A group of men and women dressed in lacy, multicolored suits with two-tone face paint line up, crisscrossed in rows. When the live music begins, they spring merrily to life, swinging batons and prancing in circles as they perform a modern rendition of a traditional Morris Dance.
On Sunday Pagans and non-Pagans from across the Los Angeles and Orange County areas congregated at Rainbow Lagoon in Downtown Long Beach to attend the 17th annual Pagan Pride Day.
“It’s about educating the public about our religion,” event coordinator Brian Ewing said. “Witches and Pagans aren’t what is portrayed in movies. We want people to get a really basic introduction to our religion so they aren’t scared of us. Some people have a very twisted view of what we do so we try to present the reality.”
The event featured the performance of Pagan rituals, opportunities to participate in various Pagan-related workshops and a variety of booths and vendors that sold everything from ritual supplies and self-described “higher-end” products for “serious witches” to magical soaps, oils and candles.
Albert Fuentes, an attendee who did not classify himself as a Pagan, said that he came to the event to learn more about the religion.
“[I just wanted] to see the culture,” Fuentes said. ”See what people had to offer—new ideas and philosophies— and just socialize and have a good time.”
Contrary to many Pagan stereotypes, the magic that they use is unrelated to black magic or Satanism, Ewing said.
“Its kind of akin to praying actually,” said Ewing. “We perform spells to bring certain things into our life or to ask for things or to just give our respects to the gods.”
Even witches, an occupation that generally holds strong stigma among most non-Pagans, can be people of healing and positivity, said Marilynn Hendrie, a self-proclaimed witch.
At her booth, she offered spiritual healing sessions where, through physical touch, she channels positive energy from the atmosphere into the patient’s body to relieve them of ailments.
“I’m a healer,” Hendrie said. “I tend to be the listener of my tribe even if my tribe consists of people who are not necessarily pagan. Everyone needs someone to listen to them and everyone needs a healing touch of other human beings.”
One of the seasonal rituals that was performed at the event was a Winter Nights Blot—a ritual intended to give thanks to the gods for the annual harvest and ask “dwellers of Asgard” to loan their strength in aiding those performing the ritual in surviving the coming winter.