Pagans Gather To Celebrate The Changing Seasons
By Maeleeke J. Lavor
Democrat & Chronicle
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Rochester, New York - Penfield - A group of people gathered at Ellison Park on Saturday for a festival that celebrated the change of seasons and allowed them to enjoy the company of friends.
"The purpose of. the festival is to acknowledge our own diversity in the pagan community and get across that we're participating in community in other ways," said Laura Hammond, local coordinator for Pagan Pride.
In its sixth year, the Pagan Pride Festival is held in celebration of the fall equinox and to allow those who practice paganism to share their commonalties and differences and provide a place for others to better understand pagan practices and rituals.
Hammond said the most common misconception about pagans is that the spirituality brings with it rituals or practices that are perpetuated by Hollywood and rock music. In fact, she said, "our practices are most focused on the cycles of the Earth, the seasons and different things like that. We believe that the Earth is something to be cherished and protected."
Literature at the festival described some common themes of pagan practices as including a celebration of nature and honoring it by using symbols of the elements: earth, fire, air and water. The practice of the arts and sciences of witchcraft, also known as wicca, is another common practice of pagans.
An opening ceremony began at about 10:45 a.m. About 50 participants gathered in a circle, held hands and looked toward the sky, asking for blessings, protection and guidance from spirits and ancestors.
Festival-goers wandered into tents loaded with merchandise, including incense, clothing jewelry and other crafts.
"I find in places like this people of like-mindedness," said Julia Stewart, who attended the festival for the first time and sold spirit drawings. "It's nice to come to a place where the people get you."
"We come together to share each other's gifts," said Linda Mason, who sold hand-made jewelry.
Simply having a forum where she can share her beliefs, talents and ideas with others who will accept them was comforting, Mason said.
"There's more of an acceptance here, and I wish there was more of that in other places," she said.