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Pagan pride festival pegged to fall equinox

The third annual Lexington-Bluegrass Pagan Pride Day is Saturday — and you don't even have to be a pagan to attend the festivities.

Event spokeswoman Susan Kelch says the festival will offer plenty of attractions for everybody — food, music, kids' games, a petting zoo, diviners giving personal readings, vendors, arts and crafts for show and sale — regardless of religious belief.

There will be some displays of pagan rituals as well at the festival, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington.

It's intended to celebrate the autumnal equinox — when fall officially arrives, on Tuesday — as well as to promote respect for alternative religious beliefs and let the public know more about paganism in Central Kentucky, Kelch said.

Pagans might not appear in Kentucky news very often, but pagan events are not rare anymore. There was a pagan pride celebration in Covington last month, one is scheduled in Louisville on Sept. 26, and Cincinnati had its pagan pride day in May.

About 200 people attended last year's Lexington-Bluegrass Pagan Pride Day, but organizers are hoping for more on Saturday.

The official Pagan Pride Values Statement says, "Respect, integrity, communication and neutrality are the cornerstones" of the organization.

The word pagan originally referred generally to believers in non-Christian deities, such as the gods of ancient Rome. But Kelch, who once attended a mainstream church herself, says today's pagans tend to believe more in the sacredness of the earth and the natural world. Some modern-day pagans are polytheistic, meaning they believe in many gods; some are monotheistic (one god); and others are pantheists, or they believe that God is everything and everything is God, according to Web sites devoted to the subject.

Kelch describes her personal beliefs as Wiccan, or nature-based.

"It can be wide open," she said. "We don't do devil worshiping or anything like that. It comes from prehistoric times, with the sun and the moon. Some people have a certain deity; I personally don't have one in particular. It's what anyone wants to believe in."

Kelch said she was brought up in the Lutheran Church but stopped attending "because it just didn't feel right to me." She read extensively, attended various New Age festivals and gradually found her way to paganism, where she said she "felt like I belonged."

"There was no prejudice against other people," she said. "It was just a group of like mind, with a belief in nature and equality."