Showing off some Pagan Pride

two soldiers dressed in full armor sword fighting

September 21-22 marks a two day celebration at the Raleigh Fairgrounds known as Pagan Pride Day.
Set in conjunction with the Autumn Equinox, the website describe the event: “The Central NC Pagan Pride Days Festival attracts 3000 pagans, pagan friends and the pagan curious every year. Open to the general public, this autumn celebration offers two days of both entertainment and education through social, commercial and spiritual activities.”
Feeling pagan curious, I decided to attend the event on Saturday, the 21st. Among the ritualistic outdoor prayers, the unique vendors, and medieval attire, there were two areas I found particularly interesting.
My first stop was a booth for an organization called Midgard Serpents Reptile Rescue. The term Midgard comes from Norse mythology, referring to the world humans inhabit. According to lore the realm was encircled from head to tail by a giant serpent called Jörmungandr—also known as The Midgard Serpent.
The booth had several live animals on display. In one tank was an Alligator Snapping Turtle who at 40 lbs., still had another 60 to go before he reached the impressive 100 lbs. the turtles reach when fully grown.
Another impressive specimen was their 16 foot Burmese python which weighed in at 120 lbs., with white and yellow albino scales.
The organization’s C.E.O. Chris Eichele, 33, has big plans for the future, “We’re trying to raise funds to build a 20 x 20 building—it’ll be about the size of a two car garage—we’re going to run it as a 100% reptile habitat facility where the building itself stays about 80 degrees and 60% humidity year round.”
As unique as this facility sounds, it only gets more interesting when Eichele describes how it will be powered. “We run the risk during the winters here because the ice storms knock out power. If these guys lose power that causes sickness, infections, stuff like that. We want to be able to run a building off of solar power that way we never have to worry about these guys ever suffering.”
As the name of the group indicates Midgard Serpents take in exotic reptiles and invertebrates from all over the U.S. and re-house them—they’ll be taking in a 55 lbs. sulcata tortoise from Boston at the end of September. All too often pet owners will get reptiles when they’re smaller and find themselves overwhelmed when they grow bigger and require more space.
Eichele explains, “They’ll start mainly with the turtles and the snakes. They’ll get them when they’re a foot long and they’re nice and cute.”
Unfortunately the plight of abandoned reptiles does not get the same level of attention as their furry counterparts. Eichele says, “If we set up next to a dog or cat rescue and they made $1000 in donations—we’d be lucky to clear $100. Our electric bill alone is close to $600 a month and that’s not including the feeding and everything else we have to do.”
The second area I found myself drawn to involved Medieval/Renaissance era style dueling. Two armored combatants where attacking each other in an enclosed area with swords and shields while an engaged audience looked on. This organization called the European Medieval Arts of Arms (with locations in Greensboro, Holly Springs, and Cary) takes pride in resurrecting and teaching the fighting styles of old.
One participant, John Ion, 49, prefers to go in with sword and shield but has also learned to use daggers, polearms, and a wide variety of weapons.
Upon reaching knighthood in training, the participants can go on to learn more advanced weapons. Ion says “I will be able to choose my independent study in slightly less than a year from now.” He hopes to learn how to use the whip, a weapon you must be particularly cautious with.
Joshua Albert, 31, also known as Sir Josh has been in training between 8 to 9 years. Training is more than physical, there is a mental game involved in combat too as Sir Josh explains, “Well, you saw me yell boo at least once right? That’s to get somebody to flinch.” He says of a fellow knight, “Sir T-Hawk does not flinch—he might twitch—but he does not flinch. That’s what you get from a Marine.”

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