I’ve been going to PantheaCon for over a decade now. For most of that time I served as staff for ConOps/CAT, and later Programming. The last few years I’ve had to step back from being staff. These days it’s not uncommon for me to have one major ritual and a minor ritual or other event on my schedule for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, such that I spend all my time either preparing for, performing, or recovering from one of my obligations. I rarely manage to attend any programming item I’m not directly involved in. Fitting in 6-8 hours of volunteer staff work per day has become impossible if I want to eat and sleep.
Alas, not being staff also means not staying on site, which cuts into my time and energy in other ways, since I have to be safe to drive home every night. But I live less than 10 miles from the hotel, and it’s nice to sleep in my own bed, so it’s worth the trade.
This year has been so stressful, I decided I wanted to take it easy. I declined to help with any rituals on Saturday so that I could have one whole day to wander as I willed. The rest of my schedule was still full enough.
Wednesday night I went up to Oakland to get Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir so she could spend the night at my place and borrow my car to load in to the Pagans of Color suite as early as possible Thursday. I helped as much as I could Thursday, but my sleep schedule is really far off from hers, so all I really ended up doing was helping her with the grocery run.
I caught up briefly with fellow Vanic ladies Nan and Maia of Freyja’s Gift Seidh team. Last summer they’d helped with my mysteries and ordination, and I’d missed Nan terribly since then, since she lives in Southern California. They confirmed my participation in their Seidh session on Friday.
The way Freyja’s Gift conducts Oracular Seidh is very different in presentation than how Hrafnar’s Seidhjallr conducts Oracular Seidh. The pieces are similar, they’re just put together differently. The resulting experience for the seer is almost unchanged, but the querent’s experience is very, very different.
[Edited to add] Hrafnar style Oracular Seidh involves guiding a group of querants – the whole audience for any given session – down to either the Well of Wyrd or the gateway to the Hella’s hall, and then guiding the seer across the last threshold alone. The querents stay for the whole ritual, and the warders keep an eye on the whole crowd. This has the advantage of giving people who are curious about Seidh but aren’t sure they have a question something to actually see and do while they’re there. But it’s also risky, in that it takes people of a wide variety of skill levels into a trance state that they may or may not deal well with. We’ve put a lot of work in over the years – quite a bit before I ever joined – into making the ritual as effective as possible for as many people as possible while causing as few problems as possible. That’s a lot of possibles, and it takes quite a bit of focused effort to pull it off with a group as large as we draw at PantheaCon.
Freyja’s Gift arguably makes better use of their time, setting up three seers simultaneously, and directing querents to them as they become available. The querents simply wait their turn and then traverse the room to the seer – no journeying, and no need to stay after their question is answered. There’s nothing at all interesting to do or see for those who aren’t sure why they came, and it’s not terribly educational for the curious. It may not establish the same level of trance rapport between the seer and the querent, which some need more than others, but most of the querents who attend have sufficient driving need as to make up for that aspect. Overall they process a lot more querents in the same time frame, with fewer problems for the querents who can’t handle trance.[/edit]
I stood chair for Lisa Morgenstern, taking on a role that mixed elements of chair standing, guiding, and querant warding in Seidhjallr’s model. It worked very well for me. Establishing rapport was almost frighteningly easy, as I found myself catching the same answers she gave loud and clear, well before they came out of her mouth. That’s always fun, I have to admit, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite that easy on the first try with Lisa when I’d never worked that closely with her in a trance ritual before.
By the time I went home on Friday I was very happy, and looking forward to a good Saturday with the freedom to explore as I chose.