I attended the very first Pagan Pride Day in Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday, September 17. I was shocked when I first learned that this was happening; you mean to tell me that Ann Arbor has never had an event like this before? But apparently it’s true. In any case, I’d like to thank everyone who was involved in organizing this thing for taking the time to do so, especially Reverend Rob Henderson of Ár nDraíocht Féin. Reverend Henderson also performed the opening ceremony for the day, and I thought it was really nice. It included prayers to the Gods (identified here as “the Shining Ones”), to the local spirits of the land, and to the ancestors.
The first workshop, a talk on Druidism, was originally meant to be presented by Reverend Melissa Hill, another member of Ár nDraíocht Féin. Unfortunately, Reverend Hill’s car wouldn’t start that morning, so Reverend Henderson had to take over. His talk was very informal as a result of this last minute hiccup, but I actually prefer that sort of thing anyway. He explained a great deal of his organization’s views, which are not restricted to the Celtic paradigm by any means. The whole thing began as a kind of “joke religion” on a college campus in the 1960s, but like many such traditions, it eventually became something more serious. The organization has many localized subgroups called “groves” that each choose their own pantheons, and the members of these groves are free to work with any other Deities they like on their own. So you can even be a Christian while participating in a grove (provided that you’re comfortable doing so). One of the Divinities who’s honored in Reverend Henderson’s grove is a river Goddess who’s local to Michigan.
I have to admit that I’m somewhat wary of Ár nDraíocht Féin considering that its deceased founder, Isaac Bonewits, was exactly the sort of person who made individuals like me feel unwelcome in the Pagan community back during the 1990s. Don’t get me wrong; Bonewits accomplished many good things for Paganism back in the day. But he also said some egregiously stupid things against those of us who associate with Divinities he didn’t like (including Seth and Loki). Rob Henderson seems like an OK fellow to me, though, so maybe the ADF has mellowed out a bit since the 1990s. In any case, I’m pretty sure I also bumped into Henderson at Michigan Pagan Fest earlier this year.
The next presentation was about “Hood Magic,” and it was given by High Priestess Morgana Moonwater (a.k.a. Reverend Amy Jean Gooslin) from Flint, Michigan. Now when I first heard the title of this discussion, it had me thinking about that scene in Escape From New York (1981) when Isaac Hayes drives around in his limo with a bunch of chandeliers on the hood of his car. But actually, the talk was about walking the path of a witch within the most economically challenged of urban environments. This was actually pretty interesting, especially in the context of what’s been happening with Flint lately. High Priestess Moonwater was a joyful lady dressed in a hoodie and torn-up jeans, and I found her very endearing. I also appreciated her use of an R-rated vocabulary during the discussion. (I was surprised when she mentioned that she’s a grandmother.) Things did get a little derailed for me when she started reading auras later on (e.g., discussing a particular problem and “psychically” identifying certain people in the audience as having it). That sort of thing doesn’t really impress me; besides, Morgana’s talk was already fascinating enough without needing to do that. But aside from that, the rest of the presentation was pretty sweet.
(Note: For all I know, Morgana really can read auras, and the people she pointed out during her talk really do have the problems that she said they did. It just makes me uncomfortable when Pagan speakers engage in that sort of stuff, because it requires an unreasonable expectation of faith on the part of the audience. It’s reasonable enough to assume that we each believe in some notion of “magic” and/or “the Gods,” whatever these terms might mean to the individual; but it’s unreasonable to expect everyone to accept that a particular person is psychic, especially when one has never heard of the person before and is given no particular reason to accept the claim as being true aside from an appeal to authority. This isn’t really a problem I have with anyone specifically, but more of a general pet peeve that I often see at these kinds of events.)
The next event after this was a belly dance performance, which turned out to be led by Morgana Moonwater. No kidding; one minute she was dressed up like someone in the movie 8 Mile (2002), and the next she was dressed like Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi (1983). The belly dancing was great, but about halfway through the performance I started feeling dizzy and a little faint. I decided to go home at that point, take a nap, and maybe come back to Pagan Pride later for the evening festivities. Unfortunately, I ended up sleeping right through them; but it was well worth it, since I felt much better when I awoke.
Well, this wasn’t a very large Pagan Pride Day event; there were probably only five tents in all, and only four of them were for vendors. The fifth and largest tent was where the presentations were held. But you have to start somewhere, and I figure five tents is a pretty decent start. My sister-in-law thinks I should apply to give some kind of presentation of my own for next year’s event. I suppose I’d like that, but I always feel so apprehensive at these things, and I’m skeptical that anyone would want to listen to me anyway. In my experience at least, many of the people who actually go to these events don’t want to be around anything they consider “dark,” which usually includes Seth and anything with horned pentagrams all over the place.
As an example of what I mean, my wife and I recently visited one of our favorite Pagan stores, Earth Lore in Plymouth. I thought I might get a new pentacle necklace for myself, seeing as how I haven’t actually worn one in years. I didn’t see any that were horned though, so I asked one of the staff if they had anything with so-called “inverted” pentagrams in stock. The staff member very kindly explained to me that he wished they could carry such things, but every time they try, many of their customers complain. They don’t want to shop at a store that carries anything “satanic,” they say. So while the staff member agreed with me that this was stupid, it just didn’t make good business sense for them to carry such products. I was grateful for the guy’s sympathy, but this did remind me an awful lot of how things were in the 1990s. Apparently, people like me are still considered “unwelcome” by certain people in Paganism, which is just unfortunate. Where the hell else do these people expect us to go?
Oh well; I had a great time at Pagan Pride Day in any event, and the only reason I couldn’t stay for the whole thing is because I started feeling ill. If they have it in my area next year, I expect I will make some kind of appearance there as well. Thanks again to all of the people who worked hard and took time out of their lives to put this baby together.