Pagan hero awards at Canada’s PaganFest

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BARRIE, Ont. – Organizers of PaganFest, an annual event established in 2008, announced the winners of the Canadian Pagan Hero Awards last weekend. PaganFest, along with S.E.E.D Fest and Muse Fest, are organized by the registered non-profit organization Canadian Pagan Spiritualists.  The three festivals are hosted on seven acres of land owned by festival host and sponsor Earth and Sky Connection, a metaphysical medicine retail store.

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For this years event, organizer Tamare White-Wolf decided to hold the awards as a way to fight back against the negativity that she has been witnessing. In an email exchange with The Wild Hunt, White-Wolf described her inspiration. She said:

Honestly, what motivated this was our sick society’s way of finding flaw in others. We need to stop spreading gossip, nick picking, over analyzing, being overly critical and shoving our expectations and hidden agendas onto others. We have overall allowed ourselves to align with some very negative mean spirited ways.

As Pagans who expect others to not judge them, to allow space for uniqueness, for differences of opinion, we expect or at the very least want to be accepted as we are. We don’t want to be defined, we don’t want to have to align with what doesn’t feel right … Yet I have witnessed them/us do exactly what we have been fighting against, the very thing we stand in our truth firmly about. They/we are guilty of it. (This) has to change. I hashtagged #SpreadGoodness instead of saying stop your gossiping and constant hypocrisy. I was inspired to take a proactive and positive approach to help turn the wheel.

Community members were encouraged to nominate individuals who they felt stood out as a “hero.”  All nominees received a Nomination Award, and a thank you gift, for their “dedication to the old ways and persistent will to help others.” The gifts, were donated by local community members, and the display table holding them was “breathtaking to see,” according to White-Wolf.

The nominees for the Canadian Pagan Hero Awards

The nominees for the Canadian Pagan Hero Awards

The nominees were divided into three categories:

  1. Super Heroes: These are the people serving as police officers, nurses or doctors, volunteers, and any others who selflessly serve the community for the benefit of others.
  2. Honour Roll: These are people who have publicly advocated for the community and given freely of their time and energy teaching Pagan ways. They have have volunteered their time for a spiritual cause.
  3. Pagan Performing Artists: These are members of the community who utilize the Muses to portray their personal love and beliefs regarding the earth and the old ways.

The response was overwhelming, as almost sixty nominations came pouring in. Instead of voting to decide which of the nominees would receive the awards, community members at PaganFest decided instead to pull names from a hat, as it was proving to be difficult to choose between so many dedicated and worthy candidates.

The winners were announced from the stage by White-Wolf, with assistance from a one-year-old girl, who toddled up to hug her as she was announcing the nominees.

White-Wolf explained why she feels that it is so important to acknowledge the “Heroes” in Pagan communities:

I think there are so many unsung Heroes, we need to acknowledge before they are dead. Society seldom acknowledges it’s Heroes. I see the bigger picture – just imagine the inspiration infused when someone has been honoured and appreciated while they still live and breathe. That fuel may source a revolutionary discovery or heal a nation or drive a message home that changes the world for better, forever! We as a society need to change our ways. This is my little secret plan to heal the world of Pagans. These awards, I hope, will help

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Super Hero Winner Kim Morgan [Courtesy Photo]

Kim Morgan, a youth services officer, ordained minister and Pagan priestess, took home the award for “Super Hero.” She was surprised to be recognized in this way for her work.  She said:

Wow! Thanks to Tamare for starting this award. I was amazed and honored that I’d been nominated. I’m even more humbled to have been selected as a hero. I do what I do to give back to the community and to honor the memory of a great woman who was my coven sister, Dana Rondeau. I’m so humbled that I was chosen and thank all the people that voted for me. I also challenge everyone to be the change in the world you want to see.

The winner in the Honour Roll category was Laurie Benson, a Green Witch who has shared her talents as an herbalist, presenting workshops and herb walks at festivals and events far and wide:

Honour Roll winner Laurie Benson

Honour Roll winner Laurie Benson [Courtesy Photo]

I am certainly honoured and very surprised about being nominated and then actually winning the Honour Roll of “Canadian Pagan Heroes” out of 60 fabulous nominations. I have been around the festivals of Ontario for over 30 years (and Starwood when it was in New York) and have volunteered and been on staff at all of them, so I guess a lot of people know me!

This past weekend I was at my own festival, “Wild Wisdom Weekend” where ideas are passed from the older generations to the younger ones, so couldn’t attend Paganfest. I will get there soon though, as well as some of the other gatherings that are held there and are growing up around the province. My children were brought up at festivals and are now on staff, as well – pass it on!

The Pagan Performing Artist award went to Joshua Doerksen, a music producer, composer and performer from Toronto. Doerksen has created many original and heartfelt musical experiences, which he freely shares, far and wide. He could not be reached for comment at press time.

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Performing Arts Winner Joshua Doerksen [Public Facebook photo]

In addition to the Canadian Pagan Heroes awards, PaganFest also featured camping, workshops, music, rituals, vending and a potluck feast. The keynote speaker was herbalist and wise-woman Susun Weed, and the featured stage show was a concert by local favourites and Canada’s hottest Pagan music export, the Dragon Ritual Drummers. Witchdoctor Utu and members of the Dragon Ritual Drummers also hosted a Voodoo ceremony for festival goers on the Friday night.

Despite being called the “Canadian Pagan Hero Awards,” nominees only represented the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Organizers hope to reach farther, next time. They have yet to determine if the awards will become an annual part of the festival, but White-Wolf said that they are considering holding them every three years, so as not to saturate people, and to allow for up-and-coming heroes to be known.