It's about dispelling stereotypes, promoting understanding and just having a good time.
"There are no funny things going on," says Lisa Gift, the local coordinator, who emphasizes the event is open to pagans and nonpagans alike. The event is "very simple and very nonscary."
Today's free festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Murray Park at 495 E. 5300 South, is the fifth of its kind in Utah. The first year drew some 75 participants, but by last year, Gift says, there were more than 500 people in attendance. This year, she expects the numbers to climb even more.
"It's become more mainstream," she says. "We have people who are LDS who consider themselves witches. . . . There's not this great social divide as much anymore."
Between Aug. 13 and Oct. 22, similar pride days are taking place across the country and in Europe. Today's events in Utah include several ceremonies, information about pagan spirituality, arts and crafts for kids, vendors, dance troupes - including belly dancers - and workshops. Among the numerous free workshops: "Drumming for the Rhythmically Challenged," a class on making "honey wine" and introductions to shamanism, astrology and Wicca.
There also will be a charitable food drive to support Crossroads Urban Center. Donations at the 2005 festival, Gift says, amounted to "several hundred pounds" of food.
Gift guesses about a third of attendees last year were not pagan, and she hopes even more of the uninitiated come out this time around. The exposure is crucial in negating misconceptions such as "the assumption that if you're not a monotheist, you must be a Satan worshipper," she says, or the belief that pagans are "whacked or a little unstable."
Broadly speaking, paganism is an umbrella term that includes a variety of Earth-based beliefs and rituals, a kind of nature worship rather than a monotheistic, text-based faith. It is often characterized as polytheistic but there is no one definition that adequately describes all pagan beliefs and practices.
By learning more about paganism, Gift says, people will become more comfortable around and accepting of their pagan neighbors and co-workers.
"What matters is the spirit," Gift explains. "In the end, we all get to the same destination. We just choose a different path to get there."
Salt Lake's Pagan Pride Day 2006
WHEN: Today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
WHERE: Pavilions 1, 2 and 3 in Murray City Park at 495 E. 5300 South
BRING IT ON: The free festival is open to the public, but people are encouraged to bring nonperishable food donations which will be given to Crossroads Urban Center.
LEARN MORE: For more information about Pagan Pride Day, visit http://www.paganprideslc.org.