Wednesday January 19, 2011
Pagan and Proud
Out of the broom closet
Craig Hill/Voice photos
Chilliwack Wiccan High Priestess, Sorcha Kincaid, shows magic wands she crafted for sale in her Ambrodel Wands business.
y day, she's a pharmacy technician and mother of two. She also juggles teaching and a home-based business. By night, she dons the garb of a High Priestess and her Wiccan name is Sorcha Kincaid. She also has a black cat.
On the outside, the Kincaids are an average family with three kids and a couple of pets. They own a house and both have rewarding careers. The only thing different about them is their spirituality.
Kincaid's religious background is that her mom was raised Ukrainian Orthodox, her stepdad an atheist and her husband practices Buddhism.
"I love what I do. I love people, I love helping people and that's why I got into the healthcare industry, that's what I do," she said.
"I have two boys, my oldest is 6 and three-quarters, and he also has Asperger (syndrome) which is a challenge and my youngest is 18-months and he's just a big bulldozer," said a giggling Kincaid.
"On top of that I'm helping run the Chilliwack Coffee Cauldron and have my own business — Ambrodel Wands and yes I make magic wands." She also teaches Wicca 101 for the area.
"I've lived in Chilliwack since I was 12, and I've watched the city grow a lot, especially on the Sardis side and Promontory. I remember when the city was first developing and Chilliwack has come a huge way in the last decade. So it's nice to see that growth and it's nice to see the Pagan community grow and (get) a lot more acceptance than we've had in the last decade."
Kincaid plans on staying in Chilliwack. "This is my home. I love it here. I mean it's a rain forest," she said with a wide smile. "Every witch's dream is to live among the trees and rivers and the ocean and the mountains and BC has such a diverse ecology. We have deserts, we have tundra. We have everything on the planet, basically it's like right here at our doorstep. It is the most beautiful place on earth."
Part of what makes the Kincaid's lives special, is that there are two different religions in the household — Buddhism and Wicca.
"My husband Dan is Buddhist and I'm Wiccan which is a subsidiary of Paganism."
One may think that with a husband and a wife, who are religious polar opposites, there would be some clashes. But not so according to Kincaid, who says the two tenets actually compliment each other in many ways.
"When I first met my husband, I kind of gave him the idea we can be kind of like Buddhists. We meditate, we celebrate the seasons. We really have a lot of intersections analyzing ourselves trying to find balance with ourselves and our community and the universe."
"And Buddhism has a lot to do with that as well. It's a lot more integrated and internal and personalized. But most of the time it has caused no problems meshing who we are with each other and we're also best friends. We have a lot of other things that we have in common that keep us together."
Kincaid won't force the kids into something they don't want to do. She'll deal with the situation when it arises in a passive way.
"Our children are such a huge part of who we are. What I had done with both of my children is that they have been what's called 'wiccan'ed' which means they have been introduced to my deities. I have asked my deities, the ones that I worship, to watch out for them and particularly keep them safe. They are not required in any way, shape and form to follow my path, to follow my husband's path or anybody else's."
"What we are doing, we decided as a couple, to introduce them to many different religions. All aspects. And that way when they are old enough they can choose for themselves."
She laughs when talking about when this might be.
"Traditionally, that would be around 14 or 15-years-old. If they chose not to, or they're just not ready at that point for a religion, then that's totally fine too."
For the record, Wicca and Pagan are two different things. In Wicca, there really are no steaming caldrons of eye of newt or ear of toad. According to Kincaid, they are really nothing more than fancy words for plants. There are no ritual goat sacrifices either.
"Every Wiccan is Pagan because Pagans are, technically by definition, anybody who is not Islamic, Jew or Christian however when it comes to the neo-Pagan movement, we would be covering a lot of diverse traditions, all Wiccan traditions, witches and witchcraft and Asatru."
Kincaid says they are also known as the heathens who celebrate and worship the Norse pantheons.
"Wiccan tends to be Celtic but, not necessarily," she said. "We tend to be polytheistic, which means we celebrate a diverse group of deities, or we will be duo theistic, which is a Goddess and a God."
"The male-female yin-yang positive-negative energy of the universe can be given various names, the most common being 'Dianna' who's the Goddess of Magic, and 'Cernunnos' or 'Cerrnunos' which is Celtic God of the Forest."
When you think of "witch" you think of a hunched woman with green skin and obtrusive warts on her nose, skulking around on Halloween in a wide-brimmed pointed hat. Those of us old enough also think of them as Elizabeth Montgomery in the "Bewitched" TV series.
Movies like The Craft, Kincaid says are damaging to the Wiccan community, while Harry Potter movies have the opposite effect. Kincaid hated The Craft but she's a big fan Potter.
These days the younger generation is more apt to think of Harry Potter-type of witches then anything else and Kincaid is also a big fan.
"I love him. I have every (movie) you can get on DVD and a bunch on blue ray. My oldest never really got into Harry Potter so I kind of missed out there. I wanted to get the potions kit," she told the Voice.
Not unlike Don Juan in Castenada's Separate Reality, Kincaid has been on a life-long learning experience with witchcraft and has gone through various levels of Wicca over the last couple of decades.
"I've been a practicing witch for 17-years, since I was about 13-years-old," she said. "I have been an initiated priestess in Wiccan tradition for about a decade."
"I've been a High Priestess for a couple of years. It's taken a lot of work and a lot of dedication.
Kincaid says that the only conventional way to become a high priestess is to have another high priestess or priest do the initiation rites and they are far and few between. According to her, there are a few in Chilliwack but not really in her traditional arm of Wicca.
When it comes to understanding what Wicca is, she says a running joke is that "if you were to ask ten different Wiccans what Wicca is, you'll get fifteen different answers."
Kincaid says that Wicca is a religion that celebrates it's own diversity.
"Every tradition is different and everybody has their own way of teaching. What we like to do is we accept somebody's tradition as the path they have found works for them and they teach it to somebody else and that person can take that go their own direction with it."
Wiccans can integrate things that they like from other traditions that they have.
"It's not like this is Wicca and only one thing. We have a big basic, loose set of principles. We have one actual tenet that we follow, religiously," she said with a tongue-in-cheek laugh.
"And it harm none, do as thou wilt" is the main platitude behind the principles of Wicca that Kincaid says they adhere to.
"In common speak, it means 'As long as you're not hurting yourself or other people, be it physically, mentally or spiritually, you can do as you please.'"
"There is no sacrificing. We have no concept of sin or the need for confession. We have no concept of heaven or hell, God or Satan. We don't believe in Satan. That's Christian mythology. We work to create positive change in the universe for ourselves, for our communities, for the Pagan community and our family and friends."
When people think of witches and the paraphernalia the use, for example; pentagrams which are often equated with the dark side but, Kincaid says that they aren't a part of anything they do.
A Pentagram is a 5-pointed star that faces down, which is a symbol for Satanism but, the amulet that Kincaid wears is a five-pointed star facing up which represents many different things. The least of which being the human form.
They'd love new people in their group and coming out of the broom closet is one way to let the community out there know that there is an alternative to what they're doing now.
"We're happy to have you and when we you come together as a group, a coven, or a study group, when you find that sense of unity, that group mind, it is a hugely empowering experience. It takes one person and makes you a part of something so much bigger and it makes a tangible difference," says Kincaid.
Wiccans focus on empowerment on a personal level with an aim to making changes in their lives in a positive way and they don't need a God to tell them how to be happy and lead fulfilling lives.
"We create magic and positive (energy) for ourselves rather than rely on someone else to do it for us. We do not evangelize. We do not convert people. You will not see a recruitment group in Wiccan. It will not happen. If you are meant to be Wiccan, you'll find it sooner or later."
The group has monthly meetings at local coffee shops and everyone is welcome to join them.
"We are doing what we can to take the Coffee Cauldron from a casual get together and chit chat with exchange recipes and making it into an active group of Pagans who want to make positive change in the community and be respectable members (of society)."
"Give a positive front, make a change, make a difference and then be good people and good witches," she laughed. "The right people will find us. There are people who come to look at getting power. "I can cast spells and I can make so and so fall in love with me, even though that's totally against our moral ethic."
Kincaid says there is criteria that they look for in a possible Wicca candidate and the ones who are power-hungry are weeded out. So if you're thinking about getting into it to wreak havoc and revenge — forgettaboutit.
Wicca is open to everyone and doesn't have biases towards any segment of society, according to Kincaid.
"If they come to us with that sort of mentality, quite frankly, they'll be turned away. You have to be the right person for the job, so to speak, and if you're not the right person for the job, we know. We accept people transgendered, bi, lesbian, whatever. Polyamory is another sort of underground part but not in my group," said Kincaid.
"When it comes to my 101, I will get together at least once, usually twice, with the person outside by ourselves in a public setting. We're both comfortable and we can chit chat, get to know each other, feel each other out, to make sure that they don't think I'm some sort of crazy person who's going to sacrifice cats or something like that."
"I need to be convinced that they're not some power-hungry person out to get their spouse back because they were cheated on, or something horrible like that. We do, as a general rule in Wicca, accept people and we tend to be very sexually open or sexually aware and educated."
When a person decides to get into Wicca, Kincaid says that in most traditions they go through a three-degree system; the first degree being 101 which is an introductory on how to be a witch; the second degree is more personal involvement, more personal realization and learning more about your tradition, ritual practices and; the third degree is your high priestess training."
"You have your initiator and neophants and introductory, welcome to the group," she said. "There are people who have spent decades in educating and learning, discovering things and trial and error and eventually you get to a point where you know a little bit about something maybe about what you're doing and you can go on to teaching other people."
We can only learn so much in one lifetime and we'll try again in the next one.
Like Buddhism, they also believe in reincarnation.
"We will come back. Generally after a bit of a hiatus, we take a break, a summer break, we refer to it generally speaking as "Eternal Summer" or "Summerland" where we go, spend some time with our families and kind of recharge a little bit and come back and be reborn and learn some new lessons and hopefully retain something we had from the last view."
Kincaid describes her altar in loving terms and each symbolic figure there is representative of something very special. Figures of winged Gods like Isis, and the Goddess Gaia, Egyptian cats are some of the entities that Kincaid worships.
Kincaid shows off her wands with pride.
"This one is the Wand of the Forest Lord that I made with the intent that it would be used by a man. They are all organic wood, natural stones and burned runes at the top. I put a lot of love and work into my wands," she said holding one up.
Kincaid says she has orders that she has to fulfill and makes them according to who uses them but she has some already made for sale. Her wands vary in price. The Forest Lord wand goes for about $75. Her own wand is dimunitive in size but packs a punch she says.
"It's not just wood and some rocks, there's a lot that actually goes into it. There are components stuck underneath in a chamber and every wand is also blessed and consecrated."
"These are ritual items, ritual tools. There's quite a big aspect of a witches wand which are used for directing energy. They use it so often that they tend to become very familiar with each other. Wands are used to direct energy and in very general ways as well."
She opens a large cloth case and spreads it across the bed.
"This is made by a friend who just happens to be a fantastic seamstress. Not only does she tend to make me lots of ritual gear and ritual garb, but she made my wand bag for me."
She holds up one wand saying it's a amber and jet high priestess wand.
"Amber and jet are two stones that are very sacred to high priestess, amber being stone of life and the positive yin and jet the darker yang sort of aspect and generally I tend to use Hazelwood."
"I also use apple and pear wood, willow, cedar. Anything that I can come across that's organic.
There is also a scientific aspect of Wiccan in that researchers are starting to document startling finds.
"Dr. Emoto was able to document that emotional energy can actually create physical change in water and how water molecules put themselves together and some examples can be found on you tube," she says. "We've known this a long time and now science is finally catching up with us.
Many in society don't accept Wicca as a bonafide religion and witches face being stigmatized. Most are wary of "coming out" and publically declaring their religion. So for Kincaid, it took a lot of courage to declare her spirituality here in the Voice.
"This is why I am trying to set a good example by being a professional, community-oriented leader who is 'out of the broom closet'".
Part of the problem are the antiquated laws that work to suppress their religious freedom and the pagan/wiccan population face a kind of judgment and persecution on a daily basis. Additionally, most don't want their pictures posted for fear of reprisals and because they may lose their job, children, or friends. These are all very real aspects of Pagan living, especially in Chilliwack, and by practicing their religion they are actually breaking the law.
Section 365 of the Criminal Code of Canada states that;
Everyone who fraudulently;
(a) pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration,
(b) undertakes, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or
(c) pretends from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything that is supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found, is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 323.
They really don't burn witches at the stake any longer and clearly religious freedom is covered under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which contradicts the current law and needs to be updated.
One website blogger named Justin wrote "The act is geared towards 'fraudulence' in it's modern day interpretation. Previous court rulings in all countries with such laws have clearly set a precedent to define "fraudulence" as deceiving another individual for services, payment or goods. i.e. This act has nothing to do with you do in the comforts of your own home or with your friends. But, if you claim to perform witchcraft or divination for a fee, you might find yourself on trial. The act is seldom used, and I honestly wish it would be used more often. I have no sympathy for charlatans who claim to read the future and feed of the last hopes of the hopeless."
For those interested in meeting with local Wiccans, there is a monthly coffee cauldron meet-n-greet on the second Tuesday of every month. People can e-mail here to confirm a meet for the month and where it is being held. For the moment we are gathering at the Bay Leaf Restaurant in Chilliwack.
See more photos below.
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