Make a Real Difference Out of the Broom Closet
So you’ve come
out of the broom closet. You made your announcement
to friend and family member
alike. You even came out at the office and your boss and co-workers were accepting, even
slightly curious. Now what?
There are many Pagan oriented activist groups
who are begging for your help. These groups hope to strengthen the Pagan presence in the mundane
world through education and charitable actions. They are in desperate need of committed
individuals to help.
One such group is Pagan Pride. Here in St. Louis,
one brave lady, Kathleen Hill has started a new chapter. She was kind enough to meet me
for lunch one day so I could ask her some questions about her decision to be a Pagan activist
and how you too can get involved.
Lyon: How long have you been a Pagan activist?
KH: Actually, I guess about a year. I was talking to someone
about this earlier; I started getting involved in groups last January (2002) at Mystic
Valley where River and Joyce Higginbotham host
a monthly discussion group. They recently published Paganism:
An Introduction to Earth Centered Religions (Llewellyn). I went to a couple of Pagan events, but the people I met
there I thought were just weird. Part of it was I just wasn’t ready and part of it was these people were weird. Then
I went to River and Joyce’s group and we had a very nice intellectual conversation at the end of which I found myself
on a mailing list for a group that wanted to raise money
for a Pagan temple. I got invited to the Pagan Picnic meeting.
They needed someone to do PR stuff and I knew how to do that so that was sort of the beginning.
The idea was to form a Pagan book club and there was a loud silence while everyone else waited
for someone to do something about it. So I started an e-list
and announced the formation of the group. People joined the e-list. Now we have monthly
meetings and we are in our second year. We have members
all over the Americas.
Lyon: What made you decide to start a
Pagan Pride chapter in St. Louis?
KH: I started going to some festivals in Missouri.
There I heard about Pagan Pride. I was talking with some women
from the Columbia Pagan Pride Chapter. One of them
said St. Louis is so large; there should be a Pagan Pride chapter there, why don’t
you have one? I wasn’t really sure what Pagan Pride was at that point, but I thought we needed one, too. So I volunteered.
I put out some flyers and at our first meeting we had 14
people. Not bad at all.
Lyon: How can others help Pagan Pride grow? What if there isn’t a chapter
KH: In Missouri, I realize
Missouri is only one state; there are Pagan Pride groups in St.
Louis, Cape Girardeau, Springfield,
Kansas City and Columbia.
It’s likely there’s one reasonably close to you already. If there isn’t one near you, it’s pretty
easy to start one. You go to the national web site and fill out the form and send it off.
The membership chairman
will call you and chat for a little bit. They want to make sure that local coordinators are
reasonably well spoken, organized and not complete flakes. The only real requirements
are that the festivals be held in a publicly accessible place (like a park); that you notify the media
to raise public awareness about what Pagans really are; hold an Open Equinox ceremony that
is friendly to all types of pagans (they have a sample ritual on their web site if you don’t
want to create one) and that you have a charity drive of some sort. If for some
reason you can’t start a chapter or join one already formed, you can purchase products
on-line at the National site (part of the purchase fee goes to the Pagan Pride organization) or donate money
to help out other groups.
Lyon: Part of Pagan Pride’s mission
statement is charity, what charity work is the St. Louis
chapter involved with?
KH: We haven’t done much yet because
we are fairly new. We are still working out logistics and financing for this year’s Pagan Pride Day. We just signed
an agreement with a group that helped to provide seed money.
With this group’s help we now know we have enough money to do this event. We will still
continue to raise money because we want to raise all the money
we might need. If there is a profit, probably not this year but in subsequent years, we will
split it with them, half and half. So through this group we are contributing to a charity
that will help other Pagan groups in the future. As far as Pagan Pride’s charity work we are looking at doing the food
drive, which every group does. We are also planning on having an art fair to collect donations of art supplies. There is an
arts organization in the Metro area that works with the inner city schools through their curriculum.
We will work with the local Spiral Scouts organization, as well.
Lyon: What difficulties have you run into as you plan for the Pagan Pride
Day this year?
KH: The first difficulty was in the location. Our first choice was a
nice little park in Maplewood with plenty of parking. The problem
was we’d only be able to use a tiny little corner because it would be soccer season. We looked at other sites and finally
settled on doing the event in Tower Grove Park.
It costs more than we really wanted to spend, though.
Lyon: Why do all the chapters have their Pagan Pride Day events on the
KH: That is a requirement from
the National office. It doesn’t have to be the same weekend but there is a six-week
period in which to schedule the local events. The Fall Sabbat is a harvest celebration. This way we are sharing with our local
community both literally and figuratively from
our own harvests. Pagan Pride based their idea on the Gay Pride movement.
They wanted to do the same thing as Gay Pride where every group celebrated very close together.
This way there would be more media attention across the
country and the world, too. Something like “We’re Pagan, we’re here. Get
used to it.” They wanted a large group effort so it would be harder to ignore.
Lyon: Does Pagan Pride have any other activities during the year?
KH: We have set up our group as one that will have year round activities.
Once again this is up to the individual groups. Other groups do potlucks or other social gatherings. In March we held a joint
meeting with the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance (SIPA http://sipa.timerift.net/home.htm ) group, when we held a Moon Lodge. It was a very spiritual experience for me and we also raised
$100 for the chapter. We have other plans for the summer as well. We voted as a group to join the interfaith coalition that
planted trees for Earth Day. That is a very ‘Pagany’ thing to do, anyway. We’ll be one of the first Pagan
groups that have been approved to join the coalition.
Lyon: Was your emergence from
the “broom closet” easy or hard? How so?
KH: I think I’m still emerging.
Technically, according to Pagan Pride I’m ‘out’. I don’t parade my
Paganism but I won’t lie about it. I’m starting
to be a little bolder about mentioning what I think. When I was working at a small
paper in the early 90s, the editor there was outwardly Pagan. If someone asked about his
religious practices or beliefs, he’d tell them. People would look at him
like he had sprouted a third head, but he didn’t care. He was my coming
out inspiration. My parents think I belong to this nice religious group that camps a lot.
Although come to think of it I will have to sit them down
before the Pagan Pride Day and tell them “Mom, Dad,
I’m a Pagan, you’re Baptist, you’re just going to have learn to live with
it.” Most of my friends now are Pagans. The reaction of the people I have ‘come
out’ to has been positive. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.
Lyon: What words of wisdom do you have
for the new Witch just beginning this path?
KH: If you’re talking about coming
out use your own best judgment. Make sure you are secure in what you believe and that you
have your life together. You will be questioned and people will be curious. If you just want community,
the Internet is the way to go. Many of my real life friendships started over the Internet.
If nothing else come out on line. There is wealth of information
on line. I guess my words of wisdom are research and network.
Lyon: How do you think Pagans should celebrate their Pagan pride everyday?
KH: The best way to celebrate is something
they used to tell me when I was a Christian. Just live in such a manner
so that if someone finds out your religion you wouldn’t embarrass
others of your religion. Live your faith, “As it harm none, do as you will”.
Personal responsibility. Respect for others. Have tolerance for other paths. If you do all those things, in addition to having
a successful life, you’re going to make other Pagans proud. Be a positive role model.
Pagan Pride National is located on the web at http://www.paganpride.org
Ms. Hill can be reached at (314) 577-6217 or email@example.com
The St. Louis Metro Area Pagan Pride Day will be held September 27, 2003 in Tower
Grove Park. To get involved go to http://www.stlpaganpride.org
Lyon is an Eclectic Pagan living in Eastern Missouri.
She has been following a Pagan lifestyle since the mid 1980s. She has written articles for
diverse Pagan publications both on-line and in print. An accomplished watercolor artist,
she is currently in the process of locating a publisher for her illustrated Pagan children’s book “An Ordinary
Girl, A Magical Child” for young readers. The Handcrafted Pagan (http://www.handcraftedpagan.com), is geared toward unique handmade gifts and fine art for the Pagan home.
She lives with her husband, her 9 year-old daughter and two old cats of undetermined ancestry.