to understand the purpose of conventions and festivals like Pantheacon that are open to participation and the sharing of ideas and practices of all attendees. They give teachers and authors, groups and individuals, a chance to share ideas and practices. They give attendees a chance to learn in workshops and participate in rituals they might not otherwise be able to experience.

So let’s say you are the head of an occult order I’ll call “Joe’s Crimson Sunset.” If you wanted to have a private meeting with other members of the JCS, you’d hold a private meeting to which the public was not invited. If you went to a convention or festival the logical purpose would be to share with others who you are, what you believe, and what you’re doing without giving away any of the Order’s secrets. In a situation like Pantheacon, you might have a workshop telling what the JCS is all about. Perhaps you’d have a public ritual so that non-members could see some of what the members do. It just wouldn’t make sense for you to go there just to have a private meeting. Of course, you might also have a private meeting of the JCS in your room or suite, but you would announce that just to members, not to the public. You certainly wouldn’t put that in the program intended for everyone in attendance.

There is another thing I need to mention about conventions and festivals such as Pantheacon. These tend to be incredibly egalitarian. You will find people of all spiritual paths. At Pantheacon, for example, there were Chaos magicians, various Golden Dawn groups, and Thelemites. There were people interested in Tarot and Runes There were Witches and Wiccans of all traditions, as well as Afro-Caribbean faiths, Hindus, and shamanic traditions. There are people who attend who are sexually heterosexual, gay, or into BDSM. There are people who are born in one gender, who have changed to another gender, or are in the process of changing. Although welcome, there are actually a relatively small number of people of color. I don’t know the reason for this. Perhaps it’s because people of color are uninterested, feel unwelcome, or wish to keep their spiritual practices more private. Perhaps it’s a combination of those issues or something else.

The point is, if you’re giving a public workshop or ritual, one that is announced in the program and is not private, you can expect people of any and all spiritual paths and beliefs. I think this inclusiveness is fantastic.

So What Happened?

A year ago, a coven presented a ritual for women only. Although some people might object, I honestly don’t have a problem with that. There were also workshops intended for minors.

The problem came with the definition of “women.” Only women who were born as genetic women were allowed to participate. Transgendered women were not even allowed entry. The result was a huge furor that burned the internet for the following year. The original group that put on the rite was also discussing ways for dealing with the issues that resulted. The High Priestess of that coven wrote:

I am grateful that this situation has opened a healthy conversation toward greater understanding within the pagan community. Issues like this one, left unexplored and festering, might undermine our kinship as pagan family. I believe that, above all, we need to stand together in order to defend our right to freedom of religion. I want to publicly state that my first priority as a High Priestess and witch is to stand with all of my pagan sisters and brothers of all backgrounds in the utmost loyalty to our shared goal of honoring the Divine as we each see fit for our own highest personal and collective good.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, some people, including one very public and well-known personality, decided to put on a public ritual for women who were born women at this year’s convention. A quiet protest, led by another well-know personality, was held in front of the room where the ritual was to be held. The woman holding the ritual allegedly made what I would consider some questionable comments (there is currently the claim that her posting may have not been written by her and her account had been hacked), including presenting the idea that transgender women were actually men who had the purpose of trying to steal women’s mysteries.

Really? I find it very hard to believe that a person who has been unhappy for many years due to being in the wrong physical body would be willing to go through the pain of surgery, years of psychotherapy, years of hormone therapy, only to be rejected, insulted or even assaulted by some people who don’t understand the challenges and difficulties they face just to find peace, balance, and honesty in their lives because they had a goal of stealing women’s mysteries with the intent of giving those mysteries to men. This just doesn’t make sense.

A friend of mine, a transgendered person, told me that she honored the woman who put on the ritual for “opening the door” to so many people who were previously excluded. She felt sorry that the woman could not also walk through that door.

An Obvious Solution

To me, the obvious solution for the future is that if a group wants to have a ritual at Pantheacon for women born as women they should, like the JCS described above, have it in private, perhaps in a suite at the hotel. If they want to have a public ritual for women, all who consider themselves women should be allowed admittance.

I Love Gossip! Who Was Involved?

I have not used the names of any of the persons or groups involved in this bruhaha. The reason for this is that the issue of inclusion, in my opinion, should not focus on personalities, groups, or individuals. That doesn’t matter. What does matter, in my opinion, is what we will do in the future.

I see no problem in limiting participation in events held at festivals and conventions to members of private orders, covens, etc. A ritual for “women,” however, is not so limited. The same would be true of a ritual open to men, Martians, or “followers of the Golden Dawn.” This is different from “men who are members of the such-and-such coven,” “Martians who are members of the Martian military,” or “members of the This is MY Golden Dawn and Don’t Disagree with Me Order.” The first three should be open to a larger audience and make use of public facilities. That latter three should be held in more private facilities.

I hope readers will see the difference and use their intelligence in determining what workshops and rituals to offer at public meetings, festivals, and conventions.

If you agree or disagree,
in part or in whole,
writer your comment below.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Lord Ansur
on March 2nd, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

Right on!

And we Martians have been left out of most of your Earth Rites!

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#2 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on March 2nd, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

We’ll have to try to do better!

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#3 
Written By Hermgirl
on March 2nd, 2012 @ 9:42 pm

Even though I feel supportive of the first “public & well known personality”, at the end of the day, it seems like it was a problem of miscommunication.

I say your idea truly was the obvious solution. A group should have whatever kind of gathering they want, with whatever parameters they want. They should just be mindful of how a ritual gets placed on the agenda, and how it’s communicated to others.

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#4 
Written By Deborah Blake
on March 2nd, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

I have been reading about this since Pantheacon (which I didn’t get to attend this year, alas, although I was there the last couple). This is the most reasoned response I have seen.

This is a tough issue. I understand what the leader was trying to achieve, I think, and it was admirable. That she felt it could only be achieved by excluding a certain segment of the population was less so.

I’m not sure that there is a good answer for this, but yours is as close to one as I’ve seen. Kudos.

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#5 
Written By HR Mitchell
on March 3rd, 2012 @ 2:36 am

Thank you for your words, and for the lack of names.

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#6 
Written By Jennifer L.
on March 3rd, 2012 @ 3:09 am

>>The woman holding the ritual allegedly made what I would consider some questionable comments (there is currently the claim that her posting may have not been written by her and her account had been hacked), including presenting the idea that transgender women were actually men who had the purpose of trying to steal women’s mysteries.

Really? I find it very hard to believe that a person who has been unhappy for many years due to being in the wrong physical body would be willing to go through the pain of surgery, years of psychotherapy, years of hormone therapy, only to be rejected, insulted or even assaulted by some people who don’t understand the challenges and difficulties they face just to find peace, balance, and honesty in their lives because they had a goal of stealing women’s mysteries with the intent of giving those mysteries to men. This just doesn’t make sense.<<

THIS!

Thank you! I have yet to see it put more eloquently and easy to understand. Anyone who goes through all that pain, faces prejudice, spends so much money, and endures what they do to feel whole is NOT doing so to "steal" whatever secrets the instigators feel they have.

And I say this as a cis-woman who views all women as my sisters, not just the ones who were born with an XX chromosome in their cells.

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#7 
Written By Linda C
on March 4th, 2012 @ 9:30 am

Thank you for this. I’m so happy to see people like you, compassionately supporting these ‘unconventional’ women and yet not bashing those we consider in error.

Those involved believe they are right, I don’t think they intend to hurt or offend. Hopefully enough compassionate people can help them see that perhaps they can hold their ritual, the way they want to, without offending these dear ladies. Spiritual paths need to offer a safe place for all souls.

Many Blessings
Linda C

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#8 
Written By Scott
on March 4th, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

Well said DMK!

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#9 
Written By Maegdlyn Morris
on March 5th, 2012 @ 1:04 am

It would be interesting to note that many festivals conferences and other events have a inclusion statement about their organization. These statements such as the one by Association of marriage and family counselors outlines what they define as male female, family and marriage. This is a debate that should take place ahead of time for any event that is promoted as public, and I would hope that for any group that espouses egalitarianism, they would come to the same conclusion that you Don have suggested. As to my many sisters, regardless of the skin you wear, hopefully a day will come where this type of debate is no longer necessary.

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