For the second year in a row, Surrey will host the Vancouver Pagan Pride Day on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., bringing Wiccans and Druids to Hawthorne Park.
Kerr Cuhulain, organizer of the 17-year event and a Wiccan for the past 43 years, sees the pride day as a way for Pagans to express themselves openly and show their involvement in the community.
"It's an opportunity for people who are followers of neo-pagan beliefs to publicly display our pride and show people who we are and that we are a force to be reckoned with," he said.
Cuhulain is also the Preceptor General of the Order of Sc_thach, a local religious society founded in 2007 and named after a Celtic demigoddess for her strength as a warrior. To represent power, the group will perform an armouring ritual, in addition to dramas, music and classes throughout the day. Cuhulain said there are a lot of misconceptions about pagans that events like this try to overcome.
"If you go back several decades, the impression people had was largely put out there by certain elements of the religious community," he said. "Their stance was that if we weren't Christians, we were, by default, Satanists.
"Pagans couldn't be public about their beliefs until we took the time to educate people that this has nothing to do with Christianity, and that this is an entirely separate spiritual path."
Previously, the event was held at Stanley Park in Vancouver for nine years then at Queen's Park in New Westminster for seven years. It moved to Surrey because Cuhulain said the City of New Westminster didn't seem supportive of Pagan Pride Day.
"They weren't causing problems, but they were notable by their absence," he said.
Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston will be in attendance at the Surrey event. Organizers invited members of Surrey city council, but were told many are unable to attend due to vacations and other events.
Cuhulain said Mayor Dianne Watts has sent him an address to read to the crowd in her absence.
When asked about the city's stance on the event, Watts told the Now, "We don't have a problem as long as they comply by the rules and regulations that are listed for the site."
Coun. Marvin Hunt echoed Watts' response and said the city hasn't received any complaints about Pagan Pride Day, but would not say whether the city supports it.
"There's all kinds of religious groups in Surrey that the City of Surrey allows to have different celebrations," said Hunt.
"It's their business to celebrate what they want to celebrate as long as it's legal and lawful."
- With files from Eva Cohen