Have you ever gone to an event and had the "glow" from it last for several days afterward? It's Thursday, and the vibes from last weekend's Mystic South conference are just beginning to fade.
Over the years, I've been to dozens of Pagan gatherings, but this was the first hotel-based conference I've attended. As someone who has long since seen the backside of her 20s (and 30s and 40s...) I'm here to tell you, having a real bed and a hot shower waiting upstairs at the end of the night is a marvelous thing. Being physically comfortable allowed me to focus more on the content of the event and less on just getting through the day.
And the workshops!
I went to Mystic South in order to present a workshop about Modern Minoan Paganism and do a book signing. But I also attended as many workshops as I could squeeze in (they were all wonderful) and had some valuable conversations with a number of people.
I got to meet Raina and Dorian of Desperate Housewitches, two magical women who have just the right amount of attitude. Raina even talked me into singing along with my husband on their live podcast from the event. Raina, I promise I'll post a Tao of Pooh video for you very soon! The Ariadne and Dionysus meditation with Allison and Roger Lockshier was quite moving; I encountered an aspect of the Serpent-Mother I hadn't met before, and for me, that's a big deal.
I had insightful chats with John Beckett, Star Bustamonte, and Cyndi Brannen, among others, about the very real issues we face as both Pagans and members of modern western society, with all the cultural and political baggage that includes. Keep an eye on The Wild Hunt for the results of some of those conversations.
The aspect of this conference that I enjoyed the most, I think, is this: it's not a "partying festival" but a conference that included not just a variety of workshops but also academic papers on topics related to Pagan spiritual practice. It was refreshing to be able to have serious conversations and attend workshops that started on time and in many cases included PowerPoint presentations so I could really see what was going on.
This is something we need much more of in the Pagan community: forums for meeting in person and sharing ideas and experiences in a "grown-up" kind of way. Books and social media only go so far in terms of creating that steaming cauldron from which wisdom and insight are born. As the varied facets of modern Paganism grow and evolve, it's important that we develop more ways to connect with each other and expand not only our individual practices and beliefs but also our traditions and broader experiences.
As for the nuts and bolts of the event: the organizers were, well, organized! I'm sure there were problems behind the scenes; there always are with any large event. But from my perspective, the conference ran like clockwork, with a well-designed schedule and loads of volunteers who made sure the presenters had what they needed (what I needed was more chairs - thank you to all the lovely folks who turned up for my workshop!).
So yes, I'll be going back next year; I'm hoping to present another workshop and maybe a ritual as well. If you can make it to Atlanta next July, maybe I'll see you there!
Mystic South was a lovely experience. As we say here in the South, a good time was had by all.