This weekend, LGBTQ people and allies will take part in Pride weekend in Lansing, celebrating their sexual identities. But down at Valhalla Park, another group will gather to celebrate their unique religious identity. Lansing Pagan Pride Day, which comes to the park Saturday, welcomes anyone who believes in a nature-based, non-traditional religion.
Carrie Zay, one of the founders of the Pagan Pride Day and president of the Mid-Michigan Pagan Council, describes Paganism as an “umbrella term” for many nature-centric religions. Lansing Pagan Pride Day, now in its sixth year, was created to bring together a variety of religious practitioners. This year’s festival centers around a theme of spiritual transformation.
“We started the theme idea three years ago, because we wanted the event to be different each year,” Zay said. “We started it with ‘finding your dark side,’ We focused on the practices that people shy away from. We had voodoo and hoodoo practitioners and Goth-like music and a feeling of ‘It’s OK to tap into that side, because you can learn from your shadow side.’ It felt right.”
This year, the theme is drawn from an ancient symbol called eiwhaz (pronounced “yew-was”), which represents change or transformation. Starting this year, the event will use such ancient symbols to come up with themes.
The event includes several rituals in which attendees are encouraged to participate. The opening ceremony will be conducted by the Mid-Michigan Pagan Council, and Pagan Pride Day co-founder Nichole Ellwanger will lead a children’s ritual. Rhea Lur, a local coven from Owosso, will conduct a ritual based on the spiritual transformation theme.
The event also includes 17 vendors, offering goods from a variety of religions and traditions. Teachers from several different nature-based practices are available for those interested in learning about new traditions. There will also be a food tent that will cater to “carnivores” and vegans alike, Zay said.
“We’ve been doing this for six years, and one of the big things that me and Nichole both wanted was to be able to have an event group that can draw people into the community more,” Zay added. “We want to give those who have children or people who just don’t know any other Pagans a chance to come somewhere and meet new people.”
Ellwanger thinks the event is a great resource for spiritually curious people.
“The more you learn and educate yourself (about other religions), the more your religion is personal,” Ellwanger said. “You’re able to make your religion fit you as a person.”
Zay and Ellwanger have been practicing Paganism for 22 and 17 years, respectively, and they hope that Lansing Pagan Pride Day will help grow the local Pagan community. Over the past six years, the attendance has increased from 50 attendees the first year to 150 last year. This year’s goal is to shatter that attendance record.
“Over the six years, we’ve definitely grown,” Zay said. “We have a lot more people coming and from out of town. We’re pulling people in from Jackson and Detroit to come to our Pagan Pride Day event — it’s really awesome we’re getting other communities to come.”
Pagan Pride Day
10 a.m.-6 p.m
Saturday, Aug. 27
Valhalla Park 4000 Keller Road, Holt