On/File: Continuing Record of Groups, Movements, People, and Events Impacting Contemporary Religion

The COVID-19 lockdown has pushed the pagan festival, Witchfest USA in New York City, to a new level of technological sophistication and expertise. Witchfest USA is hosted annually by the NYC Wiccan Family Temple, founded by Reverend Starr RavenHawk, and began in 2012 as a fundraising event for the temple to purchase its building. Modeled along the lines of the Witchfest in the UK, the American festival was scheduled to take place in early July. However, the pandemic crisis in New York forced the city to either cancel or postpone public events. The festival attracts people from wider communities and the event was growing as more leading community leaders from various pagan traditions shared their expertise in the street under tents for free, with vendors and performers adding color to the festivities.

This year’s Witchfest USA offered participants 69 workshops by 36 presenters from all corners of the U.S. and the world, such as Selena Fox and Phyllis Curott, along with performers sharing their talents, vendors selling their merchandise, and events such as a kids’ corner, a DJ dance party, and ceremony– all done through live-streaming via Zoom. The workshops and other events created a more intimate environment, where there were opportunities to have short conversations between the presenters and the approximately 325 attendees. A Witch Pride Parade started in 2017 with the aim of increasing the public understanding and acceptance of the community also went online. Acclaimed community leaders such as Rev. Laurie Cabot HPs, the Official Witch of Salem MA, posted the messages to the parade, accompanied by almost an hour long parade of messages by more than 60 leaders, later posted on YouTube. Next year, the Witchfest USA is aiming to offer a combination of both online and physical events with the opportunity for the community to come together and with a hope that more of the public will have the chance to join the event. As a contribution to the society, the Witchfest USA has been raising money for charitable organizations, all given in the name of #WitchesGivingBack. – By Ayako Sairenji, a Tokyo-based researcher and writer.