YORK, Pa. – Sabrina Bowman is not a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang. She has never sacrificed a goat.
But she is a pagan, and she does believe in magic, practiced intimately by candlelight at an altar in her home.
She also believes in having some good-natured fun with the societal misconceptions about her religion, and that’s why she has prepared a cauldron in which to boil children during the Second Annual Pagan Pride Day Festival at Samuel S. Lewis State Park Saturday.
It’s a photo op — not for real, of course — because the festival is being held in part to debunk myths about paganism and educate the public.
This is the first year that the 39-year-old Bowman, the event’s organizer and a business owner and mother of one, has promoted the event. Last year’s inaugural event logged only about 50 attendees who weren’t vendors or volunteers, she said, “because I was terrified.”
“At the Fairie Festival (a pagan-inspired festival near Glen Rock), so many people come to protest, and I just didn’t know if we were ready for all of that in the first year,” she said. “There are misconceptions and it varies, what they think. People are very much a product of their upbringing. A lot of people think of the motorcycle group. That is definitely not us.”
But York County is “actually more open minded than some of the other places that I’ve been,” Bowman said, and people of all backgrounds have expressed interest in this year’s festival.
The Sam Lewis event is part of the International Pagan Pride Project, a nonprofit aimed at fostering religious diversity and education, and is one of about 100 similar celebrations held around the world every year near the time of the autumn equinox.
Bowman said she was recruited as founder for the York event when she was vendor at a fair outside of York. She sells pagan essentials such as stones, oils and crystals through her home-based business, Everlasting Myst Gift Shop.
Pagans, sometimes called NeoPagans to symbolize modern paganism, practice religious or spiritual beliefs that honor a deity or deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology. Practice is based on shamanism or magic, focusing on the Divine Feminine, and practicing earth-based spirituality.
For Bowman, that means using incense and oils and burning herbs and candles for purposes such as healing, to promote success, or to raise positive energy and manifest goodness.
Several nights a week, she lights a candle for someone who has a need. She uses a piece of paper that corresponds with the need — green for money or fertility, for example — and charges a candle with positive energy, lighting it “with pure thought and intent.”
The York event is family-friendly and also serves as a celebration, with a harvest ritual and entertainment including a belly dancer and a bounce-house for kids. An energy healer and Reiki practitioner and numerous vendors of Pagan wares will also be on hand.
And for those who want to appear as if they’re about to be eaten by Pagans, there’s the cauldron photo setup.