Author Archives: Star Foster
Sandy Springs- Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore, 5 Seasons Brewing and House of RavenStone are hosting the Annual Witches Brewfest on Saturday, October 23rd in Sandy Springs. As at previous Brewfests, the beer has been specially brewed for the occasion; this year features a heather beer. There will be costume contests, a raffle and musical entertainment by Carly Gibson.
The press release, which may be found in it’s entirety on the RavenStone website, gives the details:
In keeping with this year’s theme, “What Manner of Witch Be Ye?” come dressed as your favorite witch and join us in celebrating the season with a beer brewed for the occasion! Or just come out as you are and join the fun! The event will include costume contests, raffles, and live music provided by the lovely and talented Carly Gibson as well as a canned goods drive to benefit the Atlanta Food Bank. A single admission includes One (1) Beer Ticket for the Witches’ Brew and One (1) Raffle Ticket. Although you must be at least 21 years of age to enjoy the brew, everyone is welcome to attend! T-shirts commemorating the evening are also for sale.
The event begins at 7 pm and is held at 5 Seasons Brewing in the Prado shopping center in Sandy Springs, just across from the Phoenix and Dragon Bookstore on Roswell Rd. Attendants are encouraged to donate canned goods to the Atlanta Food Bank. Advance tickets may be purchased from the front desk at the Phoenix and Dragon or from the House of RavenStone website. For more information please see the House of RavensStone website.
Atlanta-based House of RavenStone announces several initiations will be taking place today. They are extending an invitation to all Ravenwood tradition initiates to attend:
All Initiates of the appropriate degree
are summoned to the Circle that these seven
may be welcomed and honored in the manner of the Old Ways
and begin their work under the guidance and blessings
of the Ancient Gods, the Mighty Ones, and their Craft Elders.
Let all of their brothers and sisters, teachers, and students gather afterwards
to break their fast and celebrate in love, joy, peace and honor.
For more information read the rest of the announcement at the RavenStone website.
In Dawson County last Sunday church members gathered to learn to make brooms. Wearing religious jewelry, the class gathered broom straw by hand, cleaned it of weeds and short scraps, then stopped for a cold drink in town before binding the straw to the broomsticks on a shady back deck. A diverse group of congregants, from different backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations, they followed the instructor’s directions on how to tie and trim the brooms: an art she’d learned from her Christian grandmothers and aunts.
The matriarchs of her family also taught her how to tie-in love-knots and to be careful who makes your broom lest they tie-in matrimonial intentions for you to keep in your home. The instructor also mentioned that she had been taught that certain parts of broom-making were supposed to be done by men, and other parts by women, but explains “we’re not that prejudiced” as she taught both men and women to make their brooms from start to finish. This broom-magic lore from long-passed Christian women suits this church class just fine.
They’re Wiccans, members of House of Ravenstone Church and Seminary of the Old Religion and it’s daughter group, Grove of the Willow Wood. This happy synthesis of Pagan and Christian beliefs suits the current vibe between those religions in the northern half of the 400 corridor here in GA. Though Forsyth, Dawson and Lumpkin counties haven’t been known for diversity in the past they are currently home to a wide range of people of different backgrounds and religious persuasions, including many Pagans.
In Cumming, GA, Simple Strands is a new age/metaphysical shop that caters to Wiccans, Pagans, Buddhists, and Catholics. Marion, the shop owner explains, “I don’t carry Christian stuff because people can get that anywhere, but people don’t seem to like Catholics here so I carry things for them.” Most of her customers are thrilled she’s here but Marion says she has had some tension with Christians in the area. From her observations, most of her shoplifters are people who identify as Christian. “Pagans know better than to steal from my store” she explains.
Sometimes the interaction of the different belief systems is amusing. “A Christian woman asked me what the dragons mean” recalled Marion, referring to the display table of brightly colored fantasy dragon figurines by the door. “I told her they’re dragons, they don’t mean anything.” The woman persisted, wanting to know what it meant that one was labeled King of Dragonia. “It means he’s king of the little fantasy dragon world the figurines are from” Marion recounts with a look of exasperated amusement.
Simple Strands has a large iconic gargoyle nicknamed Josh that can be found dressed in silly costumes by the front door. “I wanted him in the parade dressed as Santa. I sponsor Toys for Tots and thought it would be cute. But they said no.” Marion just shrugs her shoulders.
At the broom-making class Southern sweet tea is passed around, and after the post-crafting meal has been blessed, the discussion turned to how the area has changed and on being open as a Pagan. Each person in the class is open about their faith to different degrees. One young woman states “I’ve been told you can’t be publicly Pagan in my town but, I mean, I don’t wear a lot of (Pagan) bling or anything but I’ve never had any problems.” One gentleman states he told his employer he needed a couple of days off for his ordination and they simply assumed he’s now a Christian minister. He decided it was probably best to just leave the assumption alone. Some Pagans in Georgia still have to remain closeted at work from fear of losing their jobs. There was some speculation around the table that perhaps the perception of intolerance for Pagan faiths outweighed the reality.
At the end of the day, each bearing fully-functional, albeit non-flying, brooms, the church members hugged each other and agreed they looked forward to seeing everyone at church next weekend. Plans to bring dishes to the potluck meal were discussed. It’s a scene that’s familiar to Dawson County, only the religion that brought people together in fellowship was a bit different than the norm. Along with the Saks 5th Avenue outlet store, Starbucks Coffee and morning traffic from people rushing into the Atlanta metro area for work, it’s just another sign of change in this growing county.
For information on Wicca.
For a partial listing of Pagan groups and events in Georgia.
**The names of the class members are withheld for privacy reasons as I did not receive express permission to print them.**
The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Rick Badie covers Lady Sintana’s passing:
In 1975, Mrs. White, aka Lady Sintana, founded Ravenwood Church, the state’s first pagan congregation. By 1982, the high priestess had successfully challenged the IRS and Ravenwood became one of the first Pagan congregations in the country to be granted tax-exempt status as a church.
It was significant work, said her husband, David John White, aka Lord Merlin, the Elder High Priest of Ravenwood, now located in Johns Creek.
“Her mission in life was to bring respect and legality to the pagan religion,” he said. “She not only won legal battles, but she won over hearts as well. Her main idea was not to convert people but to have some venue where people could learn the truth.”
Recently, Candace H. Lehrman White, 73, had resided with her daughter in western North Carolina. She died Sept. 17 from complications of lung cancer. A public memorial will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 2 at Gala Special Events, 3760 Lower Roswell Road, in Marietta.
Born on a Kansas dairy farm, Mrs. White moved from Buffalo, N.Y., to Atlanta to nurse an ill friend. She stayed and elected to follow her father into ministry but as a high priestess of Wicca, not in the Baptist faith.
Previous PNC-GA coverage of Lady Sintana’s passing:
The News-Herald has published the following obituary for Ravenwood tradition founder and Atlanta legend, Lady Sintana (Candace Lehrman White):
Candy Lehrman White, 73, of Burke County, passed away peacefully from this life while in the care of Burke Hospice and with her family by her side.
She leaves behind her husband and best friend, David White of Georgia; a daughter, Sybil L. Montello-Carswell and her husband, Victor; a grandson, Carl R. Simone, all of Valdese; and numerous friends in the Atlanta, Ga., area.
No services will be held at this time.
Valdese Family Funeral Care has the honor of serving the family.
There are no further updates regarding memorials in the Atlanta area.
Previous PNC-GA coverage of Lady Sintana’s passing:
Press Release from Ravenwood Church, Johns Creek, GA September 20, 2010:
Ravenwood and Seminary of Wicca, Inc
10945 State Bridge Road
Johns Creek, GA 30022
Contact: Lady Maia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9 A.M. EDT, September 20, 2010
Ravenwood Church and Seminary of the Old Religion (a.k.a, The House of Ravenwood) announced today that on September 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm, Our Founder, Elder High Priestess and Witch Queen, Lady Sintana passed over into the Summerland. Her family surrounded her and aided her in her final journey. She is survived by her husband and best friend Lord Merlin, Elder High Priest of Ravenwood, along with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson.
Lady Sintana founded Ravenwood Church and Seminary of Wicca, Inc. in the mid 1970s in an old Victorian home on Moreland Avenue. She became a public figure in Atlanta and was known as ‘ The Lady’.
Our Lady Sintana’s life’s work was instrumental on both the local and federal level in the fight to insure the freedom for all witches to practice our religion. Through court battles, public education and continual spiritual guidance of those drawn to our faith, Lady Sintana led Ravenwood to become one of the first churches of Wicca to receive 501(c) 3 status as a not-for-profit church. Her pioneering efforts led to the granting of tax exemption rights, gathering rights and zoning rights for Ravenwood, setting critical precedents in the ongoing fight for religious tolerance. Many of the privileges that Wiccans and Pagans enjoy today are the direct result of her irrepressible will and courage.
Under her spiritual leadership and training, Ravenwood developed some of the finest ritual Priestesses and Priests. Her legacy and traditions continue through four active sister groups: Ravenwood Church, Myst of the Wildwood, House of Dragonwood and Sage Moon Grove. These groups provide services and training within the Ravenwood Tradition. In addition, many other groups around the country can trace their traditions and training directly to the Lady’s influence and teaching.
Lady had an exuberant spirit and was always willing to lend guidance and offer words of wisdom. We will miss her laughter, her smile, her warm heart and support. Our thoughts are with the immediate family at this time as we share their loss and celebrate a life of consequence and impact. She lives on through each of us who have been touched by her work.
The House of Ravenwood will hold a public memorial gathering on October 2, 2010. Location and time TBA. In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to Ravenwood Church.
Lady Maia, High Priestess of Ravenwood
Lord Merlin, Elder High Priest of the Ravenwood Tradition
Other Tributes to Lady Sintana:
By Star Foster, originally appeared on Patheos.com
I never met Lady Sintana, but I firmly believe she is the reason I am a Witch today. It’s kind of a long story, so bear with me.
Lady Sintana was a very public Witch, one of the few well-known public Witches who were not authors. She appeared fairly regularly in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She fought seminal court battles for Wiccan rights. She took in animals and people who needed her help. For many years her doors were always open, 24/7, and the House of Ravenwood Church and Seminary of the Old Religion was as clearly marked as any chapel, mosque or schul. When she arrived in Atlanta there wasn’t much Pagan community to speak of, if any. Today Atlanta is home to many thriving traditions and public events, such as Pagan Pride Day coming up in Oct. Her tradition has thrived with covens across the country, countless students over the years and even a trad specific festival: Ravensmeet.
For this Lady Sintana faced a never ending stream of negativity. College hazing rituals involved peeing on her porch, her front windows were broken so many times she replaced them with plexiglass, vandals attacked the house and vehicles in the parking lot, she and other women stood off a group of arsonists with sawed-off shotguns, members of the church were beaten, bullet-proof glass had to be installed at the front door, along with increased police patrols there were Ravenwood security on-site at night, a Southern Baptist Senator went on a crusade against her and all of this is above and beyond the ordinary drama within our communities.
As a spoiled modern Witch, I find it incredible the amount of hatred and persecution our elders endured. It amazes me that they were committed enough to persevere, especially because I have seen where that hatred and persecution came from.
My family was Southern Baptist and I was a typical Southern Baptist kid. Cartoons, Barbie dolls, church on Sunday and no cussin’. I was a busy kid with ballet, piano, soccer, Girl Scouts and all the other busyness with which modern kids are burdened. My parents were distressed at what they felt was the immoral nature of public school that made my older sisters ordinary teenagers rather than quiet, modest God-fearing girls. It was the late 80′s and the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare was going strong. My parents were terrified that our Halloween candy was poisoned, that homosexuals were pedophiles lurking in public restrooms and that Satanists and Witches were hiding in public schools as teachers and principals. Oprah said Satanists were organized and after our kids, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Gwinnett Daily News were full of stories about Witches. Surely my sisters ordinary rebellion and interest in pop music were due to the fact that evil and ungodliness lurks in the public school system?
All of this sounds ridiculous now. The FBI found that Satanists were not numerous, organized or abusing children but back then it was a real fear. It was this kind of fear that resulted in the persecution of the West Memphis Three. People like my parents were truly scared. The fact that violence seemed to be on the rise like never before didn’t help. No one knew that by the late 90′s all of these fears would dissipate. So I was removed from public school to be homeschooled.
Homeschooling is different from family to family. In mine it meant I was to base my education on the Bible and had a lot of free time on my hands. A lot. I went from being too busy with school and activities to think to having nothing but time on my hands. While I’d been addicted to books like The Babysitters Club before, I found I needed meatier books to occupy my time. I became a library addict and haven’t gotten over my craving for ideas since. Without knowing why I was being homeschooled except for same vague idea that I needed to be protected from the “world” I found myself unknowingly subverting my parents intentions.
This good Baptist girl began studying Lutheranism, Catholicism, history and politics. When in the late 90′s I got my first computer and internet connection, it was as if I’d died and gone to heaven. With no school or other organized activities to occupy me, I spent endless hours on the internet where I ran across an article on Wicca. Six hours or more of following link after link after link I realized I’d found my spiritual home.
Had I remained in public school in the busy round of church, school, scouts, lessons and maybe even debate or cheerleading, would I have become Wiccan? I doubt it. I think I’d have become an entirely different person, perfectly content with the busyness of modern life.
Yet, because Lady Sintana was fiercely public and open, scaring the bejeesus out of my conservative Baptist folks, I was given a thoughtful contemplative childhood, which led me to carefully consider the merits of an unusual faith, find it satisfying and embrace it wholly. I could have been the Christian soccer mom who petitions to get the Witch out of her neighborhood. I could have been the Sunday school teacher who held prayer warrior meetings in my home to drive the local coven from my town. It’s an alternate future I can see quite clearly for myself. The person I once was quite probably would have become the sort of person who would have been a very judgmental un-Christ-like Christian.
Eventually my parents even stopped attending church as the evils of the world also existed there. In my cocoon of books, and eventually the internet, I became quite a different person. I am the person I am today because of Lady Sintana. Had she not been public I would not be writing for you here today. The wave of negativity that the conservative South sent her way had some positive outcomes, particularly in my case.
I would not be a Witch if not for Lady Sintana. I certainly wouldn’t be a public one had she not paved the way. There are many things she should be remembered for and many things for which Atlanta Pagans thank her. For me, I am grateful that she chose to be a public Witch because it had positive consequences she could not possibly foresee. I just wish I could have thanked her in person.
And years later, when I was still in the closet, my mother told me why I was removed from public school. It was all I could do to keep a straight face.
Last night around 6pm the founder of the House of Ravenwood Church and Seminary of the Old Religion and the Ravenwood Tradition of Wicca passed away peacefully.
Lady Sintana began House of Ravenwood in the early 70′s, operating a 24/7 open spiritual center for Wiccans on Memorial Drive.
It is expected that Ravenwood elders will issue a statement today. We will have more information regarding Lady Sintana’s passing and information on any memorial services as it becomes available.
If you have photographs, stories or information regarding memorial services please contact email@example.com so we can make these available to other Pagan news bureaus and services.
The tarot reader that was asked to leave from a tarot-reading gig she’d been hired for by the Fry’s in Duluth, GA has received both an apology and payment for her services.
Lupa Cutliffe posted the following statement late yesterday evening on Facebook:
I received a call this evening from the regional manager of the computer department at Fry’s. He wanted to make sure that I had been paid what I was promised and he offered a sincere apology which I accepted. He expressed that this is not the way the company would have preferred this situation be handled.
My husband has worked for Fry’s in Duluth for the last two years and we have been customers for many years. That is why we were so upset and disappointed that his last week with the company was marred by such a negative incident.
I am satisfied that my concerns were heard and very much appreciate everyone who gave this matter a wider audience. If you linked my posts or tweeted or otherwise discussed this matter elsewhere, please be fair and tell the end of the story. They did not offer me a big screen tv or an iPad, but they took my concerns seriously and addressed them with both myself and my husband. I’m happy with that.
Several members of the Pagan community contacted Fry’s after the incident was reported on The Wild Hunt.