by Nick Lingerfelt
Steven Disney grew up in a Baptist household and began having more questions than answers his faith could provide. When he realized he was gay, that only made it more complicated. He looked into other faiths like Islam and Buddhism, but he ended up reading The Green Witchcraft series by Ann Moura that provided him the answers he was looking for.
“One book lead to another and to another until finally things started to make sense,” Disney said. “So why Pagan? I found some of the answers I was looking for — I found a path that has acceptance for anyone and embraces the LGBT community, which is a part of my core.”
Wicca, also called Pagan witchcraft, is a contemporary Pagan new religious movement that was developed in England during the first half of the 1900s and introduced to the public in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant.
Wicca has no central authority. Its traditional core beliefs, principles and practices were originally outlined in the 1940s and 1950s by Gardner and Doreen Valiente, who was a writer responsible for writing early Wiccan liturgy.
Wicca, and Paganism, is polytheistic. Wicca allows each person to practice in a way that is appropriate for them. Wicca is inclusive and welcoming of all peoples, regardless of sexual orientation, gender roles, race or lifestyle.
Disney volunteers with Pagan Pride of East Tennessee and said the group is the primary community organization in the region and has been studying witchcraft and Paganism for about 15 years. The one thing he appreciates most about his faith is its participants determine the rules they live by.
“I make my fate, I make my decisions, I walk beside my Gods and Goddesses and look to them for advice,” Disney said. “I walked the mountains and felt the rocks. I swam the rivers and felt the currents taking my life in new directions. The fire burned me with errors, and the cold left me weak. But each step is my own, and I stand here today because I understand that my path is not over and that it is my path, not anyone else’s.”
Omma assists a customer in her store, The Broom Closet, on S. Main in Memphis. Photo by Addie James
Emily Guenther, who also goes by Rev. Omma, owns The Broom Closet, which is a metaphysical store offering spiritual readings, workshops, events, services and supplies. She said her store caters to people who consider themselves spiritual rather than religious, people who practice magic, people who are curious about Paganism and Wicca and Pagans of all kinds.
“Wicca teaches us to see the God and Goddess in each person and honor them as having that divine spark inside them,” Guenther said. “Wicca and Paganism in general are personal paths, and each person is going to experience Wicca and the Gods and Goddesses in their own unique way.”
Guenther began practicing Wicca in 2010 when she found a local group that was practicing and was open to the public. She said she chose to practice Wicca for two reasons: it honors the Goddess and their liturgical calendar is built around the cycle of the seasons and encourages Wiccans to honor and take care of the Earth.
“Because we follow the cycle of the seasons, we have quite a few holidays and opportunities each month to honor the energy of the Earth,” Guenther said.