Witches and pagans are not devil worshippers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t throw a block party that ends in Hell’s Kitchen. Magic will fill Manhattan from downtown to midtown when 7th Annual WitchsFest USA – A Pagan Street Faire returns to New York for two days in two locations. On Saturday, July 14th they will set their cauldrons at Astor Place between Broadway and Lafayette Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday July 15th they will stir up Hell’s Kitchen when they boil their bubbles on West 39th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The event is free and so are the workshops. It will be held rain or shine. It culminates in a closing Summer Blessing ceremony ritual. The event is presented by Rev. Starr RavenHawk HPs and Rev. Luna Roja HPs, who are Elders and Founders of the NYC Wiccan Family Temple.
Rev. Starr RavenHawk has been organizing and serving the New York City Pagan Community since 1995. She trained under Elder Laurie Cabot, the most famous witch of Salem since Tituba, completing the second degree in the Cabot Tradition in 1995, and with The Minoan Sisterhood. She founded the NYC Wiccan Family Temple, and WFT Academy Of Pagan Studies and Dragan Academy in 2007. The intuitive witch, tarot advisor, candle therapist and spell crafter founded WitchsFest USA In 2012. That same year, NYC Wiccan Family Temple was granted 501c3 status and became the first pagan temple allowed to ordain its priest and priestess in the New York City and State.
The weekend will include several workshops. Lilith Dorsey M.A. told Den of Geek she is “so excited to be back at Witchsfest, where Witches can finally come out of the broom closet, and fly their powerful magick high. This is my third time at Witchsfest. And I have my own spiritual house here in Brooklyn called The House of Maman Brigitte and we are dedicated to providing accurate and respectful information about the religion as well as performing rituals, rites, psychic services and open feasts for the community.”
Dorsey will be presenting the workshop Art and Altars of Africa and Beyond on Saturday. This class will explore the “traditional religious art and altars of Africa and the Afro-diasporan world,” Dorsey explains. “Many different artists will be profiled and explored. We will also discuss instructions for setting up your own altars for love, money, peace, healing and more.” On Sunday she will present the workshop Warrior Goddesses and Queens of Africa and Beyond, which “provides an exciting look at both the ancient and modern warrior queens, priestesses and goddesses of Africa and beyond.” The class will cover the “real Amazons and Zulu queens that grace Africa’s exciting history” and topics will include both the historical significance and modern practice surrounding Oshun, Yemaya, Yaa Asantewa, Queen Nandi, Oya, and Marie Laveau.
Dorsey is an expert practitioner of Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, and Santeria, and a respected voice for Afro-Diasporan Pagan religions. She wrote the book on Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism, the latest being Love Magic: Over 250 Spells and Potions for Getting it, Keeping it, and Making it Last. She also served up The African-American Ritual Cookbook. Dorsey is the editor and publisher of Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly. Initially initiated by Mambo Bonnie Devlin, her magickal training includes numerous initiations in Santeria also known as Lucumi, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo. Dorsey is also a filmmaker and choreographer. She directed the experimental documentary film Bodies of Water: Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation, and choreographed jazz legend Dr. John’s “Night Tripper” Voodoo Show.
The “Witch Queen of New York” Lady Rhea will present two workshops. On Saturday her Sons and Daughters of the Moon class will focus on “altars, rituals and goddesses of the moon. For both personal and group work. I will be covering, setting up and casting circle, offerings, images, crystals, candles, oils, incense and what moons to use for what work you would like to accomplish. Moon lore and the psychic mysteries of the moon will be illuminated.”
On Sunday, her workshop The Enchanted Formulary: Blending Magickal Oils For Love, Money, and More will teach “how to create your own magickal fragrances. The proper oil blends and fragrances are essential to many magick spells. Whether it’s candle burning, incense, diffusers, floor washes, baths, or essentially any magick that requires fragrance, understanding many of the basic single scents and what they are used for help make your fragrance-based spells work better.”
Rhea opened the legendary lower east side occult shop Enchantments with owner Lady Miw (aka Carol Bulzone) in 1982, after putting in time at Herman Slater’s Magickal Childe. The Wiccan High Priestess is the author of the 2004 book The Enchanted Candle and The Enchanted Formulary: Blending Magickal Oils for Love, Prosperity, and Healing, which came out in September 2006.
Sharon Day will present two classes at WitchsFest, “one with a working ritual open to all,” she told Den of Geek. “Alexandrian Witches rarely work publicly, so this is something special. We believe it is important that ritual is meaningful, has purpose, and gives something to each participant. We do not believe in empty ritual and the aim is for everyone to take something away with them.”
Day is a “relative newcomer to the world of Witchcraft. My immersion during that time, however, has been concentrated as I have the privilege of learning from the exceptional and legendary Witch, Maxine Sanders, who continues to guide our Coven.”
Her second class will be “an introduction into a living, breathing online archive and historical timeline that has been in the works for a couple of years. The first of five stages will be presented at this festival. The website itself can be found at ‘alexandrianwitchcraft.org’ when it goes live in the near future.
“Once the site is live, there will be ongoing benefit to researchers, academics, seekers, the curious, and anyone with any interest in the Occult. A dual purpose of the site is to dispel myths and misperceptions about the Craft while also pointing out the pitfalls and dangers and offering advice where possible to seek help and protection.”
Other presenters include Rhonda Choudry, Donald Lewis, Christopher Penczak, Elizabeth Ruth, Kenya Coviak, Gregg Sicari, Starr RavenHawk, Dr. Mariliza Maza and Eddie Massey.
Visitors entering from Broadway will probably be welcomed by the Witchmaste tribal belly dance troupe. “Witchmaste is a NYC based group of fusion belly dancers that honors and shares their passion and magick though dance,” Indigo DeLunaz told Den of Geek. “This will be our fourth year performing at WitchsFest.” Indigo is also the Entertainment Coordinator and Board member at New York City Pagan Pride. Indigo, a tribal fusion bellydancer who incorporates hip hop, classical Indian and prop work, joins Kristin Amezquita, also known as Gypsycurves, who was “classically trained in flamenco then made her way into belly dance. She also teaches classes in belly dance and SharQui the belly dance workout in NYC.”
Dance performances include Tandava Arts Whimsical Hips NY and The Kandake dance-theatre collective, which combines social activism and community engagement with folkloric, modern, theatrical and experimental movement. The original Kandake were the queens of ancient Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and parts of Egypt. The Kandake continues the tradition by remaining active in the community by hosting free shows, street art, workshops and retreats. The Kandake collaborate with other grassroots community groups. While their shows are structured “to rupture comfort zones, wake the unconscious and inspire critical thinking,” they admit they sometimes “dance just for the love of dancing.”
And they will have plenty to dance to. Metamorph duo Margot Day and Kurtis Knight mix music, love and mysticism to offer transformation through their songs. Day, who was an integral part of the 80s NYC underground music scene while fronting the Goth band The Plague, is a songstress and pagan, well acquainted with the inner workings of magic. Kurtis Knight is a producer and multi-instrumentalist adding guitar, keyboard samples, loops, soundscapes and electronic dance beats to Day’s vocals and flute.
Of All Time is a two piece, rock folk psychedelic band with guitar and hand drums who were brought into WitchsFest by the Witch of Sleepy Hollow Krystal Madison, who found them at the New England Psychic Faire. Singer-songwriter Elana Low’s harmonium “has a trance effect” on the audience, inviting comparisons to Nico, Florence Welch, and “Joni Mitchell on steroids.”
WithsFest also asks for donations for Witches Giving Back, which will collect non-perishable food for pantry organization City Harvest, on Saturday, and are raising money for No Kids Go Hungry NY. The seventh annual WitchsFest happens July 14 and 15.