The Salt Lake Tribune
They wear multicolored robes in a highly choreographed ritual. They read from sacred texts. They sing their praise, chant their truths and hoist their hands to the sky. They kneel before heaven’s mystery.
Though their worship includes elements from early Christianity, these practitioners are not Christians. They are pagans.
And they are part of a growing body of believers who have moved away from monotheistic faiths such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam into the wide world of syncretic spirituality.
More than a million Americans now practice some form of Wicca, or traditional witchcraft, Ceremonial Magick, Hermeticism, Shamanism, Asatru (German/Nordic religion), African religion such as Voodoo and Shamanism, according to patheos.com, a multifaith website.
Unfortunately, modern pagans often are secretive about their beliefs, fearing ridicule or, worse, outright discrimination.
“It isn’t usually the most blatant bashing,” says Russell Erwin, a member of the Ordo Gnostic Templar that meets once a month at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Salt Lake City. “You just won’t get called back for a job or people don’t want to talk to you because they think you’re crazy.”
Such avoidance is a “big mistake,” says Erwin, acting as a spokesman for the state’s pagans. “We all have a lot to learn from each other.”
And so Utah’s burgeoning pagan community is doing what other groups do to oppose bigotry and bring their faith into the open. It is sponsoring the ninth annual Salt Lake City Pagan Pride Day on Sept. 11 at Murray Park.