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PAN Cleans Littered Arb On Pagan Pride Day

by Thao Nguyen

Oberlin Treasure: A view of the Arboretum, cleaned up by the Pagan Awareness Network. (photo by Abby Farragher)

Last Saturday, the Oberlin Pagan Awareness Network spruced up the woodsy plot of land known as the Arboretum. Armed with trash bags and garden gloves, about a dozen students took to cleaning the Arb.

Although the College owns it, the Arb, like Tappan Square, is a public space. Like any public space, the Arb is used frequently and is littered with candy wrappers, soda bottles and other assorted deritrus.

The Arb clean-up was the group's way of participating in Pagan Pride Day, which calls for all pagan groups to undertake a project of public service.

Junior Alexander Zorach was studying chemistry when he ran into PAN and decided to join. "Judging from the amount of trash in the Arb, I wonder how often if at all it is cleaned," Zorach said.

The group found the clean-up a bigger job than they anticipated. "There was just so much junk littering the place," senior PAN member Joseph Adriano said. In addition to picking up garbage, they raked the paths that wind through the Arb. PAN also removed the ash in the fire pit, and built a fire circle around it with natural stones found in the area. In total, the group collected about a dozen garbage bags worth of trash and debris.

Many people on campus have no conception of what PAN is, or what pagans believe. Senior Rick Kocher admitted he "had no idea" what PAN is. PAN hopes it will be able to change this sentiment in the future. Although the group was chartered five years ago, it has started to be more active in the past two years. "We want to change the misconceptions. Our mission is to be a support group for nature-based or magical- based religion," Andriano said. "We try to be as inclusive as possible."

Members of PAN are not required to subscribe to any specific deity or belief system. The group encourages discussion of various forms of spirituality among its members, who hold different religious beliefs. Some members are Christians or atheists. The only criterion for joining PAN, leaders say, is a willingness to listen to the ideas of the members.

Along with community service projects like the Arb clean up, PAN has a monthly bonfire in Tappan Square, and plan several events throughout the year. They are currently working with a woodcarving artist in the community to set up an art installation of goddess figures.

The biggest PAN event of the year is the Beltane festival, officially on May 1. PAN will be holding its festival on April 28. Last year, the theme was a renaissance fair, complete with costumed men and women and a joust. It drew a crowd of over 200 people from the surrounding area. "Next year will be even bigger and better," Adriano said.

As for the Arb, it is visibly cleaner now. But there are still signs of misuse, like scrawled graffiti that the group couldn't do much about. There is also a pond that needs attention and a proliferation of poison ivy. Even though he agrees that the Arb would be nicer without so much of the poisonous plant, Zorah said, "Perhaps the poison ivy can be seen as nature's revenge for us keeping it so messy."

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Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 5, October 6, 2000

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