The thing about covering paganism in the United States is that pagans, by definition, do not belong to an “organized religion.” The groups are often family based and are generally loosely knit, often only coming together for sabbats like the solstices, Yule or Samhain. My experience with pagans in Northern Nevada is that they draw aspects from traditions throughout the world, mixing the parts that resonate with the individual clans. I also notice that many pagans are students of the religious thought of many folk cultures: Celts, Norse, Native American, Asian, Egyptian and others. Paganism includes many pre-Christian polytheistic religions, but there are also Christian symbols around wherever I’ve come across people who self-identify as pagans. Paganism often has connections to not-necessarily-related philosophies like Wicca.
Pagan Pride was held Oct. 5 at Deer Park in Sparks. This was one of those rare cases where the various local clans came together to raise awareness of the area’s paganism. From the street, it looked like a gathering of the shade structures you’d see around your average rock concert. But these vendors weren’t selling burritos or beer, but the accoutrement of paganism. Pretty much anything that could be imagined, from ceremonial swords and wands to tarot cards and chalices to calendars and magic books to paintings of faeries and staffs with inscribed runes. There were those who weren’t particularly “pagan,” like my young friend Kristofer Perrry, The Bead Wizard, who was selling beaded jewelry and gave me a cell phone fob. On the other hand, there were all kinds of people in capes and robes and gowns. Also on hand were the Child Assault Prevention folks preparing child identification kits, including fingerprints, for the kids.
My purpose for being there, since this is Filet of Soul, was to check out the opening ritual. But, as is often the case, I went in blind and understood little of what was going on. The traffic on Prater Way didn’t help with the hearing, either. Essentially, about 35 people gathered on the grassy side of the park. As we entered the circle, our palms were anointed with water. We all joined hands (although I had to drop out of the circle, as I couldn’t operate the camera with my hands occupied).
There were three people to perform the ritual: Samantha, Arhiannon and Rune. Rune began with instructions for the crowd’s participation, basically telling them that they were responsible for the Earth, joy, and childlike happiness. “You are the custodians, and you must bring that bridge to others and help them.” He also encouraged everyone to participate in the festival and to get their children fingerprinted, “in case witches or faeries take them away.” I’m pretty sure he was kidding about that part. He also taught the group the chant they would perform while the circle went clockwise, “Dance, dance, the circle round.”
The ceremony was basically a call to certain spirits to bless the event and imbue it with fun. The theme of the event was “celebrate the child within.”
First the quarters were called, each of the compass directions noted. The three each called to a god, using its proper name and then various other names, for example: “Come Lady Rhiannon, horserider, keeper of secrets … bring comfort to those who have memories of sadness … bring joy.” Again, there was a lot more being said, but the traffic and wind made the words difficult to understand. On cue, the crowd would reply, “So mote it be.” Danu and Morrigan were also called. The three goddesses represent the ages of women: the maiden, the mother, and the crone. There was a staff in a bucket of sand that represented “The Consort,” the male aspect of God.
When the ritual was complete, everyone ran back to the tents and shade structures, preparing for the fun and the 11:30 a.m. mead drinking contest.