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Pagan Pride Day celebration comes to UConn

By Molly Miller
On October 7, 2013

Students, speakers and vendors gathered in front of the Student Union on Saturday to celebrate UConn's second annual Pagan Pride Day.
Over the course of the five-hour event hosted by UConn's Pagan Organization for Diverse Spirituality (PODS), students meandered through several tents to receive tarot card readings, make scented pillows, buy clothing and jewelry and learn about pagan religions and spiritualities both old and new, such as Druidry, Wicca, mysticism and Thelema.
Pagan Pride Day also featured presentations from UConn alumna Heather Richter, the Rev. Karen of Shrine of the Universal Dance and UConn's Capoeira Club. Throughout the event, PODS accepted donations for the Connecticut Humane Society.
Richter presented a lecture titled "Paganism, Polytheism and Heathenry: More LGBTQ Than You Think." She spoke about third genders in Native American and Hindi traditions, as well as non-gender conforming gods in ancient polytheistic Greek and Norse traditions.
The Capoeira Club presented a blend of martial arts and dance that originated in Brazilian plantations. The practice of capoeira is cultural rather than spiritual, but PODS Chief Organization Officer P.J. Larson, a 5th-semester pathobiology major, explained that the club was performing at Pagan Pride Day as part of an effort for cultural groups to support each other.
The Rev. Karen of the Shrine of the Universal Dance, a Wicca community based in Meriden, gave an interactive presentation on "shadow work" titled "Delving the Dark." She said that many people associate darkness and destruction with negativity, but explained that "the purpose of dark is to bring understanding and rest."
In the reflective activity, each participant shared a secret with the rest of the group in order to stretch their comfort zones. Participants then privately listed attributes that they disliked in a person in order to find what they didn't like about themselves.
Pagan Pride Day closed with a ritual conducted by Richter. The ritual did not follow any specific spiritual tradition, but represented a generalized amalgamation of different traditions.
"PODS has kind of formed their own traditions," explained Richter, who was a member of the organization when she attended UConn. Members of PODS represent a broad range of pagan and mystic spiritualities, as well as agnosticism and atheism.
Although many of the students who participated in the event's activities were members of PODS, students and community members from other religious or thought-based groups also stopped by to learn more about the organization.
"I was just curious," said Rob Domin, a 9th-semester environmental engineering major. "I'm involved in UConn Free Thinkers, and we've talked about collaborating with (PODS)."
Adjunct English instructor Emma Liddle, who is also the UConn contact for St. Paul's Church in Storrs, said that she was contacted by PODS about the event.
"It's really interesting," said Liddle. "Everyone is answering all of our questions."
Larson was pleased with the number of students and members of the surrounding community who stopped by throughout the event. "It's nice to see so many people who are dedicated to independent thought," said Larson. "It's cool that on this college campus, we can exchange these ideas."
Larson said that partially due to increased advertising, the turnout was bigger this year than last year. He hopes that trend will continue. "We make more and more friends every year," said Larson. He looks forward to adding new vendors and new presentations in the future.

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