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Utah's Pagan community grows

Published September 10, 2012 8:16 pm

Celebrants come together to eagerly share their beliefs, clear up misconceptions.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Murray • If there was one thing that everybody at Pagan Pride Day seemed to agree on, it was that their beliefs had nothing to do with the devil. And interest in paganism in Utah is growing every year.

"There's not been any head-butting between us and the [LDS] Church," said TaMara Gold, one of the owners of Crone's Hollow, a store and ritual space. "So people are not afraid to come out of the broom closet."

Sunday marked the 11th Pagan Pride Day in Utah, a gathering of several hundred active pagans and curious community members at Murray Park. Far from secretive, the men and women — whose beliefs are steeped in nature and centered around everything from Native American goddesses to Norse gods — were eager to share.

"We want to openly practice our religion and show people they are welcome," said Maureen Duffy-Boose, whose name in the pagan community is Aisling. She founded the day in Utah in 2002.

"We are your neighbors," said the 65-year-old grandmother of 16, who described herself as a traditional witch.

The day began with participants standing around a pentagram as several SpiralScouts planted colored flags in the image representing earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Acceptance is a major focus of the alternative scout organization, which launched a Salt Lake City branch in 2011.

"We are all inclusive," said Mary Mitchell, a mother of two in Sugar House who explained that SpiralScouts can be found across the world.

For those who wanted to continue their practice beyond Sunday, various events were announced, including the South Valley Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans pancake breakfast and the Utah Black Hat Society's witches high tea. Tarot card and rune readings left participants with answers and direction they didn't have before.

Standing inside a booth of wooden wands, graveyard dirt and fairy pencils for spells, Amber Johnson, 27, told the story of how she became a pagan. Now her 8-year-old daughter identifies herself as a witchling. "She's just starting to learn how everything she does every day is magical," the West Valley City mom said.

Young mothers pushed children in strollers as the next generation of pagans soaked in the sun and the spirit. A pink children's visor for sale said "Witches Rule."

"It's clear there's a subculture of people who try to connect to the divine in different ways," said Shelby Walker at the booth for The Order of Our Lady of Salt. "Pagans are not what they're perceived to be."

jlyon@sltrib.com

Do you want to learn more about paganism?

Visit http://www.saltlakeppd.org to read more. A "new to the community" event will be held Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. Crone's Hollow, 2470 South Main St., Salt Lake City; 801-906-0470.