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.