Proud to be Pagans

  • Follow Your Faith

Theoretically, there are two types of witches.

"There are those of us who live in the broom closet and then there are those of us who" are more visible, said Joe Zuchowski, a Wiccan high priest.

A festival, he figures, just might help that.

In actuality, there are several varieties of pagans, a few of which will be represented at Augusta's first Pagan Pride Day, today at Lake Olmstead Park.

"We want to let people know there are pagans out there," said his wife, Jezibell Anat. She's a Wiccan high priestess and a coordinator of Pagan Pride Day.

The event includes music, dance, children's games and information sessions such as Ask the Wizard.

"We want to invite people in," Mrs. Anat said. "We want to explain what we are."

And what would that be?

"We are real people. We are about diversity," Mrs. Anat said. "We believe there is no one-size-fits-all religion. We are a genuine spiritual path."

Paganism is a family of faiths with ancient roots united by a reverence for nature and harmony with the earth, one another, and one's self.

Modern paganism takes many forms, but the faiths it encompasses have been around for ages, said Carolyn Jones Medine, an associate professor in the University of Georgia Department of Religion, whose work includes an emphasis on religious theory and thought, women's spirituality and writings.

"Paganism has been a legitimate path for a long time," she said. "If you look at Western religions, you find the influence of paganism. It underlines our major traditions. Things like the Christmas tree, that's early incorporation of a pagan tradition."

Events to raise the profile of Paganism and recognize its influence are growing.

The first Pagan Pride Day was held in 1998, with 17 celebrations in the United States and one in Canada. This year, more than 120 events are planned in 10 countries and 41 states.

"We want acceptance. We want respect. We want more than tolerance just because it's politically correct," said Michelle Boshears, a Wiccan high priestess named Dawnwalker.

She's a retired U.S. Army major who serves as the Distinctive Faith Group leader for Pagans and Wiccans at Fort Gordon. Her weekly services draw about 20 people.

It's hard to say just how many Pagans live in the Augusta area because many practice alone, but the local Covenant of Universal Unitarian Pagans has about 12 members, said Mrs. Anat, the group's liaison.

She joined the Unitarian Universalist Church after moving to Augusta with Mr. Zuchowski in 2007. Mrs. Anat, a belly dance instructor, and Mr. Zuchowski, who is chief custodian at the Augusta Jewish Community Center and moonlights as a storyteller, had been living in New York.

"People didn't bat an eye there. But we're not in that situation here," Mrs. Anat said. "People are afraid. They hide their pentagrams. They don't talk to their coworkers about it. They just mumble at Christmas.

''The first question you get is, 'What church do you go to?' What do you say when you're pagan?"

Mrs. Boshears counts herself fortunate that she hasn't faced discrimination. Her neighbors know what she believes, and she said they're fine with the fact that she conducts Wiccan rituals at her farm in Grovetown.

"If people come over, it's hard to hide the fact that I'm pagan. I've got five altars around my house," she said. "A lot of pagans, they're shy. If their parents or brothers and sisters come over, they hide their altars. They feel like they have to do that to avoid being chastised."

Mrs. Boshears has never had that problem.

"I grew up with an understanding that this was OK," she said. "My family was Christian, but I would not call us the mainstream. We went to church but we went to all different types of churches. You name it, I gave it a try."

Mrs. Anat grew up in the Methodist church.

"I knew early that this church, this one-God, one-faith wouldn't work," she said.

Her attraction to Wicca, the largest and most popular form of paganism, developed out of her interest in history and mythology.

"People thought I was this history geek before I was old enough to express it in theological terms," she said.

Mr. Zuchowski grew up Roman Catholic. He was 12 when he found his first book on witchcraft and 19 when he was initiated into his first coven.

Books by Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins fill his shelf, but so do a Bible, a Quran and the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

"Pagans are often portrayed as airy, fairy, new-age types," he said. "But we're philosophical. We don't understand how anyone can prove their faith, and so we're open to other ideas. We're all seeking the divine, and isn't that the point?"

Today at the festival, they'll find out if others agree, Mrs. Boshears said.

"We hope so, but it's a risk," she said. "There's confusion. Our focus is presenting paganism in a light that dispels some of the dark misconceptions."

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT IS PAGANISM?

The phrase is an umbrella for a variety of spiritual paths characterized by a reverence for nature and harmony with the earth, including the elements of fire, earth, air and water. Many believe in a variety of gods and goddesses, while others identify as atheists or animists. Several types of pagans live in the Augusta area, including those who follow Wicca, Asatru, and Druidism.

Each draws on different historical influences, but the traditions share a reliance on practices rooted in ancient and indigenous religions. Modern paganism, often called neo-paganism, attempts to re-create the religion of ancestors. Worship varies, but is often outdoors. It can involve magic, witchcraft and offerings to the elements found in nature. Some worship naked.

Paganism isn't bound to doctrinal beliefs and requirements, but a few ideas pervade. There's the Wiccan Rede, which states in part, "harm none, do what ye will." There's also the threefold rule: "three times your acts return to thee."

THE FESTIVAL

WHEN: Noon to 5 p.m. today

WHERE: Lake Olmstead Park, 3 Milledge Road

WHAT: Information, entertainment and workshops; harvest ritual 4:15 p.m.

CONTACT: augustapaganpride.blogspot.com

By the numbers

The number of people who identify as pagan or with varieties of paganism in America has grown from nearly 1.3 million in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2008.

The number, however, is still small. In 2008, people who followed "new religious movements," which include paganism, Wicca, scientology, Unitarian Universalism and Rastafarianism, accounted for 1.2 percent of the population.



Source: 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, released this spring

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RocknRoll
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RocknRoll 10/03/09 - 05:09 am
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Oh Boy !!!! Real live

Oh Boy !!!! Real live witches ... (snicker)

xanadu
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xanadu 10/03/09 - 06:45 am
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how freakin' esoteric. let

how freakin' esoteric. let me check the void moon times for today before i run down there. does this mean we are next going to be regaled with Appreciate Satan Day by the bad witches? The South Park guys need to come to town and stock up on some new material for their show.

Grasshopper
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Grasshopper 10/03/09 - 06:58 am
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Reminds me of a carnival

Reminds me of a carnival freak show!

humbleopinion
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humbleopinion 10/03/09 - 07:24 am
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The Constitution allows

The Constitution allows freedom of religion......no matter how wrong they may be. It is better to have lived your life believing in God and then finding out when you die there is none, than to have lived your life believing there is NO God and then when you die find out there IS. I'm going to say a prayer for these people.

shamrock
506
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shamrock 10/03/09 - 07:40 am
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I thought they already had

I thought they already had their special day ... and it isn't until the end of this month!

kkeutjm0807
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kkeutjm0807 10/03/09 - 08:11 am
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Worship God and His son,

Worship God and His son, Jesus is a firm belief, therefore, expressions of gratification of the nature and us as living entities that God's creations should be part of belief too.....People thank God that what He blesses us, however, we complain works of nature when rains, snows, and winds. We complain works of people when get hurt by them or one with each other. I once was part of them being a questioner, complainer and run-away kid for years because of my personal tragedy losing my daughter, divorce and so forth. Not too long ago, I start realizing my senses of existence for what, why and how that life is still full of happiness through opposite sides of emotions and environmental phenomenons. Some philosophical perspectives indicate some facts that life is a comedy through tragedy just like Jesus' death brings us salvation which we enjoy for the price He pays for us.

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 10/03/09 - 08:48 am
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In one sense I appreciate

In one sense I appreciate these folks. They serve to verify what the Bible says. Listen to its description of Pagans: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man, birds, animals, and reptiles....They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator." (Romans 1). Neo-Paganism is nothing more than a resurrection of the same old ancient lie. We are to worship Creator God, not elements of his creation. This is foolish (and dangerous) stuff indeed. 'Nuff said.

cricketflea
3
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cricketflea 10/03/09 - 08:50 am
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You all are showing your

You all are showing your ignorance at other religions you do not understand. Just because you don't understand it, don't trash it. Go to the festival, you just might learn something! For instance, Pagans were here long before Christians--read up on your history if you don't believe me. I have been to festivals in the past and learned much, and REALLY wish I was able to attend this one. I was raised Baptist and left it 30 years ago for the same reason Mrs. Anat did--the one-God thing does not work for me. I have been Pagan 30 years, but very few people have ever known because of the way this Bible thumping south is. Open your eyes, ears, and hearts to ACCEPTANCE of other ideas. That's all we and they are asking....

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 10/03/09 - 08:58 am
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So, we are to ACCEPT any and

So, we are to ACCEPT any and all ideas? Now that's really logical, isn't it? Murder and child sacrifice were here long before Christianity too, and you're saying we need to accept that as well? Somewhere truth has to win out over superstition. No one is saying it's wrong for the Pagans to meet. That's their right, and more power to them. All that has been done here is point out the fact that the Bible condemns Paganism as a false and foolish practice (see above). If that offends, sorry. If you want to say the Bible is wrong, that's fine too. You have a right to your opinion. But, you have no right to get upset at people for simply repeating that the Bible condemns Paganism as foolishness. That's just the fact.

howcanweknow
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howcanweknow 10/03/09 - 09:09 am
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"Do what ye will." Who

"Do what ye will." Who wouldn't want to live by a philosophy that promotes self-indulgence. No wonder Paganism is attractive to a lot of folks.

Lobosolo
5
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Lobosolo 10/03/09 - 09:24 am
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-----------------------------

-------------------------------------------------------------------------- - --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------ --------------------------------------- ---------------------------- ----------------------------------------------!!!!!!

smbga
38
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smbga 10/03/09 - 09:27 am
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they believe a lie and are

they believe a lie and are damned

smbga
38
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smbga 10/03/09 - 09:28 am
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i know 'christians' who

i know 'christians' who believe that they hear from the dead. this is also a lie.

kkeutjm0807
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kkeutjm0807 10/03/09 - 09:33 am
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"God, and Jesus.....Please

"God, and Jesus.....Please reveal yourself to us now and show us some love and mercy because we are raising our voices....God, and Jesue.....Were you two arguing over issues peacefully like us too?...And decide to create Eve whom She nurtures our men? Eve got Adam an apple to soothing and comforting him dispite punishments? Is Eve a pure sinner of all sinners?"

Therefore, we all are sinners......Please beautify us our wounded hearts, but happily ever after? Our mortal knowleges challenge others by shooting arrows of emotional and mental death notes....Are you, God The Father, Jesus The Son of God, listening us now?

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 10/03/09 - 09:34 am
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Here's a problem for Pagans.

Here's a problem for Pagans. They preach diversity and acceptance of all faiths. OK. Sounds good on paper, doesn't it? But the truth is that Christianity (and Judaism too) condemns pagan beliefs and practices. So, what is a Pagan to do? They CANNOT accept JudeoChristian beliefs as valid because these beliefs are in direct conflict with Paganism, yet they preach diversity and acceptance. Pagans are caught between a rock and a hard place. Their stated beliefs are self-refuting. They stand in direct conflict with other beliefs, and can't get around that fact. If they accept JudeoChristain beliefs as valid, then they invalidate Paganism. If they accept Paganism, then they invalidiate JudeoChristian beliefs as false. Paganism gets caught chasing its own religious tail, and can't get out of this loop.

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 10/03/09 - 09:35 am
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Have fun at the Carnival! You

Have fun at the Carnival! You have the freedom to express your beliefs, and I have the freedom to laugh at you.

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 10/03/09 - 09:35 am
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kkeut, what in the world are

kkeut, what in the world are you talking about?

Irish
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Irish 10/03/09 - 09:37 am
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Isn't it fortunate for all of

Isn't it fortunate for all of us that God has a sense of humor. I'm sure in his infinite wisdom he can handle all our human frailities and short comings. If he can forgive our transgressions he can surely forgive our stupidity.... Now may all of you get better than you deserve and be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you"re dead...GBWYTWMA

that guy
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that guy 10/03/09 - 09:37 am
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Yikes! Give these folks

Yikes! Give these folks credit for bravery, if nothing else...

kkeutjm0807
0
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kkeutjm0807 10/03/09 - 09:51 am
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I am appreciating morningly

I am appreciating morningly birds' churppings and classical music by a famously known being.....I thank You for this morning......

HotFoot
17
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HotFoot 10/03/09 - 09:53 am
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kkeutjm0807, how about you

kkeutjm0807, how about you commune with your god in private, hmmmm? After you take your meds.

HotFoot
17
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HotFoot 10/03/09 - 09:57 am
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Why are you all so

Why are you all so threatened, anyway? Also, it's "As it harm none, do what you will," not just "do what you will". The Threefold Rule means that if you do wrong, the consequences come back to you and are amplified. Same thing for doing good. If people lived their lives by these two precepts, this world would be a much more ethical and loving place.

TheElectrician
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TheElectrician 10/03/09 - 09:57 am
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Interesting Comments after 7

Interesting Comments
after 7 years here in Augusta I have been accustomed to the banishing of the Concept that we now live in the 21st. century,
But really some want to banish the 20th too? I believe it was the 20th century that worked out our Civil Rights?

kkeutjm0807
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kkeutjm0807 10/03/09 - 09:57 am
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no meds I prefer

no meds I prefer yet......thanks for your consideration/lovely joke, HotFoot?

Grasshopper
7
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Grasshopper 10/03/09 - 10:09 am
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Hotfoot, Amazing that is what

Hotfoot, Amazing that is what Jesus preached.

kkeutjm0807
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kkeutjm0807 10/03/09 - 10:12 am
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Your inquisitive, yet lovely

Your inquisitive, yet lovely question mark I consider as humanly gesture.......A deep but shallow thought or via versa is demanding this morning for us to pondering about.....to "howcanweknow"

kkeutjm0807
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kkeutjm0807 10/03/09 - 10:21 am
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HotFoot.......I will be in a

HotFoot.......I will be in a social status that I can consult you your meds pretty soon when God works His mysteriosly but wonderful plan.....

corgimom
32306
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corgimom 10/03/09 - 10:33 am
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If people want to be Pagans,

If people want to be Pagans, who cares? Let them be. They have a right to worship whoever they want.

kkeutjm0807
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kkeutjm0807 10/03/09 - 10:37 am
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HotFoot, your ideal must be

HotFoot, your ideal must be right for this moment that I should commune my God privately and I thank you for your enlightenment. Also to howcanweknow, I am enclosing my apology for you to ponder by my monologic words, if you were....Good day.....

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 10/03/09 - 10:44 am
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Corgi, no one is saying they

Corgi, no one is saying they can't worship or do as they please. But, the article is very one-sided. It fails to point out all the logical problems with Pagan philosophy (not to mention its serious conflicts with JudeoChristian teachings). Pagans have every right to be pagan. No problem. But, people need to be aware of the rest of the story. The article criticized Christianity pretty severely (how they left Catholicism and Methodism for Paganism). Well, let's be balanced and also present what Christianity says about Paganism too. That's all.

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