Karen Silva and Sharon L’Heureux, both of Meriden, are proud to count themselves among the nation’s witches.
The women are both priestesses of Wicca, a federally recognized neo-Pagan religion — and they’re inviting others to learn more about the movement at an upcoming “Harvest Gathering.”
The groups believe in “honoring and revering the natural cycles of the Earth and universe, and of the Goddess and the God in their many facets and forms,” according to the CWPN.
Silva said it’s a philosophy having to do with love of knowledge, acknowledgment of a balance in nature that is expressed individually in different ways. For some people, for instance, it may be expressed through gardening, she said.
“Each Wiccan interacts with the divine in their own personal way,” said Silva. “We celebrate the equinoxes, the solstice and the cross quarters.”
The women belong to “Shrine of the Universal Dance,” which has about eight members. Silva, referred to as “The Reverend,” is the shrine keeper. Silva also is treasurer of the Connecticut Wiccan Pagan Network.
The camping event, open to the Wicca and Pagan communities — and “like-minded people” — according to a the group, is social and educational, Silva said.
L’Heureux, once a practicing Christian, said the Wicca religion “found me” about four years ago when she reconnected with a friend she hadn’t seen in 40 years.
“It resonated with my soul,” she said. “This is what I believe in.”
L’Heureux, proud to call herself a witch — magic, spells and all — said Hollywood, the media, have given witches a negative connotation.
Silva said witch actually means “wise person or somebody who can bend.”
She said the majority of Wiccans are witches but not all witches are Wiccans.
She said there is a negative connotation about witches, “out of fear, fear of the unknown.”
For those who consider witches evil, as has often been portrayed, Silva asked rhetorically, “Can there be evil” in other faiths?
On spells and magic, Silva said it means she can, “bend the energy to match my will.”
“Some people say spells are prayers in action,” Silva said.
There was a time, she said, when people had to worship in secret — and sometimes still do.
Silva said she’s heard of people losing their jobs, even custody battles, “because of their spiritual choices.”
“There are some who have to be in the broom closet,” Silva said, while at the other end of the spectrum, others wear the symbols openly, which includes the pentagram.
The majority are in the middle, Silva said.
Silva said it’s impossible to know how many Wiccans are in Connecticut — or the nation — because they are “decentralized” and there’s never been a “census.”
Silva said part of why she connected with Wicca is because of the “balance” of the feminine and masculine.
“The witch is the wise one,” Silva said. “You don’t see that in patriarchal, man centered religion.”
The “Harvest Gathering” event being put on this year by the nonprofit Connecticut Wiccan Pagan Network, will have the theme “Sacred Waters,” according to the network.
The three-day camping event will include guest speakers in their “chosen fields of expertise in metaphysical arts and subjects, and in natural health and healing,” the network release states.
Forums and classes will be held throughout the day, and vendors will sell handmade crafts and other merchandise.
In the evenings, there will be a bonfire with a drum circle, dancing, fire spinning and more.
The event is Aug. 18-21. For more information, visit the CWPN.org website.