DETROIT (Talk Radio 1270) Forget brooms and cauldrons, Wiccan high priestess Julia McGowan of Rochester visited the Charlie Langton show this week to dispel myths about modern witchcraft — just in time for Halloween.
“Everyone is called to follow their faith in different ways, for me it was a calling,” said McGowan, explaining her embrace of the Wiccan religion. But she’s not just a witch, she’s also a massage therapist and soccer mom raising her children to celebrate whatever religion they choose.
McGowan started her involvement in alternative religions at 15 years old, when she became fascinated by Tarot cards and readings. She said she would quiz her Catholic father and stepmother on the way home from Mass every week about why she and other women couldn’t serve as priests.
“I felt frustrated as a young woman called to serve but not able to move up the chain, so to speak,” she said.
She started studying mysticism and paganism and later embraced the Wiccan religion. It is witchcraft, McGowan said, but it doesn’t involve green skin, pointy hats or nose warts.
And no one kills animals, worships the devil or performs any evil acts in the name of their pagan religion, she said.
“If you come out of the gates ‘I’m a witch’ it freaks people out, it still has that stigma attached to it,” McGowan said, adding that celebration of the natural world is a big part of her religion and one of its basic tenets is to “harm none.”
They believe “the goddess” is energy based, and other worlds exists beyond what “our five senses can detect,” McGowan said. The extra senses are most sensitive during Halloween, she added.
For Wiccans, Halloween means a celebration, an opportunity to celebrate the natural world.
“It’s one of the biggest holidays in my faith … Halloween is a time where we honor those who have passed on,” McGowan said, adding, “We carve pumpkins, and the tradition of carving pumpkins actually comes from this idea that during Halloween is when we believe the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.
“There are spirits that walk around on earth and the tradition of carving a pumpkin, if you carve a scary pumpkins, it’s supposed to scare off malevolent spirits,you pass out candy to attract the benevolent spirits.”
She said she feels her deceased mother’s presence most strongly on Halloween. “I also feel the spirits of who have passed on, that are kind of free to roam on that day, it’s kind of their get of jail free card,” she said.
Comparing her religion to Catholicism, she said Wiccans use symbols just like Catholics use rosaries.
“Witches believe we can interact with the powers that be to change reality,” McGowan said, later adding, “People have made witchcraft and devil worship synonymous, but Wiccans don’t believe in the devil, which is tied to Christianity.”