Witches in the House
Wiccans open their congregationand explain their practicesto
the community at large
The wheel of the year is about to turn. On Oct. 31, the aging
god of the harvest will be celebrated, evil spirits will be
appeased, and the veil between the worlds of the living and
the dead will be at its thinnest. Sounds kind of ominous,
if youre Wiccan. The above paragraph lists some of the
elements of the Wiccan belief system; another one is that
Oct. 31 ushers in the New Year. Its a time for divination
and festivity, and feasting. Wicca is an Earth-based religionthe
turning of the wheel refers to the cycles of the seasonsand
as such its similar to neopaganism, but with the addition
of (among other things) an emphasis on ritualism and spell-casting.
Many Wiccans refer to their rites as witchcraft or magick.
also worship in groups that differ from the stereotypical
coven of orgiastic revelers dancing naked around a bonfire.
Trinity Temple in Albany serves a congregation of approximately
200 members, and does so in a former Episcopal outreach church.
The temples high priest and priestess, Davron and Cassandra
Michaels, are a longtime married couple (15 years) with a
young son. Theyve known each other since childhood,
when they attended the same Catholic church in Latham. Davron
is a human-resources administrator; Cassie is a paralegal.
One of their many un-Crowley-like activities is hosting Make
Your Own Wand booths for children at fund-raisers.
the temple, both Halloween and Samhain (the Celtic-derived
witch word for New Years) are celebrated. The temples
popular Witchs Ball and Halloween party will be capped
at midnight with a real witchs séancethe
witch being Cassie, a medium who heads the temples Astral
Light Paranormal Investigations division.
forte is as a medium and fortune-teller, says the priestess,
who has long, straight hair and large, dark eyes. Ive
always believed that ghosts and spirits live among us, and
I would sit and commune with them when I was a child.
She adds that her ability to see scenes from the future
was inherited from her Italian great-grandmother, a Strega
will tell you, as one who has often been skeptical of those
kinds of communications, that she is eerily dead-on at times,
says Davron. Its actually a little creepy, the
accuracy she comes up with. Along with ghost-hunting
advice, the temple offers a variety of classes, from Wicca
101 to advanced alternative-healing courses, and has its own
the brightly lit main room, the window frames are painted
in cheerful primary colors (representing the four elements
of earth, fire, air and water), while the wood-paneled walls
create a 1970s ambience. Yet despite its family rec-room vibe
and a kitchen bustling with devotees making hot cocoa and
snacks, the temple is noticeably a place of unorthodox worship.
The chancel altar is flanked by a cauldron and a ceremonial
broomstick; a step below is a sparkly gold altar, in the shape
of a crescent moon, thats used for tarot-card readings.
of the temples rituals involve energy raising and self-empowerment,
and watching the Michaels as they work in tandem to charge
a vial of aromatherapy oils with a customized wand and an
athame (a ritual knife) is more convincing than a print description
Davron (a registered hypnotist who has been engaged in theology
studies for most of his life) explains it, the purpose of
spell-casting is to tap into the forces of nature. Universal
energy is all around us, were all comprised and infused
with it, he says. We raise energy to send out
our magical intents, our act of power to achieve our desires.
to Cassie, the central tenet of Wicca is: Ain
it harm none, do what you will, to which Davron adds:
Were all about empowering people. The whole nature
of Wiccacontrary to other religions where you go to
a church and the priest performs and the congregants are merely
observersin this religion its about the empowerment
of everybody. We dont have people sitting in rows or
pews; people stand in a circle, they sing, they dance.
arent witch folk supposed to practice their craft in
private, either alone or with an intimate coven of initiates?
thought it was really important to give the pagan community
a community center, one that was open to all practices and
faiths, says Davron. Many groups in the area are
very restrictive. In traditional Wicca, people do rituals
and magickal practices that can be very personal, and theyre
selective about members for harmony and good working relations.
took a different approach, more of a congregational model,
he continues. Our focus from the beginning was to have
an inclusive group that embraced diversity. Well let
anyone in to observe our worship.
to have fun, interjects Cassie, who mentions the temples
get members of Christian churches, priests, in here to watch
our rituals, adds Davron. We had a Buddhist monk
in who was curious, and enjoyed itand did some wonderful
chanting. We try to do good works and reach out to the communitynot
just to our own groupsand give back. We do food drives
and clothing drives.
drives and community activism dont exactly jibe with
the publics perception of Wicca, and many Wiccans arent
exactly thrilled about any partings in the religions
shroud of mystery.
admits that the temple has had more issues with pagans than
any other religious group. One can have that shroud
of mystique and still be open, he asserts. Some
disagree, they say You shouldnt allow others to
view such things. But I say, Come to one of our
events, theyre a little mysterious. And we do
have offshoot groups that are more closedfor example,
Daughters of the Goddess, which is obviously only open to
or May Day, says Cassie, draws the most objections. Its
considered very private, and the stereotype that witches dance
around the maypole sky-clad [naked] is true. Davron
quickly adds, We could not possibly keep our Beltane
quiet. We have a maypole in the backyard, and we have May
dances, but we dont do sky-clad here. Weve got
the concept of a Wiccan enclave worshipping inside a formerly
Christian church may seem heretical, the couple explain that
the temples previous incarnation is actually a boon.
Before the Michaels took over its administration three years
ago, the building housed the Trinity Temple of the Holy Spirit,
a metaphysical church. As any of the Wiccans at the temple
are happy to relate, for 13 years a former pastor used the
chancel to summon the archangel Gabriel. Its very
spiritually active, says Cassie from her seat in the
chancel. It aids me in practicing my [séance
and fortune-telling] skills.
Michaels started their congregation in the traditional way,
hosting get-togethers in their kitchen and attending services
in other peoples living rooms. When they were looking
for a new home, they thought of getting a house spacious enough
to accommodate their religion. Our group was getting
too big, we were looking at houses with large rooms where
there could be a dedicated temple, or a church with a house
attached, says Cassie.
a magical story, says Davron of finding Trinity. We
were attending a local pagan eventI was doing a presentationand
we ran into an interim pastor [of the Holy Spirit] church.
He had wanted to meet me, and when we were introduced, our
eyes locked. I said, Were looking for churches,
and he paused, as our hands were still shaking, and he said,
Would you like to buy our church? And I said yes.
had 40 years of channeling energy, says Cassie. When
I walked in, it just felt right. Davron and I looked at each
other and said, The search is over. Weve found
our spot. Now that weve got hundreds
of people milling about, adds Davron, were
kind of glad its separate from our house.
Temple (279 Whitehall Road, Albany) will hold a Witches
Ball with buffet, wine and beer on Saturday (Oct. 28) from
6 PM to midnight. Tickets are $25 at the door, $20 in advance.
On Tuesday (Oct. 31), a formal party and midnight spirits
supper will be held. Call 489-7119 or visit www.trinitytemple.net
for more information.