After five years of organizing an annual Pagan Meet and Greet in Brantford, Scott Andrews believes the local pagan community is becoming more comfortable with itself.
“I’ve noticed more people coming out of the proverbial 'broom closet,'” Andrews said. “In this city and, unfortunately, many cities, pagan people feel like they are the only one out there. We can be very solitary and hidden. But when they realize there are more people out there in the city, they realize they can come out and be with people with like-minded ideas.”
Saturday's Pagan Meet and Greet at Mohawk Park featured vendors, performances and activities.
“It’s very open and it invites everyone to come out no matter what belief system you are or what faith you are,” vendor Michelle Bond said.
Andrews said one of the reasons for holding the event was to break down stigmas attached to paganism.
“It’s not like the stereotypes you see on TV and in the movies,” he said. “It’s really more of a nature-based pathway. When we come out into nature, we are in our church.”
If he could choose one myth about paganism to debunk, Andrews said it would be that the pentacle, or pentagram, symbol is usually associated with Satan.
“People see it and instantly think 'the devil,'” he said. “But no pagan path even has a devil in their belief system. For us, there is no one God and there is no devil. People see the symbol and gasp, saying we worship the devil. Well, we can’t worship something we don’t believe in.”
Dave Bennison attended the meet and greet with his wife, Vicky, to sell their hand-carved staffs and wands.
“I carve all the staffs and wands by hand and my wife writes a story to go with each one,” he said. “It’s a continuing story and they all go together. Eventually, we hope to turn it into a book.”
Bond, who has helped with the festival since its first year, was selling her artwork.
“I do a lot of artwork along a pagan or mythology theme,” she said. “I love the different faiths, the native culture and Egyptian culture. I like playing with the cultural elements a little bit, but I take my inspiration from the different gods and deities.”
Allowing vendors to share their wares, share information and come together is why Andrews is so excited to grow the meet and greet in the future.
“You have to accept people for who they are and what they believe in,” he said. “We are all people, we all live our lives everyday like everybody else. We just happen to believe a different thing than most people.”