In the Spirit: Celebrating Samhain with Coven Oldenwilde

WHAT: The 20th annual Public Witch Ritual, organized by Asheville-based Coven Oldenwilde

WHEN: Friday, Oct. 31, 8 p.m.-10 p.m.

WHERE: French Broad River Park, 508 Riverview Drive, West Asheville.

WHY: Since 1995, Coven Oldenwilde has held its Public Witch Ritual on Halloween night (Samhain) in various Asheville locations. Annual themes have ranged from “Creatures of the Night” to “Mystic Romance.” Xpress spoke with Oldenwilde’s high priestess, Lady Passion:

Xpress: Since your group initiated this ritual, how have public perceptions of it (and Wiccan practices in general) changed in Western North Carolina?

Lady Passion: I conceived of [this ritual] because I wanted area witches to be able to freely wear their pentagrams and capes on the street without reprisal.   Two decades ago, there was an assumption that Asheville was in the buckle of the Bible Belt and that animus against witches must accordingly be high. That very year, bigots burned a cross on the front lawn of a witch friend of ours in Madison County.

Thankfully, [through] our wholehearted sharing of magic with families, the curious, Pagans and folk of all manner of spiritual persuasion, citizens grew tolerant and even appreciative of witchcraft’s helpful goodliness. … Our vigilant activism, sincerity, gorgeous rites and courage in flouting stereotypes prevalent during Halloween emboldened other witches to oppose religious inequality in area schools, workplaces and institutions as well.
Three years ago, our Samhain theme was a mass hand-fasting to protest Amendment One, which banned gay marriage in North Carolina. When we recently saw the rainbow flag flying on City Hall, we saw it as our spell coming to fruition.

Have changing public attitudes influenced your personal relationship with your craft and spiritual practice?

Witchcraft’s booming popularity has made us busier than ever as clergy and teachers, and our public Samhain rites directly led to the publication of our The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems. … Overcoming such entrenched prejudice has steeled our resolve and the witchy power to dare in us. Now we work to transmit that boldness to incarcerated and institutionalized Pagans nationwide.

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About Jordan Foltz
Exploring the subtle and esoteric aspects of what drives and inspires people to take action— including religion, spirituality, ethics, and aesthetics.

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