Emily Snyder is the President of New Orleans' Pagan Pride Project.
The second annula Greater New Orleans Pagan Pride Day
is from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Washington Square. The event features music, crafts, workshops, discussion panels and more. There are performances by the Mudlark Puppeteers and the musical headliner is Tuatha Dea
, which combines rock, Celtic and tribal sounds. A food drive benefits Women with a Vision
. Emily Snyder, President of the local chapter of the Pagan Pride Project, spoke with Gambit about Paganism.
How do you explain paganism?
Snyder: The word pagan first has to be understood. Pagan translates to “those who live in the country.” When Christianity first spread, it was limited to the urbanized city-dwellers, while those who lived in rural areas continued to practice their ancestral religions. [European] pagan beliefs include equal worship of masculine and feminine deities and a focus on nature.
How and why was Pagan Pride Day created?
Pagan Pride Day started with food drives in the 1990s and was created because pagans are a very marginalized group. The word pagan has been used derogatorily for thousands of years. Pagan Pride Day was created to dispel negative propaganda and show outsiders that pagans are just ordinary people.
What are some everyday examples of pagan heritage?
The most famous example is the origin of many Western holidays, such as Christmas, Halloween, May Day and Groundhog Day. Even the phrase “tying the knot” [in regard to weddings] can trace its history back to a pagan Celtic wedding ceremony called Handfasting.
What are some misconceptions people have about pagans?
The biggest one is that they are devil worshippers. Pagans do not believe that a Being of pure evil exists or that there is a place like Hell. Other misconceptions include that Pagan rituals are evil or that modern pagans are a bunch of hippie-flower children.
What pagan groups are represented at the festival? What unites all these groups?
New Orleans Pagan Pride Day participants include the Highland Oak Nemeton
, Bee Hive Coven
, Alombrados Oasis
, Acadiana Spiritual Association
, Divine Source Spiritual Center
, New Orleans School for the Esoteric Arts
and educational and social group, Lamplight Circle
. One of the main unifying factors is that all forms of paganism emphasize honoring religions’ ancient roots.
What are the most practiced forms of paganism in New Orleans?
Wicca is the most practiced form in general. In New Orleans, African religions like Voodoo/Vodun are also prevalent, though practitioners of African multi-deity religions don’t identify with the term pagan.
Aside from the food drive for Women with a Vision, what other charitable activities are the pagan community involved with?
Covenant of the Pentacle Wiccan Church participates annually in a Christmas toy drive, while Lamplight Circle’s members most recently volunteered their time walking dogs for Animal Rescue New Orleans. The Black Hat Society, a pagan organization new to New Orleans, helps to feed stray cats and dogs.
What is the projected attendance for this year’s event?
Though New Orleans’s Pagan Pride Day is only in its second year, it has already had to relocate from last year’s venue of Cafe Istanbul to Washington Square due to growth. This year’s festival is expecting between 700 and 1,000 attendees.
How does this year’s Pagan Pride Day differ from last year’s?
Last year there were three vendors and one food vendor; this year, there are 10 vendors and five food vendors. This year’s music lineup has been revamped, with eight-piece pagan rock band Tuatha Dea set to perform. Though the 2013 Pagan Pride Day was a success, this year’s festival will surpass it in every way possible.