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Local woman aims to change image of pagans

Posted: April 12, 2008 1:25 a.m.
Updated: June 13, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Nancy White, a local pagan and representative of the Santa Clarita Valley Pagan Network, hopes to change the mainstream perception of the pagan faith.

 
The word "pagan" has some unsavory associations, ranging from devil worshiper to baby burner.

Nancy White wants to change that.

"I want to put a new face on the image of paganism," she said.

As member of the Santa Clarita Valley Pagan Network and representative on the Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council, White said paganism is an "earth-based" form of religion centered around the cycles of the planet.

"We follow the seasons of the year," White said, and added that they follow the solar and lunar calendar.
Although paganism includes druids and wiccans, White considers herself to be a solitary witch, something different than wicca.

"I practice alone, I celebrate alone, I do my spell work alone," she said.

Pagan beliefs will vary, but White said she believes in a god and a goddess.

White, who officially became a pagan in 2003, said all plants and animals derive from the masculine and feminine, so "in my mind, our spirit selves are also created from a masculine and feminine god."

While White believes in a god and a goddess, she pointed out that there are pagans who worship many gods.

Additionally, White said pagans view god as loving and do not believe in the devil.

As a witch, White will periodically perform spells as a way to "manifest a desire."

When performing spells White uses an altar, which she has set up in her home.

A spell is meant to help a believer focus on achieving a certain goal.

However, White said, pagan ethics call for them to ask a person whether they can hold a spell before actually doing so.

SCV Pagan Network
White is a longtime member of the SCV Pagan Network, which began as a Yahoo! group in 2001.
White, who joined the network in 2003, said over the years, the group expanded from an online group. Now members hold private study groups to learn more about paganism.

The network, which White said has a 200-plus membership, meets publicly on the third Sunday of every month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the cafe inside Borders bookstore in Valencia.

At the meeting, White said visitors are able to "get a feel" for the network while understanding paganism as a whole.

Along with the meetings, White said the pagan network will gather throughout the year to celebrate eight pagan holidays, or sabbats.

The next holiday for pagans is Beltane, commonly known as May Day, which White said is a fertility festival and celebration of winter turning into spring.

Beltane is one of four pagan fire festivals.

Other holidays include Yule, a winter festival held days before Christmas, and Samhain, which is typically held on Halloween.

"That's like our big new year," White said about Samhain. "That's the night we believe the spirit world and the earthly world are connected," noting the connection allows believers to "reach over to the other side."

Around four years ago, the local pagan network joined the Interfaith Council, which is a group of diverse religious leaders who meet to learn about each other's beliefs, to increase awareness about paganism and contribute to the community, White said
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Pastor George McLeary, president of the Interfaith Council, said initially the council was hesitant in giving the pagan network membership because they didn't understand the belief.

But after presentations and meeting with local pagans including White, McLeary said they were able to understand more about paganism.

"With the council, we've come to value their presence," McLeary said.

"They're active and they work hard at what they do."

McLeary said he is glad that the council went in the direction to include the SCV Pagan Network in the Interfaith Council because now "they really help us be more complete."

'Ordinary people'
Being a witch isn't the only aspect of White's life.

The Canyon Country resident is a business owner and mother of three kids.

"We are ordinary people," she said about pagans as a whole, later adding. "We do everything that every other normal person does."

White said her three children, two of whom are Mormon and one who is Catholic, know she is pagan.

Although she has been a witch for over four years, White said she initially "dabbled" in paganism as a youth.

As she raised her children, White became a "mainstream Christian" in the late '80s and '90s and even became part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a short period.

Now as a witch, White wants to become the example of what a pagan and witch is and to show that pagans believe that life is about happiness, doing good and allowing others to enjoy themselves.

"That's really the purpose of life," she said.

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