Monday, September 26, 2011

Pagans open door to their worldview at Portland's Oaks Amusement Park

By Nancy Haught, The Oregonian 


KaTerra Hazel is a witch who tries to live by the Wiccan Rule of Three, the idea that all the energy she puts out into the world will return to her three times as strong. In recent weeks, as she's helped pull together Columbia-Willamette Pagan Pride on Sunday, she's sending out a lot of positive energy. 

Workshops, vendors and entertainment are falling into place, and she's excited at the prospect of bringing pagans from many different paths to the oak grove that Portlanders think of as Oaks Amusement Park. The day will be an opportunity for pagans to learn more about each other and the spiritual paths they've chosen and, she hopes, a chance for those who are curious about paganism to ask questions. 

Her given name is Shannon Flint, but she chose the Wiccan name KaTerra Hazel. Ka is Egyptian for life force energy. Terra refers to the Earth, and hazel is the tree of wisdom, she says. An Oregon native who lives in Gresham, she has followed the Wiccan path since high school, practicing on her own for several years before she joined a coven. She serves on the board of Other Worlds of Wonder, an Oregon nonprofit that sponsors Pagan Pride, a national program, in Portland. 

In an interview, she talked about paganism, her own spiritual journey and her hopes for Sunday. Her answers have been edited for space and clarity. 



What's a good working definition of paganism? 

It's an Earth-based and/or polytheistic spiritual reality that predominantly -- but not always – focuses on the goddess, who is known by many names. 

Why is it so hard to know how many pagans live in the Portland area?

There are two ways to practice: in a community or as a solitary path. Some people find a group of like-minded people and join a Wiccan coven or a Druid grove. Shamanism, on the other hand, is pretty solitary. It's also hard to make a count because a lot of people have an underlying belief system, not a daily practice. And pagans don't have a regular, public gathering place here. 

Is such a place one of your goals? 
Other Worlds of Wonder is a nonprofit group working to create a community space for pagans as a whole. We're looking at the possibility of buying land or finding a structure in town. We're looking for a lasting place, where the community can build energy over time. 

What are some of the most common misconceptions about paganism? 
A lot of people think pagans are off their rockers. They can't conceive of how we see the grace in nature as equally -- if not more, from a pagan's point of view -- divine as going into a building and looking at an idol. We come from all walks of life. We're nurses, business executives, entrepreneurs and teachers. The hippie chick down the street is not the only pagan out there. In fact, the hippie chick down the street might be a Christian.






Pagan Pride DayPagan Pride DayPortland Pagan Pride Day organizer KaTerra Hazel talks about the upcoming festival and the pagan religion.Watch video


Pagans, generally, are very well read because we have to do our own research. We don't have someone else telling us what to believe. 

What is your own spiritual background? 

I grew up with a non-practicing Catholic mother and a Mormon father. I went to a Baptist church as a child with a neighbor. In high school, I started questioning some things and was exposed to New Age thought. I wanted to find out what it was that resonated within me. I researched different Christian paths -- I didn't look into Judaism or Islam; I didn't feel pulled that way. I was pulled toward feminine spirituality. At first, most of what I found was negative. But later I found books on Wicca in a women's bookstore. At that time, Powell's only had one small shelf of books on Wicca; today there are several rows. I spent about 10 years as a solitary witch and later joined a coven. 

Is there any common ground between Wicca and Christianity? 

Sometimes it's like looking at the same thing from different angles. For example, the Eight Words of the Wiccan Rede, "An it harm none, do as thou wilt," are similar to some of the Ten Commandments. 

What are your goals for Pagan Pride Day? 

We'd like to open up communications among our pagan community and to allow people who are not pagans to see us and understand that we are not devil worshipers. We are moral, ethical and spiritual people who love our Mother. As far as pagans are concerned, Satan is a Christian idea, and satanists are not pagan. 

But charity is part of the pagan path. We'll be accepting donations for Esther's Pantry, a food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS who have special diet needs, and for the Pongo Fund, which provides food for the pets of homeless and low income people. We'll collect magical items for soldiers serving overseas -- brass bells, white candles, books on paganism -- and donations for Other Worlds of Wonder. 

-- Nancy Haught


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