The Rite Stuff

Pagans just want to be understood. So Pagan Pride Day is no joke to them; rather, it's an opportunity not only to support one another, but also to share the wealth. And if it seems weird for Colorado's event, which occurs in conjunction with the international version, to take place in Colorado Springs, stronghold of the religious right, think again. What better place?

First off, never make the mistake of confusing a pagan with a Satanist. Uh-uh. Does not compute. "That's one thing that really pushes a pagan's button," says longtime Colorado Springs pagan Mikie Coates. "Satan is a Christian invention. We don't have one, and we don't want one, thank you very much. We don't need it. You can't honor the earth and all the life on it by doing sacrifices." Paganism, Coates notes, is simply an ancient earth- and nature-based belief system. Sometimes magick is involved, but spells, she says, aren't to be used for nay but positive purposes.

Do pagans dance naked in woods? "Whenever we can," Coates verifies. "It's a very freeing experience -- after all, it's real hard to pretend with nothing on." The correct term for it is "skyclad," she adds. And contrary to popular belief, there's not a lot of sex going on during pagan rituals: "It's hard to be reverent when you're all hot and bothered. One of our tenets is to honor and bless yourself, and using yourself for sexual purposes is not necessarily honoring yourself."

Finally, she reiterates, it's no big deal. "I went through a period of shoving it in everybody's face, but I got over that." People tend to be fascinated and curious about her faith rather than affronted: "Of course, what they say behind my back, I don't know. Maybe they're scared: 'I'll turn you into a toad!'" But has Coates, who's a wiccan (that's a witch, kids) as well as a pagan, ever turned anyone into a toad? "No," she says. "But most people would be redundant if I did."

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd