There’s nothing goth about the Comic Sans font.
I stare at the San Diego Pagan Pride Day’s website, not really knowing what I expected. Something eviler, no doubt. There’s no mysticism, no enchantment—just that goofy, most-hated font staring back at me. If anthropomorphized it would have the voice of a nasally puppet stuck between toddlerhood and adulthood.
And it would yell: “SAN DIEGO PAGAN PRIDE DAY SCHEDULE OF EVENTS!”
There’s a part of me that’s excited about the Pagan Pride Fest. For one, I know very little about the belief, only that, out of all the religions, it’s the gothiest. If anyone knows anything about me, it’s my unabashed love of darkness, horror and dread, and spending a day learning about the rituals of witches and heretics feels totally goth.
So, I want to give the Pagans the benefit of the doubt, but their site isn’t making it easy. Not that I expect a full on “bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” kind of presentation, but c’mon, the Franklin Gothic font is right there.
I ask my friend, Nathan, to come along with me. Nathan’s great because he never thinks anything is a stupid idea, and he has daily rules like “talk to a stranger,” which constantly force him out of his comfort zone. Also, he’s the only one of my friends who can wake up early enough for the 9 a.m. scheduled “morning ritual.”
I have no idea what to wear, so I throw on a shirt my wife bought in a metal bar in Istanbul called Rasputin. It’s by far my most goth shirt. It’s also my blackest and heaviest shirt. The morning temperature is already in the high 80s.
I pick up Nathan. “Like my shirt?” I ask, already sweating like a goddamn madman. We haven’t even made it to the festival and I’m already melting. I’m melting! What a world! (Because witches).
The Pagan Pride Festival is located in a far corner of Liberty Station. I ultimately decide the choice in location is pretty goth due to Point Loma residents’ perceived aversion to counter-cultural weirdness (i.e. they’re rich).
Nathan and I arrive on time. We’re the only spectators. Many artists and vendors are still setting up. It’s then that I realize how conspicuous we are: me with my Rasputin shirt (which now feels a little too obvious) and Nathan with his flannel. A woman sees us and beelines our way.
She introduces herself. Her name is Crystal. Of course it is. Crystal is the daughter of the organizer. She’s warm, friendly and also really stoked about the snow cone truck that’s scheduled to arrive later. “We wanted to get the pierogi truck, but…” she trails off, briefly. “Maybe next year.”
We make our way to a woman selling mystic goods: figurines made of twigs, phallic staffs with crystals affixed to the end, etc. She picks up a stick figure with two wooden discs meant to be breasts and presents it to us in a teasing manner. “Don’t molest the fairy,” she says, like wink, wink, I know how all the boys love stick figurines.
Nathan asks the woman about Paganism. This catches the attention of another man who, for all intents and purposes, is the physical embodiment of Peter Griffin.
“Paganism is the spiritual connection to nature rather than a single god,” the woman says. “We believe in the cycles of the earth.”
“Oh, like wolves,” Peter Griffin says. A confused look crosses the woman’s face. We leave. “Oh, like wolves,” becomes a punch line for the rest of the day.
The morning ritual starts. Three men—one in a red-and-white tunic, another in a Luke Skywalker-style robe, another in a black cape—and a woman lead the procession. We stand in a circle around them. They light a fire in a pot.
The man in the red tunic moves around the circle, spritzing us with water from an evergreen branch. This is our supposed purification, but with the sun beating down, my armpits and butt crack feel anything but pure. There are few things more discomforting than goth sweat.
They make offerings to sky father. They honor earth mother. We sing songs. I sing them poorly. The man next to me in the circle knows all the songs by heart, except one, which he announces by telling me, “this is the only one I don’t know.” Seems a little arrogant. “Now, for the fun part,” red tunic says. “The sacrificial prayer!” They pour water out of a fancy chalice. “Fun,” in the context, turns out to be relative. Photographers from other media snap pictures from outside our circle. Goddamnit, I think, imagining how those photos will come back to haunt me later in life.
The ritual ends. Red tunic, who’s been foiling all my attempts to sneak creepshots, introduces himself as John. He’s totally nice. It turns out we’re both from Utah. Nathan and I find some shade to decompress. “I don’t know if you saw,” he says, “at one point during the ritual, a group of runners in tutus ran past. It reminded me of that [SELF Magazine] article, shaming runners who wore tutus, which ended up being symbols of solidarity with cancer patients.” He pauses. “You know, this kind of stuff is really easy to make fun of, but everyone is just doing their thing.”
I let Nathan’s words sink in. Is unironic acceptance of other people’s beliefs the most goth?
Before I can come to a conclusion, Nathan taps me on the shoulder: “Snow cone truck is here.”