The Neon Pagan

It’s getting to be “Pagan Pride Day” season, at least where I live. My state has three PPDs, one in the north, one in the central, and one in the south.  Have you ever been to a PPD? They are interesting, to say the least.

        The haiku artist Nick Virgilio once wrote: “Easter morning/the sermon is taking the shape/of her neighbor’s hat.” Doesn’t take a literary lion to figure that out. People go to religious gatherings to check out other peoples’ attire. PPD slides neatly into this fold. Now, I’m not being critical. It’s great to be able to have a gathering where you can wear all the ritual clothing that you have bought and cared for, and that you can’t just don at any whim for society at large. The trouble arises when the gathering is large and eclectic, and it is attended by people we don’t ordinarily associate with Paganism; namely, Satanists, Harley bikers, and folks who are just plain angry at the world.

        I have heard some Pagans express dismay (I’m being polite, they actually are disgusted) by some of these haters who stroll into PPD rocking maximum negative garb. Why does a biker in a pirate t-shirt think he’s a Pagan? Are we going to convert this person into a gentle soul who will value the Earth? Probably not, but let’s at least be civil. People identify themselves as Pagan for a wide variety of reasons. Some people are just plain rebellious against social norms. The beauty of Paganism, as I see it, is that we need not judge these rebels, nor do we need to proselytize to them. We can’t let an entity like the United Methodist Church adopt the slogan “Open Minds, Open Hearts” without being the same way ourselves. Beneath the veneer of that hater is someone who wants to belong under the umbrella. Be polite. Don’t sneer. The young lady with sixteen facial piercings gets enough negativity elsewhere in our world. Smile at her. By doing this, you honor your deities and your ancestors who were unable to express themselves freely.

        I’ve also heard PPDs denigrated as “Pagan lite,” something with little value to serious people who engage deeply with their Paths. In my experience, a Pagan Pride Day almost always attracts some very serious people, and these people almost always give talks. This is a chance to hear the basics about Paths that are different from yours. And if you want to add some gravitas to the proceedings, you should by all means offer to give a talk yourself. Bring some literature. Solicit questions, and answer them, especially if the questions show complete ignorance of your Path. One purpose of a PPD should be education. If anyone can wander in, this is the moment when the curious dip their toes into the water.  A Mormon missionary would not let this opportunity pass, nor should we.

        A final note on that “Pagan lite”: Open, eclectic rituals ask little more of us than to bond with strangers and to offer devotions. To me, there’s great value in this. Energy can be generated just by forming a circle and holding hands. Perfect? No. Powerful? Yes.


        If you see a PPD advertised in your area, ask yourself what you could add to it just by going. Then go, and be the change you want to see in this world. If you pass someone wearing head-to-toe tie-dye, that’s me. Howdy!