Paganism is an umbrella term for different faith paths that are non Judeo-Christian. Pagans in Mid-Missouri are working hard to educate people about their faith.
Music was heard throughout Rock Bridge State Park as dozens of people came out to celebrate Pagan Pride. The festival held each year is an opportunity for Pagans in Mid-Missouri to fellowship, network, educate the public about what the religion is and to address misconceptions that the public might have.
Aerica Angell says the main goal for Pagan Pride is education.
“We are out here to help people understand again what we are, what we’re not, to give them the opportunity to ask questions that they might not otherwise get answered," Angell says. "And for people that are searching, help them find a place where their spirit belongs."
In addition to education, the festival was a time for all communities, regardless of religion, to work together.
Alfred Willowhawk says that all communities can help each other out.
“We all have a lot to share with each other," Willowhawk says. "We all have strengths that can help support both the Pagan and non-Pagan community, to show that we’re people like everybody else — we just happen to have a different set of faith beliefs."
Although many Pagans are open about their faith today, that wasn’t the case in past decades.
Angell says that the festival gives Pagans the chance to be open about their faith.
“I grew up in Mid-Missouri, and not even 20 years ago acceptance was far less than it is today," Angell says. "People were still very much afraid to be public about their faith, and it’s our belief that no one should have to hide. We're now able to step out into the sunlight and enjoy each other more.”