Pagans Show Pride At Autumnal Rally
by Staff Writer
Sage incense wafted across the grounds of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester yesterday as high priest Alan Braden asked the circle of fellow pagans to chant the following: "Although many, although different, we stand proud together and call out 'Welcome.' "
Each of the 32 participants - some dressed in T-shirts and jeans, others wearing black or purple robes - was blessed with a sprinkle of water.
they drank apple cider from a glass bowl and chewed on rice cakes. They grabbed handfuls of bird seed, and ended the half-hour ritual by tossing the seeds into the center of the circle -- symbolic of taking and giving back.
Later, they went home and live their lives in much the same fashion as many people in Rochester do.
"After this, I'm getting a couch for my living room and having a few drinks at a bar." Braden said after the ceremony. "There's nothing scary of hidden in my life."
Braden and other pagans gathered to celebrate Pagan Pride Day and honor the autumn season, but also seeking to improve attitudes toward Earth-based spiritual practices.
Pagans don't worship the devil or cast black magic spells, yet are still often discriminated against because of their beliefs, organizers of the event said.
"There are still ministers in Rochester who will preach against us." said Cindy Glaze, a pagan clergyperson who holds a divinity degree from Colgate Rochester Divinity School. "They're scared. They don't know what we do. They still have old stereotypes."
The festival started with a talk by Barbara Mahooty, a Mohawk elder from the St. Regis Indian Reservation. It also featured workshops, including one led by Sgt. Dan Magill of the Rochester Police Department who discussed his efforts to educate officers and the public on the difference between Satanism and pagan faiths.