I could go several directions with this topic: the rampant egotism found in occultists, the need for justification of one’s beliefs that run counter to social norms, the tendency to denigrate other religions as irrational or hateful…
These are the reasons pride is seen as a “sin.” It connotes selfishness and judgement, and social norms were akin to law so to be obviously outside of those norms were considered dangerous. Wicca, however, is a religion of balance, and I posit that pride can be a source of strength that has a positive impact in a person and culture.
This weekend is the Cleveland Pagan Pride celebration in Bedford, Ohio. I will be in attendance though I’m unsure as to when and how long I’ll be there. While the “sins” I listed are certainly true of some individuals in the Pagan community, they can be said to be true of individuals of any subculture. However, having “pride” in an identifier such as spirituality can also serve as a binding force. For Pagans this is important on a few levels.
1) Personal: Most Pagans are first generation. That is to say, they converted away from the religion they were raised with. They have met a friend, read a book, seen a movie–but there is a level of loneliness in this. Having been there myself, I understand the desire to reach out to others of likemind. There is acceptance, understanding, and much to be learned.
2) Historically: Never forget the Burning Times. When witchcraft was made heresy and punishable by death, common Pagan practices became suspect. By coming together as a community we are able to identify these beliefs and practices, develop them, and implement them. Once they are identifiable and cohesive, we can implement and subsequently defend them as viable.
3) Legally: We are a special interest group, and there is power in numbers. It’s not a particularly pleasant analogy, but one or two flies about the head can be swatted away with little thought. A whole swarm of bees, however, demands a response and thought. In a way we form our own union and can negotiate our rights, whereas if we are fractured this is much more difficult to do. We have legal precedent in the courts that establishes Wicca as an accepted religion due the same rights as any other religious affiliation, but it is still an ongoing issue. It wasn’t until 2007 that Wiccan servicemen and women had the pentagram approved for military headstones–a legal battle that was several years in the making.
Rarely do Pagans have a venue for freely expressing themselves and their culture. There are thousands of us in Ohio, tens of thousands throughout the United States (possibly hundreds, but getting an accurate count is akin to herding cats). Typically we live quietly and unobstrusively, preferring secrecy out of habit (witchcraft could get you killed, and the philosophy developed to state that secrecy was important to the efficacy of magick). For instance, I am a labor and delivery nurse in downtown Cleveland. I wear my jewelry publicly, and I am Facebook friends with several co-workers, and this blog posts to my Facebook feed–but I haven’t come out and stated clearly to anyone that I am a high priestess, let alone Wiccan. An event like Pagan Pride weekend gives Pagans a safe place to come together, discuss their beliefs openly, and even practice out of doors in a venue where they don’t have to fear being discovered because they are protected not only by their brethren but law enforcement. The Bedford police are present at the event every year, and I can say from experience that they have always been welcoming and supportive.
There is great joy and freedom in being able to be just who you are without fear. Joy is unfettered goodness. So have pride, joyous pride.