Pagans incensed by court ruling on Wicca

All of a sudden, Indianapolis is being watched by Wiccans worldwide.

The city may be the national garden spot for the pagans. People come here from miles around for Pagan Pride Day every summer. That’s when pagans get together in a sort of community outreach, trying to educate the public about their beliefs and to gain acceptance.

Pagan Pride Day is such a hit that pagans in cities across the nation have duplicated the event. But it got its start in 1998 in Indy.

Ever since, it’s been held once a year in Broad Ripple Park.

In the daylight.

Perhaps this is news to you.

Maybe, like Marion Superior Court Judge Cale J. Bradford, you believe that Wicca and paganism represent “non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals,” as the judge said.

Hence, Bradford put down the hammer during divorce proceedings between Thomas E. Jones Jr. and Tammie U. Bristol, both Wiccans. He ruled that the couple could not allow their 9-year-old son, Archer, to participate in Wiccan activities.

His decision was based on information that the child attends a Catholic school. The worry was that the boy might be confused by two different belief systems.

Jones, a Web designer, attended a Catholic high school himself.

He does recall one mix-up with his son at Christmas a few years ago. He finds it sweet. “He told us how the goddess gave birth to Jesus,” Jones said.

He has never had any problem with the school, he added.

But the ruling has cut into time with his son. The boy had to miss the vernal equinox, also known as Oester. That’s when pagans celebrate Earth’s fertility. A hare represents the spring goddess. Wiccans, following an old custom, run around hunting Oester eggs.

Sound familiar?

Jones has been battling the judge’s ruling for 14 months now. The Indiana Civil Liberties Union has taken the case. The organization argues that the parents’ constitutional rights have been violated and that the ruling is vague — what is a nonmainstream religious belief, anyhow?

Meanwhile, pagans across the city, state and nation know a rallying point when they see one. They’ve been busy expressing their indignation on various Web sites and to the media.

But they also recognize a golden PR moment — an opportunity to set the record straight. “We are not Satanists or all cute little 20-somethings who can wiggle our nose and cast spells,” said an exasperated Duke Egbert, who edits, an online magazine. He lives in Indy.

Egbert is executive director of the Pagan Pride Project. His Wiccan name is Dagonet Dewr — “Call me Dag.”

When he and his then-wife founded Pagan Pride Day in 1998, it prompted an article in The New York Times. The couple were photographed in what looked like medieval costume in front of a home altar with candles. She was drinking from a goblet. It contained juice.

Pagans, said “Dag,” tend toward environmental or liberal causes. They believe in tolerance, situational ethics, responsibility, nature and humor.

So how about some pagan humor to lighten this situation up?

“In my circle, when we had our midsummer ritual, we used bubble pipes, twirlies, Super Soakers and sparklers,” he said, for the four elements — earth, air, fire and water.

“People,” he said, “have lost their sense of play.”

Ruth Holladay’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Indianapolis Star, USA
May 31, 2005 Column
Ruth Holloday

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 31, 2005.
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