The Broom Closet Door is Half Open

The memorial service honoring the life of the late Lady Sintana, my spiritual grandmother, was held in Atlanta, on Saturday, October 2, 2010. Lady Maia, High Priestess of Ravenwood, and I welcomed the crowd of over 120 people gathered. Many were of the “old guard” who knew Lady--or were initiated by her--in the early years of Ravenwood. Some came from different traditions who wished to pay their respects for all that she stood for, in particular, religious freedom.

Lady Brighid, the High Priestess of Pair Dynion Grove along with Lady Astraea, High Priestess of Myst of the Wildwood, told their respective stories of their years at Ravenwood in the 1970s and 1980s. They spoke of what they learned and how they grew in the formidable shadow cast by the Lady’s strength and determination. They painted vivid pictures of what it was like to live through the court battles, the vandalism, and the physical attacks and threats. These two High Priestesses, my elders, demonstrated how it was the collection of these experiences that shaped their toughness as leaders in Wicca and sharpened their resolve to continue the fight for religious freedom.

Lord Raphael, of Ravenwood, read a letter from Rev. Selena Fox, of the Circle Sanctuary, who remembered fondly how she worked with the Lady from afar to fight for religious equality for Wiccans and pagans. He also read a letter from Lord Lugh who offered a heartfelt account of the power of the Lady’s teachings and how Wicca offered him a unique opportunity to grow in mind and spirit.

Finally, Lord Merlin, Elder High Priest of Ravenwood, shared his deep connection with the Lady, forged instantly but strengthened over the years. He told of the time when he and the Lady were interviewed by Ted Turner’s fledgling cable channel (channel 17 in Atlanta) in the late 1970s to shed light on what Wicca was really about. This show, broadcast on several occasions, led to Lord Merlin’s employer deciding to investigate him. However, Lord Merlin, who managed over 400 employees at the time, and who adhered to the strictest ethics at work, prevailed. The investigation proved to be unsuccessful in providing grounds for dismissal.

Lord Merlin ended his eulogy, not by extolling Lady Sintana’s contributions to gaining tax-exempt status for Ravenwood, as a legally recognized church, but by challenging those in attendance to live more openly as Wiccans. This, he stated, was the contemporary opportunity facing all pagans and Wiccans: to open the broom closet door a bit more widely. This, he said, was the best way to honor the Lady. Lord Merlin added that when he was recently admitted to hospital in Canton, GA (this is deep Bible-Belt country, mind you), the doctor noticed the pentacle around his neck and asked if Lord Merlin was a Wiccan. He said he was, upon which the doctor said, “Oh, we have had quite a few Wiccans through here. You are all such nice people.”

The fight for legal religious
freedom has largely been won in this country thanks to the efforts of people like Lady Sintana, Lord Merlin and Selena Fox. We are greatly indebted to them and those who supported them. However, the fight for religions tolerance goes on. The best way for all of us who practice the Old Religion in whatever form to gain greater freedom and safety is ironically, to take a little more risk. History has shown that beyond all of the legal battles, Pagan Pride events and blogging, religious tolerance is ultimately sustained and won through often quiet and singular acts of courage.

As I was packing up my things after the memorial service, the woman in charge of the event facility began to ask me questions about Wicca. She admitted that she know very little about it, except some of the negative stereotypes that surround the word “witch.” She asked me about my own ministry and I shared with her my perspective on where Wicca fits in the constellation of human spirituality and what it uniquely offers the seeker. She listened intently and thanked me for taking the time to talk with her. She ended by saying that she still had to educate herself more about Wicca, but that from what she saw, we all seemed like “very nice people.”

I wore my pentacle proudly and openly as I made my way through the Atlanta airport on my way home California.

Rev. (Lord) Peregrine
Wiccan High Priest of Sage Moon Grove
of the Ravenwood Tradition