Massage therapist Star Kenney of Overland Park is a witch. ?She practices the pagan religion of Wicca or witchcraft. This conversation took place at the Black Dog Café in Lenexa.
This is a conservative part of the country. Are you comfortable identifying yourself as a witch in work and social settings?
Sometimes I refer to myself as a pagan. That is a less loaded word than witch.
Pagan goes over better than witch?
Yes. Lots of non-Christian religions fit under the umbrella of paganism - Buddhism is one. Saying "I am a witch" is very scary to a lot of people.
People either assume that you do the kind of spells that take away someone else's power or that there's some sort of blood ritual or sacrifice, that there is something scary and dark about it. Most people who are scared of the word witch have connected it with Satanism.
Do witches worship Satan?
No. We can't worship Satan because Satan does not exist as a deity in Wicca. Satan exists in Christianity, as an anti-deity.
How do you explain what being a witch means?
I tell people I practice an Earth-centric, goddess-based spirituality.
Witchcraft is associated with magic. Do you believe in black magic?
Black magic is anything people practice with a negative intent, so, yes, I believe in it because there are always negative people on the planet. It isn't something anyone I have ever known in witchcraft to practice.
Have you ever been tempted to cast an evil spell?
Tempted? Well, on my ex-husband maybe (laughs). No. One of our cornerstones is, you will not create anything in anger, because you are not clear in thought, and to have power you must be clear in thought.
Another thing that bothers people about Wicca is the nudity at some ceremonies.
OK. But nudity is just difficult for people here. It isn't about witches or Wicca. It's about the fact that we live in a Puritanical society; that is still very much our tradition as a country. I just got back from Europe, and a lot of people there go to the beach nude, and it isn't any kind of a pagan gathering.
What is the importance of nudity in some Wiccan rituals and celebrations?
Historically people believed that removing the clothing, which was such an indicator of status in society, allowed everybody to be on an equal plane. We call nudity skyclad. It means clad in the sky.
Pagan religions are often associated with sexual freedom. Is that part of the Wiccan tradition?
Sexual expression is an important and inherent part of being human. To be able to freely express your sexuality is very important in pagan and Wiccan tradition. But there are strong guidelines. "And it harm none, do what ye will" is our law. The "And it harm none" part is paramount.
Is there marriage in the Wicca tradition?
Very much so.
Is the notion of what marriage is different in Wicca?
The trappings are the same: community property and legal rights for spouses and so on.
Do Wiccans believe married people should be monogamous?
Mmmmm. I don't know, do Christians believe that? Do they practice that? How many Christians do you know that have had affairs? I think what you believe comes from what you do as much as what you say.
Is a Wiccan marriage understood from the outset to be an open marriage?
No. It is not understood to be open. It is not understood to be closed. It is understood that that is a private issue between the two people in the marriage.
Wicca has been recognized as a religion in court cases, but it doesn't have formal houses of worship. Are you in a coven?
Not at this time.
Are there covens in Kansas City?
Do Wiccans have dedicated days of worship like other religions?
Some meet at a certain time that is convenient for the group. Others get together whenever the mood strikes. Some Wiccans practice solitarily or not at all.
What about holidays?
There are high holy days within the pagan calendar that Wiccans follow: the quarters and the cross-quarters of the year. The quarters are the solstices and the equinoxes.
Halloween is a big holiday for witches. Why?
In the Celtic tradition, the day that corresponds to Nov. 1 on the modern calendar was considered a day when the veil between the living and the dead was very thin. So thin that the dead could slip back through and possibly inhabit the bodies of the living.
The living dressed up in ghoulish costumes to keep the dead away. Later, when Christianity moved into the Celtic lands, Nov. 1 was declared All Saints Day and the night before All Hallows Eve.
How do you celebrate at your house?
Sometimes we prepare all dark food - dark meat, dark gravy, dark green steamed vegetables - and we try to prepare the foods in silence that is focused and asking for blessings. It's a time to honor and revere people who came before. We set a place with food and drink at the table for any dead guest that wishes to show up. We eat in silence.
Then we set the food and drink outside under a tree in the front yard as a tribute to the goddess and the spirits. (Pause.) And, yes, we know if we wanted to stay up all night we could watch the raccoons eat all the food.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Cindy Hoedel