For some Wiccans, Halloween can be a real witch
Trey Capnerhurst, a traditional witch, performs a naming ceremony by the altar in her backyard in Alberta.
October 30th, 2013
03:32 PM ET

For some Wiccans, Halloween can be a real witch

By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor

[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(CNN) -  Like lots of people, when October 31 rolls around, Trey Capnerhurst dons a pointy hat and doles out candy to children who darken the door of her cottage in Alberta.

But she’s not celebrating Halloween. In fact, she kind of hates it.

Capnerhurst says she’s a real, flesh-and-blood witch, and Halloween stereotypes of witches as broom-riding hags drive her a bit batty.

“Witches are not fictional creatures,” the 45-year-old wrote in a recent article on WitchVox.com.

“We are not werewolves or Frankenstein monsters. We do not have green skin, and only some of us have warts.”

Warts or not, many witches say they have mixed feelings about Halloween.

Some look forward to the day when witchcraft is front and center and no one looks askance at big black hats. Others complain that the holiday reinforces negative stereotypes of witches as evil outliers who boil children in black cauldrons.

Capnerhurst falls into the latter camp.

Hanging up witch decorations at Halloween is no better than wearing blackface costumes or taking a slur, like “Redskins,” as the name of your football team, she says.

“Unless one actually is a witch, dressing up as stereotypical witches is bigotry,” Capnerhurst said.

In June, the wife and mother of two started her own church for “traditional” witches called Disir, an old Norse word meaning “matron deities,” she says.

(Capnerhurst draws a distinction between “traditional” witches, like her, who were born into the religion, and Wiccans, most of whom are converts.)

Most Wiccans identify as witches, and they form the largest branch of the burgeoning neo-pagan movement, said Helen A. Berger, a sociologist who specializes in the study of contemporary Paganism and witchcraft at Brandeis University.

A 2008 survey counted about 342,000 Wiccans in the United States and nearly as many who identify simply as “pagans,” a significant increase from the last American Religious Identification Survey, taken in 2001.

Three-quarters of American Wiccans are women, according to Berger.

“It’s harder to train male Wiccans,” Capnerhurst said with a cheery sigh. “Most men just aren’t going to sweep the kitchen and think about sweeping out the bad energy.”

The faith is fiercely individualistic. Although there are umbrella groups like Wisconsin-based Circle Sanctuary, most Wiccans practice their own blends of witchcraft.

After centuries of persecution in Europe and colonial America, modern witches still bear a sharp suspicion of authority. The rede, or ethical statement at the core of Wicca, is: Harm none and do as you will.

Despite the rising popularity of their faith, many Wiccans remain “in the broom closet,” fearful of losing their jobs, their families or their reputations, said Berger and other experts.

Trey Capnerhurst in her traditional witch garb.

Capnerhurst said she was “outed” in 2005 while running as the Green Party’s candidate for local office. A reporter noted the pentacle - a five-pointed star often mistaken as a satanic symbol - hanging around her neck.

“I kind of became the poster girl for paganism,” Capnerhurst said.

But the notoriety came at a cost.

Neighbors have threatened to burn down the house she shares with her family, Capnerhurst says. She’s lost jobs. And people keep asking her whether the “Blair Witch Project,” the 1999 horror movie, is real.

“I’m like, What the frick! No!”

Raising her 12-year-old daughter, Maenwen, as a witch is not easy either, Capnerhurst says, especially around this time of year, when just about every classroom turns into a coven of construction-paper crones and black cats.

In the United States, Circle Sanctuary has founded the Lady Liberty League to advocate for Wiccans' religious freedom and to fight discrimination.

Unlike Capnerhurst, however, some witches see Halloween as a treat, not a trick.

“Considering that I usually slap on a pointy hat at this time of year (and I have a black cat too), I’m fine with the image of the Halloween witch,” wrote Jen McConnel, a poet, novelist and Wiccan from North Carolina, in an e-mail.

“Even though the word ‘witch ‘ is loaded, I have embraced it,” McConnel said, “but it is only one of many hats I wear (pun intended).”

McConnel says she enjoys the yearly confluence of Halloween with Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival that marks the end of the harvest and winter’s coming darkness.

It’s a time when the veil between the living and the dead grows thin, according to Wiccan theology, and spirits can easily cross the divide.

Many Wiccans hold “dumb suppers,” to which they invite deceased ancestors, making sure to prepare their favorite foods, said Jeanet Lewis, a witch who lives in Northern Virginia.

“It’s a meditative, silent meal,” Lewis said.

Other witches light memorial candles and cast spells for the new year.

What do witches wish for? The same things as everyone else, apparently.

“Health, wealth and love,” Capnerhurst said with a laugh. “Every single spell falls into one of those three categories.”

Even though she dislikes Halloween, Capnerhurst has found a way to blend it with her own sacred days, Samhain.

According to some historians, at this time of year, as the days grow darker, ancient Celts would don costumes as stand-ins for deceased spirits, going door-to-door and performing tricks in exchange for treats.

Capnerhurst prefers to see the children who come to her door on October 31 as a re-enactment of that ritual.

“I’m doing my ritual and they get candy,” she said. “Everybody wins!”

And even though she bristles at the thought that some neighbors might abhor her religion, Capnerhurst tries to take it all in good cheer.

As October 31 approaches each year, she places a sign on her lawn that reads, "This House Practices Safe Hex."

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Discrimination • Halloween • Holidays • Neopaganism • Paganism • Persecution • Prejudice

soundoff (2,335 Responses)
  1. BLack PERL by Larry Wall

    BEFOREHAND: close door, each window & exit; wait until time.
    open spellbook, study, read (scan, select, tell us);
    write it, print the hex while each watches,
    reverse its length, write again;
    kill spiders, pop them, chop, split, kill them.
    unlink arms, shift, wait & listen (listening, wait),
    sort the flock (then, warn the "goats" & kill the "sheep");
    kill them, dump qualms, shift moralities,
    values aside, each one;
    die sheep! die to reverse the system
    you accept (reject, respect);
    next step,
    kill the next sacrifice, each sacrifice,
    wait, redo ritual until "all the spirits are pleased";
    do it ("as they say").
    do it(*everyone***must***participate***in***forbidden**s*e*x*).
    return last victim; package body;
    exit crypt (time, times & "half a time") & close it,
    select (quickly) & warn your next victim;
    AFTERWARDS: tell nobody.
    wait, wait until time;
    wait until next year, next decade;
    sleep, sleep, die yourself,
    die at last;

    October 31, 2013 at 8:08 pm |
    • J. Sparrow

      Drink up me hearties yo ho

      October 31, 2013 at 8:21 pm |
  2. original darren

    Samantha Stevens in a heartbeat.

    October 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
    • lilyq

      Believe it or not, my best friends name is Samantha Stevens and her niece is named Tabitha. No kidding!

      October 31, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
  3. Lionly Lamb

    Real eyes realize real lies...

    If but one atom has the general equivalency in basic materialized matter as is found within our celestial universe; Life being lived upon this atomic universe would be much superior then us celestially terrestrial humanoids...

    October 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Three doors down

      A thousand lies have made me colder
      And I don't think I can look at this the same

      Song lyric

      October 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb


        October 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
        • Three doors down

          Thank you LL, that's the one

          October 31, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
        • Lionly Lamb

          Maybe you might like this one,,,,


          October 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
        • Three doors down

          Good song LL. Excellent choice.

          November 2, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  4. Rehpot

    I would rather have Wiccans around than Christians. Waaaaay too many Christ followers these days getting vocal with their imaginary friends and eternal torture pits!

    October 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • HsuB Elppa

      Not many people desire to live next to atheists.

      October 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm |
      • original darren

        only people who can read

        October 31, 2013 at 8:07 pm |
      • Punkin pie

        What are you talking about? Atheists would be perfect neighbors, they are all on the internet arguing with people, you'd never see them.

        October 31, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
        • original darren


          October 31, 2013 at 8:17 pm |
      • Roger

        Not many people say that you are wrong. Read that carefully.

        October 31, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • lilyq

      Oh, bless your heart.

      October 31, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Colin

      Would you rather live in:

      a) a predominately Christian nation like the United States of America
      b) a predominately atheist nation like North Korea
      c) a predominately Muslim nation like Iran
      d) a predominately wiccan nation like that guy's apartment where they play Dungeon and Dragons every Saturday night

      October 31, 2013 at 8:22 pm |
      • Pastapharian

        Ridiculous attempt to reduce the overall living conditions in each of those countries down to the predominant religion. Make no mistake about it, there are plenty of "good Christians" who would do just fine in any of those other countries. Tool.

        October 31, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
      • Colin

        I'm thinking a predominantly atheist nation like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finaland, the Netherlands or Sitzerland would be fine.

        October 31, 2013 at 11:06 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      What difference does it make what your neighbors' beliefs or non-beliefs are? I live surrounded by people of various faiths (or non-belief), and we all get along fine! Makes for a more interesting life to interact with those who may be "different" from you. Why do we all have to be the same?

      October 31, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
      • Lionly Lamb

        Sired bored asks, "Why do we all have to be the same?"

        What is it that makes us so different..?

        October 31, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  5. Jack Chambers

    Just as laughable as any other "religion". Just another excuse for adults to act as children. It doesn't get much more ridiculous than this. The only thing worse are the other religious people that are afraid of "witches", like christians. lol Idiots, every one of them.

    October 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • boredofceleb

      @Jack Chambers: And what category do YOU fall in? "Laughable INTOLERANT idiot"? According to your logic, anyone who has a belief is a laughable idiot. So we all must have a complete lack of any faith and be in agreement with YOU in order to be a "non-idiot"?

      October 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm |
  6. Marla

    I use to be Catholic, then turned atheist, then witch and now back to Catholic. I've seen too many scary things to believe in anything other than Christ.

    October 31, 2013 at 7:43 pm |
    • Youtube - Neil DeGrasse Tyson - The Perimeter of Ignorance

      Such as what?

      October 31, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
    • Truth Talks

      The Vatican are followers of the Mystery Babylon which is done in secret. Followers of Mystery Babylon pretend to be followers of other religions or even nonbelievers. I'm not trying to offend but maybe you should research Mystery Babylon so you understand why they are always getting in trouble for touching little boys.

      October 31, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
    • diana horton

      Marla, like you I am catholic. I really don't know what I was looking for in my religion that I could not find. however I became a pagan and worshiped the goddess. however, after awhile it just didn't feel right, so like you I went back to my catholic religion. I guess, were all just seekers. trying, to find our way to our creator. peace

      October 31, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      Amen, only Jesus gives real peace.

      October 31, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
      • Pastapharian

        Lol, yeah, right.

        October 31, 2013 at 8:37 pm |
      • Madtown

        Too bad for your human equals with no knowledge of him. But, you know, so you don't care I suppose.

        October 31, 2013 at 9:40 pm |
  7. Charlie Mike

    I just clicked on this to say "Lol Wicca". That is all. Carry on

    October 31, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  8. Apple Bush

    @outside man

    That is the dumbest post I have read today. Take you your post, replace "atheist" with "Christian" and now we have something.

    October 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Posted in wrong place....again. Sorry.

      October 31, 2013 at 7:18 pm |
  9. Lionly Lamb


    October 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
    • original darren

      hmmm. harry potter / hagrid lovechild perhaps?

      October 31, 2013 at 8:09 pm |
  10. Long black dress

    I understand the "stereotype" thing. I have a long black dress I wear to work sometimes. I happened to put it on today. I didn't pull back my hair either until later and two people asked me if I was dressed up for Halloween. (eye roll)

    I said "Yes I came dressed as a Stevie Nicks fan"

    I also have a black cat too. It just worked out that way.

    For the record I'm agnostic and so far as I know the cat doesn't have a religion either.

    October 31, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
    • Akira

      Stevie Nicks? Well done.

      October 31, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • sam


      October 31, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      You should have a black rabbit!

      Learn more at: http://www.wikipoops.com

      October 31, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  11. mrspk3

    Excuse me? 'REAL' witch????? Hahahahahaha!

    October 31, 2013 at 6:44 pm |
  12. Liz

    As there's no such thing as an actual witch, only people who think they are witches, it is not bigotry to dress up as anyone's idea of what a witch is - for Halloween. This is hilarious. There's no such thing as witches - only people who play at make-belief that they are witches.

    October 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
    • Confusion

      You are confusing "witch" the religion with "witch" the green woman from the Wizard of Oz. I know it's confusing though the word is exactly the same. We don't have the word "priest" mean "elf" but if we did it would be more of the same.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • Liz

        People who think they can make magical potions to control the outcome of events, and 'commune' with the dead. Ummm. Yeah. It's make belief.

        October 31, 2013 at 6:55 pm |
        • logical

          Is it any weirder than people who think a man rose from the dead to heal their "sins"?

          October 31, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
        • Liz

          Nope. Equally just as fake.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
        • Chris

          Just shows how little you know about today's witch's. At least those that are witch's put some effort into understand other religions out there.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Liz

          ALL religion is made up. There's not much to understand. It's all make-belief.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:37 pm |
        • Grist

          Just like all the other religious beliefs.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm |
        • diana horton

          Liz, it all started way back in the day. these women ,who were thought to be witch's were nothing more than women who had knowledge of different plants and herbs that they knew could help someone who was sick. and some really did work. however, there came a time when religion came in and thought it was the workings of the devil. every religion has a past it should be ashamed of. anyway, I am sure you know the rest of the story and how it turned out. peace

          October 31, 2013 at 8:52 pm |
        • Tales from the Crypt

          ALL of religion came in and did that? Or was it people?

          October 31, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
      • Sleezus

        Actually you're the one confused.. you think you're practicing some sort of ancient religion when you're really just following some garbage gardner made up in the 60s.

        October 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm |
        • Confusion

          Conclusion jumping much Sleezus? If I was a wiccan would I be here tonight bored and responding to your troll post?

          October 31, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
    • JR

      As there is no such thing as Christians, their bigotry against Wiccans and Paganism is to be completely ignored. Not. Go educate yourself.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
      • Liz

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but Christianity is a lie, too. lol More make-belief.

        October 31, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
        • JR

          Not bursting my bubble; I truly couldn't care less what you think. You just sound extremely uneducated. Lol.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:06 pm |
        • Liz

          More educated than some moron dressing up pretty robes, and pretending to cast spells.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
        • Confusion

          Why does it bother you Liz? Just curious.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:54 pm |
        • Liz

          I am simply a person commenting my mind in an article, just like anyone else. It doesn't have to bother me to have a view on the issue. *shrug* It's just nonsense. I also know the Tooth Fairy and Santa are nonsense too, and it doesn't seem to bother me one bit - and it neither does you. 🙂

          October 31, 2013 at 8:16 pm |
  13. Cnn will probably delete this


    October 31, 2013 at 6:24 pm |
    • Cnn will probably delete this

      It didn't load anyway. Never mind.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:25 pm |
  14. Robert

    Reblogged this on DeafGuy Blog and commented:
    Witches are real. Not that green skin witch you see in the movies! In Pagan world, witches are real and they're healers!

    October 31, 2013 at 6:16 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      So you like lying? Witches are not real and they're no more healers than the christian's imaginary friend is. People who practice Wicca/Paganism are usually earthy people who when they take from the earth they give back.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • Robert

        The sad truth is... We ARE nature worship. We worship Mother Earth. NOT a Saturn or devil or whatever you Christians call. We don't believe in saturn or devil. We believe in Goddess as Mother Nature! You, the ignorant Christian should keep your belief to yourself!

        October 31, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
        • truthprevails1

          Funny, you don't seem to know what you're speaking of and I'm sorry to burst your tiny bubble, I'm not christian...good try but you're wrong!

          October 31, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
        • Me

          You don't believe in saturn? How about Mars or Jupiter?

          October 31, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
        • Robert

          Saturn as in DEVIL!

          October 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
        • Confusion

          All of you just missed a "Uranus" joke.

          October 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Alias

      Next time i have an erection lasting more than 4 hours i know who to call for medical attention.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
      • truthprevails1

        Oh well maybe they can provide that type of 'magical' healing ;-).

        October 31, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
      • CAA

        My wife doesn't call that a problem, she calls it a PARTY

        October 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm |
  15. AtheistofAmerica

    No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep denying God. By visiting religion.blog.cnn you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained atheist anytime 24/7.

    October 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  16. Reality # 2

    Mocking Wicca and related "arts" ?

    Spells, curses, covens, black magic, witches, voodooing dolls, hoodooing the results, shadow books, maypoles,
    god(s) and goddess(es), Gerald Gardner et al??



    http://www.wiccantradition.org.uk/spellhex.html (curses etc.)


    October 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
  17. Answer

    The following is a summary of "why" we, humans, CAN understand and "why" we WILL attach labels and identifiers onto your religious freaks' assertion of a god.

    Humans can understand the logical construct of an infinity, although we may never be fully able to count it.
    Humans can understand the logical application of 'zero'. So too we understand the concept of "nothing", but can never achieve nothingness.

    Within the above spectrum is where your 'god' plainly resides.

    You ~being human~ want to attribute your life to a purpose because you want to understand the universe. To understand the universe you need a marker. You start with your own birth. Your own image and perception, but education is the tempering key which will enable you to understand yourself.

    Once you understand yourself – you can make your own god. That is reality.

    You want to believe you're better than others – you simply have to make yourself think you are. But evidence betrays you.
    When your god is a claim – you want it to support your assertions. You want your god because you don't want reality.

    You want your god to be kind – because you value kindness. You want "it" to "love" because it is a desirable emotion.
    All your wants are a human process because you are an animal generated in the time frame of a steady progression of evolution.

    You want an image of your "god" because you are a human being, which by the progress of evolution, has always wanted a marker or a trait that ~you~ can understand. So you carefully attach a label of height, depth, age, temperment, and a fatherly persona because you need it. To be able to give yourself a "firmament" in which to stabilize your delusion.

    You religious freaks are easy to understand because we human are all alike, with one exception, we are individuals with needs and wants.

    October 31, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • therealrealFYI

      Yea, they are the freaks. And you are the normal one. Keep telling yourself that.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • Wow!

      You (as an individual) sure do love to insist what other people believe. Too bad you are wrong about your sweeping generalization and stereotypes.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:52 pm |
  18. Doris

    Filmed at the Royal Geographical Society on 22nd May 2013.

    Daniel Dennett is one of the world's most original and provocative thinkers. Dr. Dennett is a philosopher and cognitive scientist at Tufts University.

    On May 22nd he came to Intelligence Squared to share the insights he has acquired over his 40-year career into the nature of how we think, decide and act. Dennett revealed his favourite thinking tools, or 'intuition pumps', that he and others have developed for addressing life's most fundamental questions. As well as taking a fresh look at familiar moves - Occam's Razor, reductio ad absurdum - he discussed new cognitive solutions designed for the most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, consciousness and free will.

    By acquiring these tools and learning to use them wisely, we can all aspire to better understand the world around us and our place in it.


    October 31, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
    • sam


      October 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm |
    • Reality # 2

      And this is related to the topic somehow?

      October 31, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
      • Doris

        True. I guess by extension that someone asked about the God of the Gaps; although apparently they were just trolling. I think this talk also addresses that issue as well.

        October 31, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  19. ME II

    I wouldn't take all animosity on an anonymous blog as a portrayal of all Atheists. Many may not even be Atheists, just trolls.

    October 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
    • Outside Man

      Reasonable point well-taken.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  20. Outside Man

    Is that all you've got? When all else fails, sling mud? Is that how you win debates? Whoever slings the most mud wins? I thought rational people were supposed to know better than that.

    October 31, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • ME II

      Who are you talking to?

      October 31, 2013 at 5:58 pm |
    • sam

      Speaking of rational...

      October 31, 2013 at 5:59 pm |
    • Doris

      After scanning the previous page, I would say all your questions, even if pre-loaded with ridiculous claims, were addressed. I would suggest a different approach if you are truly seeking a conversation.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
    • ?

      Is that all you've got, when you have nothing, thanks for playing and losing.

      October 31, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • Maddy

      You have said nothing of substance. Why would one attempt to debate a non-substantive issue?

      October 31, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.