Date & Time: Nov 21 2010 - 12:00pm
Location: THE PRESS BOX PUB & RESTAURANT - 932 Second Avenue (bet. 49th & 50th Sts.) - SecondFloor
Subject: “PAGANISM TODAY--WHAT IT IS, WHAT WE DO, WHY IT’S GROWING,” a talk by Beth Ann Mastromarino, a priestess in the pagan Society of Diana.
What’s a Pagan? ‘We’re Not a Bunch of Old Warty Hags’
Says Priestess Beth
Hear How the Pagan Pride Project Is Bringing Them ‘Out of the Broom Closet’
For the first time anyone can remember, a practicing Pagan, Dan Halloran, was elected as a council member in Queens this year, notes Beth Ann Mastromarino, herself a priestess in the Society of Diana, a coven based in New Jersey and surroundings.
The Halloran victory may elicit a bit of envy from Atheists: We have yet to claim an electoral victory by an open Atheist anywhere in Northeast corridor.
Indeed, we Atheists may have a lot to learn from the Pagan movement, which is said to be growing worldwide. Beth, who has been a vice president and event coordinator of the New York Pagan Pride Project for 11 years, says the mission of pride project is to say “Hi, we’re here. We are you,” to New Yorkers, who up to now have not been terribly aware of Paganism or apparently given it much thought.
A Pagan Priestess
Beth, who will be speaking at the New York City Atheists’ brunch on Sunday, November 21, is 35 and lives in suburban New Jersey near Montclair with her husband and 5-year-old child--a quite normal life for this Brooklyn-born housewife and mother. But unlike other New Jersey housewives, she is a pagan priestess, a member of the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, an association of covens based in Delaware. And she believes in reincarnation.
But wait, before you start thinking in terms of The Witches of Eastwick, hear her out.
“Paganism is an umbrella term, like Christianity is,” she explains. “It includes Wicca, Druids, witches and more. The one thing they have in common is that they celebrate what is called ‘the wheel of the year,’ or the cycle of the sun, eight holidays revolving around the equinox, solstices and such, and Halloween is our major holiday. We celebrate our ancestors, we celebrate the cycles of the moon.”
And if you think that might cause her a little difficulty in a neighborhood like Montclair, she hopes not: “The Pagan Pride Project is a global organization that is trying to eliminate prejudice and discrimination agains pagan religions and to help develop pride in a Pagan identity,” she explains.
Italian Catholic Hoodoo
Beth was “sort of raised in paganism,” she says. “My family was Catholic but also practiced an Italian tradition called Benedacaria. It means ‘blessings’ but I call it a thin layer of Catholic paint over the old pagan practices of Sicily, which were similar to what is called Hoodoo. You know the stereotypical stories of the little Italian grandmother who knew how to do spells or take away bad luck? I had that grandmother.”
She became seriously interested in paganism when she was a student at New York University. “I read everything that I could get my hands on. I learned Greek and would read the ancient Greek writings that named ancient incantations and spells. I learned about ancient Greek religion, ancient Egyptian religion.
“In 1996,” she continues, “I moved to Philadelphia and met people from the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel. I realized, hey, there are other people out there like me. And that is when I found the Pagan community. As I found more members of this extended family who were willing to teach me, I started practicing my family’s tradition.”
Workshops in Numerology
That was some years ago. She married (her husband is a non-practicing Pagan), moved to this typical American suburb and lives a fairly typical American life. Except, of course, there’s this little thing: she is a Pagan priestess.
There are classes in Paganism all over the world, she notes. There are workshops in astrology or numerology or Kabbalah, in how to use herbs, how to create candles. “There are practical classes, there are spiritual classes, there are historical classes. We come together for festivals and events around the seasons. There are four groups in New Jersey to help facilitate community for all Pagans in the area,” she notes.
On Sunday, Beth will tell us, she says, “what Pagans do, and what Paganism means today. As I discuss those things, our history will become apparent because we take so much from our ancient roots.”
Come hear this unusual speaker, this young woman who is devoted to ancient folk traditions inherited from her Italian-American family. Find out more about what has generally been considered one of the strangest religions in the world, one that is growing and attracting new members every day, a religion based on antiquity that still holds magic for some people today.
Cost: BRUNCH IS $20, which includes a selection of Buffet entrees and salad, one soft drink, coffee, tax and tip. We always go for seconds on the Eggs Benedict, though some people have given good reviews to the Shepherd’s pie.