‘We don’t do sacrifices’

The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 2, 2002
Patti Edgar

Friday, August 02, 2002

In a secluded campground near Ottawa, pagan parents joke about the bumper sticker on their mini-van that reads “My other car is a broom.”

For civil servants Austin Lawrence and Maryanne Pearce, this weekend’s private gathering of witches, druids and the spiritually curious is a chance to pitch a tent and catch up with old friends.

But the “Kaleidoscope Pagan Gathering” at Whispering Pines Campground east of Ottawa has angered Christians in neighbouring farm towns, who accuse the campers of flouting biblical teachings by promoting witchcraft, nudity and ritualized sex.

A petition started by the Rockland Church of God in Clarence has garnered 400 signatures, while campsite owners claim residents threatened to boycott their business unless they turn away the pagans.

“This area is already thick with witches’ covens and we don’t need to encourage it,” said Rev. Peter Jamieson.

“As a Christian minister I believe I have an obligation to stand up for what is right. This is witchcraft no matter how they try and colour it.”

The accusations startle the pagans from across Canada and the U.S. who unfolded lawn chairs, hung tarps and encouraged children to head for the pool yesterday afternoon.

“Quite honestly I couldn’t think of a better group to have in your backyard than people who respect the earth and are inclusive of all religions and backgrounds,” said Ms. Pearce.

“A lot of people fear the unknown,” added Mr. Lawrence. “Christians don’t head off on crusades brandishing swords anymore and we don’t do sacrifices.”

For more than a decade the five-day pagan “convention” has been held at various campgrounds across Ontario, attracting hundreds of mostly suburban professionals who want to celebrate the season’s first harvest.

It’s not uncommon to see braless women in medieval garb or fathers wrapped in sarongs with pentagrams dangling on their bare chest.

But this is the first time anyone has bothered to complain, forcing people who are usually very private about their spirituality into the spotlight, said organizer Pamela Fletcher. She considers it an opportunity to teach the unenlightened about modern paganism.

If the Christians plan to picket the campground this weekend, Ms. Fletcher will hand out ice-cold drinks.

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