Metro DetroitJuly 31, 2013
Pagan festival collects goods to ‘take care of creation’
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
METRO DETROIT — The mysteries of life are many, and different people explore them in different ways. In mainstream America, the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are a common way of trying to understand the “big picture” — but they are not the only way. There are also pagan practices.
In medieval times, pagans would’ve been branded as witches and burned at the stake; people sometimes fear what they don’t understand. But the truth is, pagans, while they come in many forms, believe in caring for all life on earth — helping, healing and enhancing.
“The lyrics to one of the songs we like people to remember goes: ‘We all come from the goddess, and to her, we shall return, like a drop of rain falling to the ocean.’ That’s one of the key ideas of Wicca (a pagan belief): We’re here to take care of creation because we are creation,” said Kenya Davis, a practicing pagan. “That’s where the theme of Pagan Pride Detroit comes from. We have a motto: ‘Service before status.’”
Pagan Pride Detroit is a branch of an international group called Pagan Pride, and Davis is the spokesperson for their annual event, Pagan Pride Day Detroit.
Now in its sixth year, the event will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 10 at Green Acres Park, 899 W. Mapledale Ave. in Hazel Park.
The event is free and no one will be turned away, but guests are asked to donate one nonperishable good, such as food or toiletry items. The goods will go to Pagans in Need, which provides aid to pagans and non-pagans alike.
Davis herself once benefited from Pagans in Need when she hit a rough patch financially; they paid for her daughter’s shoes and delivered food to her door. Now, Davis is doing well again, and she often recommends the group to people she helps as a professional in the field of social work.
Stockpiling donations for Pagans in Need is one way the event will help others. Another charitable initiative is the Toon-Day Raffle, which will benefit two individuals in the pagan community that are struggling to pay medical bills.
There will be a variety of prizes up for grabs, all donated by various vendors. The prize list wasn’t finalized at press time, but may include jewelry, massage vouchers, books, baked goods and more. People buy tickets and choose which drawing to participate in. It all goes down mid-afternoon.
Pagan Pride Day Detroit takes place on Mabon, the second of three major harvest festivals on the Wheel of the Year, according to most Wiccan calendars. It’s a time of thanksgiving, Davis said, so it’s appropriate the event gives back to the community in charitable fashion.
The other goal of the event is to broaden people’s horizons. With the theme “Discovering New Worlds,” Pagan Pride Day Detroit will feature a number of attractions meant to educate, enlighten and inspire.
Motor City Belly Dance will perform, as will several other individuals. Belly dancing predates Neo-Paganism in the U.S., but pagans have long loved it in drum circles.
“There’s some crossover where some people will incorporate belly-dancing as part of their magic, or as part of their worship,” Davis said.
There will also be two classes on belly dancing: one aimed at adults with the goal of “reclaiming your sensuality,” and another for people of all ages.
A professional storyteller, Michael “Curly” Spaulding, will conduct three 15-minute “stories from the landscape of the imagination.” Another guest, Dr. Dale Bach, who practices shamanism, will lead people through spiritually therapeutic exercises involving music and visualizations, or guided-thought experiments.
There will be face-painting for all ages by Sarah Metzler, of Body Language Face and Body Art, who will accept donations but not ask for them.
Both kids and adults can look forward to “boffers” — foam-rubber weapons used in friendly duals where an adult supervisor determines a winner.
“But everyone really wins, because kids get to hit each other and not get hurt or in trouble,” Davis said. “And there is no fee — you just come and play.”
There will be four rituals, including a short Druidic ritual conducted by a group from Port Huron, and another ritual by a dragon magic practitioner involving visualizations. Guests aren’t obligated to participate, but are invited to observe.
“That’s why we have public rituals,” Davis said. “It’s so people can see what others are doing in a nonthreatening setting.”
There will also be prerecorded music and chants playing, with the aim of preserving ancient pagan traditions.
In addition to all of this, there will be a variety of vendors on display — everything from local metaphysical shops and tarot card dealers to clothing merchants and homemade food vendors, including vegan and gluten-free.
There will be lots to see and hear, and lots to learn and unlearn. Pop culture has manufactured certain stereotypes about paganism, associating them with demons and darkness. But this characterization is off the mark, said Kris McLonis, a vocalist performing at the event, and a member of Pagan Pride Detroit.
“Witchcraft, if done right, is not exerting power over others, but over yourself,” McLonis said. “For example, if someone irritates you at work, witchcraft has constructive steps for fortifying yourself, at no harm to anyone.”
Not every pagan is a witch, however, nor is every pagan a Wiccan. Paganism comes in countless different forms, some older than the “Big Three” religions, others more recent inventions that developed as people continued to experiment with new ideas.
Davis considers herself an “eclectic Wiccan” — sharing some of the broad strokes of Wicca but not strictly adhering to any one branch of it. In addition, she follows the “Divine Path of the Fool,” which emphasizes humor as a key tool in problem solving.
While paganism covers a broad spectrum of beliefs, the key takeaway from the event, Davis hopes, is that pagans are human and can be a force for good in the community.
“We want people to know we’re just like them,” Davis said. “We’re people, too — and we’re not scary.”
Pagan Pride Day Detroit will take place at Green Acres Park, 899 W. Mapledale Ave. in Hazel Park, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 10. Guests are asked to bring a nonperishable food or household item to donate to Pagans in Need, but no one will be turned away. For the schedule, visit www.paganpridedetroit.org/schedule-of-events.