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Pagan community in the Triangle uplifts 'love, light and non-judgement'

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A mug with the Pagan triple goddess symbol is pictured at Quantum Soul in Carrboro on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023. Samhain is a Pagan religious holiday celebrating the harvest and bringing in the dark part of the year.

According to Lynn "MagikCraft" Swain, the owner of metaphysical shop Quantum Soul on Franklin Street, the concept of paganism has been plagued by false assumptions throughout history.

Most pagan practices involve honoring nature and the natural cycles of the world.

Swain, who is a seventh generation spiritual healer, began her work as a medium, tarot reader and crystal healer at a young age and has done psychic readings with thousands of people. 

“Everybody wanted me to read their cards, but people didn’t want to hear about witchcraft or being a witch,” Swain said. “They thought of it as evil, destructive, satanic.” 

She said she feels that people are scared of paganism and witchcraft because it is something unfamiliar.

Although Swain practices witchcraft, she does not identify as Wiccan — a subset of paganism that often honors specific deities. She said she is able to honor nature and her ancestors through her own practice of paganism. 

In the past, Swain said she has been prohibited from volunteering with children and publicly reported for practicing her own personal rituals, which were misconstrued as evil and satanic. 

“People try to make it creepy and scary, when in reality it’s love and it's light and it’s non-judgment,” she said.

Samhain, an annual holiday celebrated on Oct. 31, marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of the new year for many pagans. It is thought to be one of the celebrations that Halloween originates from. 

For many years, Swain felt that she could not participate in the American traditions during season changes. 

To her, the true meaning of Samhain was destroyed through the commercialization of ancient traditions such as pumpkin carving to ward off evil spirits.

“There are lots of different ways that people celebrate this time of year and engage in this time of year and the best thing to do to learn more is actually to just ask people,” Mary Hamner, a Religious Studies graduate student studying paganism and witchcraft at UNC, said. 

According to Swain, a new wave of paganism is surging thanks to wide circulation of media. She is excited that more people are willing to experiment with different beliefs. 

Hamner also acknowledged paganism as a rapidly growing practice.

According to Hamner, it is very difficult to estimate pagan and witch populations in the U.S., but assumptions can be made based on statistics concerning witchcraft-related book sales or the number of posts under certain hashtags on social media. 

She cautioned people from making the mistake of thinking pagans and witches are “fringe groups,” or a group with extreme views, especially in the South.

“The South has this really entrenched history in Protestant Christianity in particular,” she said. “That doesn’t erase the fact that it is a really diverse region and many other religious groups have been here the whole time just because they are not the ones routinely who get the microphone handed to them.”

Hamner is involved in the Triangle Area Pagan Alliance, which networks education events for the pagan community in North Carolina. The organization celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. 

Kelley Harrell is a North Carolina native, pagan author and soul tending practitioner of Soul Intent Arts. In her experience, there has never been a lack of pagan community in the Triangle.

According to Harrell, during the ‘90s pagans had a bias against other pagans who did soul healing or deathwork of any kind.

“It wasn’t different from the church in that capacity, in that people needed you in an identifiable box, and if you weren’t, you were less pagan,” they said in an email.

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Harrell said that there has been more acceptance of pagans on different paths since then and TAPA has been a huge force in creating and sustaining that dialogue in the community.

“It is very likely that folks know pagans and witches,” Hamner said. “You may not think that you do.”

@melinsophia

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com