Since 2002, well before coming out about his oft-misunderstood beliefs, Pagan Pride Day co-local coordinator Kasey Conder has been a practicing pagan. Conder, a member of the Fellowship of Isis, and other Utah pagans will celebrate this year at Murray City Park (5109 Murray Park Lane, September 11, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.). Admission is a nonperishable item for the Utah Food Bank.
What is the purpose of Pagan Pride Day? To build tolerance, build understanding for interested people and give a face to pagan identity. We build pride through activism, charity and community. We allow many groups in the “broom closet,” that others don’t know, to share their backgrounds and beliefs.
Is it difficult to practice as a pagan in Utah? Utah is actually accepting of religions, especially pagans. Most haven’t experienced discrimination. One of the main things we face is letting non-pagans understand who we truly are and dispelling myths that we aren’t worshipping Satan, or whatever.
Describe your average pagan. Most are very eclectic and hold themselves to a higher system of accountability because of the karmic will of reverse action. Neo-Paganism incorporates many different spiritual paths; however, it carries a common chord of reverence for understanding the rhythms of nature. Most chart the cycles of nature, follow equinoxes, solstices and cross-quarters for rituals and rites and are in harmony with that. Most common religions are based on revering a deity and praying to a deity, but the thread in paganism is revering the sun, stars, moon and Earth.
When did you come out of the “broom closet”? I officially came out in 2004. I lived in southern Utah then, and it wasn’t a place where you could find pagans. I was a solitary practitioner without many opportunities to practice ritual. Since moving here, I’ve connected with lots of pagans, though I follow a unique path to the area.
What’s the festival like? There’re quite a few pagan groups [who attend] and activities, like belly dancing and workshops from “Pagans in the Military” to “Chakra Cleansing” to labyrinths. Also, people can observe or participate in different rituals. There’re 30-plus booths, entertainment and vendors. It’s open to everyone, and everyone who comes is eager to come back each year.
Ever sacrificed an animal or been in an orgy? (laughs) No, the particular group I belong to doesn’t believe in sacrifice. That’s one of the myths. That’s not what we’re about on Pagan Pride Day.
By day, Nathan Spenser is a cool substitute science and math high school teacher for the Granite School District. But two to five nights a week, he is in the Salt Lake City music scene as a multifaceted artist.