Politics & Government

Witches, shamans and other pagans turn out for Pagan Pride Day in Tacoma

Witches, shamans, earth-based spiritualists and other self-described pagans celebrated their diverse traditions and rituals Saturday in Tacoma.

They are pagan and proud. About 700 people turned out at Freighthouse Square for Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride Day.

People browsed among vendors selling healing gemstones, tarot cards and “positive hoodoo dolls” for casting spells. They learned from each other’s rituals and sought to educate the public about what pagans are and aren’t.

Sandy McLeish, a witch who practices Wicca, said the event was a way “to let the community know we’re not bad.”

“We don’t worship the devil,” said McLeish, 43, of Spanaway.

Generally speaking, pagans include a wide range of traditions and religions with pre-Christian teachings that stress reverence for nature and the Earth and worship of Goddess and God. McLeish said she worships both Goddess and God and is part of a coven that meets monthly.

Saturday’s event marked the ninth Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride Day, and the third time it took place in Tacoma at Freighthouse Square.

Pagan Pride Days are held throughout the country and in some foreign countries as part of the Pagan Pride Project.

The rituals Saturday included a drum circle and a druid rite of unity and healing.

More than 30 people gathered in a circle presented by a druid fellowship called Cascadia Protogrove.

“Earth Mother, we praise and thank you,” said Karen LaFe, 70, of Kent.

She touched the floor and gave an offering of oats. “Earth Mother, accept our offering,” LaFe said.

Nearby, practicing heathens had their own table.

Dan McDonald, 52, explained that his heathen group, called Hawk’s Hearth Kindred, represents Norse-Germanic paganism.

About 32 people take part in the group based near Tumwater, honoring gods and goddesses and holding to a philosophy based on strong values, said McDonald, who lives in Suquamish, near Poulsbo.

“Our strongest value is accountability in all our actions and words,” McDonald said.

Chris Struble, who runs an earth-based spirituality group at his church in Bellevue, said he enjoyed his first Pagan Pride Day.

“I like that everybody’s very open about who they are,” said Struble, 52. “It feels like a safe environment.”

Uwanna Thomas, an African-Caribbean witch from Vashon Island, bought a hoodoo doll for $7. Thomas, 59, said she came to Pagan Pride Day to broaden her contact with the pagan community and “find other pagans to hang with.”

Pagans are portrayed as being evil, bad and devil-worshipers, Thomas said.

“It’s completely the opposite,” said her husband, David Rubincan.

Rubincan, a 57-year-old shamanist, said the event was “very enlightening” and that he was glad to see so many people enjoying themselves.

“There’s a great energy in the room,” he said.

As secretary for Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride, McLeish helped organize the activities. She said she was formally initiated as a witch in May after two years of study.

“I love it,” McLeish said. “I feel like my life purpose was defined and I was stepping into it.”

Angela Wehnert, a Wiccan who is president of Central Puget Sound Pagan Pride, said her goal is to educate the public.

“We’re not flying around on brooms,” said Wehnert, 40, of Auburn. “We’re just normal people like everybody else.”