Even in the Bible Belt, pagan symbols dot Birmingham
Posted on Feb 27, 2013 in Features
Those of you who read my column regularly know that I never post political or religious pieces. However, a recent Fox News story regarding Pagan and Wiccan holidays at the University of Missouri prompted a whirlwind of religious debate across the nation.
Fox News stereotyped Pagans and Wiccans as “Compulsive Dungeons and Dragons players” or “middle-aged, twice-divorced older women living in a rural area working as midwives”, and said that the bad part about Wicca was “well, witchcraft”. Negative stereotypes aside, Fox News also mentioned that there were relatively few Wiccans and Pagans in the United States (There are ~1 million).
I decided to research Wicca culture in the Magic City. What I found was that Pagans do live in Birmingham, and their influence is all around us, whether we realize it or not.
In fact, Birmingham has a history with Pagan gods and goddesses. For starters, let’s take a look at our city’s mascot, Vulcan. In Roman mythology, Vulcan was viewed as the god of fire and the forge. When Vulcan was brought back after the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, the citizens of Birmingham were not opposed to a Pagan god watching over the entire city, but rather because he wasn’t wearing any pants.
Five Points South is home to another noteworthy Birmingham landmark, The Storyteller Fountain. This fountain depicts a goat-man sitting and telling an unknown story to five creatures. Some believe the goat-man to be the deities Pan or Baphomet. The fountain has been associated with Paganism, considering that the five creatures are arranged in a pentacle shape. It’s noteworthy to mention that this fountain sits directly in front of a Methodist church.
Outside of the city, the suburb Vestavia Hills was originally named after the 20-acre estate of Mayor George Ward. Ward’s home was modeled after the Temple of Vesta in Rome and his gardens and gazebo were patterned after the Temple of Sibyl in Tivoli. It’s interesting that Ward chose to model his estate and subsequently name the town using the word “Vesta”, considering that she is the Roman goddess of hearth and home.
Other gods and goddesses make appearances in the Birmingham area, such as Lady Liberty, the affectionately-named “Miss Electra” on the power building downtown, and of course, Bacchus nightclub.
Whether Birmingham simply has a penchant for Pagan gods and goddesses, or it is simply coincidence, we may never know. However, one cannot deny that Pagan influence is all around the city.