One Halloween party scheduled for this Saturday, Nov. 2, caught our eye immediately -- the Wiccans of Alaska are throwing their first-ever “Witches’ Ball.”
Real witches, throwing a Witches' Ball. At the American Legion Hall. We had to know more.
I called Amberle Wright, High Priestess of the Light and Shadows coven in Anchorage. This is the first time the Wiccan community of Anchorage has thrown a public party that she knows of. She said that the goal is to show that “we’re just normal, fun-loving happy people.”
“We’re really not like what you see on TV.”
Wiccans don’t practice things like curses or animal sacrifice, she said. They don’t worship (or even believe in) Satan. Wiccans have a code of ethics that includes doing no harm and revering the Earth. Their worship centers on polarity and views the Goddess and God as equal entities.
October 31 is, in fact, a big deal for the Wiccan religion. It's when they celebrate “Samhain,” which marks the end of the growing season and the beginning of winter.
But, Wright said, there won’t be anything religious about the Witches’ Ball but a small “ancestor’s table” set up in the hall and some art that's been donated by paganists for auction.
Instead, the program pokes fun at mainstream stereotypes about witches -- there will be a life-size witches’ cauldron, a cackling contest, and a vampire kissing booth. In stunning tongue-in-cheek, there’s even a “New England Colonial light dinner."
There will also be the usual: costume contests, dancing and a DJ.
Out of the (broom) closet
Wright said it’s hard to know how many Wiccans or witches are in Anchorage, because they tend to keep their practice and beliefs to themselves.
“A lot of them don’t come out and there’s a bit of fear, they don’t want their bosses or managers to know,” Wright said. "You've probably met some, you just don't know it."
Wright’s been a practicing witch in Anchorage since she moved here in 1997. About a year ago she decided to try finding other Wiccans outside her coven who were also living in Anchorage.
(Point of clarification: there’s a difference between Wicca and witchcraft. Witchcraft is a practice, and Wicca is the religion associated with it. “All Wiccans are witches but not all witches are Wiccans,” Wright said.)
Wright set up a group on meetup.com where Wiccans could message each other and coordinate events. The group has about 120 members so far (about 50 of them are active).
In additional to ceremonies and religious celebrations, the Wiccans of Alaska have done some civic work, volunteering with the Parks and Recreation Department and adopting trails and bus stops. They've also collected food for the food bank. If they make any money on the Witches' Ball, it will go to throwing another party around Halloween next year.
Wright said the goal of the Nov. 2 party is to let people in the community know witches and Wiccans are around –- and they’re nothing to be afraid of. She emphasized that Wiccans aren't out to convert anyone, or even talk about their beliefs.
“We do not recruit people. We don’t ever ask anyone if they want to learn more,” Wright said. “It’s our religion. We know you have your own spirituality you follow. You probably won’t even hear it mentioned at all."
The party, after all, is about classic Halloween fun. There will be pointy witch hats, she said -- those are traditional, after all.
"Yeah, we're Wiccans and witches but we're just normal people like you, so come out and have a good time."
For more, see woawitchesball.brownpapertickets.com.