SHF Series – Came a Lutheran, Left a Pagan

Eric Newes works on his project in a workshop led by Judy Olson (right)

Not all interviews go as you expect them to go. This interview, with Eric Newes, was supposed to be about the perspective of the Sacred Harvest Festival from someone who was attending their very first Pagan festival. Yet, by the time I had asked a few opening questions, I realized this interview was about something far different – it was about the powerful, transformative nature of festivals when a person is ready and open to the experience.  It’s about how Eric came to the Sacred Harvest Festival as a  (nominal) Lutheran, but left as a Pagan.

Below is a partial transcript of the ten minute interview I conducted with Eric at the Sacred Harvest Festival. At the end is the actual audio interview and I urge you to listen to it. It is fascinating to hear about his conversion from Lutheran to Pagan during the course of the festival, especially when he talks about the life changing ritual in the sweat lodge.

PNC: So what was your first impression? Like when you first came here, got through the gates, came into the area, what were you thinking?

Eric: I didn’t know what to expect. I was a little nervous at first. But I had come here with people who had come her for 11 previous festivals so they gave me a good idea of what to expect. But I was still a little nervous.

PNC: So what were you nervous about?

Eric: I had never seen a ritual before, for one. I didn’t know what goes on there because I’m not Pagan actually. Or I should say I wasn’t at the time. So yeah, I didn’t know what to expect ritual-wise. I was like, I was afraid, I didn’t want to disrespect any of these sacred rituals.

PNC: So, are you saying you walked into the gate not a Pagan, but you’ll be leaving the gate a Pagan?

Eric: Yes, definitely.

PNC: So this has been a very transformative experience for you?

Eric: Oh, very much so. Yeah.

PNC: So were you a seeker? What religion did you follow previous to this?

Eric: Technically I was a Lutheran but I hadn’t really thought about religion too much lately. I don’t know, I just kind of formed my own beliefs system. Then when I came here I realized that – and when I started dating my girlfriend who is Pagan – I just started realizing that my beliefs that I kind of created were exactly what this is about. So I was already a Pagan, I just didn’t know it.

PNC: I think that happens with alot of people. They come, they start interacting with others and they realize hey, that’s me, that’s really what i think. That isn’t other it’s actually what I believe.

Eric: Exactly. And I think there is alot of people like me out there who don’t realize that. It’s very interesting.

PNC: What do you think the reaction of your friends and family will be?

Eric: They’re pretty open minded about it. They kind of laughed it off a bit because there’s alot of misconceptions about Pagans out there. So they were kind of joking about it. Especially my friends at work like to make alot of jokes about the magic and rituals and sacrifice. they thought that was kind of a funny joke. But yeah, I just kind of laughed it all off. Mostly my family, especially, have been really open minded about it and I think if they saw it they would be, it would just change the way they think, really ’cause it changed the way I thought. And I had high expectations.

PNC: So what was it that changed the way you thought?

Eric: I think just, I don’t know. Just realizing that it wasn’t … I don’t know how to put this. Realizing that it wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be like. Compared to other religions it’s, I don’t know, more welcoming of people like me who aren’t really of this faith. That was what really did it for me and I like that because I felt right at home instantly. And I’ve been welcomed ever since, especially in the rituals. So that’s what really did it for me.

PNC: So now that you have participated in some of the ritual experiences, what do you think of that?

Eric: Very interesting and fun, actually. ‘Cause like when you are a Lutheran all the Church stuff, I guess that would be the closest comparison to rituals, that really didn’t do it for me. I kind of lost interest and especially if you are not really devoted to, if you are not just a dedicated, hardcore Christian, then they kind of look down on you. And then you feel like an outsider there, and here it’s more relaxed. So especially like, yeah, there’s the typical rules to a ritual, but they are easy to follow and the ritual etiquette they put int the book. But yeah, they knew I wasn’t really a Pagan and they still just welcomed me. With open arms, really.

The PNC would like to thank Eric for being so open with such a personal subject.  The moment we discovered we are a Pagan is one that most of us describe much like Eric did, “So I was already a Pagan, I just didn’t know it.”

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