Coven celebrates Beltane at park to welcome spring, educate about Paganism

By Marcella Kester - For Times Leader
A ceremonial table set for the Beltane Festival represents the earth, wind, sea and sky. The candle in the middle represents the spiritual world. - For Times Leader | Charlotte Bartizek
Shawn Harrington, of Noxen, starts the ceremonial Beltane fire during spring festivities at Frances Slocum State Park. - For Times Leader | Charlotte Bartizek
From left, Tamara Rogowski, Lynda Pagan-Musselman and Kris Brennan set May Pole ribbons at Frances Slocum Park on Sunday afternoon during a springtime Beltane festival. - For Times Leader | Charlotte Bartizek

KINGSTON TWP. — Spring has sprung, and for one local business and coven, that means celebration is in order.

The Silver Broomstick, a metaphysical and spiritual center and supply store, held its second annual Beltane — also known as May Day — celebration at Frances Slocum State Park on Sunday, welcoming spring as the season of fertility.

The ancient celebration is most associated with the Gaelic, and involves a series of rituals, prayer and celebration. Usually a closed ceremony just for members of the coven, Silver Broomstick owner Kristina Brennan said she wanted to open the celebration up to the community so they could learn about Paganism, and hopefully break any misconceptions and stereotypes that come with it.

“Most covens won’t allow the public to come and watch or participate in any way, but we opened the store to educate people,” she said.

Brennen opened the store over two years ago as a place to educate and help those interested in the religion, as well as allow members to find needed supplies they could otherwise only get online. Admitting she has been practicing for over 20 years, Brennan said she came into the religion after questioning the rules of Catholicism, which her ex-husband practiced.

“There’s solitaire witches everywhere, and they have nowhere to go but online to buy their stuff,” she said. “Energy is a huge part of the craft. So to put your hands on stuff and say ‘I feel energy from this’ — you can’t do that if you order online. So by having the shop, people can come in and they can pick up different things.”

Just after 4 p.m., members gathered around a table as Brennan and her husband began the ceremony. Standing over a number of candles with a fire burning behind them, the duo called forth the members to be blessed with sage before entering into a circle around a May Pole. The group then performed “the calling of the circle,” turning and calling out each direction and element associated with it to bring forth good harvest and fertility.

After the ritual, members of the group each grabbed a brightly colored piece of ribbon attached to the pole in preparation of the May Pole dance. Some struggled with the routine, which involved stepping in-and-out of the circle while moving in opposite directions to intertwine and wrap the ribbons around the pole, however after some practice (and some chuckles) the ceremony was complete.

Brennan said that the group practices being in-tune spiritually with nature and utilizes holistic healing and prayers, but acknowledged the often negative notions that Paganism has received from the general public.

“We don’t worship Satan. There is no Satan and there is no hell in the craft — it doesn’t exist. It’s about Earth, it’s about love,” she said. “We believe in karma, we believe in what we put out there is going to come back to us. We believe in healing. We can’t do hocus pocus and turn someone into a toad. It’s a family, it’s a community.”

After the dance, member Amber Kelly, an avid gardener and admitted Christian, said she first became involved with the group while looking for holistic medicines and ways to use them.

“I’ve been a member here for over a year now,” she said, explaining she first entered classes at the Silver Broomstick and evolved from there. “Not everybody here is Pagan, we believe in a higher entity … call it what you want. There’s just a power that all the energy comes from, and it’s in the Earth and that’s what I use myself.”

Kelly said that while the group is small, every member has their own special niche. But the coven — and the Broomstick — provide safe places for those interested, as well as access to learning materials and supplies.

Across the pavilion, Scott, who asked not to disclose his last name, explained how and why he came into Paganism and what it’s done for his spirituality.

Scott said he has studied a vast series of religions, growing up Catholic and later converting to Christianity during his college years to later read the Koran, Hebrew Scrolls and more to try and find something that conveyed his own beliefs. Twelve years ago, he found it in Paganism.

He said losing the majority of his sight in one eye led him back to being one with the earth and elements. His desire to be with nature was so much so that he moved from his home in New Jersey to a 3-acre farm in Pennsylvania, where he has remained since.

Although Scott belongs to a different coven, he said he enjoyed spending time with the members of the Silver Coven and celebrating Beltane with them.

“It’s been very open. It’s like an open family to whoever wants to come in and understand, or try to understand,” he said. “It’s very uplifting, it’s very relaxing to let things go.”

A ceremonial table set for the Beltane Festival represents the earth, wind, sea and sky. The candle in the middle represents the spiritual world.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL05012017Beltane1.jpgA ceremonial table set for the Beltane Festival represents the earth, wind, sea and sky. The candle in the middle represents the spiritual world. For Times Leader | Charlotte Bartizek

Shawn Harrington, of Noxen, starts the ceremonial Beltane fire during spring festivities at Frances Slocum State Park.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL05012017Beltane2.jpgShawn Harrington, of Noxen, starts the ceremonial Beltane fire during spring festivities at Frances Slocum State Park. For Times Leader | Charlotte Bartizek

From left, Tamara Rogowski, Lynda Pagan-Musselman and Kris Brennan set May Pole ribbons at Frances Slocum Park on Sunday afternoon during a springtime Beltane festival.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/web1_TTL05012017Beltane3.jpgFrom left, Tamara Rogowski, Lynda Pagan-Musselman and Kris Brennan set May Pole ribbons at Frances Slocum Park on Sunday afternoon during a springtime Beltane festival. For Times Leader | Charlotte Bartizek

By Marcella Kester

For Times Leader

Reach the Times Leader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.

Reach the Times Leader newsroom at 570-829-7242 or on Twitter @TLnews.