By Bobinec, Greg on May 6, 2019.
The Southern Alberta Pagan Association helped bring in the start of spring with their third annual Pagan Festival in Galt Gardens.
Saturday afternoon, the park filled with Pagan-themed artisan shopping, children activities, live music, presentations on Paganism from people such as Belinda Crowson, and many other activities for the whole family. Although this year’s festival suffered some cold weather, the Pagan community in and around Lethbridge continues to grow.
“This is our third annual Pagan Festival and we are celebrating the Pagan community and the beginning of spring and the fertility of people and Mother Earth,” says Lorien Johansen, chair of Southern Alberta Pagan Association.
“There are a lot more people who identify as Pagan than you would expect, we have over 500 followers on our Facebook page and that is just that site. There are a lot of people that come out to our events and interact with us, so we are probably about 1,000 people locally that we know of.”
Throughout the day, people were able to learn more about Paganism and about the spring festival called Beltane, which is a Gaelic term for the May Day festival. Traditionally, Beltane marked the beginning of summer when cattle were driven out to the pastures and rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, along with encouraging growth. At the festival, the traditional Maypole dance is conduced where people wrap ribbon around a tree in a circular motion, to signify that the happy season of warmth and comfort has returned.
“Beltane is the celebration of the beginning of spring and summer, the planting of seed, it is traditionally a fire and fertility festival,” says Johansen. “The May Pole is the representation of the God and Goddess, the pole is the God and the ribbons are the Goddess and it is the intertwining of the two and the intent is to have all of the ribbons wrapped around the pole by the end of the dance.”
Paganism has been around as long as Christianity and Catholicism and has a very rich history of acceptance and caring. Many people still hold stereotypical views about the religion such as sacrificing, but organizers say they are nothing like the religion was in the beginning, but they still hold true to the divine character of the natural world.
“There is a thought that Paganism and witchcraft is the sacrificing and eating of children, bathing in blood and worshiping the devil and the graffiti of cult symbols all over buildings, and that we are all dark evil people who summon demons and none of that is true,” says Johansen.
“Although I do have the stereotypical witch outfit, it is more of a fun costume. People who are Pagan are normal everyday people, we have real jobs, kids in schools, we have families and we are involved in the community in more ways than just this. Paganism is such an accepting community, we don’t discriminate based on anything, there is no exclusion of ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, or whatever religious background you come from, if this is something you identify with we will accept you.”
The annual Pagan Festival brought peace and happiness to the start of spring and summer as they invited the community to learn about their beliefs.
and take part in their traditions.
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