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By Brandon Richardson / Managing Editor
Witches, spiritual advisers, psychics and more gathered for the 17th annual Pagan Pride Day at Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach on Sunday, Oct. 4.
Sunnie Young, 24, a history major, said, “Overall, I had a really good experience. I met some really nice, open and welcoming people. I learned a lot of good information.”
The event, which consisted of vendors, workshops, rituals and live entertainment, had no admission cost and was open to the public, not just people identifying with paganism.
Adrian Novotny, a teacher at LBCC and the adviser of the Pagan Club on campus, was among the visitors to the Pagan Pride. “Almost every street corner in most of our cities, Long Beach included, have an array of churches and temples and synagogues,” he said. “And yet there’s no place where pagans can go.”
Yvonne Conway-Williams, co-founder of the United Pagans of Color, 1st officer of the Orange County Local Covenant of the Goddess and event entertainment coordinator, said, “Pagan pride is to bring awareness of the various pagan traditions to people who are unfamiliar with it. Sort of to take away the mystery and any of the misconceptions about paganism in general.”
Some of the misconceptions that Conway-Williams mentioned are that wiccans, or pagans in general, worship Satan. She said many do not acknowledge the existence of Satan, let alone worship him. Also, the idea that pagans would cause harm to children or animals, she said that those actions would go against their basic beliefs.
When talking about her job as the entertainment coordinator, Conway-Williams said, “Every year I’m trying to keep it fresh and keep new stuff going. They have to understand that we can’t pay them, everything is volunteer and it needs to be family friendly, so the language is a concern. But other than that, pretty much anything goes.”
Entertainment at the event included various dances and different styles of music, including full band, partial band and even a singer accompanied only by a piano.
One of the groups that performed was the Wild Wood Border Morris dancers. Border Morris dance originated in the Shropshire region, an area between England and Wales.
Julie James, director of the dancers, said, “We were taught Border Morris by a Welshman who came to Long Beach. He came and we learned it and we thought, ‘Oh that’s a great thing, we need to do that.’ So in ‘99 I created Wild Wood and we’ve been dancing ever since.”
James said that, for some, a spiritual aspect accompanies the dancing, but that is not the case for her. “I am a devout atheist, so I don’t hold a lot of spirituality associated with it, but many people do. I do it because it fulfills me and it’s fun and it’s powerful and you get to hit sticks and wear bells,” she said.
The Wild Wood dancers meet Wednesday nights at Whaley Park on Atherton Street near Bellflower Boulevard in Long Beach from 8-10 p.m., but James cautions people wanting to attend that they are not there every week and should email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding meetings or the group in general.
One of the rituals at the event was the Jupiter and Juno Prosperity ritual, led by Laurie Lovekraft, a teacher and organizer.
During this ritual, tin foil was passed around for participants to make an object or apparel to adorn themselves with as they held hands, chanted and moved around the central area.
Regarding her paganism Lovecraft said, “I think it’s that personal power and connecting that to planetary need. I do this work for myself, certainly, but I also do it for my community and I do it for the planet.”
Novotny views the event as a rare opportunity for people of the pagan persuasion to “come together and feel normal and be surrounded by like-minded people,” but he said it is still poorly advertised. He said he thinks more time and effort could be spent on communication to help build the community.
This situation does not diminish his view of Pagan Pride, however. In fact, he said he feels that more gatherings of the pagan community should occur.
“Just once a year is not enough. Like, could you imagine holding a church together if you met only once a year?” he said.
For more information regarding Pagan Pride in the L.A. and O.C. areas, people may visit the Pagan Pride Project, Los Angeles Chapter website at paganpridela.org/future/futuremain.html or visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/paganpridela.