By Brittany Dekorte
A pride festival was hosted by the local branch of the Pagan Pride Project on Sept. 17, at Washtenaw Community College.
Ann Arbor Pagan Pride welcomed people of all ages and spiritual backgrounds to their first ever event, which was set up in the Community Park, and went on as normally planned despite the rain.
Rev. Rob Henderson lead the opening and closing prayer for the event. His Grove (or congregation), is the Shining Lakes Grove, which teamed up with the Renewal Coven and other local pagan congregations to establish this event.
“To me, paganism means polytheism. Nature worship is defining, but not important. It’s about finding and understanding one’s place in the universe.” Henderson said. “As a whole the one thing that unifies paganism is the use of the term pagan; people who self identify as pagan.”
“We ended up hosting this event at WCC because the price was the best we could find. Not to mention, the on-site security and being on a bus line,” Henderson said.
“Unfortunately, we still live in a day and age where people will still be discriminated against based on their beliefs. Many of our members fear retaliation in their everyday lives because of their religion, which is why we need events like this,” Amabran of the Renewal Coven, said.
Paganism is one of the smallest religious affiliations in the United States, with less than 1 percent of the population practicing, according to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study.
Paganism is not a covered section of religion here at WCC.
“In my comparative religions class, we don’t cover paganism, only the five main living religions. It’s not to diminish the religion in and of itself; we often don’t have time to cover it,” said Professor Charles Johnson.
The Pagan Pride Project and its local affiliates are a non profit group that, “through education, activism, charity and community, promotes tolerance and understanding between people with different belief systems,” according to their website. There was no entry fee to the event, but a donation of a canned food or dry good item for the Food Gatherers pantry was appreciated.
The event featured a Peruvian fire ceremony by James Stovall, a belly dancing class led by members of the award winning troupe Sabba Zimora, a magical cleansing, information booths, vendors, and other activities run by members of the local Pagan community.