Monday, October 30, 2006

A Frightening Thought

I was interviewing a pastor the other day about a youth event, and we started talking about Asheville, N.C. He said that last year (2005) around Halloween in New York about 50 or so witches, warlocks or so gathered.
Not enough to worry about, you say.
In Atlanta around the same time there were about 80 gathered for the same kind of event.
Who cares you say?
The problem is where it might lead.
In Asheville, there were around 600, yes, I typed 600.
The pastor said the witches and other new age, occult leaders believe there's something mystical in the mountains. Some come for the ancient Indian burial grounds.

Below are two articles about pagan worship in Asheville and a woman from Tennessee who says she is a witch and a Christian. The first story had a fairly lengthy list of events associated around the "holiday"

During Samhain, pagans worship the Earth, ancestors
(Asheville Citizen-Times)
ASHEVILLE — On Tuesday, members of the Earth Religions, such as Wicca, celebrate the most sacred day of the year.
Known as Samhain (pronounced SOW-in), the day is the final of three Pagan harvest celebrations and a day to commemorate ancestors and others who have died.
“This is the big one for us,” said Byron Ballard, a high priestess and a founder of the Coalition of Earth Religions for Education and Support. “This is the beginning of the Celtic winter and the celebration of our new year.”
The biggest event in the region this year is Tuesday evening on the grounds of Unity Center for Christianity on Fanning Bridge Road in Fletcher. Several thousand people are expected to attend the 12th annual Samhain celebration sponsored by Oldenwilde Coven.
“People know we do this every year now, it’s always free, and we don’t allow any selling,” said Dixie Deerman, also known as Lady Passion, the high priestess of Oldenwilde. “We have been promoting it on our Web site, so people know about it.”
Deerman said the Oldenwilde Samhain is joyful and reverent.
“What we do has meaning and purpose,” she said.
The event will include a spiral dance, during which participants dance in concentric circles, plus a maze trance dance, tribal music, a costume contest, harp music around the balefires and more. Children can enjoy autumn games such as “bat bowling” and candy corn relay races.
Earth religions are the oldest on the planet, Ballard said. They predate monotheistic religions by many centuries.
“People worshipped the forces that brought them their food and their lives,” she said. “In ancient times, people celebrated the change of the seasons and remembered the people who had come before.”
Pagans — the umbrella term for people of all Earth religions — believe the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest on this night. Originally, Celtic people celebrated the Feast of the Dead by leaving food on altars and doorsteps for the wandering dead. Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home, and extra chairs were set at the table and around the hearth for the unseen guests.
Samhain was when cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating during the winter, and any crops still in the field on Samhain, considered taboo, were left as offerings to the nature spirits.
Pagans built bonfires (originally called bone-fires, because the bones were thrown in the fire after the feast as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the coming year). Stones were marked with people’s names, then thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning. The condition of the retrieved stone foretold that person’s fortune in the coming year.
Pagans also lit hearth fires from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.
Many Pagans believe the six weeks between the autumnal equinox, called Mabon, and Samhain are a time for introspection and contemplation, Ballard said.
Today, Pagan religions are emerging again, after centuries of persecution, Ballard and Deerman said.
“There were times we had to call the police because we felt threatened,” Ballard said. “We have had our religious ceremonies picketed and invaded.”
But the religions are growing as people become disillusioned with what Deerman calls “the dominant paradigm.”
“It’s about universal love of the land and knowing … we’re all integrally connected,” Deerman said. “We find the sacred in the land and in humanity.”

Something Wiccan This Way Comes
Religion News Service
FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. -- Rebecca Walkoff knows that she could never pass a
psychological test. "I hear voices," Walkoff, 47, said as she enjoyed a
cigarette outside her store, The Moon Willow, just off the Fayetteville
Square. "I see visions."
Walkoff shrugged, her green eyes twinkling, and snubbed out the
"Magic is everywhere you look, if you're inclined to see it," she said.
"I'd rather be a person who sees it."
She's untroubled by an outside assessment of her sanity or what people
think of her when she identifies herself as a Christian Wiccan.
Though she considers herself a believer in Jesus, Walkoff also embraces
a label, "witch," that was a death sentence for an estimated 100,000 people,
mostly women, during the European witch-hunting period from 1450 to 1700.
The mass hysteria by church leaders was "one of the longest and most bizarre
delusions in Western history," says Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World
Walkoff is quick to assure questioners that she does not worship the
devil -- Wiccans do not believe in a devil -- and that the Wiccan creed is
"And it harm none, do what you will," a creed that guarantees that she tries
to generate only good energy and deeds.
"We don't do black magic," Walkoff said. "According to the Wiccan Law of
Three, anything you put out, you'll get back times three."
Walkoff pushed open the door of the little shop. Inside, a spicy herb
smell lingered around racks of greeting cards. Tendrils of steam wound out
of the nostrils of a dragon perched over a decorative fog lamp. Halloween
costumes crowded a rack next to a pile of chunky crystals. Somewhere a
fountain splashed.
Walkoff's store features some herbs, minerals and other basic equipment
used by Wiccans for casting spells or making herbal potions. It also
includes jewelry made of simple semi-precious gems, books about magic and
herbs, but also house decorations, candles and the playful kitsch of Harry
Potter, fairies and elves.
Walkoff believes that her prayers led her to the Fayetteville Square, a
historic district with a thriving antiques clientele and shoppers from
around the region. What she's found in Fayetteville are a lot of friendly
people, she said, even if her shop does raise a few eyebrows.
In case a visitor misses the possibility that the store offers
Wiccan-friendly materials, a banner on the wall is emblazoned with a star
inside a circle. The symbol, for Wiccans, symbolizes that the spiritual
world, the point at the top, rules over the four elements of the material
world: air, earth, fire, water. A Satan worshipper would reverse the
pentagram, asserting that the material world controls the spiritual world,
Walkoff said.
(A Nevada widow recently won a fight to have a Wiccan pentagram placed
beside her husband's name on a veterans' memorial wall. Currently, the
Department of Veterans Affairs does not recognize Wicca as an official
One grandmother, Walkoff said, wandered into the store with her
grandchildren. When she glimpsed the pentagram on the wall, she reacted
"Come on, kids, we've got to go," she said. "This place is evil."
Joanny Simpler, Walkoff's sister, manages the store most days. She said
most people have been very friendly to her, and the customers they've
attracted since opening last summer have been loyal.
"Everybody needs to meet them," said Mary Ann Marsh, who sells
advertisements for The Exchange, a local shopper, which takes her into every
shop on the square. "It's enlightening."
Walkoff enjoys combining whimsy and witchcraft in the shop. The
combination isn't that unusual in Wicca. The religion is still defining
itself after being recovered in 1939 by Englishman Gerald B. Gardner and his
partner, Doreen Valiente, according to the Encyclopedia of World Religions.
The two culled rituals from English folklore, world mythology and other
writers on mysticism and goddess traditions.
It wasn't the physics aspect that attracted Walkoff to Wicca, she said.
It was the inclusion of a female divine force and the emphasis on letting
people figure out things for themselves.
"They say in society one of the biggest problems we have is families
with just one parent," Walkoff said. "I say, in the church, where's the
goddess? Let's put the mother back."
Wiccan rituals, hinged on the changes of the moon and the seasons,
celebrate the rhythms of life and a feminine appreciation of connections,
she said. When she stumbled upon the system of beliefs that are part of
Wicca, Walkoff realized that she had found the group she had been moving
toward naturally on her own.
Walkoff said she knew early that she had psychic gifts. She said she
gave her mother messages from her deceased grandfather when she was 2. She
grew up with an Irish mother and part-Cherokee father and said her household
was filled with folk knowledge about herbs and some shamanistic practices.
"It was never anything but commonplace with my family," Walkoff said.
"It was only when I got out into the world that I realized what other people
thought of it."
Walkoff wishes people would not fear Wicca. In fact, she thinks other
believers, including Christians and Muslims, could even learn something from
"I think they could learn to relax, to stop being so serious," Walkoff
said. "And to stop killing people in the name of God. There never was a war
fought in the name of Wicca."

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