A good friend once loaned me a pair of boots when I realized the ones I had worn were highly inappropriate for our evening. She brought them out from under the bed with an apology: “They’re all covered in Playa dust. Sorry.” I put on her purple Docs with their thin coating of white alkali sand and together we walked out into the night. Later, I thought to clean them up and return them to her. I picked up a sponge and started to wipe when I realized the Playa dust added to their value. The magic and strangeness and music of Burning Man was in that dust. They’re still dusty now, and I think they should stay that way.
Unpacking from Pantheacon has reminded me of that realization. Everything I shake out of my bag seems to have taken on the material wealth of the gathering. Ribbons flutter loose out of my shoes; colorful kisses from everyone I met. Contrary to the tradition of the long badge-tail or the ribbon sash, I bring mine home and stick them into my journal. Embedded in my lotion and makeup are numberless tiny purple sparkles. They shook loose from the paper fans handed to us by the friendly folk at the Feri Tent Revival.
The revival is one of the best rituals I have ever seen. It combines the trappings and accents and affectations of the faiths in which man of us were raised and the rest of us saw on TV. Southern drawling true believers invoke the gods of the Feri and lead us in hymns like “Amazing Grace” and “Born This Way.” The liturgy is a gorgeous combination of the old and the new and it makes me cry and sigh with that unmistakable sensation of a circuit completing. It heals wounds in me both old and deep, and to look around the room it seems I’m not the only one. That purple glitter is welcome to stay, too.
There are beautiful moments for which I have no physical memento. The mytheatrics and dances and gut-busting jokes are with me still, clinging like a good dream into the morning. I got to sing a song by Gwydion Pendderwen at Valerie Voight’s bardic circle, and connect to my elders in the Craft. I told old jokes and stories to the teenagers I met in the hall and started to feel what it will be like to be an example to the next generation of witches. I shook hands with Starhawk and Selena Fox and Margot Adler, I sat and listed to songs by Lon Milo DuQuette. I thought back to the controversies of last year, and thought about Z. Budapest. More than once in the last three days, a witch looked at me and said they felt that something was tipping. Something is changing. We are the turning of the tide. This sense of momentum and change buttressed and rippled beneath the entire convention for me, and for others.
I am lucky that I have a coven of my own and I don’t have to rely on yearly festivals to charge my batteries with group ritual and fellowship. However, even if Pantheacon was the only time I got to be with these people, my people, this year was potent enough to stay with me a good long while.
I am grateful beyond words that I can attend events like this one, and I treasure even the dust I carry with me from this weekend.