Witches' Solstice Festival Cast Out of Astor Place

By Danielle Tcholakian on March 25, 2014 7:10am 

 The Wiccan Family Temple holds events all across the city, like this celebration in Central Park in 2007.
The Wiccan Family Temple holds events all across the city, like this celebration in Central Park in 2007.
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Facebook/Wiccan Family Temple

GREENWICH VILLAGE — Trouble is brewing over a Wiccan solstice festival set to swoop into Astor Place in July.

The third annual WitchsFest USA, organized by the Wiccan Family Temple, was shot down last week by Community Board 2, based on board members' concerns that the organization did not have enough of a connection to the neighborhood.

Starr Ravenhawk, a representative of the Wiccan Family Temple, defended plans for the July 12 fair that would bring vendors, children's events, a summer solstice ritual and live entertainment to Astor Place between Broadway and Lafayette Street.

"We are a pagan temple," Ravenhawk told CB2 at last Thursday night's meeting. "We belong everywhere in Manhattan because we have and hold our services everywhere in Manhattan."

The group held the same event on Astor Place last year without any issues after debuting it in Union Square in 2012, Ravenhawk said. It doubles as a fundraiser to support the temple's goal of building a permanent meeting space for classes and worship.

CB2 members, though, questioned whether WitchsFest met the board's criteria for street fairs, which require that an organization proves an "indigenous" relationship to the street or at least the neighborhood as a whole.

Maury Schott, chairman of Sidewalks and Street Activity Committee, said it was a question of "what indigenous means, the rules say indigenous to a specific street."

Last year, CB2's Sidewalks and Street Activity Committee was evenly split on the street fair application and ultimately made no recommendation, but the proposal was approved unanimously by the full board.

However, the board decided last week to deny Wiccan Family Temple's application for this year.

The board's opinion is advisory and the mayor's Street Activity Permit Office will make the final decision.

A SAPO representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ravenhawk said on Monday that she plans to write an appeal letter to every member of the community board as well as the state attorney general.

"Some of what they said [at the meeting] was very inflammatory," Ravenhawk said.

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