It's getting to be that most wonderful time of the year again, when ghoulies and ghosties and sugar-crazed 7-year-olds dressed as Jar-Jar Binks will be lurking in the shadows. Witches have also been associated with Halloween mischief, and while you would think this is that last place on earth they would choose to congregate, Colorado Springs has its very own pagan organization. Chris West is active with Earth Spirit Pagans, as the group is called, and he offered to dispel some of the myths surrounding witches, Wicca and spells.
What is Earth Spirit Pagans all about?
Earth Spirit Pagans is an umbrella religious organization here in town. We are dedicated to the continued vitality and preservation of pagan religion and cultures. We were founded in 1992, and our membership list is at 75 -- however, some of those are family memberships. All told, we have about 130 members. We've got eight major holidays during the year called Sabbaths, and four of those, the equinoxes and the solstices, are [open to] members and guests only. The other four are open to the public, where anyone can come and see what we're doing and participate. We also do 13 full-moon celebrations a year, and those are open to the public.
What's a pagan?
We define pagans as anything that is not Judeo-Christian, Satanic or Islamic. In other words, if it's not monotheism, it's considered to be paganism in America. Not everyone agrees with that definition, but that's what we use.
So, are you a witch?
Am I a witch? I call myself a witch, some people call themselves Wiccan, some of them call themselves nature spiritualists. They're all earth religions. They all believe in a multiple number of gods or goddesses. Some people believe in divinity being eminent throughout nature, that they're inseparable, there's no distinction between divinity within and divinity without. Most of the neo-pagan religions center around certain core concepts, and many of them follow the old agricultural and pastoral cycle of the year.
What does Oct. 31 mean to a pagan?
The actual name [of the pagan holiday], Samhain, is pronounced "Sow-an." It's a Gaelic word. The Samhain celebration is the end of the Celtic year. The Celts didn't believe in linear time, so a year had a distinct beginning and end. Oct. 31 is the end of the year, and the beginning of the new year comes on Nov. 1. In the time in between, the veil between the material world and the world of thought or spirit is lifted. This is a good time of the year -- it's the last harvest, and we take time out to remember those who have passed during the last year, whether those be individuals, or pets, anything that has passed. It's a time of remembrance and reverence. There'll be a ritual, built around that particular thought. We'll also go out trick or treating and decorate the house, just like everyone else!
If someone eggs your house this Halloween, are you going to cast a spell on them?
Well, we don't go out and cast spells on people, to harm or anything. Most of the spell work that we do is for healing, and the rest of it is done for personal growth, spiritual paths that an individual is on.