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Annual Witches Brewfest this Saturday in Sandy Springs

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.

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Rites of Passage: A Day of Initiations for RavenStone

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.

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Pagan/Christian Relations in North GA Better, Still Need Improvement

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.**

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AJC Covers Lady Sintana’s Passing; Public Memorial Info

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:

Family Obit for Lady Sintana

Lady Sintana: Atlanta Legend Passes

Op/Ed: The Unexpected Blessings of Lady Sintana

Press Release: Founder of Ravenwood Passage

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Family Obit for Lady Sintana; No Services Planned Yet

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:

Lady Sintana: Atlanta Legend Passes

Op/Ed: The Unexpected Blessings of Lady Sintana

Press Release: Founder of Ravenwood Passage

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Press Release: Founder of Ravenwood Passage

Press Release from Ravenwood Church, Johns Creek, GA September 20, 2010:

Ravenwood and Seminary of Wicca, Inc
10945 State Bridge Road
Ste 401-104
Johns Creek, GA 30022

Press Release
Contact: Lady Maia
LadyMaia@HouseofRavenwood.org
http://www.houseofravenwood.org
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:

House of Ravenstone Church and Seminary of the Old Religion

The Wild Hunt, a Pagan News Blog

Pantheon, the Pagan blog at Patheos.com

Previous PNC post on Lady Sintana

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