St. Louis Park, MN
Friday March 25-Sunday March 27, 2011

First-time events have bumps. It’s a law of organizing, whether for an orphan feeding nonprofit or for a convention of science fiction fans. Yet somehow, Paganicon, a convention for magical people located in Minnesota, sidestepped all birth pains. So well was the event organized, some visitors from outside the state thought it had run for years, and even the event organizers managed to participate in workshops. Perhaps all that birth energy went to one pregnant organizer whose water broke on the last day of the conference.

Guest speaker John Michael Greer charmed the audience with his good humor, anecdotes about Pagan encounters, and with his comments on peak oil that have drawn attention from far outside of the neopagan sphere. His workshop on magical Mesocosms illustrated a new way to understand the levels at which magic and change can work, as demonstrated by audience participation in a Discordian ritual. In his time at the conference, Greer challenged multiple notions that have veered dangerously into becoming conventional neopagan thought, from challenging the view of time and the universe as a spiral to the semi-popular belief that neopaganism has a need to be something other than a collective of modern faiths.

Workshops went through a rigorous selection process, and the result gave participants a broad variety that represented a cross-section of interests, paths and practices. Along with ritual and magical workshops, topics covered included the history of Paganistan presented by Murphy Pizza, a study in addiction by Marcus Mandrake and Shauna Aura, and a roundtable discussion on Pagan atheism to name a very few of the options available. All public rituals were inclusive and welcoming, and the hotel fit the event perfectly. Not only did the Doubletree have adequate space, the design was completely handicapped accessible.

The technical approach to the convention helped it run smoothly. All attendees and presenters could sign on to the Paganicon website to set up their own schedules before attendance. Not only did this give everyone a chance to choose workshops, it gave presenters a good idea of how many people planned to attend their workshop – useful when a presenter uses handouts and props. Paganicon demonstrated an excellent example of how Pagan organizers can effectively use social media.

The event is definitely on for next year, and in a part of hotel where the participation rooms and hospitality suites will be located closer together. I strongly recommend booking a room for the event; I chose to commute and I believe I missed some of the fun because I did.

Full disclosure: I was a workshop presenter at Paganicon, on the Artist’s Way for Magical People.

~review by Diana Rajchel

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