Why Pagan Pride?
By: Melanie Crump
Throughout history, we have made leaps and bounds in social acceptance, ethics, and human rights. However, we still have a lot of progress to make in acceptance and rights of different religions and sexual orientations. It is not surprising that the concurrent movements for gay and Pagan rights share the same catch phrases. Both gays and Pagans are “in the closet” when they keep their sexual orientation or religious pathway in secret. Both do this in order to avoid being rejected for their differences. Then, when they become open about their true nature, they are “coming out” of the closet. There are even International Coming Out Days for Pagans and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Pride is a word that is associated with both movements as well. The term Gay Pride existed first as a way of expressing that not only it was okay to be gay, but that you should be proud to be you and all that encompasses who you are truly inside. The Pagan Pride Project borrowed the term for their organization in helping Pagans to feel the same way about their non-mainstream religious pathways.
The Pagan Pride Project is a non-profit organization that strives for “the advancement of religion and elimination of prejudice and discrimination based on religious beliefs.” Founded by Cecylyna Dewr, the Pagan Pride Project is composed of a Board of Directors, Regional Coordinators, and Local Coordinators. Under the guidelines of the Pagan Pride Project, Local Coordinators lead chapter groups that hold Pagan Pride Days world-wide. The mission of the Pagan Pride Day event is “to foster pride in Pagan identity through education, activism, charity and community.” These events bring the whole community together, Pagans and non-Pagans alike, to learn accurate information about Paganism, celebrate acceptance of all despite different religious pathways, and support the community through charity. Many festivities at these events include educational workshops, local vendors, charity drives, and an open community Harvest Ritual for the Autumnal Equinox. Pagan Pride Day events are completely non-profit so the Local Coordinators do this on a full time volunteer bases. All money raised from the event goes into paying for that year’s event and any remainder goes into next year’s event.
Why have Pagan Pride Days? Circle Sanctuary has made great strides for all Pagans in having Wicca, a tradition of Paganism, accepted by the military as a religion. However, Paganism is still feared, misunderstood, and not even considered a religion by the majority of people. There are incidences of hate crimes against Pagans worldwide. It hit closer to home this March with a Florida resident and Pagan children’s author having her house shot at due to her being “out” as a witch. On a national level, this year we heard the defamation of Wicca on Fox News as they lashed out about Missouri State University creating their Cultural and Religious Observances guide, which is meant to help professors know about different religious holidays when scheduling their tests and paper deadlines. Even during this last presidential election, we had a local Jacksonville church displaying a large sign reading “Don’t Vote Like A Pagan!” along with an anti-Pagan sermon that contained lies and propaganda about Pagan beliefs to feed their agenda.
Pagan Pride Days are extremely important in the movement to get Paganism more widely accepted as a peaceful religion. People tend to avoid, fear, and hate what they do not understand. The majority will not seek out knowledge and decide for themselves how to feel about Paganism. They will simply rely on what they are taught from the media, Hollywood, and how they are raised to think. Unfortunately, none of these informational sources are completely reliable. If we want the majority to learn the truth of Pagan ways, we have to share the accurate information in a peaceful, approachable environment. This event creates a fun-filled, family friendly place for people to learn about Paganism and realize it is a beautiful earth-based spirituality that doesn’t need to be feared. In addition to the educational and activism aspects, this event supports the local community as a whole through charity and economical growth. Charity is given through food and pet supply collection drives at the event as well as allowing local non-profit organizations free booths to hand out information about their services. The local economy is helped by having low cost booths for local artist and craftsmen to sell their unique, hand-made wares. Within the Pagan community, Pagan Pride Day allows for local Pagans to gather and exchange knowledge, practices, and just get to know one another for friendship and support. Overall, Pagan Pride Day events help out not just Pagans, but the whole local community to bring about social awareness, acceptance, and unity of its people, regardless of individual religious and spiritual beliefs.
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