Witchcraft in the #MeToo Era

Witchcraft in the #MeToo Era

NEW YORK — In a secluded nook of Central Park, 13 witches stood in a circle on a cloudless Saturday, eyes closed, chanting. A makeshift altar on the forest floor bore a lantern, a silver chalice, a bowl of water, a jar of salt, a sunflower and a wand.

Denise Cruci, high priestess of North Wyldewood Coven, and her covenmate JoAnna Farrer guided the group through Midsummer, an annual ritual celebrating the summer solstice. In a billowy white skirt and flip-flops, Cruci resembled a free-spirited flower child.

The Temple of the Spiral Path, which includes the North Wyldewood and Stranger’s Gate covens, has performed rituals in this clearing, known among the witches as the green cathedral, for 20 years.

The worshippers sat cross-legged around a circle of flowers — dried calendula, chamomile, lavender and rose petals — carefully arranged in a spiral. Cruci led them through a meditation. Then they slowly joined hands and began singing, and one by one, they entered the spiral. Their dancing grew increasingly raucous as they intoned, “We are a circle moving, one with another we are, moving together we are one.”

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In such a large and diverse city, it is no surprise that the Craft is fairly accessible, if you know where to look. Nearly 80 covens and pagan organizations operate in the New York Metropolitan area, according to the pagan networking site The Witches’ Voice. Exact numbers of witches in the city are hard to come by, as there are many solitary practitioners, but coven and community leaders estimate that as many as 10,000 witches live and practice in New York. Nationally, about 734,000 Americans identify as pagan or Wiccan, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey.

Nancy Guzman, a board member of New York City Pagan Pride, which stages an annual Pagan Pride Day festival (this year’s is scheduled for September in Battery Park)…

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