One of the things that I love about Paganism is that it is so portable. Whereas other religious faiths have to go to a synagogue, a mosque, or a church- Paganism can be done anywhere, even packed up and taken on the road: such as to Battery Park in Manhattan, site of New York City’s 12th NYC Pagan Pride Celebration!
The Pagan Pride Project is credited to the inspiration of Cecylyna Dewr in the late ’90s, and has grown into a worldwide Pagan phenomenon, an example of the extraordinarily creative way that Paganism expands itself (look here for more about the history of Pagan Pride). As Pagan Pride Day is now one of the most cherished events in the New York City Pagan social and ritual calendar (as well as the event most likely to draw Pagans of every kind, and from every Tradition, in the Big Apple), Pagans galore made their way to the tip of Manhattan on Sept. 29th, 2012 (in view of the Statue of Liberty), for an afternoon of Pagan fun, pride, and outreach.
One of the great things about NYC Pagan Pride is that we get to rock out with our own super-boss Pagan Pride logo: I “Pentacle” NY. Obviously inspired by the I “Heart” NY logo, I think it has to be the coolest Pagan Pride thing there is, conveying with three initials and a symbol an open-hearted expression of love. (Interestingly, the logo takes on a different nuance in meaning when interpreted as “I ‘Pentacle’ NY”; whereas “I Love New York” is very generous with affection, “I ‘Pentacle’ New York” takes the expression one step further, from “I Love the City” to “I Love the City So Much That I Will Generate Wonderful Blessing Magickal Energies for It.” It’s a bit different, is all.)
We enjoyed an excellent turnout, with dozens of venders, entertainers, presenters, and local groups represented, including: the Tahuti Lodge (one of oldest running OTO bodies in world); Grailwood Coven; and the NYC ADF chapter Inis Ull. Workshops included presentations on Runes and Tarot; “Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism”; “Thelemic Magick, Current of the New Aeon”; “Finding and/or Creating Sacred Space in the City”; “Intro to Flower Essence Therapy”; “The Graeco-Italian Roots of Modern Wicca”; and “Working With the Fey.” As with any self-respecting Pagan event, we were entertained by two Celtic-inspired blues, folk-rock bands Featherscale and Awen, as well as a fantastic belly-dancer, Athallia. (As Battery Park is the departure point for tour-boats traveling to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, imagine a boatload of tourists visiting Manhattan, pulling up to dock whilst Ms. Athallia rocks it out with exotic dancing, and all these kind of Ren-Faire-looking people watching.) By now, NYC Pride encompasses two solid avenues of merchanting tents, set up next to Castle Clinton, the Revolutionary War fort. (My favorite moment last year was a group of very staid Midwestern ladies passing through Pride: “Oh my word,” one of them says, as she catches on. “They’re all WITCHES!!”) Props and thanks to all those indomitable Pagan vendors, who will pack up, transport, unpack, and display all their Pagan wares, satisfying the need and desire of the rest of us for Pagan stuff. Let me single out one hardcore lady, Dawn the Kitchen Witch, who always rocks with seriously delicious food (there is always a small mob of Pagans in front of her booth, checking out her delectable goodies). She has produced an excellent Pagan cookbook Tastes From the Temple, published with the Temple of Witchcraft Community, (which was founded by my friend Christopher Penczak and his partners). This is absolutely one of the best Pagan recipe-books one can have, especially those who find Sacredness in the kitchen.
One other group was represented, which initially confused me. Set up a few tables down from my ADF buddies were some people who didn’t strike me as “Pagan” at all. On the other hand, United for Action seemed very “Political Activist,” and their materials outlined their opposition to “Fracking”: the hydraulic fracturing of gas wells in the mid-Atlantic states. My ADF friends explained that the organizers of NYC Pagan Pride agreed with United for Action about the unacceptable risks to water, air, and Mother Earth by this process, and invited them to share Pagan Pride with us, as an opportunity to do educational awareness and petition-signature gathering. I agreed with NYC ADF that we felt extremely proud to be part of such an admirable environmentally conscientious movement as Neo-Paganism.
If ever there were a human being created for the specific purpose of MC-ing a Pagan Pride event: it is surely Luckylicious, producer of the Eat My Pagan Ass podcast, who hosted NYC Pagan Pride 2012. Always charming, dashing, debonair, and hilariously clever, Lucky was so totally the Hit of Pride that I joked it might turn into a sideline-gig for him, traveling the Pagan Circuit, MC-ing Pride gatherings. (Although it was kind of strange, hanging with him this year, as he had a tendency to grow distracted, and kind of like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, dart off going, “So sorry, but I have to MC!”) If you have never checked out Lucky’s podcast, please do, for an always irreverent and always enlightening Take on modern Neo-Paganism.
An example of Lucky’s material: “Are there any PAGANS here today, who are PROUD!? Show your PRIDE, PAGANS! Gimme a ‘BLESSED BE’!”
Two important Speakers gave addresses. Our colleague here at The Juggler, Peg Aloi, gave a talk about media-portrayals of Witches from the ’90s until now; she concluded by addressing an important and relevant matter, so much so that it was also covered in article and commentary at The Wild Hunt a few weeks ago: the push towards Pagans on Reality Television. Reminding the audience of the infamous Wife Swap TV show that yielded the “God Warrior” located on YouTube- Peg urged any Pagans considering any casting calls of “Pagan” Reality TV to understand their contractual obligations; not to be afraid to ask questions during the interview process; and to represent themselves and the community with integrity.
A dark pall was cast over the joyfulness of the occasion, however, when Rev. Mother Cathryn Platine spoke, on behalf of the Maetreum of Cybele, addressing their legal challenges from the upstate town of Catskill, covered most recently here at The Wild Hunt. Pagans of the World: please contribute financially to the Maetreum’s cause with whatever you can: a $20 donation; a $10 donation; a $5 donation; even a $1 donation assists the Maetreum’s fight for justice. As Lucky pointed out in his introduction of Rev. Mother Cathryn: if the town of Catskill can succeed in expelling a Sacred Sisterhood of Pagan Priestesses- the Maetreum’s fight represents every Pagan’s fight for Pagan Rights; the Maetreum’s victory will be every Pagan’s victory for Pagan Rights and Pagan Equality. Great Goddess Victoria- spread open Your Mighty Wings in Justice and Victory for the Daughters of Cybele! Great of the Ancient World Great Mothers is Mighty Cybele!! (Yo, do you want to be the Town Council that pisses off a Goddess Who keeps lions at Her feet? Don’t think so!)
My vibrant and dynamic friend Courtney Weber led the Main Ritual, with her Witchcraft group Novices of the Old Ways (NOW), presented a marvelous Harvest Ritual that was part street-theater, and excellently accommodated to an large-scale, outdoor audience. The ceremony invited us to consider the Harvest season- especially from the point-of-view of an urban environment like Manhattan (for instance, thanks were given to the truckers who ferried the harvest crops from where they were grown into the city, to be consumed as nourishment by city-dwellers). In a bit of a Mummer’s Play (characterized by the “Death” and “Rebirth” of one of the characters), the Harvest King was “killed” by reapers: kind of alarming, until one reflects upon how that is what is necessary, for the Spirit of the Living Crops to “die,” if we are to have food. And of course, the Harvest King is brought “back to life” once more, at the end: again necessary, if the Harvest is to return next year. The ritual was very intelligently conceived, enthusiastically performed, and provided the perfect closing note to NYC Pagan Pride 2012.
It was also filmed, and posted to YouTube:
You can see for yourself what a great job Courtney and the NOW crew did (not for nothing, I am the guy in the orange hoodie seen sometimes behind Courtney). Interestingly, this reminds of Peg’s closing comments, regarding Pagans on Reality Television. Showing as it does “Real” Pagans in the act of being “Pagan for Real,” this YouTube clip captures the ideal sense of “Reality Television Paganism.” If some show were as committed to Paganism as these Pagans are- Reality Pagan TV might go somewhere useful.
In conclusion, I would like to quote the NYC Pagan Pride Project Directors, who note that NYC Pagans have a unique opportunity to do outreach to persons from all over the world during NYC Pagan Pride, as tourists from the four corners of the globe pass their way through Battery Park and the heart of our Pride Project. They may be confused; they might be outraged; maybe they will even be intrigued and curious to understand more; but they will be exposed to “Out” Paganism, and that can only bring beneficial changes in the future. As the PPP Directors further reflect, in some ways, NYC Pagans “have it easier than our fellows around the world, around the country, and even around our own state. This is New York City, where anything goes and almost nothing is shocking, certainly not several hundred Pagans worshipping within sight of the Statue of Liberty.” Definitely, NYC is such a hugely diverse place in culture, ethnic backgrounds, and religious traditions, Paganism will hardly cause folks here to bat an eye twice. All the more imperative for those who can afford to “Come Out” to do so, for the sake of those who cannot.
Great thanks to the hard-working organizers of NYC Pagan Pride, and Pagan Prides all over the globe. Thanks to all the participants in Pagan Pride 2012, here in NYC and elsewhere. Own your Pride, Pagans: keep it going, and keep it showing. Gimme a “Blessed Be!”