Mid-Missouri Pagan Pride seeks tolerance, diversity

The 18th Annual Mid-Missouri Pagan Pride offered an opportunity for the regional Pagan community to come together and be visible, while also engaging the broader community.

Like many people raised in the Midwest, my experience with religious beliefs outside of Christianity has been rather limited. Attending Pagan Pride was an exciting opportunity to encounter new spiritual beliefs and broaden my own understanding of religion. Upon attending the event, I was greeted with a welcoming, tolerant community and had a wonderful time learning about the several different Pagan practices that were represented and seeing the various different goods that the vendors were selling. Mid-Missouri Pagan Pride was a wonderful celebration of an eclectic set of religious practices, and was a perfect opportunity to learn more about one of the communities that helps make Columbia the open city that it is.

The 18th Annual Mid-Missouri Pagan Pride was held Sunday, Sept. 23 at Peace Park. The gathering was organized by the Conclave of the Craft, a Columbia-based traditional Wiccan church, and hosted 30 booths of both Pagan and non-Pagan craft vendors, representatives of several different esoteric practices and community institutions such as the Animal Responsibility for Fayette, Missouri charity. Other than the vendors, there was live music provided by Romani Blue, and the Central Missouri Renaissance Festival held fun, family-friendly versions of traditional Scottish “Highland Games,” like the weighted stone throw and tug-of-war. Pagan Pride also provided various resources in the form of workshops that covered topics including psychic self-defense, understanding runes and strategies for holding leaders within Pagan communities accountable.

I attended the latter presentation, held by the Thelemic Bishop Rev. Bill Duvendack. Duvendack was well-spoken, and his workshop focused using traditionally corporate managerial strategies to help improve the longevity of Pagan organizations. Rev. Duvendack actively encouraged dialogue amongst the group of attendants—this was very consistent with a broader sentiment at the fest that showed support for discourse across different religious practices, whether they were Pagan, a separate mystical practice or an explicitly monotheistic practice.

One of the non-Pagan vendors present was the St. Louis Regency of the Order of the White Road. I spoke with their representatives who described the organization as “an open society with secrets” that practiced a Hermetic philosophy. They attended Pagan Pride to raise money for St. Jude’s and to foster interfaith dialogue.

The craftwork included jewelry and leather goods. Several of the items being sold featured pentacles and pentagrams (a pentagram is a five-pointed star with a circle; the pentacle does not have the circle), as well as recognizably Northern Germanic and Celtic imagery. Impressively, there were several handmade goods, showing the time and care that vendors took combining their religious beliefs with their craft. The event remained busy all day, and the event’s location brought in a lot of foot traffic. The atmosphere was lively and engaging—the vendors were friendly and visited each others’ booths, and also referred visitors to the other vendors present.

The Pagan Pride gathering is an annual opportunity for Pagans to come together, meet, network with each other and connect with the broader community of Columbia. The event has continued to grow over the past several years. It’s easy to see why: Pagan Pride is a unique event that allows everyone to come and learn more about a diverse set of spiritual practices, while maintaining an attitude that is welcoming and fun. The key values of the event were those of community, solidarity and diversity.

“You don’t have to be afraid of people who worship differently than you,” Amy Rhea, a practicing Wiccan Priestess and the social media coordinator of the event, said.

The warm atmosphere of Mid-Missouri Pagan Pride was a wonderful reminder that tolerance and diversity are things that every community should be proud to have.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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