Among her least favorite misconceptions are that pagans worship the devil, use black magic, and engage in animal sacrifice. In reality pagans are far more likely to be vegetarians than wanton spillers of goat's blood on pentacles. Most practitioners don't even believe in an entity of evil, instead celebrating a belief system that emphasizes respect for the earth, humanity, and self. Pagans come from all walks of life, from professionals and artists to homemakers and clerks.
The uninitiated can find out more during the Pagan Pride Day Celebration 2000 Family Picnic and Food Drive on September 23 in Fort Lauderdale. Festival coordinator Letourneau designed the event to educate the public about earth-based spirituality and to promote religious freedom. Modern paganism, or neopaganism, is a growing movement that draws from ancient polytheism, modern ecospirituality, and reverence for the divine, both masculine and feminine. Wicca, neopagan witchcraft, Asatru, druidic spirituality, and goddess worship are among the practices that fall under the pagan umbrella.
But while education will be part of the fun, this celebration won't dwell on dogma. The day will also feature labyrinth games for children, face painting, drumming, mystical music performed live by the band Dionysos (1 to 3 p.m.), and more than a dozen vendors. Participants are invited to bring drums or other musical instruments as well as their own food and drinks for picnicking.
The highlight of the festival, Letourneau says, will be Mabon (5 p.m.), the ritual observation of the autumn equinox, a time of thanksgiving in many pagan traditions. A food drive will symbolize the giving of thanks for the abundance of the year and the sharing of that abundance with others, and the ritual's percussion instruments and chanting should make it far more lively than the turkey and football of a traditional American Thanksgiving.