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Witches' Spell to be Cast Over Union Square at Wiccan Fest

By Mary Johnson | February 3, 2012 6:48am

UNION SQUARE — A witches' coven is headed to Union Square in an effort to conjure up cash to build a permanent home.

Members of the Wiccan Family Temple, a Lower East Side congregation dedicated to practicing Wicca, are planning the WitchsFest USA on July 8, with 50 magical vendors and 300 people expected to attend.

Its goal is to raise money for the temple to find a permanent home in Manhattan, said Hectuba Hestia, a high priestess of the temple.

Currently, the temple operates out of a small, rented space inside an old public school at 107 Suffolk Street, Hestia said. Ideally, temple members envision having their own building, maybe with a backyard where they could perform Wiccan rituals.

But while they’re raising money at the event — using strategically placed wishing wells where visitors can deposit donations — they’re also aiming to entertain and inform, Hestia said.

Wicca was created in the 1950s by a British man called Gerald Gardner. The tradition centers around one basic creed: If harm none, do what you will.

Not all Wiccans are witches, Hestia said, and not all witches practice Wicca. It’s all about how each person identifies with the tradition.

“I’m definitely a witch,” she added.

Modern-day witches like Hestia do cast spells, which she said function like prayers, and they do use magic wands. But they don’t believe in or worship the Devil, she clarified.

“Being that it’s New York, people are accepting,” she said. “But there’s also a lot of misinformation.”

It also turns out that witches can take a joke.

Part of their event, which Hestia and her fellow high priestess Starr Ravenhawk pitched to the members of the Community Board 5 parks committee this week, will include displays of Harry Potter paraphernalia and a performance by the Brooklyn-based girl band Witches in Bikinis.

“You have to realize, you know, it is Union Square Park,” Hestia said of the festival's more clichéd attractions. “And there’s going to be all sorts of people walking around, not just the people coming for us.”

The CB5 parks committee approved the WitchsFest proposal unanimously, and it will go before the full board for a final vote next week.

Hestia said temple members are still in the early planning stages of the event and do not have a specific fundraising amount in mind. One WitchsFest might not be enough to fund a new home for the temple.

“It may take more than one event to do this,” she noted. “It’s not going to be that easy. But we can do it.”