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Pagans share culture and beliefs at festival

Kam Abbott, a priest of the Circle of Hearth and Kin, the Nanaimo affiliate of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada, holds a selenite sphere, used for divinations, up to the sunlight. The sphere is just one of the artifacts, rituals, music entertainment and other activities happening during Pagan Pride Day celebrations at Departure Bay beach Saturday (Aug. 24). - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Kam Abbott, a priest of the Circle of Hearth and Kin, the Nanaimo affiliate of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada, holds a selenite sphere, used for divinations, up to the sunlight. The sphere is just one of the artifacts, rituals, music entertainment and other activities happening during Pagan Pride Day celebrations at Departure Bay beach Saturday (Aug. 24).
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Pagans from across Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland are gathering to celebrate by sharing their beliefs and culture this weekend.

The ninth annual Vancouver Island Pagan Pride Day happens at Kin Park in Departure Bay Saturday (Aug. 24) when pagans come together to celebrate their similarities and differences, and share what it means to be pagan with people of all beliefs.

This year Nanaimo Pagan Pride has been renamed Vancouver Island Pagan Pride due to growing numbers of people attending from across the Island and Lower Mainland regions.

Event organizer Kam Abbott, a priest of the Circle of Hearth and Kin, the Nanaimo affiliate of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada, said about 800 people came out  for Pagan Pride last year.

“We’ve been getting carloads of people coming down from Courtenay and Comox and people coming in from Port Alberni and Victoria,” Abbott said. “It’s just been more and more interest. There haven’t been any festivals established in any other cities on the Island, I think mostly because it’s a pile of work to put something like this together. The last few years I’ve been talking with some of the community in different cities around the Island and we decided it would make a lot more sense if we pooled our resources and put on one big Island-wide festival and opposed to trying to do a bunch of small ones up and down the Island.”

This will be the ninth consecutive year Nanaimo has hosted Pagan Pride Day activities, which focus on revealing paganism to the community at large and eliminating religious prejudice with a day of workshops, rituals and demonstrations. It is also a time for the pagan community to celebrate with live entertainment, drumming circles and vendor tables offering offering goods and services from pagan and pagan friendly businesses and organizations.

People of all beliefs are invited.

“The general public can come down, ask questions, see what we do,” Abbott said.

Paganism has become a blanket term for a belief system that encompasses a variety of religions based on polytheism and worship of the planet Earth.

“If you look at a pagan in that overall sense or overall view, they are a group of people who revere the Earth as something sacred,” Abbott said.

Paganism also promotes independent thinking.

“We’re not going by a laid down scripture. There’s no hard set of rules,” Abbott said. “There’s a morality and applied common sense. You can’t just open a book and find your answers. You have to think for yourself.”

One of the points about Pagan Pride Day is highlighting the things people of all beliefs have in common. Pagans work in grocery stores, schools, or are maybe the neighbours next door who look and behave pretty much the same as everyone else. They just practice a different religious view.

To encourage understanding and diversity, each year a different group in the pagan community is invited to perform the feature ritual.

This year’s ritual will be a Gnostic mass – the central ritual of Thelema, a religion formed by British writer Aleister Crowley who was one of the founders of the neo-pagan movement in the early 20th century – performed by priestesses Krystalynne O’Hagan and Bella Thelema from Vancouver.

Each year the pagan community dedicates its work and energy to raising donations for charitable community organizations.

This year Pagan Pride is collecting non-perishable food items for Loaves and Fishes Food Bank.

“This is our opportunity to throw open our doors and welcome the community in to experience a sample of what being a pagan is like,” said Abbott.

Pagan Pride Day events run 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, please visit the Nanaimo Pagan Pride website at www.nanaimopaganpride.org.

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