Pagan Pride in downtown Long Beach attempts to spread understanding of local pagan community

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Kristen Naeem | Signal Tribune
Religious groups, practitioners and vendors gathered in Rainbow Lagoon park in downtown Long Beach on Sunday, Oct. 6 2019, to celebrate Pagan Pride.

Religious groups, practitioners and vendors gathered in Rainbow Lagoon park in downtown Long Beach on Oct. 6 to celebrate Pagan Pride.

Pagan Pride has been organized by Pagan Pride Los Angeles, Inc. since 1999, and hosted at Rainbow Lagoon park in Long Beach since 2012, according to organizer Brian Ewing. Over 60 groups and vendors were present at this year’s event, selling crystals, books, herbs, candles and incense as well as sharing information about their beliefs with attendees.

Through the event, local pagans hoped to show the multiplicity that exists within paganism and dispel negative stereotypes about themselves and their beliefs.

“We want to bring a better awareness to the different types of branches of paganism because in Christianity, there’s all kinds of branches, there’s all kinds of branches in metaphysics as well. To just sort of, enlighten and encourage people to look into something that might interest them, whether its astrology or tarot, and many other things you can look into,” Tammye McDuff, a Pagan Pride volunteer, told the Signal Tribune. “If you look at the word ‘pagan’ it actually means ‘country dweller’, and in the [distant] past the pagans were the people who lived outside the city, that used the roots and used the herbs to do healing, and it just sort of got a bad rap for awhile. And yes, there are some good people as well as some not so good people but you’re going to find mostly good ones out here.”

Groups such as the Covenant of the Goddess, whose Orange County Local Council was present at Pagan Pride, are active in making sure those who identify as witches and wiccans are not unfairly persecuted in society.

“It’s a great organization that supports witches and wiccans, kind of keeps an eye out to make sure that your constitutional and your civil liberties are protected,” Mary Stuart, a member of the Orange County Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess, told the Signal Tribune.

Stuart also told the Signal Tribune that she knew of practitioners of Wicca who had lost their job or had a former spouse attempt to gain full custody of their children once their spiritual beliefs became known.

While Stuart said she has seen significant progress made surrounding the treatment of pagans in recent years, noting that a public event such Pagan Pride would not have been possible 30 years ago, a lot of misinformation and ill will still exists in modern society.

“Wiccans, witches, pagans, heathens, any of the polytheistic religions, yes–– because there was such amazing propaganda in the Dark Ages, when Christianity couldn’t stamp us out so they tried to make us evil. However, they took most of our rituals and adapted them [for] themselves,” Stuart said when asked if there was still stigma surrounding Wicca.

Among the untrue and harmful stereotypes Stuart has heard about wiccans and witches, such as the members of the Covenant of the Goddess, is that they practice the ritual sacrifice of animals and children.

According to a pamphlet distributed by the Orange County Local Council of the Covenant of the Goddess the group aims to “honor the old Goddesses and Gods” through rituals that “include singing, ritual drama, chanting, dancing, drumming, meditation, visualization, trances and other techniques” which “are performed within a sacred space demarcated by a circle.”