New books! Rituals & Sabbats, Candle Magic

Lady Passion and *Diuvei’s two new Witchcraft books debut our much-anticipated series of in-depth follow-ups to our popular The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems. Both Rituals & Sabbats and Candle Magic are now available at bookstores and For a limited time, buy or order author-signed copies at Malaprops Bookstore.

Rituals & Sabbats: Sacred Rites and Seasonal Celebrations is rich in true stories of our rites that deeply affected us, basic ritual instructions and scripts for Solitaries and Covens, and traditional dates, meanings, and feast foods for every Sabbat and Esbat along with deities and customs from cultures worldwide.

From reverent rites to raucous revelries, Rituals & Sabbats is beautifully illustrated and reveals Witch secrets of traditional altars, tools, and spells to infuse your life with power from the cradle to the grave, and how to make magical memories during every season. We give clear explanations of the dates and meanings of the Sabbats — and uncover the true history of the Wheel of the Year as reflected through Wiccan, Celtic, Norse, Roman, Chinese, and other Pagan traditions.

Written by Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman), High Priestess, and *Diuvei (Steve Rasmussen), High Priest, Coven Oldenwilde of Asheville, North Carolina. Published by Sterling Ethos, ISBN 978-1454926771.

Buy Rituals & Sabbats now at

Candle Magic: Working with Wax, Wick, & Flame is rife with ash, fire, heat, light, smoke, and solar Pagan customs, deities, entities, rites, spells, and traditions from cultures worldwide.

From fiery beasts and spirits to fortunetelling with wax, Candle Magic reveals Witch secrets of how to master the volatile Fire Element and work wicked powerful wonders to energize, heal, and inspire yourself and others.

Evocatively illustrated, and written by Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman), High Priestess, Coven Oldenwilde of Asheville, North Carolina. Published by Sterling Ethos, ISBN 978-1454927082.

Buy Candle Magic now at

Both books are beautifully printed, affordable, sturdy hardcovers — and just the right size for slipping into a backpack, reading from in circle … or hiding behind a boring textbook in a class, library, or bible study <|;-)

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Feeling Outraged About U.S. Politics?

Young woman in blue sunglasses and patriotic ski cap shows fist with V Heart T E drawn on knuckles

The people’s will during election seasons can be thwarted by myriad means, such as: gerrymandering by state legislators (re-drawing voting districts to accord incumbents advantage); flooding races with special-interest funds; perpetuating false “facts”, “news”, and debunked lies about their opponent; illegally rendering millions of voters invalid; using false claims about voter fraud to impose arbitrary ID requirements on voters that serve to reduce the numbers of poor, minority, and student voters; and nullifying the popular vote in favor of an antiquated, specious, and imbalanced electoral college.

Lady Passion and *Diuvei strongly encourage Pagans and Witches to serve as an antithesis and antidote to voter corruption. One way to do so is to man the polls, as we’ve done for many years.

Participating directly in the political process has taught us a great deal about its oft-paradoxical reality. For example, even though our state of North Carolina currently has one of the most corrupt legislatures in the nation (thanks to gerrymandering), the measures and polling practices that our state law imposes to ensure that no voter is improperly influenced and each vote is fairly counted are so stringent that they assume an aspect of ritual purity.

We work scrupulously to enable voters of all (and no) parties to perform the central rite of democracy: voting. At the same time, our teamwork, service to our community, and the opportunity to meet and interact positively with so many of our neighbors make every Election Day an emotionally as well as financially rewarding experience for us.

Here are some ways in which we encourage everyone to participate in the politics which affect us all:

  • Be a pollworker.

    Prevent voter intimidation and fraud and get paid $85 to $200 each election (depending on your state) by working as a pollworker in your local precinct. Becoming one isn’t hard: Most states require only that you be a registered voter affiliated with a political party, and most also allow students to work the polls in some capacity.

    To see what qualifications you need to be a poll worker, look up your state in the national Compendium of State Poll Worker Requirements.

    Then, contact the official or agency listed for your state in the table in the first part of the Compendium under “Nomination Process To Become a Poll Worker”. You should be able to find their contact info easily through Google.

    Find out how to apply. Usually, you’ll be accepted and attend a paid training session before the next election.

  • Register to vote.

    Re-register if you move, and contact your local Voter Registration Board before every election, to ensure that your data on record are accurate and you know where to go to cast your vote.

    If you’re disabled, overseas, or an expatriate living abroad, request that they mail you an absentee ballot.

  • Vote in every election.

    Voting is your duty as a citizen. Be it local, state, or national, any election’s outcome can hinge on a tiny handful of votes — including yours.

  • Vote your Pagan values.

    Support candidates with party platforms or agendas, speeches, or tweets, etc., that eschew antiquated notions of “jobs”, “economy”, and “wealth” (all increasingly automated and overly concentrated) in favor of acknowledging and ameliorating climate change, fostering inclusive equality, and being sincerely diplomatic and promoting world peace and religious freedom.

    Don’t be fooled by some politicians’ Orwellian code words. For example, “reducing excessive regulations” actually means allowing corporations to pollute the environment, harm their workers, and deceive consumers with impunity.

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Beltane Rite with a College Class

Group photo

Eight students and their professor visited us from Wofford College, SC.

Queen Lady Passion and *Diuvei often host groups of college and university students who want to experience traditional Witchcraft. In this capacity Coven Oldenwilde hosted a circle for eight students from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and their professor Daniel Mathewson, PhD, after sunset in the Covenstead ritual room on Wednesday, April 27th, 2016.

Sarah boldly leaps the balefire.

The Beltane Sabbat ritual involved an hour of meet ‘n’ greet Q & A upstairs; casting downstairs; leaping a Strega blue cauldron fire while wish-making and for healthy stamina throughout the upcoming season; tossing lots — groups of three buckeyes or black walnut shell halves — to divine the future of each participant; the High Priestess gifting each a similar div kit of dried, marked fava beans and explanatory scroll (in our “The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems”); and follow-up Q & A back upstairs again prior to their departure.

Several students sit around a blazing cauldron; Lady Passion gestures in foregrond.

Lady Passion answers a question in circle.

As always, we found the visiting students intelligent, curious, respectful, and brave, and felt honored that Daniel had brought around a second crew of his charges to work real, ancient magic with us to usher in spring and summer.

Enjoy seeing what it was like, in these pix and video shot during the event!

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Anti-HB2 Spell

HB2 crossed out

Wiccans and Pagans are among the targets of North Carolina Republican legislators’ bigoted House Bill 2. The law doesn’t just force everyone to use the restroom that matches the sex listed on their birth certificate — this sweeping attack on civil liberties also strips NC workers of the right to sue in state court an employer who discriminates against them based on their religion, race, or sex, and bans cities and counties from passing anti-discrimination policies.

We know what a gut-punch this is to workers in our state because we’ve aided innumerable employees illegally fired for such things as wearing a pentagram in an office full of cross-wearing coworkers.

We cast a spell to get all of this despicable law declared unconstitutional and void, and invite everyone to cast it, too, or take inspiration from it to cast a similar one. The talisman we designed for this purpose is a double-sided, folding paper “lamen” seal such as we illustrate in The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems.

To make the “Repeal All HB2” talisman:

Folded lamen, top disc with state seal on outside held open to show bottom disc with blue restroom sign on inside

Fold the cut-out lamen on its hinge

Seal on top of lamen

Completed lamen, outside top

The PDF we’ve created will enable you to print this double-sided lamen on a both sides of a single sheet of paper. After opening the “Print” prompt, use “Page Setup”, “Properties”, or whatever your printer requires to instruct it to print on both sides of the paper. (If it offers options, set it to “flip on long edge.”) When printed, the two sides of the lamen will be aligned with each other when you hold the paper up to the light. (If they’re not, you may need to straighten up the paper stack in your printer and try again.) Cut out the unfolded lamen along the outer black line, being careful to keep the two halves connected by the middle strip, which acts as a hinge.

If your printer can only print single-sided sheets, just print both pages, cut out both sides of the lamen, and attach them back-to-back using paper glue or double-sided tape. Make sure to keep them both oriented right-side-up.

You can print just one talisman, or as many as you wish to make and use or share.

Now, fold the lamen along the middle of the connecting strip like a cosmetic compact or pocket-watch, so that one disc lies atop the other, with the State Seal on the outside top.

The four seals mean:

North Carolina state seal

North Carolina’s state seal (outside top of folded lamen): As we explain in The Goodly Spellbook, official seals derive from magical seals whose design follow conventions as ancient as Egyptian hieroglyphic cartouches. Their spell intention is usually to depict and enshrine the official entity’s guiding ideals and responsibilities.

North Carolina’s state seal is a portrait of two Goddesses facing toward each other. Liberty stands at left, holding a scroll with the word “Constitution” on it in Her right hand; and in Her left, a staff topped by the liberty cap worn by freed slaves in ancient Rome. Plenty is seated at right, holding a sheaf of three wheat stalks in Her right hand; and in Her left, a cornucopia or “horn of plenty” spilling forth abundant produce. Behind Liberty, Western North Carolina’s mountains rise to shelter freethinkers, while behind Plenty, Eastern North Carolina’s coast beckons a clipper ship to port. Liberty and Plenty are sisters, and what harms one threatens the other.

Line drawing of square transected by diagonal lines, a small circle in each of the four divisions thus created

The planetary seal of Mercury (inside top of folded lamen): In astrology, Mercury is the mutable “hermaphroditic” planet that transcends binary gender classifications. In Greek mythology, the God Mercury/Hermes was not the first messenger of the Gods; The Goddess Iris preceded Him in this role, communicating between the Gods and humanity at opposite ends of a rainbow bridge. The seal’s vibrant colors allude to Iris, and its overt message is one of inclusive diversity.

Black symbol combining Mars, Venus, and both, in a white upright triangle within a blue circle

An all-genders restroom sign (inside bottom of folded lamen): The universal sign for “Restroom”, a white triangle on blue, featuring a popular unisex symbol that unites the arrow of Mars (= male), the mirror of Venus (= female), and both combined (= transgender, bisexual).

A string of Theban letters spirals deosil outward from the center of the disc

A spiral prayer inscription (outside bottom of folded lamen): “Libertas and Copia, repeal all HB2” is written twice in the Theban magical alphabet, spiraling deosil outward from the center of the disc to the hinge. Spiral-path spells are some of the oldest used by ancient Greeks, Romans, and Persians.

How to cast the spell to repeal all HB2

Consecrate the talisman prior to spell use by fumigating it in incense smoke. (A potent traditional way to do this is to burn on a charcoal an incense ruled by Mercury: rinds such as cinnamon bark, or sweet seeds such as fennel or caraway seeds.) If you’ve made multiple talismans, consecrate them all together.

Use the “Repeal All HB2” talisman as a ritual focus atop a paten on your altar; dance a Cone of Power around it; slip it behind a restroom sign; place it over our state capitol city Raleigh on a U.S. map; secrete it under a courthouse statue of Justicia, the Goddess of Justice; or use it in whatever magical way you wish. It calls on the two Goddesses on our state seal, Libertas (liberty) and Copia (copious plenty), to REPEAL ALL of HB2.

NC state seal depicted as coat of arms

1876 depiction of NC State Seal as a coat of arms

Mentally empower the spell with such thought-forms as: HB2 is unconstitutional, and the lawmakers who devised it are guilty of mocking the Constitution the Goddess of freedom holds on the very seal they used to legitimize their oppression of citizens. They have no right to invade our bathrooms with their bigotry. Their action merits righteous indignation and divine wrath: Plenty is already reacting to their attack on equality and legal redress by withholding Her bounty in the form of the intensifying national economic boycott of our state. Legislators must repeal HB2 entire, and cease abusing their office by arrogating power and fomenting divisiveness — else be ejected from it in disgrace.

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Open letter to Lady Passion

Dear Queen Lady Passion, Lady Passion wearing Witch hat and mask (Samhain 2011)For 20 years of outdoor public Samhains, I was privileged to witness up close your always-astonishing versatility and skill reach new heights every October. I want to offer you in this open letter my thanks, praise, and love for the many Witchy hats you wore as you perpetuated and brought new life to the ancient tradition of public Samhain ritual &emdash; artist, priestess, ritualist, healer, prophetess, hostess. Artist: Every one of these rituals was a work of participatory performance art. You designed each theme, and spent countless hours using your training and experience in drama and the visual arts to craft costumes and altars and hand-decorate ritual props; and you did so without skipping a beat even as your eyesight was fading. But Samhain was never a one-woman show: You always encouraged every volunteer to contribute their own creativity to the whole, and along the way many discovered talents they hadn’t even realized they possessed. When the rites called for recorded music, you assembled such Witchy soundtracks that our Samhain playlists would make us a fortune if it were legal to sell them! Priestess: Each year’s ritual theme was inspired by the Gods – literally. Sometimes They’d let you know what They wanted for the next Samhain before the current one was even past; other times you and I would wait with increasing nervousness through the spring and into the summer, till late one night when the germ of the next theme would present itself before your mind’s eye. Always your (contagious) intent was to create a thing pleasing to the Gods, but we never began with your or my or someone else’s idea – always with Theirs. Ritualist: Even though no two Public Samhain Rites were alike, you always based each of them firmly on tradition. There are so many universal aspects to this time between summer’s life and winter’s death that we were able to explore many cultures’ rites without exploiting any. Yet exhilarating experience taught you why certain Wiccan traditions, such as the Spiral Dance, are the essential thread running through all our Samhain rites, and you always wisely arranged the rest of the rite around them. Healer: We circled on some very dark nights in some very wild places! But thanks to your diligent care, not one of our thousands of attendees in 20 years ever suffered a single injury, and you never had to utilize your skills as an R.N. (although knowing they were there always eased my fears). Indeed, when your physical disability finally worsened to the point that you could no longer see to lead a Spiral Dance, it was your concern for the safety of others rather than your own that made you decide it was time to conclude our outdoor public Samhain rites after we completed a full score. Prophetess: Your Samhain divinations each year have become legendary. After the last ritual dance, long lines of people seeking readings always promptly formed up to the picnic table or ground-cloth you cast your cards or bones or shells upon; and querents would often relate how accurate a previous Samhain divination had been for them. For many years – until we Witches overturned it – you did these public divinations in courageous defiance of our state’s anti-divination law, even when an officious little government attorney tried to threaten you with arrest. (That memory still makes me laugh!) Hostess: Far from collapsing with exhaustion after returning to the Covenstead from another successful Samhain rite, you graciously and animatedly hosted an Afterparty celebration to reward all those who had volunteered. They were always brimming with questions about the Craft, which you would answer not just patiently but often very creatively, with magical games and exercises. Thankfully, this is an ongoing tradition, since our Samhain rites continue in more intimate form. *Diuvei in rain with tiki torch (Samhain 2009)For we have been the worlds between, And magic’s mysteries we have seen … – *Diuvei, High Priest, Coven Oldenwilde
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CNN show films Asheville Witches

CNN’s new series United Shades of America filmed host Kamau Bell with Coven Oldenwilde leaping cauldron fire, joining Mill Dance and Cakes & Wine, interviewing Lady Passion & *Diuvei.

See news article about CNN filming in Asheville:

Lady Passion welcomes series host Kamau Bell into the Covenstead.

Lady Passion welcomes Kamau Bell into the Covenstead.
(All photos by Jeffrey DeCristofaro, jeffreydecristofaro-at-gmail-dot-com.)

To generate new audience interest between its live coverage of crises, the CNN network is launching the TV series United Shades of America, which “follows comedian W. Kamau Bell around the country in a thought-provoking, serious and humorous look at diverse cultures” from Alaskan Inuit to Asheville Witches.

A CNN producer who saw news coverage of our Samhain 2012 pro-marriage-equality Mass Public Handfasting emailed us — and within five days a camera crew from L.A. was in front of the downtown Vance obelisk filming Lady Passion & *Diuvei and other Asheville subculture celebs encountering host Kamau Bell.

Host Kamau Bell talking with Lady Passion.

Host Kamau Bell talking with Lady Passion.

The next night (April Fool’s Day 2015), our Covenstead was wired and lit and served as the set in which a CNN crew, producers, and director filmed us, Witch friends, and Kamau leaping a cauldron fire, and performing a traditional Mill Dance and traditional Cakes & Wine ceremony. The shoot climaxed with an intimate interview between Lady Passion and Kamau Bell in which the High Priestess answers the question of whether people should be afraid of Witches.

One of the portable TV cameras.

One of many impressive pieces of filming equipment used.

All were enthusiastic and respectful, and we’re glad that we took inspiration from the ancient Greek philosopher Ovid’s exhortation, “The Gods favor the bold.”

Cauldron-fire preparation.

Ritual set-up.

Once the segment airs (possibly near Samhain/Halloween, 2015, or early 2016), we’ll post dozens of ghost pix snapped during filming — some 51 in orbs in all — so check back here and be amazed!

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Police videotaping revealed

Actual police video of Samhain 1996 and activist video of police videotaping cannabis activists in Asheville City Council meeting, 1998, released here for the first time.

Smuggled APD video released

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 12/17/2014 Asheville, North Carolina For decades local Wiccan authors Dixie Deerman (Lady Passion) and *Diuvei (Steve Rasmussen) have been police-reform activists encouraging public scrutiny of Asheville Police Department policies — ranging from the arrest of pro-peace marchers and the automatic charging with resisting arrest of victims of cops’ excessive force, to questioning the department’s motive in buying a riot tank. Amid widespread national allegations of police abuse of power, the pair are now releasing online two videos that spotlight the APD’s longstanding practice of filming citizens who are legally participating in permitted special events or engaging in public input at City Council meetings. One of the films is from APD’s own archive, smuggled out of the department by an officer uncomfortable with the practice. Showing a cops’-eye view of Coven Oldenwilde’s 1996 downtown annual Halloween (Samhain) Public Witch Rite, the seven-minute excerpt features the APD video taper refusing to answer a participant demanding to know who he represented, APD or a drug-enforcement agency, as well as other revealing and sometimes unintentionally humorous scenes. (Full 19-minute video available upon request.) The second video, from a fellow activist’s point-of-view, shows a uniformed and an undercover cop filming residents waiting to give public input to Asheville City Council about the proposal to make marijuana the lowest priority of city law enforcement, and the same plainclothes cop filming them actively appealing to Council-members in chambers. The 3-minute clip, shot in Sept. 1998 by a member of Community of Compassion for Cannabis, features the police officers’ evasions or refusal to answer the activists’ questions when challenged about their identities and purpose. “As long ago as 2000, when the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) was considering renewing APD’s accreditation, Lady Passion and I publicly pointed out how their arbitrary and secretive videotaping practices violate basic national standards,” states *Diuvei. “Fourteen years later, APD continues to film people without any transparency or accountability.” “We deem it outrageous,” Lady Passion adds, “that they refuse to reassure the public about their storage methods, who has access to the footage, and if and how the film is ever destroyed. It’s easy to conclude that the APD turns sinister cameras on people who assemble in an attempt to repress their free speech.” The videos can be viewed on Coven Oldenwilde’s YouTube channel,, and website: *** Contact: Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman) or *Diuvei (Steven Rasmussen) at: Phone: (828) 251-0343 Cell: (828) 335-2486
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Q&A with Witch Clergy Lady Passion and *Diuvei

Lady Passion and *Diuvei answer questions asked by Bold Life Magazine writer Tom Kerr in this unabridged interview: I am excited that your book is still going strong after all these years. Did you expect it to be so popular? What was your original motivation for publishing it? Lady Passion: Thank you so much. Its popularity has exceeded our wildest dreams. Even as we wrote the first edition people were claiming that printed books were obsolete, digital books a superior inevitability. But many treasure printed books’ look, scent, and tactile feel, and want to hold one in their hands while working spells. We’ve watched fascinated as the book accrued critical acclaim, was printed in multiple hardcover and paperback editions and Nook e-book format, was internationally distributed by Barnes and Noble, and was translated into Italian in Milan. Now even WalMart’s selling it! We’re proof that living according to your beliefs attracts delightful opportunities. *Diuvei: Sterling Publishing in New York City contacted us to write a spellbook that would be a “perennial seller”. They had heard about the public rites we do and our successful spiritual activism in the Bible Belt. We agreed because too many magic books are phony or shallow, and we knew that we had many true stories to reveal about how spells really work. As experienced Wiccan clergy, we’d long wanted to write the kind of spellbook we wished we’d had access to when we were first drawn to the Mysteries, to what we call “applied spirituality”. People often look to structured rituals and ceremonies to invite certain outcomes into their lives. But can even our daily mundane routines or social habits yield magical results? Lady Passion: Absolutely! Everything that isn’t done intentionally magically can needlessly sabotage your efforts, so stir clockwise to avert food poisoning, clean dishes better by washing them counter-clockwise, and sweep toward yourself to attract good luck. Learning how to work with Nature rather than against it can save your life. For example, an olde Russian spell in our new edition protects travelers in both magical and mundane ways: Right before you leave home, sit silently for up to three minutes near the exit. Although you may feel too rushed to take the time, do it anyway: At the very least, it will prevent you from forgetting things you’ll need, and help avert accidents and setbacks by steeling you against the violent world outside your sanctuary. As experts on practices that date back centuries, can you clarify a question I have? Is all human activity casting spells of some sort or another but mostly in an unconscious or unintentional way? And manifesting outcomes in our lives whether we like it or not or are mindful about it or not? (Versus being more mindful and deliberately intentional with the use of ritual as those who practice authentic Wiccan craft do?) *Diuvei: Magic is based on the “art of correspondences” — learning to recognize and use the patterns of connections that link everything together: stones and stars, plants and people, etc. It’s the mother of religion and of science, and continues to embrace them both even while narrow-minded fundamentalists and skeptics attack magic as vehemently as rebellious children. Ritual ceremonies such as weddings, graduations, and funerals are chock-full of little “superstitions” that are actually spells for fertility, success, or transition to the afterlife. Like anything else, they’re much more effective if you know their true purpose and what you’re doing, and put some intention into them. Omens and portents happen all the time too, but because we’re nowadays supposed to pretend that everything is either meaninglessly random or else a mindless mechanism of our own making, most of us only allow ourselves to recognize them as “foreshadowing” in fictional novels or movies while blithely ignoring them in real life. Do you happen to know the origins of the popular superstitious rituals of crossing fingers or knocking on wood? Lady Passion: Crossing your fingers can avert the Evil Eye that causes ill luck. But since crossing forks or knives while eating creates discord, the finger-crossing superstition smacks of Christians’ influence based on their cross icon. This probably explains why Witches make a “V” sign instead — to lure luck to us like sweet wine filling a cup. *Diuvei: There are more theories about the origin of “touch wood” than you can shake a stick at. What matters is its magical function: It’s a pragmatic disclaimer to ward off the Fates from punishing over-optimistic hubris, like saying “if the Gods will it”. Whatever its historical origin, the practice acknowledges the innate sacredness of trees. Pagans are animists: We know that nature is not inanimate “resources”, but lively and holy. Spirits and deities inhabit trees, mountains, rivers, stars, etc., just as souls inhabit bodies. Wiccan priestesses wear necklaces of amber and jet, gems made of ancient trees, and the “World Tree” or “Tree of Life” is a worldwide symbol of the essential nature of our cosmos. What do you think it will take for Witchcraft to be not longer persecuted and marginalized, but accepted and respected? Is it mostly a religious bias, or just as lack of genuine understanding? *Diuvei: Sometimes persecution of Pagans is based on bigotry; sometimes, willful ignorance. People are caught in the crossfire of a world war between two extreme ideologies — fundamentalist monotheism, which insists its wrathful God is the only truth and anyone who believes otherwise is evil, versus reductionist materialism, which insists that humans are just soulless machines and anyone who thinks otherwise is irrational. Compassionate, wise folk feel dissatisfied with both and are becoming more open to a polytheistic, animist Witchy worldview that accepts the reality and benevolence of diverse Gods and Goddesses without boxing Them into oppositional monotheistic categories of “good” and “evil”. And it recognizes that the universe is an organism that’s far more vast and paradoxical than simplistic cause-and-effect materialism will ever comprehend. Lady Passion: Witchcraft has always provided people a means to get the fair justice they’re often denied by an arbitrary judicial system or wealthy elite. Overlords always try to dismiss, persecute, and demonize groups renowned for being able to best them. But tolerance and appreciation of diversity is growing. The past several decades have seen a flood of real information about us in the marketplace, in the media, and online, enabling many to learn that Pagan religions like Wicca are legal and life-affirming — so much so, that now using “evil Witches” as a serious plot device is perceived as bullying and demeaning, and depicting Witches as strong and dignified is increasingly becoming the norm. Can you share a story about a really strange or humorous request you have received from one of your readers or fans regarding advice on how to cast a particular spell for a particular reason? Lady Passion: Sure! Once a local couple experienced neighbor backlash in opposition to their now-popular business. I encouraged them to make a binding poppet. They later confessed that they’d worried the spell wasn’t working, until they realized that they’d substituted a plastic Barbie doll for the recommended wax doll. Another time, one of hundreds of Pagan/Wiccan inmates I help nationwide each year had been denied altar accoutrements by a bigoted prison chaplain. The prisoner asked me if he could mix the dust of toilet paper rolls, soap, and paper with water to make papier-mach magical tools and God/dess statues. I was touched by his use of everyday materials behind bars, and assured him that that the Gods would appreciate his creativity. *Diuvei: This was not exactly a request, but it was strange and humorous! Anybody who lived in or visited the Asheville area in the summer of 2008 heard about the Witches who were sitting round-the-clock under the magnolia trees in front of City Hall to save them from destruction by a millionaire condo developer: That was us, and the campaign not only succeeded, but fundamentally improved the city’s political landscape. Afterward, the developer, the late Stewart Coleman, showed us a spell someone had given him to curse us during the height of the controversy: It was a wood box that held a bottle of mysterious dark liquid, a scroll to be read aloud, and a black candle. Stewart swore he’d never actually used it, but the candle had clearly been burned. He donated the spell as an exhibit for Joshua P. Warren’s Asheville Mystery Museum, where you can see it to this day. How have the spells in your book evolved over time? For example, some of the ingredients or items used may no longer be readily available to the average person. Even a city-dweller might be challenged trying to acquire something as basic as alfalfa. So do you have tips or insights for ways to improvise or otherwise “make-do” when the original spell calls for an item you don’t have around? Lady Passion: Some spells have rightly passed out of favor. For instance, if an olde recipe for strength calls for killing an eagle, these days you’d obviously use a picture of one instead. Our book devotes a chapter to proving that spell ingredients are everywhere. Many are natural things like you’d find on a spice rack, others are as utilitarian as a spark plug. Magical components can be hand-made; grown from seed or cuttings; harvested, collected, or gifted; bought from markets, health food and arts-and-crafts stores; or home-delivered by ordering them online from an occult supplier. We maximize readers’ options by providing easy spell substitutions and alternative versions of each recipe, and explaining how they can use common sense and correspondences to deduce apt replacements. *Diuvei: Speaking of evolution, we dropped a spell to prevent your telephone from being tapped from the new edition since the NSA’s eavesdropping technology has made its method obsolete. But I’m sure that a knowledgeable computer geek who read and absorbed the section of our book on magical skills could devise a new spell for that if they wanted. What’s the ultimate message of your book? *Diuvei: That magic is everywhere around you and within you, no matter who or where you are. The more you learn to recognize, understand, and use it, the more you can improve your life and others’ lives, and make the world a better place. Lady Passion: We’re born with the right and instinct to live magically. Working magic is a proud tradition granted to us by our ancestors whose wisdom is responsible for our very existence. Anyone can use olde ways to succeed, and imbue their life with beauty, confidence, and pleasure.

* * *

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New Edition of The Goodly Spellbook

A decade after the debut of The Goodly Spellbook, magic is more needful than ever as pollution and technology alienate us from nature, robots render our jobs obsolete, and relentless corruption, inequality, intolerance, and violence make us feel like vulnerable prey.

Spellcraft is the remedy for our hardscrabble lives. Its timeless power helps us oppose oppression and enables us to thrive by giving us health, wealth, peace, strength, and joy.

Did you know:
  • that the yin-yang symbol decorated ancient Roman shields?
  • that the exclamation “Holy Moly!” praises a magical herb?
  • that a Russian spell in a Herzog movie protects travelers?
  • that eating certain seeds can banish an incubus or succubus?
  • that striking a flamingo pose can stop an attacker cold?
Want to learn magic such as:
  • how to get fast cash by growing a green crystal garden?
  • how to influence anyone by plaiting string?
  • how to compel a Goddess to get you child support?
  • how to conjure a personal helper spirit?
  • how to break any addiction or compulsion?
  • how to foretell the future by tossing dried beans?

“The Goodly”, as fans affectionately call it, has enjoyed international acclaim. A Book-of-the-Month Club selection, it has been reprinted multiple times in hardcover and paperback, translated into Italian, and published as a Barnes & Noble Nook eBook.

In an era when printing tangible books has become a rarity, we feel privileged that Sterling considers us “evergreen bestsellers” and encouraged us to add new material to our classic spellbook. We hope that you’ll appreciate our care in revealing relevant, traditionally based spells helpful to your daily life and ongoing spiritual growth.

Sporting a fresh cover, intriguing new illustrations, and an impressive 520+ pages, The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems explains magic’s fascinating history, comprehensive Witch skills, and hundreds of workings to enable your success, health, wealth, peace, strength, and joy.

So thrill to the new inclusions in our 10th anniversary 2nd edition, which includes a bibliography of herbal resources, an expanded index for quick reference, and access to private online courses that can lead to Initiation or even launching a home-based magical counseling practice! thrill to the new inclusions in this 10th-anniversary edition of “The Goodly” as fans affectionately call it, such as more easy, effective spells, fascinating illustrations, a bibliography of herbal resources, and an expanded index for quick reference. Further, it provides access to private online courses that can lead to Initiation or launching a magical counseling practice at home.

The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems

The Goodly Spellbook 1st-edition cover (2005-2014)

The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems eBook for Nook app or devices

The Goodly Spellbook eBook for Nook app or devices

Refer to the book during ritual; pen notes in its margins; color-code or tab its sections; dog-ear important pages; or meet others of like mind by forming a study group using TGS as its curriculum.

Authors Lady Passion and *Diuvei of Coven Oldenwilde in Asheville, NC are fan-friendly and encourage readers to email testimonials about how the book enables them. The High Priestess and High Priest will be doing book-signing events at area venues.

The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells For Modern Problems (2nd Edition) by Lady Passion and *Diuvei (Dixie Deerman and Steve Rasmussen) Publisher: Sterling Publications, Inc., New York, NY Paperback, list price: $14.95 2nd edition ISBN: 978-1-4549-1392-4 Release Date: Sept. 2, 2014

Celebrity Praise of The Goodly Spellbook:

“The Goodly Spellbook is a well-written, beautifully presented collection of old and new magic, utilizing time-tested spells of all kinds. The authors have accumulated a wonderful and useful assemblage with everything needed for magical success. As is stated in the Introduction, ‘This book does more than merely reproduce recipes . . .’ Indeed it does! It gives the background to spellwork; it details such tools as magical writing, music, chant, dance and song; and it even speaks of the importance of ethics in magic and spellcraft. This is a worthwhile book for every Witch, magician, and sorcerer’s apprentice.”

— Raymond Buckland (Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, The Witch Book)

“Offering a wide variety of enchanting spells complete with origins and magical theory, The Goodly Spellbook is an impressive, comprehensive work that is surely destined to become a classic. As an occultist and long-time priestess of the Old Religion, I strongly recommend this fine volume to all magical practitioners and anyone interested in the Witches’ craft.”

— Gerina Dunwich (Wicca Craft, Dunwich’s Guide to Gemstone Sorcery)

“The Goodly Spellbook is a delightful and refreshing blend of sound practical advice coupled with traditional folk magic practices. Every magical library should contain a copy of this book, which preserves ancient tradition while making it pertinent to modern times.”

— Raven Grimassi (Italian Witchcraft, The Wiccan Mysteries)

“The Goodly Spellbook powerfully expresses the beauty, joy and potency of spellcraft. Lady Passion and *Diuvei have lovingly crafted an elegant, eclectic and wide-ranging collection of traditional and modern spells. With information for novice and adept alike, The Goodly Spellbook is a valuable addition to any magical library.”

— Judika Illes (The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Emergency Magic!)

Publisher’s Description of The Goodly Spellbook:

This is not your average mystical tome — but a special spellbook by two practicing Witches.

Here is the thoroughly comprehensive, absolutely definitive guide to spells — the basic handbook for anyone looking to practice some hands-on magic. Delightfully well written and practical, filled with atmospheric illustrations and diagrams throughout, it encompasses all the principles and philosophy of spell casting, and gives recipes for charms to solve common contemporary problems. This offers what most witchcraft and Wicca books don’t: an in-depth understanding of what’s behind the spells and why they work. It’s amazing how much magic is in here: Geomancy, Elemental Scrying, Tree Divination, Mystic Dance and Drumming, Kitchen Witchery, and lots more. From healing, protection, and attraction spells to spells for discernment, repulsion, and concealing, not a topic goes uncovered.

Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman)

has been a public Witch for almost forty years, and a registered nurse for decades. The Lady is an eco-activist, occult author for numerous magazines, and advocate for the religious rights of Pagans persecuted in prisons and institutions throughout the U.S.

Lady Passion is a blind seer whose magical specialties include fortune-telling, making potent herbal medicines, and regressing people to experience their past lives. Folk worldwide seek her confidential clergy counsel.

*Diuvei (Steven Rasmussen)

first discovered magic three decades ago while studying music at Princeton University, and applies it as an astrologer, investigative journalist, historic preservationist, and web designer.

*Diuvei’s Craft name is pronounced DYOO-vay, and means “Sky God” in ancient Oscan, which was spoken by the last Italian tribes to retain their independence from Rome.

Lady Passion & *Diuvei

are Third Degree Gardnerians of the California Line and the High Priestess and High Priest of Coven Oldenwilde, a 501(c)(3) Wiccan religious nonprofit in Asheville, North Carolina. For over twenty years they have taught Italian Strega and Gardnerian Witchcraft in a three-story Covenstead in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Successful spiritual activists, they officiate legal marriages, conduct public Sabbats, lecture at universities and gatherings, and write popular online correspondence courses on magic.

Email them via their websites:,,, and

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Pagan Activist: Olde Ways to Create Change

Even as robots and mechanization have rendered many jobs obsolete (making the economic “recovery” more theoretical than reality-based), the average amount that economic trackers expect each American to spend this year on Yule gifts is in the seven hundred dollar range.

While Pagans aim to please, much on offer is plastic or electronic — designed to quickly break or fail to function. Buying stereotypical pink/girl, blue/boy toys smacks of sexism, and there’s minimal diversity on tap (ubiquitous hat/scarf/glove sets a case in point). So what’s a savvy, ecology minded Pagan to do? Change begins in the tone you set with family, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors, etc. Making a present that imparts real meaning and delights or enables them is not a matter of being a skinflint curmudgeon: Rather, it shows that you’ve personalized an aesthetic, useful gift in a culture that offers precious little of either. Begin by considering recipients’ needs, your creative talent abilities, and what could make folks you care about smile or be diverted, challenged, or relieved in some way. Intuition, repurposing what you have on hand, creative recycling, and decorating with Pagani spiral, sun, or star décor can make this year’s round of gifting a satisfying experience. Options include: 
  • Winter Wellness Basket
  • Decorate and fill a wood or woven basket with items that comfort, instill a sense of wellbeing, strengthen immunity, and promote stamina, such as:

    • A rolled, warm throw
    • Wool socks
    • Echinacea (capsules repackaged in a labeled, dark amber or cobalt-colored container, a pretty embellishment tied around its top)
    • Immunity cooking oil (olive oil flavored with cracked red pepper, cayenne, and garlic)
    • Add-ins (tissue, horehound cough drops, or Emergen-C® packets, etc.)
    • Chamomile tea (repackaged in a decorative box or tin)
    • Soup bowl & silver spoon (inexpensive at thrift-stores)
    • Chicken Soup recipe and/or ingredients:
      • Pkg. dried rice; or, egg or No Yolk® noodles
      • Chicken bouillon cubes or jar stock base
      • Spice mix in envelope (cracked black and red pepper; dash cayenne; garlic powder; dehydrated onion; Ms. Dash of choice)
      • (Recipient simmers all with fresh chicken and desired frozen vegetables.)
  • Pamper Package
  • Decorate a basket with items that foster recuperation, such as:

    • Luxury soak set — Essential oil-scented liquid soap or bath salt (recipe below); black-light bulb or tea-lights; incense, matches, and sand-filled burner dish; relaxing music)
    • Snuggle set Area rug; wrap throw; suspense flick or fireside read; cognac or brandy
  • Portable Altar Setup

    Fill a serving tray with all-purpose magical items, such as:

    • Altar cloth (a folded fabric remnant)
    • Emergency candles ($1. for a 12-pack)
    • Candle engraver (a finishing nail driven into a champagne cork)
    • Candle/self-anointing oil (dried fennel in mineral oil)
    • Compass (to determine North, East, South, West Quarter directions)
    • Element packets (salt, matches, gemstones, feathers…)
    • God/dess representations (horn-shaped bead and seashell, etc.)
    • Add-ins (wee Sake offering/libationcups; greeting cards depicting the seasons; or a collection of olde spells on 3-by-5 cards)
  • Skill Master Kit

     Decorate a box with enabling items for the:

    • Artsy Pagan — Blank journal; drawing pad; watercolor pencil set; or carded wool, a drop-spindle, and a spinning how-to book

    • Foodie Pagan — Chocolate-dipped spoons; my Simply Savory: Magical & Medieval Recipes (including Sabbat menus, at:; dishwashing tools set vertically in a decorative flower vase; wild game-dressing books; and pounds of dried staples (cranberry beans, rice, dehydrated fruit, hanging peppers or garlic cloves, or gourmet coffee, etc.)

    • Handy Pagan — Basic fixit tools; illustrated home maintenance how-to book; picture-hanging kit; assorted glues; DIY project; and contact info list of local resources

    • Pagan Kid/Teen — Mythology and beginner spellbooks; DIY-scented bath salt kit (lavender oil and purple food coloring to mix in Epsom® salt and air-dried); self-hardening or Sculpey® clay

    • Predicting Pagan — Divination tools such as a0 to 9-sided die & The Kwan Yin Oracle book;Tarot deck or playing cards;pendulum; and a box of flower petal tea, a vintage cup and saucer, and a symbol book such as Sterling Publishing’s Little Giant Book of 1,001 Symbols

    • SurvivorPagan — Emergency home kit (protective pentagram pendant; first aid info; cotton bandages; Witch Hazel; aloe vera; hemp lip balm; cold/hot pack (dried rice-filled fabric pillow); and fabric remnant arm sling, etc.; or, car kit (local and national maps; energy bars; kitty litter; jumper cables; and wind-up-yourself radio or flashlight, etc.)

* * *

Author Bio: Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman) is an experienced seer, counselor, and registered nurse. Third degree Gardnerian High Priestess of the 501(c)(3) religious nonprofit Coven Oldenwilde in Asheville, NC since 1994, she is co-author of The Goodly Spellbook:Olde Spells For Modern Problems.

When not lecturing about magic in universities, she often appears in the media, such as on Extra and BBC/London radio, and writes for magazines such as Witches & Pagans, Oracle 20/20, and The Magical Buffet (view, hear, and read at:

Lady Passion helps Pagan inmates nationwide secure their religious rights, has conducted a popular free Samhain ritual for decades, and lives in a 3-story Covenstead in the Appalachian Blue Ridge Mountains. She may be reached via her websites:;; and

Originally published in The Black Hen E-Zine, Dec. 2013

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Asheville Women Fight “Big Power” to Save a Foothills Wilderness

Verve cover

Cover story by *Diuvei about women working to save Box Creek Wilderness from a power company

An article by *Diuvei (Steve Rasmussen) is the Verve Magazine cover story for October 2013: The Box Creek Brockoviches When electricity came to Brackett Town in 1948, the men who wired the church in the onetime gold-mining village near the McDowell/Rutherford County line insisted that hanging a bare bulb from the ceiling was enough. But Nora Sprouse Worthen’s mother said no. “She’d been to the larger churches in Marion and seen what they had,” Worthen, a 70-year-old community activist, recalls. “And so she went from house to house and talked to all the ladies and campaigned to get globes put on those light bulbs. She did that numerous times over the years — she got the ladies on her side, and they usually got what they wanted.” Worthen’s 128-year-old family home is just over the ridge from the 5,185-acre Box Creek Wilderness. In 2004, Box Creek was named a Significant Natural Heritage Area, ranked in the state’s top 1% for occurrence and diversity of rare species. It’s now owned by Tim Sweeney, a millionaire video-game inventor and environmental conservationist from Cary, N.C., who acquired it in late 2011 after a bank foreclosed on a failed development scheme. Thirty days later, the local electric utility, the Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation, announced its plan to condemn and clear a 2 1/2-mile long, 100-foot-wide strip through the middle of it for a new power transmission line. Read more …
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Self-interest vs. Sustainability: The Triple Bottom Line

Glasses with a trifocal spectrum, orange-green-purpleTrue morality can’t be simplistically reduced to legal codes and scriptural commandments, with their inevitable loopholes and hypocrisies. It’s an art of the heart, practiced whenever you freely choose to act in accord with your conscience. But it isn’t always easy to hear that still, small voice of soul guidance over life’s chaotic clamor of greed and need, desires and demands. When you’re faced with a difficult decision, it’s wise to take a moment to weigh your options on an ethical scale such as the “Triple Bottom Line”. As the following commentary *Diuvei wrote for the Earth Day, 2013 issue of Asheville’s Mountain Xpress suggests, the Triple Bottom Line — originally devised in the early 1990s to help government officials ensure that economic considerations don’t overwhelm social and environmental concerns in development decisions — is not only the core definition of “sustainability”. It’s also a very useful tool in your own life for making the best, most genuinely moral decisions — choices that benefit not just you, and not just the people you care about, but also the societal and environmental infrastructures that sustain us all.

Coming into focus: Asheville’s worldview war

(Originally published in Mountain Xpress) By Steve Rasmussen on 04/19/2013 07:00 AM After years in the trenches of Asheville’s pitched battles over development and natural resources — Parkside, the Downtown Master Plan, Rep. Moffitt’s seizure of the water system — I’ve come to see that our little city is on the front lines of a full-blown worldview war. At first it was hard to identify the opposing philosophies through the fog of battling buzzwords. But once I learned to decipher their codes, it became clear which two forces are at war: self-interest and sustainability. The self-interest camp was easier to recognize, especially after its partisans conquered Raleigh and overran our state government. In many a debate and public hearing, I’ve heard them trumpeting their single-minded doctrine: private profit über alles. Deriding government initiatives as “social engineering,” its political camp followers proclaim that “deregulation” and “market-based reforms” will liberate the “private sector” to efficiently exploit such “commodities” as our homes and forests. A developer betrays his loyalty to self-interest when he attacks environmental protections as violations of “private property rights” and declares that he can do anything he pleases with his real estate, whose “highest and best use” is defined as whatever makes the owner the most money. Behind the bullet-point barrage and the John Locke and Ayn Rand quotes, however, this glorification of selfishness, which critics call “free-market fundamentalism,” seems barely distinguishable from how criminals and sociopaths rationalize their choices. In contrast, sustainability seemed hidden in the weeds like some grass-roots insurgency. True, at outposts such as Asheville City Hall, I could pick up the movement’s buzzwords: rejecting “uncontrolled sprawl” (which self-interest hails as “unshackled growth”), preserving historic structures through “adaptive reuse,” and creating “greenways” to conserve species’ natural habitats. “Mixed-use” development and “affordable housing” aim to break down economic and social barriers, and economic, social and environmental “diversity” is paramount. Each of those goals was appealing enough, but taken together they seemed chaotic. What core principle could possibly unify this ragtag revolution? Where could I read sustainability’s manifesto? At last I found it, enshrined in the opening pages of Asheville’s 2025 Plan. City planners and Council members cite this comprehensive, community-developed blueprint whenever they make a major recommendation or decision, much as courts ground important rulings in the Bill of Rights. According to the plan’s “Vision” section, “Sustainability is a balancing of economic objectives, social goals and environmental resources in a way that works for both present and future generations.” Sustainability is based on what its theorists call the “triple bottom line” of economic viability, community development and environmental stewardship — or “profit + people + planet.” In the long term, each component’s health depends on keeping all of them in balance. For organizations that adopt the triple bottom line, Council member Cecil Bothwell has written, “Dollars and quality of life and the environment are all deemed to be of equal importance.” Rather than enforcing a shortsighted focus on the next quarter’s profits, sustainability uses a trifocal lens to diversify one’s view. Up close, you’re still looking out for yourself, but in the middle ground, you recognize society’s interests. And toward the far horizon, your perspective broadens to include the wider world not made by man. No wonder the free-market fundamentalists feel threatened. This isn’t a proper opposition, an antithesis they can compete with and defeat, like capitalism vs. communism, or corporations vs. government. It’s a synthesis that includes but refuses to be dominated by the profit motive’s all-devouring force. Caring about one’s fellow creatures becomes a counterweight to self-interest, which sustainability doesn’t actually fight but rather embraces and mellows, like a cop in a commune. Sustainability also induces holistic thinking. Eavesdropping on City Council’s March 11 strategic retreat, I noticed how animated the discussion became when Gordon Smith observed that many Council priorities, such as affordable housing, food security and multimodal transportation, intersect “like a Venn diagram.” Lauren Bradley, the city’s director of finance and management services, noted how well this view fits with the triple bottom line, which she said city staff are becoming fascinated with as a framework for analysis and planning. To me, these “3BL” lenses are downright subversive. Try them on and, suddenly, your home and yard morph from solitary castle into part of a community, an ecosystem. Picture-perfect lawns become sterile, non-native environments whose runoff degrades local streams. Dilapidated “eyesores” start telling you their stories as historic buildings; a vacant lot’s “highest and best use” looks more like a community garden than yet another block of condos. You realize that your rights as an owner are tied to your responsibilities as a steward. Self-interest may have the upper hand in wealth and influence, but I suspect that in the triple bottom line, sustainability’s advocates have discovered a secret weapon that can ultimately win the worldview war. Here, Mr. Moffitt, just take a peek through these little lenses … — Steve Rasmussen lives near Rhododendron Creek in West Asheville. He can be contacted via
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Bele Chere 2013: Going Out With Style

Coven Oldenwilde volunteers in 'Witches of Coven Oldenwilde' t-shirts.

Coven Oldenwilde’s volunteer band of wristbanders.

For the third year in a row, Coven Oldenwilde manned a “beer bracelet” booth during Asheville’s annual street fair held on the last weekend in July.
Booth table with assorted appurtenances and signs

Booth table on Friday, July 26, 2013. (Click photo to view fullsize in new window.)

This year was heartrending since weeks before, City Council voted to discontinue the event after this, its last hurrah. Public input was not solicited prior to the surprise move. We were stunned that our city renowned for cultivating tourism would dispense with the well-known event it had publicized nationally for decades. Further, forty local non-profits have benefitted from receiving a percentage of the proceeds they raise on behalf of the city by working the event. Worse still, we soon learned that two other festivals — LAFF and Goombay — are also cancelled this year.
Ribbons, divination kits, cards, signs on a table

Ribbons, divination kits, cards, signs ….

Decorated card, 'Magical Bookmarks', atop silver ribbons in basket

Samhain 2012’s handfasting ribbons became Bele Chere 2013’s magical bookmarks!

Nonetheless, Coven Oldenwilde decided to go out with a bang. In addition to selling alcohol bracelets, we planned to elicit donations in exchange for handmade, organic divination kits, copies of The Goodly Spellbook, Coven T-shirts, and embossed Handfasting ribbons from Samhain 18 re-purposed as magical bookmarks.
Cauldron with 'TIPS' sign, small brass bell, lid

Our “tips cauldron” with a bell hung on its bail and a lid in case of rain.

While prep was duly extensive, it was well worth the effort because we made mad “tips” this year — often a fiver or sawbuck put in our cauldron in appreciation of our being public Witches!
Booth table with assorted appurtenances

Booth table on Saturday.

View of booth with pavilion above table, two water barrels on either side anchoring guy ropes

Coven Oldenwilde’s booth open for business.

As always, we received a kind reception from fellow citizens who sought out our booth and thanked us for saving local old magnolia trees from a developer’s ax; entertaining them with our annual public Samhain rituals; and for our various spiritual activism exploits. Among the many vignettes we’ll never forget:
  • Two precious wee sisters who fell in love with Lady Passion’s div kits. The stayed up all night planning to return and buy some with their allowance. They convinced their Pagan parents to bring them back to our booth the next day.
    Divination kits in baskets with sign

    Divination kits: 3 magic beans answer questions. Left: $10 pouches; right: $5 clear packs. (Click photo to view the two kits close up.)

    They beamed so proudly when picking out the kit that appealed to each of them. What a sterling example of parental support, we thought!
  • A man buying a bracelet from us remarked that we had a friend in common: renowned Gardnerian elder and author Raymond Buckland. (Indeed, Raymond gave our The Goodly Spellbook a glowing review and gave us insider info on where to schedule signing events during our 2006 book tour throughout England.) *Diuvei gave the man two of our business cards — the back of which sports the magical alphabet Passing the River which Raymond publicized in his famous “Blue Book.”
    Coven Oldenwilde business card, with Magical Alphabets cheat sheet on back.

    Coven Oldenwilde business card, with Magical Alphabets cheat sheet on back. (Click image to view in print resolution.)

    A few days later, Lady Passion got a sweet email from Raymond: The card had quickly made its way to him, and he appreciated our work. Wow!
  • A former male student whom we’d trained from childhood came up repeatedly to relate how profoundly we’d affected his life. He’d named his firstborn girl-child Apassionata in honor of Lady Passion, and was writing a book of poetry based on magical techniques we’d taught him!
  • Seeing the courageous strength displayed by two Friends of Oldenwilde when countering evangelical fundamentalists damning families attending the event.

    *Diuvei captured on video one of Bele Chere’s bullhorn-bullying street preachers being overwhelmed by a diverse crowd protesting fundamentalist religious intolerance, including Latisha and Abramsbane.

    Protest sign

    Our friend “Abramsbane” protested the street preachers with a sign pointing out the “iron chariot” Bible contradiction in Judges 1:19. (Click photo to view sign larger in new window.)

    Latisha in Coven Oldenwilde t-shirt

    Latisha describing her experience protesting the street preachers (as seen in the YouTube video).

    Both exercised the Power to Be Silent to strong effect in their own separate ways: One man stood quietly holding a thought-provoking sign in front of a succession of men spewing ear-splitting screeds through a bull-horn, while the other (booth volunteer Latisha) used her break to stand beside one — the brazen Coven T-shirt she wore showing dignified resolve in opposition to the hysterical zealot. Interestingly, someone must have heard the suggestion we published after last year’s Bele Chere to counter the street preachers’ sonic disruptions with music. This year, festival organizers set up a karaoke stage in the central Vance Monument area. Sure enough, that area was freed from the amplified ranters for the first time in years. The only hate-speech zone festivalgoers had to endure was in Pritchard Park, where hundreds peacefully but powerfully responded by exercising their own First Amendment right to protest against the fundamentalists’ hypocrisy, intolerance … and their inhumane lack of humor :-). (Rumor had it shortly before the wild scene we captured on this video that one of the worst preachers gave up after catching a pie in the face.)
  • Lady Passion in front of view into beverage booth

    Helping out at Bele Chere will be a sorely missed source of survival funding for dozens of the Asheville area’s hard-working non-profits, which perform irreplaceable social and charitable services but receive few or no government or private grants in today’s increasingly stingy financial environment.

  • Hearing pervasive poignant sadness regarding the unceremonious discarding of Bele Chere by the powers that be. Many related memories of their decades of observing the yearly festival, expressing in blue streak fashion their certainty that the decision would inevitably wreak financial ruin on the city. Grumbles about governmental disregard for the people’s pleasure abounded.
Coven Oldenwilde fulfilled our obligation in high Witch style, but it’s with heavy hearts that we bid Bele Chere adieu. We are proud, though, that for the past three years we represented Paganism with panache.
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Whistleblowers Unite!

by Lady Passion

Recent near-daily T.V. news reports have revealed the extremes that the U.S. government is willing go to in order to demonize domestic whistle-blowers — those who act as oversight to benefit citizens by exposing an organization’s wrongdoing.

For example, ABC World News’ June 13 segment Could Edward Snowden Defect to China? employed nefarious tactics against a 29-year-old who publicized in the British newspaper The Guardian America’s “sweeping surveillance system” secretly monitoring our phone calls and internet communiqués.

The piece’s title was intentionally misleading, as the story made plain that Snowden was already in China, the use of the word “defect” carefully chosen to taint the subject by association with Cold War-era red-menace alarm.

A government detractor used phraseology applied to convicted fugitives: “He made a run for it.” Paving the way for charges to come, he ended ominously. “He’s not a whistle blower and maybe worse.”

Investigative reporter Brian Ross continued the theme, painting Snowden like a pirate that could abscond “with a trove” of sensitive American secrets.

Indeed, general dismissal alternated with a schizophrenic portrayal of Snowden to make his actions seem the silly inevitability of a chaotic life: His childhood vicinity to the Maryland N.S.A., his “signs of brilliance,” status as a high school “dropout,” attempt “to become a model,” and ultimate “calling in the world of spies and the internet.”

One wondered what The Powers That Be were more angry about, his outing of citizen monitoring, or claim to possess proof that “the U. S. has been hacking into Chinese computer networks for years.” (Come on — in this digital day, was either revelation supposed to be really surprising?)

Sound bites from psychiatrist Dr. David Charney served to expand the Obama administration’s stance that Snowden’s action was a criminal breach of national security — the mouthpiece declaring that while Snowden was “very well spoken, very sharp,” there was “a self-absorbed, egotistical flavor to what he’s saying.”

I could not believe my ears. Forces were putting forth some nobody pundit to openly accuse a man who’d sacrificed a lucrative N.S.A. job in Hawaii of being egotistical?! It all made sense, though, when I discovered a longer version of the ABC story that revealed that Charney “frequently works with CIA agents.”

Ross concluded the piece on a threatening note with “Officials say one way or another… CIA agents will get their hands on those documents.” No doubt joined at the hip with them, this implied getting Snowden, too. With hatchet jobs like these, no doubt many naive viewers have quickly absorbed the message: No need for trial or Geneva conventions — bad American deserves whatever he gets.

The report was chillingly Orwellian — the irony ignored that mere weeks shy of celebrating the 4th of July, the government seems intent on repudiating its own origin in dissent.

Having denied the unarmed Osama bin Laden legal process and admitting to killing 347 people (including 4 Americans) by remote-controlled drone strikes, officials now act entitled to assassinate the character of citizens who dare expose unethical governmental practices to public scrutiny.

And since the U. S. deems itself either perpetually at war or actively engaged in fomenting regime change abroad, there’s never a moment when someone who leaks information can’t be accused of violating issues of national security: Of course, we’re never told what the laws are, enabling those in power to call whatever they like a violation at a moment’s notice to suit their purposes.

Tyrants have long found castigating whistle-blowers expedient. Indeed, N. C. governor Pat McCrory recently engaged in such insidious spin when he labeled protesting religious leaders “outside agitators” — even though neither he nor his fellow Republican leaders of North Carolina’s House and Senate were born in the state they now rule.

Well, I take the castigation of patriots agonized by conscience personally because I’ve been a whistle-blower; I empathize with folks caught between a job and justice.

A Registered Nurse for a quarter century, I was wrongfully fired for blowing the whistle about an incompetent doctor to a patient’s relative. I sued the mega-corp (the largest of its kind in North America), and they paid me a settlement (see Deerman v. Beverly California Corporation). In the process, I improved N.C. public healthcare law and set national precedent for any professional nurse to challenge widespread “hire-and-fire-at-will” laws.

Which is why I feel compelled to go on the record that I believe Snowden’s act to have been a selfless one deserving a ticker-tape parade and wide laudation — not the kind of baseless, shabby bashing that our government oft decries other countries for employing in order to marginalize resistance or opposition.

I also feel that Pagans need be quite discerning when it comes to identifying and rejecting blatant propaganda when they see and hear it, for we who live according to ethical imperatives not only can easily find ourselves prey to such tactics, but should consider such assaults on integrity offensive and anathema.

I therefore call upon one and all to resist such fascist trends:

1). Stop unwarranted government intrusion on your right to privacy; read Five ways to stop the NSA from spying on you, by Timothy B. Lee. 2). Share my post for the edification of folks you care about.

3). Support whistle-blowers; read Maggie Severns’ interview with an expert psychologist who’s not a CIA mouthpiece, What Really Drives a Whistleblower Like Edward Snowden? 

4). Learn how to be a smart whistle-blower without being ID’d by the government or corporation you’re exposing; read Hear Ye, Future Deep Throats: This Is How to Leak to the Press, by Nicholas Weaver.

5). Sign the petition seeking to pardon Snowden posted on the White House website Sunday June 9, 2013, at: Government staff promise to review petitions that receive 100,000 signatures in a month.

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Coven Oldenwilde’s Response to Internet Libel on

It is a kingly thing, O Cyrus, to do well and to be evil spoken of. — Antisthenes, founder of the Cynic school of philosophy
It isn’t easy being Gardnerian. As if we don’t catch enough flak from misinformed skeptics outside of our Tradition who claim Gerald Gardner made up Wicca, many of us Gards also weather attacks from the inside by misguided fundamentalists who insist their particular “praxis” (set of practices) is the one true and only “legitimate” Gardnerian way. Recently Coven Oldenwilde, Lady Passion and *Diuvei, and our California Line Gardnerian lineage have been the target of lies and libels by a small clique posting on (and apparently running) a site called RealPaganNetwork: RealPagan — Paganism for the Real World. We don’t know these folks, but their motivation seems to be the usual one — to build up their own status by tearing other people down. Online smear campaigns are all too common nowadays, and anybody’s reputation can be targeted and tarnished by enemies you didn’t even know you had. We’ve pursued the following course of response, which a consensus of experts recommends if you are a victim of Internet libel:
  1. Reply promptly and directly. A fair, ethically operated online forum should allow someone who’s being accused to reply to their accusers, as a matter of basic justice. In hopes of being able to post a factual response, *Diuvei applied to for forum membership. Result: administrators not only yanked *Diuvei’s membership almost immediately after it was approved, but installed a censorship cookie on his computer that prevents him from even viewing (When he tries to access the site, a screen appears saying he has been “suspended from RealPagan- Paganism for the Real World”.)
  2. Contact the site administrator. Ethical web forums give a way for the public to contact a webmaster or administrator. does not, but by “following the money” *Diuvei tracked down the e-address through which the site’s creator, one “Sangraal”, solicits PayPal donations. He notified Sangraal that the libelous and defamatory content of the thread overtly violated’s published Terms of Service, and that he was being prevented from posting a reply. Result: No response to *Diuvei’s email.
  3. Contact the site’s host or server. Responsible Internet companies that host public websites and forums honor their own Terms of Service by investigating and acting on clear TOS violations., which hosts, claims to abide by an especially comprehensive and restrictive TOS, so *Diuvei sent a complaint about the libelous and defamatory thread to Result: Ning told *Diuvei they would do nothing unless compelled to as the result of a lawsuit. They did, however, consent to his request to forward his complaint to’s administrators. No response from (unless you count ratcheted-up name-calling and attacks against us and our lineage on the forum thread).
  4. If going through channels gets you nowhere, push back. Post a response on your own website or social media, and encourage your fans and friends to do the same on the offending site and elsewhere. Result:

Our response

to the false, defamatory lies that RealPaganNetwork: RealPagan — Paganism for the Real World has published about the California Line of Gardnerianism, Coven Oldenwilde, *Diuvei, and Lady Passion at:
  1. “Stories of abuse”: It’s bad enough that this malicious post is erroneous … it’s also embarrassingly ungrammatical!: “There are stories of abuse towards students and seekers that have be laid at the foot of Oldenwilde and Lady Passion.” Fact: The only such “stories” about us were fabricated 15 years ago by a small group of students after we ejected them from our Coven for having lied to and thieved from us. Indeed, thousands worldwide call Lady Passion one of the wisest, most compassionate, and genuinely Witchy people they’ve ever had the honor of communicating with (many writing so in their reviews of The Goodly Spellbook and at
  2. “Skeevy”: Asdea/Jasper’s characterization of Lady Passion as “skeevy, weird, rude” reeks of misogyny. Fact: *Diuvei’s review of Asdea’s e-mails to Lady Passion and her responses to him found that Lady Passion simply denied, politely, the veracity of Asdea’s unsolicited “energy sensing” of her, and patiently explained to him the reasons why tradition associates the Four Elemental Humors with bodily fluids, which he had disparaged as “unseemly.”
  3. “NOT a Gardnerian coven”: RealPagans’ assertions are wrong that Coven Oldenwilde is “NOT a Gardnerian coven…” and “Lady Passion is not a Gardnerian. Her working partner, a CalGard with questionable training and lineage, raised her to [Third Degree] in a circle he cast without a HPS present or casting the circle.” Fact: The names of Lady Passion’s and *Diuvei’s initiators and elevators to the Gardnerian 3rd Degree, and the dates when these ceremonies took place, are publicly posted at: The California Line of Gardnerianism (called “CalGard” in the above quote) is unquestionably legitimate, and *Diuvei’s Gardnerian training in Coven Tobar Bhride and elevation to the Sublime and Ultimate Degree by Lady Maeve and Niklas Gander of Coven Triskell are above reproach. The California Line originated in the 1980s with Gardnerians on the West Coast who declared their independence from the dictates of the New York-based Long Island Line. The California Line’s founders, who included *Diuvei’s Elders, had become fed up with the then-current Long Island Line Elders’ homophobic refusal to acknowledge same-sex initiations and covens; with their rigidly literalist, Bible-like adherence what proved to be a flawed, incomplete Book of Shadows; and especially with their arrogant, very un-Witchy self-appointed role as arbiters of Gardnerian orthodoxy. Amazingly, nearly 30 years later nothing has changed, to judge by the condemnations of Calfornia Line Gardnerianism’s supposed heresy on California Line Gardnerians use the same initiation and elevation rituals as other Gardnerians, but allow males to cast circle without a Priestess, either for same-sex initiations or in case of necessity. To the best of our knowledge, no Gardnerian HPs lived anywhere near our area many years ago when, with his Elders’ approval, *Diuvei legitimately cast the circle and elevated Lady Passion to the 3rd Degree. “Honi soit qui mal y pense!” Incidentally, our upline Gardnerian Elder Raymond Buckland, the respected Craft author and original founder of the Long Island Line, expressed no concerns about our California Line Gardnerian lineage when he gave our The Goodly Spellbook a glowing review. (Already by the 1980s, it should be noted, he had distanced himself from the Long Island Line.) And speaking of books, California Line Gardnerian scholars, particularly our Elder Morgann, have spent many years carefully researching the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, tracking down and re-incorporating lost, variant, and excised materials from every known Gardner-descended line to create a much more complete and useful edition than any individual Gard line possessed up to that point. It is thanks to these California Gardnerians’ assiduous scholarship that Gardnerian initiates can now see plainly for themselves that Gerald Gardner was telling the truth when he said he was publicizing and passing forward a very old — and very diverse — continuous British “Witch cult”.
Bottom line: Ilk who take it on themselves to smear successful religious activists and Craft authors such as ourselves invariably lead one to suspect not only the paucity of their own magical accomplishments, but also their jealous motivation. And by denigrating an entire initiatory lineage of fellow Witches simply because it refuses to insist on perpetuating an unjust, outdated sexual prejudice, they prove themselves to be “real Pagans” in name only. In doing so they act no differently than intolerant fundie Xtians who wrongly insist that magic isn’t real, that Wicca’s adherents are all devil-deluded. They do the Craft of the Wise a grave disservice, and unfairly give all Gardnerians a bad name in the wider Wiccan community. As the Ardanes exhort: “Be not as these.” We encourage Seekers and Witches to “keep ever to your highest ideals” and desist from spreading clish-ma-claver (the Witch Word for rumors and lies).
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Love is the Law: The Pagan Side of Marriage

Goddess and God uniteEros is a cunning desperado who defies every moral authority’s attempt to straighten him out. Church-led campaigns to deny legal recognition to same-sex and cohabiting couples only enhance his daring — and expose the hypocrisy of religions that claim to look out for our souls but, when confronted with Love’s innately Pagan spirit, can’t see past our genitals. Whenever a political measure to extend or deny civil rights and benefits to “nontraditional” relationships gains public attention — such as last May’s ballot measure in my state, North Carolina, that imposed the one-man-one-woman definition of marriage on our Constitution — fundamentalists move in and loudly monopolize all religious discussion of relationships. Their “family values” arguments always come down to “original sin” — the doctrine, dating back to the writing of Genesis, that flesh is inherently wicked, and making love for any reason other than making babies is wrong. Hence popes proclaim homosexuality to be an “intrinsic moral evil” (Pope John Paul II in 1986), and preachers condemn cohabiting outside the purifying “sacrament” of matrimony as “living in sin”. After two decades of co-leading a highly public Witch coven in Asheville, in one of the most religiously conservative areas of the country (a stone’s throw from Billy Graham’s headquarters), I’ve become all too familiar with fundamentalists’ judgments of who’s good and who’s evil — and why. Fundamentalism accurately defines itself as scriptural literalism — the insistence that the Bible, Quran, Torah, or whatever text is revered as the One True God’s sole word on a given subject must be interpreted, not as symbol or metaphor, but as objective and inviolate truth. Fundamentalists claim to judge you by the letter of their law, not by its spirit. But you’ll get nowhere with them by arguing how subjectively and selectively they pick those letters. It’s pointless to counter-quote those sensuous paeans to erotic love in the Psalms, for example. Literalism is just a symptom of fundamentalism’s obsession with the outer forms of things — their appearance, categories, and labels — and with forcing the seemingly confused and conflicting babel of diversity into the seductively simple, static, black-and-white, God-above-vs.-Devil-below, no-weeds-allowed-in-my-perfect-lawn order that people drawn to fundamentalism crave. Love’s rebellious disregard for such tidy moral schemes compels religious fundamentalism to reveal the mechanistic mindset that it paradoxically shares with its mortal enemy, scientific materialism. The orthodox religious rationale that love without resulting procreation violates God’s cosmic order is uncannily similar to the Godless genetic reductionism espoused by biologists of the “selfish gene” school of thought who assert that our anguished longings and heartfelt yearnings for one another are nothing but our genes machinating via hormones and pheromones to perpetuate themselves. So in the end, Extreme Religion and Extreme Science — two ideological poles of modern civilization that are supposed to be diametrically opposed, whose advocates continually battle over fetal souls vs. embryonic stem cells, creationism vs. evolution, divine design vs. random chance — seem agreed on one thing: the dismissal of love. If all that torrid full-moon-serenade, caution-to-the-winds, stuff-of-poetry-and-drama romance doesn’t result in offspring, it’s either spiritually sinful or biologically frivolous. Get back to your cubicles, you lovebirds, and spend your lunch breaks reading your Bible or A Brief History of Time. Thank Aphrodite, I and my fellow Wiccan priest/ess (and longtime cohabiting partner) are Pagans. She and I, along with the enormous diversity of folks we serve as clergy, can draw from a far older, much deeper and more inclusive well of wisdom about love and relationships than one can find in either of these upstart modern sects. One of my favorite go-to sages is Plato, the pre-Christian “father of philosophy”, and in particular his teacher, Socrates, whose profoundly Pagan awareness of the unity of reason and mystery radiates from Plato’s writings. Like nearly all practitioners of the world’s countless forms of indigenous spirituality that we nowadays class together as Paganism, Socrates was a polytheist who believed that the divine reflects itself through not just one, but many gods and goddesses; and an animist who recognized that nature is not inert matter, but imbued with soul. His wisdom, however, is not issued as authoritarian judgment: Unlike the lists of commandments laid down like the proclamations of a monarch in monotheistic scriptures such as the Bible and Quran, Plato’s dialogues weave themselves democratically around not only Socrates’s perpetually dissenting questions, but also the diversely opinionated give-and-take of many other individual voices. The “Symposium”, one of Plato’s most famous works, confronts the controversies of love. Is it merely lust for an attractive body, as materialists then and now maintain? Is it about singular commitment to a soulmate — like the intimate camaraderie between Achilles and his fellow warrior Patroclus? Is homosexuality in fact a nobler form of love than heterosexuality, for the very reason that it does not result in physical progeny? Is love a god, is it madness, or is it both? All these theories are debated freely around the Symposium’s banquet table. But Socrates gives the game-changing answer to all questions about the nature of love when he recounts a youthful discourse with his first instructor in the ways of love: Diotima of Mantinea, a prophetess — or as we’d now call her, a witch — whom he also credits with teaching him the questioning technique that we now call the “Socratic method”. (Whether she schooled him as well in more intimate techniques goes discreetly unmentioned.) Love, the witch taught the philosopher, is not a god or goddess, but a spirit who communicates between ourselves and the gods. He is demanding yet crafty, the son of Need and Resource, a determined seeker who gives up everything and stops at nothing in his quest for beauty. Diotima explained that although courtship between man and woman that leads to children and family is admirable, it’s just one of Love’s noble pursuits. Another is procreation of things of the spirit, such as art or law — creating, through the inspiration of one’s relationship with a friend or lover, “something lovelier and less mortal than human seed”. A would-be initiate into Love’s true mysteries will begin by falling in love with the beauty of one individual body, then with every lovely body — but will not remain content with mere physical lust. He or she becomes smitten with the beauties of the soul, even when it inhabits an unlovely body; then with the interrelated beauties the lover contemplates in laws, institutions, arts and sciences — in every kind of knowledge; and ultimately with the timeless, universal, divine beauty in which all lovely things partake. In other words, love is the lens through which the beauty of life reveals itself. It’s not a being or thing that exists apart, aloof unto itself like a god who bestows favor from a distant heaven: It exists as relationship, like a spirit that flies between realms. This lens can be clear or cloudy, your relationship healthy or unhealthy to the degree that it connects you with or distracts you from the inner beauty of your beloved — but it’s this intangible essence that matters, not the corporeal form on which your love is focused. Straight, gay, bisexual, polyamorous … researching cancer, collecting stamps, smoking pot — Pagans don’t categorize whoever or whatever you love by its outer labels and appearances as inherently good or evil. We don’t scour the Almighty’s book of taboos to see if the prophets have banned it along with mixing linen and wool or eating beasts without cloven hooves. In contrast to fundamentalist monotheism, Pagan polytheism encourages pluralism: Accepting and learning to worship multiple gods and goddesses, rather than just one, trains us to seek the inner common threads that run through the world’s outer babel of names, symbols, rituals, cultures, languages, etc. — in short, to judge books by their contents, not their covers. This doesn’t mean that anything goes as long as it gets you off. For example, things got pretty tricky for the Greeks when they started debating man/boy liaisons. At the time, the upper classes considered it socially acceptable for a wealthy older man to court a handsome young boy as a lover. (If today’s disgraced priests and coaches had been employed in ancient Athens, they would probably still be collecting their drachmas and cornering their adolescent charges in the communal baths.) But the discussions in Plato’s dialogues reveal how controversial the practice really was, especially among parents, because it typically led to sexual and emotional abuse of a trusting child. From various angles Socrates presses his aristocratic listeners to direct their quest for beauty to a boy’s mind and soul rather than his body — to practice what we now call “platonic” love. As Diotima and Socrates pointed out, it’s not about whom or what you love, but how. Love turns ugly and meaningless when a lover exploits the object of love for selfish ends. Harm none, and treat others as you would be treated — as ends in themselves, not means to your own — is a Pagan ethic of compassion that can’t be commanded, but comes naturally when you begin to care more about people’s hearts than their breast sizes. It’s the same advice lovelorn singles receive: If you want him/her to return your messages, you must value them as a person, listen to them, ask them about their day, and mean it. In contrast with materialists and monotheists, this wise ethic of Love also informs Pagans’ animistic relations with Nature. If carpentry is our passion, we don’t treat a tree as mere board-feet of lumber to be milled in whatever way the almighty market dictates to maximize profit. Nor do we look down on it as a baser creature than ourselves, to be chainsawed without a qualm because “the Lord” granted Man dominion over all creation. Instead, woodworkers whose values are Pagan strive to honor the life and soul of the tree. Before chopping down its body, they follow the widespread ancient tradition of making a prayer or offering to its indwelling spirit. When cutting or carving it, they respect its unique qualities of color, grain, strength, etc., courting and coaxing the wood to reveal its inner beauty. When its designated use is done, they strive to recycle it for new uses rather than callously discarding it in a dump. From the beginning to the end of his or her relationship with the tree, a pious Pagan treats it with love. Still, Eros is a restless rogue. If untempered by conscience or compassion, he can trample family, friends, and colleagues like a rampaging bull to reach the latest object of his obsession. Marriage is not just a personal ceremony of commitment — it’s also society’s effort to protect itself from desire run amok, constraining it by the timeless magic of oaths, talismans, and spells. Brides and grooms swear a vow of commitment before a representative of universal law and justice — whether a religious priest or priestess, or a secular judge, ship’s captain, etc. The oath is sealed with a symbol of binding — whether a gold ring, a knotted ribbon, etc. And they participate in ritual acts to bless their crossing of this new threshold in life — whether jumping a broom to grant them partnership, cutting a cake to forfend hunger, smashing a glass to remove hardship, etc. The central purpose of all this matrimonial magic is to secure the heart-to-heart vow that is still sometimes referred to as a “pledge of troth” — a promise of mutual trust. Such compacts are, after all, the invisible ligaments that bind society together like the gravitational forces that bind the planets to their orbits — from the “full faith and credit” that backs a federally secured mortgage, to the “oath of office” administered to those we entrust with making and enforcing laws, to the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” we vow to testify to in a court of law. The way Pagans see it, as long as pledges made are honorably upheld, society’s need for stability is fulfilled. It doesn’t matter what genders the wedded troth-keepers are, nor whether they are a couple or a triple or a harem: What counts is their fidelity to one another, and their refusal of temptation to break the bond by lying to or cheating on one another. By contrast, it generates social chaos and instability when fundamentalist-influenced voters and lawmakers impose needless stress on a relationship by denying the partners in a mutually committed gay, common-law, or polyamorous marriage the right to participate in civil benefits granted to other couples solely by virtue of their being one man and one woman, granted one seal of approval. It also frays the social fabric to insist on tying the bond so tight that it threatens to suffocate the participants. Vowing to unite “till death do us part” is a remnant of days now distant for all but the wealthiest among us, when a formal marriage cemented political and economic alliances between two families, clans, or kingdoms — when wars and fortunes might ride on the question of which bride had the most to offer, which child of the union was the “legitimate” heir to the bloodline. Put bluntly, these days it’s spiritually unconscionable to insist, as I’ve seen religious conservatives do, that divorcing in order to leave an abusive, irreparably troth-broken marriage is more immoral than preserving matrimonial bonds — to elevate, once again, the outer form of the relationship beyond its inner purpose. And in today’s atomized “hookup” culture, it’s irresponsible for clergy to categorically condemn all sexual exploration unless it leads to lifelong commitment and childbearing. As Wiccans, Lady Passion and I are empowered by our religious tradition to bond lovers in an ancient, much more flexible form of trial marriage called “handfasting”. For a year and a day, each vows to “cleave to you and to you only, as long as love be in our hearts”. At the end of this time, they can renew their vows, make them permanent, or sever the relationship and formally “handpart” as friends. (My partner and I have been renewing our vows for nearly 20 years and 20 days so far.) As clergy, we are also empowered by our state’s law to sign and seal the document that makes a marriage official — but only for one man and one woman, for life. That restriction is, in our view, an outdated and unconstitutional imposition by the government of fundamentalist Christianity’s misconception of what constitutes love and marriage. That’s why, this Halloween, Coven Oldenwilde will be devoting Asheville’s 18th Annual Public Samhain Witch Ritual to protesting this law — and casting a spell designed to change it — by conducting a mass wedding, handfasting, and vow renewal for lovers of any gender or number in front of our county courthouse (where our county commissioners recently refused to extend anti-bias protections to homosexual county employees). The rite’s theme, “Love is the Law,” alludes to the magician Aleister Crowley’s famous seven-word declaration, which captures Pagans’ inclusive yet intimate understanding of that spirit child of Need and Resource who cannot be tamed, yet flourishes when channeled: “Love is the law, love under will.” Steve Rasmussen (*Diuvei) is the High Priest of Coven Oldenwilde in Asheville, NC, and co-author of “The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems” with his partner and High Priestess, Dixie Deerman (Lady Passion). To contact him or learn more about Wicca and the Samhain Public Witch Ritual, visit:
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Bele Chere 2012: The Rule of Two

Slideshow of Coven Oldenwilde’s wristband booth and volunteers at Bele Chere 2012.

First time’s beginners’ luck; second time’s a challenge. That’s the “Rule of Two” we wrote about in The Goodly Spellbook, and our second year running a nonprofit wristband booth at Bele Chere, the Southeast’s largest street festival, bore it out on Friday and Saturday, July 27 and 28, 2012. We had a smaller crew handling a bigger crowd. Gangs of screaming street preachers took over downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park, just around the corner from us (see below the letters we wrote to local media about how we successfully prevent such ilk from disrupting our public Samhain rituals). Festival organizers stocked too few wristbands, and when we sold out right at the peak of the party on the second evening, *Diuvei had to race like an artful dodger through the crowded streets to get more, while Lady Passion had to handle tactfully a pair of drunk evangelicals who took that opportunity to badger her with “questions”.
Coven Oldenwilde volunteers hard at work banding Bele Chere festivalgoers.

Coven Oldenwilde volunteers hard at work banding Bele Chere festivalgoers. (Photo by Bob.)

But we followed our own advice about the Rule of Two — “no matter what happens, remain precise and persistent throughout” — and all of us worked hard and well, keeping our spirits high by experiencing as well as encouraging the joy, freedom, and beauty people who come from every continent radiate when they visit our mountain cultural oasis here. As the first-time volunteers discovered, the exhilaration far outweighs the exhaustion when you’re representing Asheville’s Witches to the world!
Coven Oldenwilde's magical Bele Chere belled cauldron gathered donations, gave blessings.

Magical belled cauldron gathers donations, gives blessings.

Sign: Donate to benefit Coven Oldenwilde. Ring the bell & get a blessing!

Sign: Donate to benefit Coven Oldenwilde. Ring the bell & get a blessing!

Witchcraft sign advertising Samhain 2012: Love is the Law

Witchcraft sign advertising Samhain 2012: Love is the Law

We experimented this year with using a greenery-decorated cauldron to collect tips, topped with a little bell people could ring for a blessing. It worked very well, and many people told us they enjoyed hearing the bell’s clear tone float over the crowd noise every time someone got a blessing.
Lady Passion wearing her new terrarium talisman atop her Witches of Coven Oldenwilde T-shirt.

Lady Passion wearing her new terrarium talisman atop her Witches of Coven Oldenwilde T-shirt.

Closer view of terrarium talisman.

Closer view of terrarium talisman.

Local residents tend to avoid Bele Chere — they’re not big fans of Budweiser, for one thing, which still holds a controversial near-monopoly on the festival’s beer and ale sales in a city that’s become world-famous for its local breweries — but many went out of their way to find us and thank us for saving the magnolia trees and, in the doing, changing Asheville for the better (to sum up: more preservation, less corruption!). An artist, Tristan Hertz, who makes terrariums — living landscapes in glass containers — expressed his gratitude to Lady Passion by giving her the beautiful little pendant terrarium pictured here. Other folks from all over came by to tell us how much they were learning from The Goodly Spellbook, show off their pentagrams (one man had 11 pentagram tattoos and counting!), pick up Lady Passion’s card in case they need magical or psychic help, or drop in a donation. One well-dressed man who came by to do so related to us that he was a elder in a conservative church whose pastor’s son was a big fan of the Harry Potter books. One Sunday the pastor was delivering a fiery sermon on the life to come. At its climax, he demanded of all assembled, “And when you get to heaven, who do you think you’ll see?” His son piped up loudly: “Witches!”, breaking the congregation up in laughter. As the man dropped in his donation, he looked toward the sky and smilingly prayed, “Jesus forgive me!”
Bob and cauldron after a busy Saturday evening for both.

Bob and cauldron after a busy Saturday evening for both.

Last donation being left in cauldron to charge it.

Last donation being left in cauldron to charge it.

When our last shift ended Saturday night and we’d folded up our starry tablecloth, rolled up our fringed banner, and packed away everything but the heavy iron cauldron, one more person stopped by to drop a donation in it. (We’re keeping it in there for luck.) Then, we heard Dixieland music coming from the middle of a huge, dancing crowd writhing up the street past us from the stage, as Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band closed the show by marching off the stage and away through the Bele Chere crowd. At times we swore we’d never do this again … but if we can get a larger crew of volunteers in 2013, we probably will. After all, if you survive the Rule of Two: “Third time’s the charm!” Letters to the Editor: How to Beat Street Preachers To Mountain Xpress: Street preachers have been invading Bele Chere like poison ivy in a park. This year they spread their amplified hate beyond Vance Monument and took over Pritchard Park. Just around the corner by the Battery Park Stage, however, we wicked Witches of Coven Oldenwilde — whom many might assume to be a natural target for puritanical ranters — actually welcomed thousands of festivalgoers at our non-profit wristband booth unmolested. Here’s why, based on our two decades of experience in preventing the disruption of our annual public Samhain ritual by brigades of anger-addicted Bible thumpers bused in from out of town: The preachers’ sole weapon is sound — a loud megaphone drone of accusatory spew that intentionally ruins the spirit of the festival. Their tactic only works in a relative sonic vacuum — easily neutralized if the local sound-scape is filled with amplified live or recorded music, as by a stage or concerted drumming, such as a drum circle. Asheville can’t afford to lose the valuable publicity boost the Southeast’s largest street festival gives it each year. Here are two suggestions for keeping future Bele Cheres from being expensively buzz-killed by evangelical agitators: A) Asheville’s drum-circle regulars could organize and raise funds from affected merchants to pay a rotating crew of skilled drummers to keep a danceable beat going at Vance Monument and Pritchard Park throughout the festival; or, B) pre-recorded music (preferably by local bands and DJs) could be played continuously there, amplified loud enough to defeat megaphones but not interfere with the live bands nearby. # # # To Asheville Citizen-Times: Hate-spewing street preachers have been invading Bele Chere like a Christian Taliban — this year commandeering not only Vance Monument but also Pritchard Park. Just around the corner by Battery Park Stage, however, we wicked Witches of Coven Oldenwilde peacefully welcomed thousands of festivalgoers at our non-profit wristband booth without interference from the puritanical ranters. After two decades of experience in preventing the disruption of our annual public Samhain ritual by bused-in brigades of Bible thumpers, we know that their only weapon for disturbing the peace is sound. Their droning condemnations are easily neutralized if the local sound-scape is kept filled with amplified live or recorded music, such as by a stage or concerted drumming. We offer two suggestions for keeping evangelical buzz-killers from turning Bele Chere into a fest to avoid: A) Merchants adversely affected by the miasma of moralizing could hire rotating crews of recruits from Asheville’s drum circles to play an ongoing dance beat at Vance Monument and Pritchard Park; or, B) pre-recorded music (preferably by local bands and DJs) could be piped in at a volume that drowns out the megaphones of doom without interfering with the live bands on nearby stages. # # # Credited photos by Jack Hedden, Backspace Photography, backspacephotography-at-gmail-dot-com. All others by *Diuvei unless noted.
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What Values do Pagan Spellbooks Teach?

Fundamentalist Christians here in Buncombe County, NC are upset because a local Pagan mother, Ginger Strivelli, is forcing the county public school district to stop distributing Gideon Bibles in elementary schools, after exposing the hypocrisy of school administrators in allowing Christian books while refusing the Pagan spellbooks she brought to test their self-proclaimed policy of equality. One outraged Christian parent wrote to the Asheville Citizen-Times to defend the values the Bible supposedly imparts, and sarcastically asked: “What values do Pagan spellbooks teach?” Here is *Diuvei’s answer to her question. It will be published in the Asheville Citizen-Times on Wed., Feb. 8, 2012. (You can comment on it on the Cit-Times website.) A recent letter defending the handing out of Bibles to schoolchildren asks, “What values do spellbooks teach?” Having co-written a Pagan spellbook that’s a popular textbook of magic, I’d answer that spellbooks’ magic teaches values absolutely critical for today’s schoolchildren to learn. Magic imparts emotional maturity by teaching self-empowerment: To cast an effective spell, you can’t rely on money, popularity, beauty, muscles, drugs, guns — only your own intuition and will, guided by ethics and divination rather than commandment. Intellectually, magic teaches the “art of correspondences” — how to recognize the fundamental patterns that interconnect all things — which develops the skill of creative problem-solving by seeing whole systems rather than isolated parts. Physically, magic perceives the world as animated with spirit — an awareness that teaches students to treat nature and their fellow human souls with compassion, wisdom and love rather than materialism, violence and exploitation. Spiritually, magic embraces many goddesses and gods, teaching respect rather than intolerance for diversity of opinions, cultures, histories — and especially religions. All in all, I’d argue that handing out Pagan spellbooks — on a Constitutionally equal basis with Bibles, of course — could even be America’s secret key to education reform. Steve Rasmussen is the co-author with Lady Passion of The Goodly Spellbook: Olde Spells for Modern Problems, and can be reached via
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UNCA Interfaith Dialogue: “Is Religion Relevant?”

UPDATE: The event was lively and interesting, and the audience was SRO! Watch a video of it at
Symbols of many religions encircle the EarthPlease join us at a free Interfaith Dialogue panel at UNC-Asheville Thursday Nov. 17, 2011, from 7:00-8:30 PM at the Highsmith Student Union, downstairs in the Grotto. The Dialogue will have two main parts to it, the discussion from 7:00-8:00, and then the question and answer from the audience from 8:00-8:30 PM. Here is the list of religions and representative  panelists as sent us by the student organizers:
  • Catholicism: Father John P. Cahill
  • Wicca: Lady Passion and *Diuvei
  • Zen Buddhism: Sunya Kjolhede
  • Conservative Judaism: Rabbi Robert Cabelli
  • Reform Judaism: Rabbi Batsheva Meiri
  • Humanist: Ms. Jackie Simms
  • Sikhism: Hari Mandar Singh Khalsa
  • Bahai: Dr. David Gillette
  • Sokka Gakkai Buddhism: Laura Petritz
  • Christian Pastor (Paradigm Church): Terry Hollifield
  • Muslim: Imam Kamal and Dr. Abdel Mayyas
  UNCA students derived the topics and questions. They are: Major Topic: Is religion relevant to the individual? Sub-topics:
  • Does a religious view of the Afterlife shape the individual? If so, how so?
  • Does religion give us the answers to the meaning of life?
  • Does religion help individuals navigate the ups and downs of life?
  • How does religion affect the individual’s understanding of morality?
Major Topic: Is religion relevant to society? Is religion relevant to politics? Sub-topics:
  • Pledge of Allegiance — “under God” — should we remove this, or keep it?
  • Do you believe that Asheville is a “cesspool of sin”?
  • Why are places of religious worship important to have in terms of community?
  • Does evil exist? How does your religion address evil?
  • What is your perspective on war?
  • How does religion address secular influences?
  • Is religion an opiate of the masses?
SHOULD BE A LIVELY DEBATE, and we hope to see you there! 😉
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Karma will out

Here is Lady Passion’s statement emailed Sept. 25 to WLOS-TV on the destruction of the Merrimon Magnolia: “Many people who loved this tree and fought for the past two years to save it are outraged that land-owner and former City Councilman and CIBO co-founder Chris Peterson makes money running Magnolia’s Restaurant, yet has the unmitigated gall to kill the beloved Merrimon Magnolia! Talk about showing contempt for the community’s desires! As of last Thursday, despite promises made, Harris-Teeter had still not contacted Jack Thompson, director of Asheville’s Historic Preservation Society, to coordinate efforts to incorporate architectural relics from the site of the old Pack mansion in their proposed grocery store design. Karma will out: I caution that everyone enabling this travesty may end up faring as badly as the Merrimon Magnolia.”
Posted in Merrimon Magnolia | 1 Comment

Farewell to a beautiful tree

We pushed as hard as we could to save the Merrimon Magnolia, but sadly we were unsuccessful, as we’ve just learned from a TV news reporter. It was always a long shot, stymied at every turn by a lengthy history of other people’s environmentally stupid decisions: The car lot for whose sake the Pack mansion was razed some 40 or 50 years ago left the site a brownfield, and Harris Teeter says it’s legally required to grade the entire property, leaving no place on-site for the tree. All the surrounding streets are strung with low-hanging tangles of utility wires because Asheville has never required that they be buried, so the tree could not be transplanted to a nearby park. Our supposed “Tree City USA” has neither rules nor incentives for preserving landmark trees, and local developers in general are astonishingly ignorant about how they could, and why they should, care for them and make them focal points of their projects. After I got the bad news today I made a mournful pilgrimage to a Hecate crossroads a mile or two from our Covenstead. As I walked home I noticed I was following the course of a stream running half-hidden through that neighborhood’s backyards. No matter how many parts of it developers had covered over with fill or pavement down through the decades, that stream still flowed, unstoppable. When I got to the main road, I realized the stream’s source was a small spring that bursts stubbornly through a crack in the asphalt driveway of a commercial parking lot. We humans prate loudly at our podiums about our absolute rights to private property, but Nature just sits in the back row and smiles at our arbitrary claims to own and control and commodify Her. She’s the only real property owner, and She wins every argument in the end. — *Diuvei
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Bele Chere 2011

Volunteers in booth, wearing "Witches of Coven Oldenwilde" t-shirts

Volunteers at Coven Oldenwilde’s wristband booth. (All photos by *Diuvei.)

Good company! Bele Chere is the Southeast’s biggest annual street festival, and for the first time ever the city of Asheville invited us Witches to help out. On Friday and Saturday, July 29 and 30, 2011, volunteers from Coven Oldenwilde clad in bold Witchy t-shirts staffed a booth by the Battery Park Stage, selling $2 permission-to-party wristbands (which some term Bele Chere’s cheapest souvenir). It was hot, hard work, but a lot of fun and a great chance to meet and do a little magic for some 2000 folks who stopped by from all over the world.
Donations for Coven Oldenwilde,,,

This QR code on a sign we hung on our booth opens on a smart phone.

Count on Witches to look at QR codes and see magic sigils! (“Quick Response” codes are those square bar codes you scan with a smart phone to link to a website or capture contact information.) We used them at Bele Chere to draw tips and tell fortunes.
Glass jar on lazy susan with QR codes, Egyptian goddess

“Spin the tip jar and scan your fortune”: The QR code closest to the person spinning the jar contained a divination for them.

*Diuvei translated nine divinations written by Lady Passion into QR codes. We attached a big bean jar to a lazy susan, and affixed the nine codes (each identified with a color) around the edge. At our booth, we invited wristband-buyers to drop a donation in, spin the jar, then look at the QR code that ended up closest to them. If they scanned it on a smart phone, the QR code would give them a fortune — such as “Love yourself and the world will follow” or “Stop worrying and start dancing” — along with Coven Oldenwilde’s website and contact information. If they didn’t have a smart phone, we would have them tell us the QR code’s color and we would read them their fortune from a translation key. By the time we rolled up the Coven banner and headed home Saturday night, we’d performed hundreds of divinations — uncannily accurate, by all accounts. The QR-code fortunes even ran in patterns — for example, “Eat, drink and be merry” turned up constantly on Friday, but Saturday’s theme was “Love the one you’re with”.
Lady Passion holding up two fingers.

Victory (and peace) at the conclusion of two exhausting but exciting days.

Although we heard many complaints about the bullhorn-wielding street preachers who rant at attendees every year, we had no trouble from them or any other intolerant ilk. Indeed, we received nothing but interested questions and enthusiastic compliments about the Witches’ presence at Bele Chere 2011.
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Press Release: Update on Merrimon Magnolia, Apr. 26, 2011

Lady Passion interviewed by Charu Kumarhia for WLOS-TV 13 NewsWatch our news interview on WLOS-TV 13 with Charu Kumarhia, 5pm or 6pm EDT Tues. April 26, or FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saving the Merrimon Magnolia and George Pack’s stone wall A large heritage magnolia on the former site of George W. Pack’s mansion — now slated for a new Harris Teeter grocery store — could be picked up and moved by a California company that claims the Guinness World Record for the largest tree ever moved. The old tree is in need of a new home, however. An architecturally unique feature of the massive retaining wall that once bounded Pack’s “Manyoaks” property will unfortunately be demolished for the new store. Its stones will be incorporated into an expanded bus stop at the site at 136 Merrimon Ave., which will include a memorial to Pack. But anyone who wants to see the impressively built, brick-paved carriage entrance to Manyoaks had better hurry, because it will soon be added to the ever-lengthening roll of Asheville’s lost historic treasures. 1) The magnolia tree Asheville residents have been urging Harris Teeter to save the stately magnolia at Merrimon and Chestnut through a Facebook page (, letters to the editor, and a postcard campaign directed toward Harris Teeter’s president, Fred Morgenthall, a resident of Charlotte ( At the final Technical Review Committee meeting last week that granted the city’s approval to the development, Harris Teeter’s representative, Garland Hughes, noted that grading requirements related to the site’s brownfields status would not allow the magnolia to remain in place. He assured concerned citizens, however, that the company is interested in relocating the tree (as well as planting many more trees on the site), had spoken about it with the city’s arborist, Mark Foster, and would be open to proposals for doing so. Moving big trees is not something many, if any, area arborists and landscapers are equipped to do. So I followed a tip from local landscape contractor Steve Ambrose and contacted the Senna Tree Company in La Crescenta, Calif. Senna’s website,, shows the company transporting an 80-ton oak to a new site (I don’t know if that is the tree that won them the world’s record!). Surprisingly, the California company knows a lot about moving large magnolia trees, I learned from president John Mote in an April 25 phone conversation, since they are a popular landscaping feature for antebellum-style homes in the West. Based on the measurements and photos I gave him (see, he informally estimated his company could send a few men out here and relocate the tree for about $25,000 to $30,000. [NOTE: $25,000 is just 1/100th of what Harris Teeter President Fred Morganthall makes in 1 year, and he is not even the company’s highest-paid executive. So this should be quite affordable! — S.R.] Where to move the tree to, however, has not been decided. To survive, the tree will need some 74 cubic feet of water twice a week without interruption for months after transplanting, till it recovers from the shock. One possibility I am suggesting to officials might be a nearby public park or city greenway, where Parks and Recreation personnel and citizen volunteers could ensure that it receives the regular attention it needs during that period (and where it’s not likely to be uprooted yet again by yet another building project). 2) The stone wall In the late 1800s, several years before making his famous donation of Pack Square to the city, George W. Pack built a grand mansion on Merrimon Ave. that he named “Manyoaks.” The mansion was, sadly, demolished in the 1960s or 1970s around the time the last Pack descendant living in the house died, and the property became the Deal Motor Company lot. [NOTE: After the last local Pack owner died, the mansion became a funeral home, and then was demolished when Deal Motor Company bought the lot, according to a longtime neighbor. — S.R.] But the massive stone retaining wall along Chestnut and Holland Streets was left in place, along with two stone pillars and a section of wrought-iron fence next to Merrimon. (Now only one pillar, thanks to an auto accident last fall.) As can be seen from the photo gallery at, a carriage entrance graces the wall on Chestnut near Merrimon. The carefully curved stonework of the entrance that terminates in two pillars is unusual. In response to public and official requests, Harris Teeter designed its site plan so as to keep as much of the wall as its engineers deemed possible. The stretch along Holland will remain intact (although it will be penetrated by a pedestrian entrance), as will much of the wall along Chestnut Street, which will not be widened owing to neighborhood traffic concerns. However, the company will install a large parking-lot entrance where the carriage entrance stands now. Harris Teeter is working with the city and the Asheville-Buncombe Preservation Society to design an expanded bus stop at the present stop on Merrimon by Chestnut, which will incorporate portions of the demolished wall and possibly the iron fence and pillar on Merrimon. It will likely include a historical plaque commemorating Pack’s former residence here. For more information: Garland Hughes, Harris Teeter representative: (704)367-5003, (704)622-5855, John Mote, Pres., Senna Tree Company: (818)957-5755, (818)279-3054, Jack Thomson, Director, Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County: (828)254-2343, Julia Fields, City Planning staff: Photos and information about the Manyoaks site: and Montford Newsletter article “Elegant Relics on a Car Lot: George Pack’s Lost Merrimon Avenue Mansion”, — Steve Rasmussen (828) 335-2486 (828) 251-0343
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Letter to Asheville City Council re Ingles Smoky Park Hwy

Council should stand by city’s rules with Ingles

Tomorrow [March 22, 2011] City Council has a chance to prove why government matters. You can show the doubters on both right and left that the city of Asheville’s regulatory function is neither burdensome to the free market nor corrupted by special interests. Good government acts as a referee to ensure that the rules are applied fairly to all — no matter how wealthy, no matter how popular they may be. Ingles has wisely agreed to abide by the city’s rules concerning parking-lot landscaping and pedestrian access at both Smoky Park Highway and Brevard Road. But the company still wants to install lights that are far brighter, and signs that are much larger and more numerous, than city ordinances allow — and, as city staff reports show, considerably brighter and bigger than the lights and signs of their law-abiding competitors. No one can question the admirable legacy of generosity to Asheville that Bob Ingle Sr. left with his passing, both in contributing to charity and in creating local jobs. But it would tarnish that legacy for Council to treat it as though it implied a trade-off for special favors that aren’t granted to other, less influential businesses. It would be both unfair and unsafe to grant Ingles a 400% increase in lighting over what the UDO allows for its fuel canopies. City staff’s lighting study shows other, competing gas stations are operating in compliance with our light-pollution ordinance (which is based on national standards). Those canopies are already extremely bright: Consider the dangerous night-blindness the lighting level requested by Ingles would induce in motorists. It would also be unfair for Council to continue granting Ingles exceptions to our sign ordinance. Many small businesses already complain about imbalanced enforcement of the ordinance — remember how much flak the city caught for cracking down on Picnics’ chicken man? There’s a lot of resentment surrounding sidewalk-sign enforcement, too, as I’m sure you’re aware. Consider how much more anger and disgust Council and staff will justifiably be subjected to if Council is seen to suspend the sign rules for Ingles while enforcing them on everyone else. Stand fast by our city’s rules. Be the fair and consistent referee that Asheville’s businesses and residents want city government to be, to keep the playing field even for all. If Ingles feels that these rules are unfairly restrictive, then they should have come and sat at the table with the other stakeholders when these ordinances were drafted. They can still follow the proper process for requesting that the city consider amending the UDO — but for all players, not just for Ingles. — Steve Rasmussen FOR MORE INFO: Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods Wiki at
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Send a Postcard to Save the Merrimon Magnolia

Harris Teeter please save the Merrimon Magnolia

Google Earth view of the Merrimon Magnolia

Send a photo postcard to Harris Teeter CEO Frederick J. Morganthall and his wife Judy via It costs less than $2 per postcard ($1.27 from Asheville). It’s easy. Here are the steps: 1) Download one of the images posted here (right-click or option-click, then choose “Save Image As…”). 2) Go to 3) Choose “Make a Small Postcard.” 4) Customize your card on the front with the image you chose, and 5) on the back with a message (you can copy the one I wrote, shown below, or write your own). 6) Instruct to send it to this address: Frederick J. Morganthall 7625 Stonecroft Park Dr Charlotte, NC 28226-5583 7) Check out and pay.
Harris Teeter please save the Merrimon Magnolia

Magnolia blossom

PLEASE KEEP IT FRIENDLY!! :-) These folks are not “bad guys”. The Morgenthalls are Charlotte residents who often visit our mountains, and the Harris Teeter corporation has a great “sustainable design” policy for their stores. We just need to remind them that sustainability includes preserving Asheville’s heritage trees. Here’s what I wrote them on the postcard I sent: Dear Mr. & Mrs. Morganthall, Please don’t cut down the grand old magnolia that graces the future site of a Harris Teeter on Merrimon Ave. in Asheville. This heritage tree may be a century old, and could well have been planted by Asheville’s great benefactor George W. Pack. It cannot be replaced, and seedlings do not substitute for the loss.
Harris Teeter please save the Merrimon Magnolia

Merrimon Magnolia in the moonlight

I know H-T is an environmentally conscious company, and I’m very grateful you are saving the Pack mansion relics on the site. But we Ashevilleans deeply love our trees, as you can see from letters to the Mountain Xpress about this one and from the city’s successful battle to save City Hall’s magnolia. Please preserve this tree and incorporate it into your store’s design, or consult with a skilled arborist about transplanting it nearby. If Harris Teeter saves the Merrimon Magnolia, the people of Asheville will repay your business many times over! (Just ask Stewart Coleman!) — Steve Rasmussen
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Council shouldn’t let Ingles violate safety and environmental standards

This Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, Ingles Markets will ask Asheville City Council for special permission to build a big-box store on Smoky Park Highway in West Asheville that would violate existing standards which promote pedestrian safety in large parking lots, reduce light pollution, and require landscaping to provide shade and address environmental issues. Council should say no. Development standards are meaningless if they are not enforced consistently and evenhandedly. Ingles is not claiming that following the existing standards would cause it undue hardship — the usual grounds for granting what city planners call a “variance” from the rules governing developments. Rather, Ingles representatives say the company simply doesn’t want to change its prototype superstore design: a highly visible storefront with a very bright gas-station canopy.  Ingles Markets is applying for the variances under the controversial legal procedure called “conditional zoning.” Despite other virtues, CZ has the serious flaw of not requiring a developer seeking the variance to show a hardship or technical difficulty. Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods activists say this is a case of a developer exploiting conditional zoning as a loophole to allow City Council to practice normally illegal “spot zoning” — changing the rules arbitrarily for one development, but not another. The Asheville Planning and Development Department professional staff and the Technical Review Committee are recommending that City Council deny Ingles Markets these variances. The planners say granting such substantial and unnecessary departures from city safety and environmental ordinances would undercut the intent of the standards and set a bad precedent for future developers to demand exceptions for convenience rather than hardship or other difficulty. They also point out that other recent big-box developments — Walmart on Swannanoa River Road and Hendersonville Road, and Target off Tunnel Road — have met the requirements without any problem. The staffers and a rapidly growing number of concerned community groups and citizens point to three areas where Ingles, they say, is intent on disregarding city environmental and safety rules that were developed with broad community input and that meet reasonable, national standards:
  • Light pollution: Extremely bright light canopies such as many gas-station chains are installing to grab attention are widely considered dangerous because they distract and blind motorists at night. Ingles wants to install a canopy that would emit between 290% and 400% more light than the city’s light-pollution ordinance allows. Asheville’s ordinance, notes Bernard Arghiere of the Astronomy Club of Asheville, conforms to moderate national standards and is not even a more restrictive “night-sky” ordinance such as Waynesville and Brevard enforce.
  • Tree shade in parking lots: Along with the discomfort and danger of hot car interiors, large, unshaded asphalt parking lots are major causes of the “urban heat island” effect that makes cities much hotter than surrounding countryside, and that “cooks” an assortment of common air pollutants to create the “red” and “orange” levels of ozone pollution that keep kids, asthmatics, and the elderly from going outside. Ingles wants to plant only 40% of the city’s required number of trees for a large parking lot.
  • Pedestrian safety in parking lots: Large, busy parking lots, packed with cars unexpectedly backing out of spaces with little peripheral vision for the driver, can be very dangerous for pedestrians to negotiate — especially if they are elderly or have kids and a shopping cart in tow. Although the city requires big boxes to install a landscaped walkway for pedestrians down the center of a large parking lot, Ingles wants to install a sidewalk around the outer perimeter of the 846-space lot, and none down the center.
Our city councilmembers have repeatedly stated they want Asheville’s development rules to be fair, objective and predictable. We’ll find out if they really mean it this Tuesday. For more information:  To take action:
  • Email Asheville City Council at:
  • Speak out at City Council’s public hearing on the Ingles conditional-zoning request on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, starting at 5 pm, fifth floor of Asheville City Hall.
Steve Rasmussen is a development activist who lives in West Asheville and shops regularly at Ingles. He can be contacted at
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Save the “Merrimon Magnolia” in Asheville, NC!

Merrimon Ave. Magnolia

Developers plan to destroy this large, old magnolia, which was likely planted by George W. Pack at the site of his mansion.

Merrimon magnolia in the moonlight

Merrimon magnolia under the aegis of the Moon.

Charlotte developer group Merrifield Patrick Vermillion plans to destroy this century-old evergreen companion tree of the twin magnolias Coven Oldenwilde and supporters saved in front of Asheville City Hall in 2008, and plant “small” (spindly) trees instead when it builds a new Harris Teeter grocery store on Merrimon Avenue. The store is to be built on the former site of Asheville benefactor George W. Pack’s mansion “Manyoaks.” This mature, healthy tree appears to be old enough to have been planted by Pack, who also once owned the land where the City Hall magnolias stand.

Please act now to help save the Merrimon Magnolia! Complain to the company directly:

Read and add your comments to these local residents’ calls to action in the Mountain Xpress:

Please act today — for according to its website’s About Us section, the “strong financial relationships this “ethical” “corporate commercial real estate firm” has “enable [it] to move quickly to execute [its] vision.” — Lady Passion, Magnolia tree defender
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