PRESS/MEDIA

1st Annual WitchsFest USA 2012

Witches’ Coven to Take Manhattan’s Union Square This Summer

3 Feb 2012 05:00 PM EST

-by Drew Kolar, Editor-in-Chief; Image: Witches in Bikinis will attend WitchFest 2012 (Image Source: Witches in Bikinis MySpace)

The Craft, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were things of fantasy to many teens in the 90s, but for some, they were—and in fact still are—inspiration to delve into the dark arts. Some of us have even continued the tradition.

Now, in New York City, something magical is brewing right in the middle of our own Union Square…

According to DNA Info, a coven of witches is putting together WitchFest USA, an event scheduled for July 8 to help them raise money to build a permanent home in Union Square.

The Wiccan Family Temple, a Lower East Side Wicca group, expects 50 vendors and 300 people to attend their event, according to High Priestess Hectuba Hestia. As Gothamist says, the vendors may be “selling items like those found in The Magic Box. Probably.” We whole-heartedly agree and approve—because seriously, who doesn’t love Buffy and the iconic lesbian witch couple Willow and Tara? Well, at least we do…

According to Hestia, the coven currently meets at a small, rented space at 107 Suffolk Street in an old public school, though they would ideally like to own a building with a backyard to perform rituals. The event will raise money by using “strategically placed wishing wells” for visitors to place donations, but they also plan to both entertain and inform the crowd of their background and practices.

“Being that it’s New York, people are accepting,” Hestia told DNA Info. “But there’s also a lot of misinformation.”

Hesita added that she is “definitely a witch,” though not all Wiccans identify as witches, nor do all witches practice Wicca. Wicca was created in the 1950s in Britain by Gerald Gardner, and the belief is based around the idea, “An [If] it harm none, do what you will.”

Wicca can also be very nature-oriented, like many old religions. Witches cast spells, which function like prayers, and Hestia and her coven use magic wands. She added, however, that they do not believe in or worship the Devil.

Hestia and fellow high priestess Starr Ravenhawk pitched the event to members of the Community Board 5 parks committee this week, also explaining that they plan on featuring Harry Potter-related merchandise as well as a performance by the Brooklyn-based glam/pop girl band Witches in Bikinis.

“You have to realize, you know, it is Union Square Park,” Hestia said of the more humorous and cliché attractions. “And there’s going to be all sorts of people walking around, not just the people coming for us.”

DNA Info says that the Community Board 5 parks committee approved WitchsFest unanimously, and it is now set to go before the full board for a final vote next week.

Will you attend WitchFest? AllMediaNY plans on being there for full coverage—and, with any luck, a glimpse of some of our favorite witch-related TV stars, if word hits Hollywood of the event. Shannen Doherty and Alyson Hannigan, we’re looing at you!

Follow Drew Kolar on Twitter @DrewKolar

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4th Annual WitchsFest USA 2015

Facebook events page showing over 4400 pagans attended WitchsFest USA 2015: https://www.facebook.com/events/1438377079796792/

New York City Hosts Fourth Annual WitchsFest USA – A Pagan Street Faire

By Tony Sokol (anthonys@dailyoffbeat.com) 08 Jul ’15 16:02pm
WitchsFest

NEW YORK, July 8, 2015 /Daily Offbeat/ — The 4th Annual WitchsFest USA – A Pagan Street Faire will be coming to Union Square this Saturday. The group just took to their Facebook page to announce the event was not cancelled.

“WITCHSFEST USA IS HERE TO STAY AND HAS NOT… I REPEAT NOT BEEN CANCELLED!”  the WitchsFest wrote on their Facebook page. “SO…Please do join us on Saturday July 11th, 2015 for the 4th Annual WitchsFest USA at Astor Place (bet. Broadway & Lafayette), a fundraiser for the NYC Wiccan Family Temple.”

Daily Offbeat learned of the event through the Where To section of Live Through Hope, a local mystic who proclaimed “The Witches Are Coming to the City! And promised “I will be at the Witches Fest Celebrating my 1 year of being a Professional Psychic Reader!:

WitchFest USA is going for a good cause. A permanent home for a coven in Union Square.

The event is being thrown by the Wiccan Family Temple. The Lower East Side Wicca group expects 50 vendors and 300 people to attend their event.

According to High Priestess Hectuba Hestia, the coven currently meets at “a small, rented space at 107 Suffolk Street in an old public school, though they would ideally like to own a building with a backyard to perform rituals. The event will raise money by using “strategically placed wishing wells” for visitors to place donations, but they also plan to both entertain and inform the crowd of their background and practices.

“Being that it’s New York, people are accepting,” Hestia told DNA Info. “But there’s also a lot of misinformation.”

“Wicca can also be very nature-oriented, like many old religions. Witches cast spells, which function like prayers, and Hestia and her coven use magic wands,” Hestia told the publication, adding that that they “do not believe in or worship the Devil.”

The WitchsFest will feature the speaker Rev. Donald Lewis (Author & Teacher); Christopher Penczak (Author & Teacher); Lady Rhea (Author & Teacher) and Courtney Webber Author & Priestess.

It will also feature live performances by Bell Book and Canto, IMBOLG,  Tandava Arts Dancers and Artist Indigo Ortiz.

There will be a silent auction with items being completed and distributed at the event.

You can conjure up more information here  and at their website.

If you like what you see and want to see more, like us at our Daily Offbeat Facebook page.

Before event: http://www.dailyoffbeat.com/articles/9446/20150708/new-york-city-hosts-fourth-annual-witchsfest-usa-pagan-street.htm

 

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Photos from New York’s Annual Gathering of Witches

July 14, 2015

By Farah Al Qasimi

All photos by Farah Al Qasimi. Words by Callie Beusman.

Broadly is a women’s interest channel coming soon from VICE. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

photos-of-the-witches-at-witchs-fest-2015WitchsFest 2015 is, in many ways, a typical New York street fair. This weekend, vendors lined the sidewalk; passersby pointedly avoided eye contact with people handing out brochures for various goods and services; and a young girl in a tiara wove through crowds giddily attempting, as she explained to her mom, to photobomb strangers. In other ways, though, it wasn’t your standard street fair—the vendors were selling fairy dust, tarot card readings, and sensual steampunk garments; the brochures were for stores that specialize in yoga and healing crystals; and several of the tiara-ed child’s photobomb victims were wearing elf ears.

WitchsFest, which is organized by the Wiccan Family Temple, is billed as a pagan street faire-slash-fundraiser. This was its fourth year of existence, though the third nearly didn’t happen—in 2014, the local community tried to cancel the event, claiming it didn’t have enough of a connection to the neighborhood. But the Wiccan Family Temple prevailed, as witches are wont to do, and the fest this year went on without any resistance.

The crowd looked exactly as you’d expect a crowd of polite pagans to: Near the corner of Lafayette and Astor Place, a woman swathed in pink gauze was holding a lecture on goddess worship. About a block away, two members of the Brooklyn–Queens Ecumenical Pagan Fellowship explained their relationship with the divine to an inquisitive young man in a polo shirt. And, across the street, a woman in a witch hat filmed a small choir of madrigal singers in assorted mythological accessories.

Like basically every milliennial woman who didn’t fit in in high school, I strongly identify with witches. I like that they wear all black; I like that they are powerful and self-sufficient; I smiled and nodded approvingly when I read that the whole riding-on-brooms rumor originates from the fact that they would take hallucinogens vaginally by putting them on the end of a broomstick. I especially like that witches are threatening to a male-dominated society, which is a tradition many of WitchsFest attendees continue to honor.

“This planet has been male-dominated for too long,” said a man clad in a headdress and sunglasses and clutching an ankh scepter. With his wife—the aforementioned woman wrapped in pink—he runs the Network for the Realization of the Goddess , a Dianic spirituality circle devoted to “helping women find and nurture that direct connection with the spark of the Divine Feminine inside of us” through meditation and guided discussion. (He gave me a pamphlet.) “Now we’re ready for energies to be balanced again, both male and female,” he added before bowing the ankh scepter in blessing.

The madrigal singers—a choir from Kalamazoo called the Bell Book and Canto—have a less spiritual, but arguably equally effective, way of achieving that gender balance. “All the good drinking songs and wenching songs are written for men,” lamented their group leader, Jennifer Jones. “We, as women, like to drink and get drunk and do stupid stuff, and so we believe that we ought to have music that reflects that.” In 2016, thus, Bell Book and Canto is coming out with an album called Poor Life Choices. One song, “I Came to Faire,” details the story of a woman who returns to a renaissance faire—having gotten blackout drunk and subsequently pregnant the previous year—in order to determine the father’s identity. Another, “Big Little Problem,” tells of a woman who “breaks up with her lord because he’s not well enough endowed for her,” as Jones gently (and mirthfully) put it.

One stall away, I spoke to two women who participate in annual Maenad rituals—an orgiastic ritual to Dionysus, conducted away from the presence of men. “We do the Maenad ritual for Ostara, which is in the beginning of the pagan year,” explained a woman named Natalie who was wearing feathered wings. “This one time of the year, [the women involved in the ritual] would be able to go into the woods [and] take off most of their clothes. They’d have ecstatic dance and trance, and they’d eat poisonous herbs and berries and, you know, trip out. When they’d get a little hungry, they’d just catch animals, rip them open, and eat them raw.”

“We don’t do that stuff,” she added. “That’s just what the ritual’s based on: that concept of being able to let go of all of your responsibility and chains.” (But really, even with the tearing apart of live animals, the Maenad ritual does sound sort of like Coachella—especially since the women involved choose to wear “ripped-up tutus.”)

The idea of sincerely practicing witchcraft isn’t something many would take seriously—Wicca still struggles for mainstream acceptance in a lot of ways. However, I was struck by how thoughtful many of the people I interviewed were. When I asked one of the representatives from the Brooklyn–Queens Ecumenical Pagan Fellowship whether he really believes in pagan deities, he responded, “My relationship with my gods is very centered on Plato and his idea of the universe being this unknowable thing; really, all that matters is my relationship to it. I guess you could say that I see my gods as almost Jungian psychological metaphors in a way.”

Of course, not everyone was quite so straightforward with me. When I asked the headdressed priest from the Network for the Realization of the Goddess how he and his wife first met, he responded, “We’ve been soul mates for ten thousand years.” Noting my perplexed stare, he started laughing. “I know that doesn’t answer your question,” he said. He refused to elaborate further.

– Callie Beusman

Follow Farah on Instagram. Callie is the executive editor of Broadly; follow her on Twitter.

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