Magic and witchcraft, Alaska Pagans unite

Come celebrate 30 years!

Following in the footsteps of the Gay Pride Movement, Pagans are coming out of the closet. The broom closet, that is. Paganism, according to their Web site is, “a broad, eclectic modern religious movement that encompasses shamanistic, ecstatic, polytheistic and magical religions.”

The Pagan Pride Day planning committee is a group of Alaska Pagans from all walks of life who joined together to help the International Pagan Pride Project.

The IPPP is a non-profit organization aimed at fostering pride in pagan communities everywhere.

Hence "Pagan Pride Week," a weeklong series of community events culminating in the Anchorage Pagan Pride Day Harvest Faire on Sept. 30 in the Atwood Center on the Alaska Pacific University Campus.

These events are being conducted to promote greater tolerance and diversity among all religions and change current prejudices about the pagan community.

“We're lumped in with Satanists, and the associations are difficult to overcome,” said Morven Giolla Brighde, a member of the Alaskan Pagan Pride Day planning committee.

Events aren't just happening in Alaska. Pride Fairs were planned all over the world and Brighde thinks they are most needed outside of the United States.

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“There's still reports of people in Kenya killed for being witches,” Brighde said.

Kenya isn't the only place witch hunts appear and in some parts of the world events not unlike the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 have occurred.

“I didn't realize how important the Constitution was until I became a Pagan,” said Elisa Long, local coordinator for the IPPP.

Witchcraft, or Wicca as it's also known, is a form of nature worship with historical roots in tribal Europe. State and federal courts in Virginia and Michigan as well as military courts of justice recognize it as a religion that is protected under the First Amendment.

“A fellow employee kept hassling me about my religion, even though I told him it wasn't relevant to my job. I don't take my religion to work,” Long said.

Acceptance of the Fair at the University of Alaska Anchorage was warm, though few knew of the event.

“I don't know a lot about Pagans,” said UAA sophomore Laura King. “But it's kind of cool that they're doing it. As long as they aren't trying to sell their religion to us.”

UAA sophomore Anne Marie was equally approving of the event.

“I studied them in dance appreciation. I think the Faire is a great idea; everyone can believe in whatever they want,” she said.

It's difficult to know how many Pagans there are in Alaska, as most members prefer to remain anonymous. Long said she personally has about 200 contacts around the state. The Wiccan-Pagan Press Alliance estimates in the United States are based on WPPA memberships.

This sudden surge of Pagan outgrowth is in no small part brought about by the Internet.

“I lived in Alaska for years and I never made contact locally until the Internet. There were no resources to,” Brighde said.

Proceeds from the $3 admission to the Pagan Pride Faire or the donation of three cans of food for free admission benefit the Food Bank of Alaska, the Blood Bank of Alaska and the Abused Women's Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) Shelter. More information about Pagan Pride is available from the organization's Web site: http://www.paganpride.org .