SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

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September 20, 2010

Pagan festival attendees find more acceptance (with video)

TOPSFIELD — Pagans around New England need to come out of the "broom closet."

That's the mantra of Eastern Mass Pagan Pride, an organization which strives to promote pagan education, understanding and unity. The group took another step toward that goal yesterday at "Eastern Mass Pagan Pride Day," a festival at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield. It was a day for pagans of all sorts to come out, celebrate their culture and beliefs and dispel some of the misconceptions about the group that has seeped into the mainstream psyche. No, Wiccans don't worship the devil.

"This (festival) is a place for folks to get together and express themselves without the fear of persecution," said Carol Fairbank, the local coordinator of EMPP. "(Paganism) is just starting to be something that is acceptable to practice out in the open. We're hoping people will come to this festival, look around and think, 'Wow. Look how many of us there are.'"

The little-known festival, which is in its 11th year, attracts about 1,000 people annually, most from Eastern Massachusetts but several from other New England locales. It's part of the international Pagan Pride Project, which has had nearly 50,000 people attend Pagan Pride events in six countries

At yesterday's event, there were workshops, speakers, dancing and discussions about the faith, beliefs and lifestyles that make up the pagans existence. Robes, gems, amulets, crystals and other hallmarks of the culture were in full force, but there were also plain looking folks in Red Sox hats in attendance.

"We came here years ago and it was a good time," said Che Arrjj of Lawrence, who said he is not a pagan, and describes himself as "half hippie, half punk rocker."

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