No More Hocus Pocus: What It’s Like to Be a Witch in New York City

You thought they didn't exist, but Starr Ravenhawk says she's one of 1,000 NYC witches.

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Courtesy of Starr Ravenhawk
Courtesy of Starr Ravenhawk

Just in time for Halloween I had the pleasure of speaking with Starr Ravenhawk, an Elder witch who runs the Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies, a New York City witch school. Here, she sets the record straight on cauldrons, pointy hats and why witches get a bad rap.

Q: Is there any aspect to the witch myth that has some degree of truth to it?

Oh definitely, we love our cauldrons, I’m sorry, we do. In olden times they used it for cooking regular food as well as cooking up their spells. But today we use it strictly for spellwork.

But cauldrons are hard to take care of, cause they’re very strong and heavy and you have to grease it so it doesn’t rust and stuff, so we don’t use it for regular food anymore. And we’re modern day witches, so we’ve got regular pots and stuff.

Q: What about the hat?

The pointed hat? That was more based on energy. They have it on the dollar bill, the cone, it’s like a triangle, and the point on the top is supposed to be energy. That’s all the witch’s hat is supposed to be, a cone of energy bringing down to the individual.

Q: And the broom?

I know people think we fly on brooms, I wish we did. I would love to fly by broom anywhere I want.

It came from a time when people used herbs for different types of things, and some herbs do make people feel like they’re flying. There are a lot of psychedelic herbs that are not chemically based but strictly an herb that will do that. And if they use that and they’re jumping around in a circle they could imagine many a thing, that doesn’t mean that they’re actually flying. That would be absolutely awesome, I’d love to do that.

Q: Are there any depictions of witches that you like?

I like all of it, except the one about us being  like gross witches with warts on our faces. I mean, get real.

I look just like anybody else, but there are [witches] who are not as pretty to the eye, maybe. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it depends. But there are some of us that are beautiful inside and out. So it depends. But that is definitely a misnomer.

I don’t think we’re ugly.

Q: Why do witches get a bad rap?

I would consider Christians very smart, because the only way to conquer someone is to make them believe what they’re doing is wrong. And essentially that’s what they did for many centuries. They basically convinced the world that what they’ve been doing for all these centuries is wrong.

And if you look at the movies, witches are bad. It’s only recently, with Charmed and all these things, that a lot of it has been coming to life, and a lot of people have been like, “okay, here are what our misconceptions are on this.”

Q: What is the purpose of the Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies school?

The school was made not necessarily for the public, it was made for us. It’s for people who are out there saying, you know what, this is my religion, I would love to learn more about it, I don’t know enough and I want to learn it.

Years ago there wasn’t anywhere in New York that was teaching witchcraft. People were teaching it in their covens, but people tend to keep their covens secret so you wouldn’t know about it.

Q: How many witches would you estimate are in New York City?

You could be standing next to many in your office, and you would not know, because a lot of them are keeping it secret because of their jobs. They’re judges and lawyers and they’re everywhere. It doesn’t mean they’re gonna let you know because again, a lot of them are afraid of losing their jobs. So, when it comes to their financial livelihood, they won’t announce it to the world but to themselves and their groups of people they know they can be honest about who they are.

But if you go according to meetup, and a lot of other places where we have a large group of people, I would say maybe 1,000.

17 comments
ShantelCollins
ShantelCollins

I am from the wiccan family temple, and the reporter interviewed us on way more than hats and broomsticks. I opened up to her about the murder of my 17 year old brother, and told her why Samhain is sacred to me. This is the strongest time to feel connected to your ancestors. And it is a celebration of the last harvest and the cycle of life death and rebirth.  l also told her that so many people dont take us seriously. It is a shame that people say negative things about our sacred holiday, but if someone said something bad about a Muslim or Jewish holiday, it would be offensive. So i dont know why the silly questions were the only ones included here. Also there is another article she did with us here on time, http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/11/08/celebrating-halloween-with-real-witches/ We told her exactly what Samhain is and what it means to us, but sometimes the media includes only what they want. Not everything in that article shows exactly who we are either

mamacita30
mamacita30

HOW SAD FOR NON BELIEVERS IS ALL I CAN SAY .. BYE BYE GOD BLESS

mamacita30
mamacita30

that is the promblem we r to only believe in the lord and savior no other if people dont start believing in the lord and take him as there lord and savior there will be a very hot spot for people like this, like i said god bless get ur life right before its to late people WAKE UP!!!!

mamacita30
mamacita30

any  magic is considered black magic we r not suppost to mess wth any of that stuff if were a tru believer of the lord why need magic if u got the lord on ur back?


mamacita30
mamacita30

all i know is its not right it says in the bible to not worship or idleis other gods or religions, i feel sorry for these people the world needs to get to know the lord and savior before its to late, and witches r not going to make it to heaven its pure devil worshiping in my book. god bless you all.

MeganColleenJustus
MeganColleenJustus

While I love seeing articles that brings my religion out of the broom closet, I don't really think this portrays us well. What about the parts of not believing in a Devil? People still believe we worship it. Or that we do evil/bad magic? Which for those of you wondering, we do not. I look forward to the day when educating people about Wicca can be done without talking about warts/hat/cauldrons. While symbolism is very important, it is not even close to being the most important part of being Wiccan. 


TaoRaven
TaoRaven

This person is not a witch. She is a white-washed, watered down new-age wanna-be. Wicca is a sham, an excuse to pretend to be a witch and dabble in "magik" while taking none of the flak for true witchcraft, and denying the suffering and sacrifice of generations of true Witches.

What a joke.

AnnaMarum
AnnaMarum

This article was really disappointing. I was hoping to learn what Ravenhawk believes and what being a witch means to her. What and how does she worship? Do Wiccan beliefs and Christian beliefs have anything in common? These are the questions that should have been asked. The questions about the warts, brooms, etc. were ridiculous. Instead of informing and educating people about Wiccan beliefs, Charlotte Alter is in some ways perpetuating the stereotypes of witches by avoiding the important questions.

r.sky.verna
r.sky.verna

@ShantelCollins This interview really does make a mockery of neopaganism. I'm very disappointed in Time for the way they twisted things up. 

MeganColleenJustus
MeganColleenJustus

@mamacita30 So ALL other religions? Or how about the other sects of your religion? Do Jewish people get to go to your Heaven? How about Mormons, or Jehovah's witness? If they believe in your God but not your Jesus? Or if they are different from you in any way? 

MeganColleenJustus
MeganColleenJustus

@mamacita30 Really?  Funny that you damn and bless us in the same post. How sad. 

MeganColleenJustus
MeganColleenJustus

@mamacita30 We don't worship the Christian God. We worship the Lord and Lady, two equal forces, neither good nor evil. Get your info right before attacking other religions. 

MeganColleenJustus
MeganColleenJustus

@mamacita30 Pagans were here before Jews and long before Christians.WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN A DEVIL!!!!! Wicca is a re-make of old pagan views, all violence/and ill intention removed. Please read some information about us before you condemn us to hell. 

ShantelCollins
ShantelCollins

@MeganColleenJustus  I am from the wiccan family temple, and the reporter interviewed us on way more than hats and broomsticks. I opened up to her about the murder of my 17 year old brother, and told her why Samhain is sacred to me. This is the strongest time to feel connected to your ancestors. And it is a celebration of the last harvest and the cycle of life death and rebirth.  l also told her that so many people dont take us seriously. It is a shame that people say negative things about our sacred holiday, but if someone said something bad about a Muslim or Jewish holiday, it would be offensive. So i dont know why the silly questions were the only ones included here. Also there is another article she did with us here on time, http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/11/08/celebrating-halloween-with-real-witches/ We told her exactly what Samhain is and what it means to us, but sometimes the media includes only what they want. Not everything in that article shows exactly who we are either

MeganColleenJustus
MeganColleenJustus

@TaoRaven Who are you to say some one is not a witch? just because she may be a little stereo typical, does not mean she is not Wiccan. FYI I am Wiccan, I don't do magic, but I do hold the memory of the suffering that all pagans have suffered. 

MoonWeaver
MoonWeaver

She just said in the comments that she talked about more than what was written in this article, if you people read!!! Geez.

TaoRaven
TaoRaven

@MeganColleenJustus @TaoRaven Wicca is a modern invention designed to let people dabble in "magik" without facing the stigma of practicing true Witchcraft.

You want to flutter around saying inane crap like "blessed be" and "it harm none", fine...that's your right. But don't call yourself a "Witch".....that is a disgrace to the true witches who have suffered throughout history, persecuted, tortured and executed for their beliefs.