Dozens of Christian preachers stormed into an annual gathering of pagans and witches celebrating their community. The Christian protesters tried to disrupt the event, being overly aggressive.
Some members of conservative Christian groups and street preachers always make it into pagan celebrations, but this time around, their numbers were far more than expected. Around 30 evangelists showed up at Witchfest, USA, this year, held in mid-July.
— Lady Calypso Questell ~ (@PaganIdaline) March 15, 2022
Witchfest is a nonprofit organization that organizes "Witchcraft" festivals to raise funds for various pagan groups and to strengthen community bonds. Witchfest events are known to have visitors in elaborate gothic costumes, discussion of the macabre, witch lore, and many such fun activities.
The pagan groups barely have any connections as most don't have any place of worship and often live far from people with similar beliefs. This connects the pagan and witch groups mainly through conventions such as pagan pride. Pagan events are sometimes held in open areas that are easy to walk into for the Christian preachers.
The organizer of WitchsFest USA and an elder and priestess of the New York City Wiccan Family Temple, Starr RavenHawk, was extremely upset by the disruptions. She was also surprised, as in the last seven years, barely half a dozen Christian preachers would come. RavenHawk said that the people that came this year were not just protesting. She added, "They are collectively at war with us. They made that clear."
The evangelists and the street preachers were seen holding signs and amplifiers. Their preaching on loudspeakers harassed the event attendees, and by the end of the day, several vendors had shut down their stalls, and teachers were forced to cancel their classes.
Around 10 a.m., a Christian group gathered on a street corner near one of the workshop stalls. The group began conversing with the attendees and preaching to them to rectify their ways. The event security asked the protesters to leave, which they ignored, RavenHawk called the police, but according to her, the cops did nothing.
Soror Da Glorium Dio, who attended WitchsFest, said, “When the police had the opportunity to downgrade things by possibly escorting the troublemakers off the area, they chose not to de-escalate.”
According to RavenHawk, “(The officers) treated us as if we were invading the Christians’ space as if they had more rights than we do.”
In previous pagan events, there were instances of similar harassment. Preachers Quentin Deckard, Tim Baptist, and Marvin Heiman barged into the 2016 Nashville pagan pride parade day with Bibles, signs, and a bullhorn. On the Auburn pagan pride day of 2018 in Alabama, a group of Christians attempted to threaten the small crowd by encircling them.
In 2018 and 2019, HexFest, a pagan event held at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, was protested against by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and Catholic groups. Religious fliers were spread all over the hotel, warning the attendees. A flier read, "Your only hope is to accept defeat and surrender your life to One who created you."
On the same weekend as this year's Witchfest, attendees at an Atlanta Mystic South conference were also harassed in a similar fashion. Christian fliers were placed on car windows parked outside the event venue.
According to a 2018 Quartz article, the practice of witchcraft has “seen major growth in recent decades.” Birgitte Necessary, a self-described Green Witch from Washington State, explains her beliefs as “a deep adherence to nature and natural law, an attention to the cycles of the earth and the lives within it.”