Part II – RightsMarie Joséphine Corriveau. In 1763 she was the first woman to be tried and found guilty of Witchcraft in
But Wicca is not the witchcraft of La Nouvelle France. When Wicca started to arrive and be openly practiced in
Perhaps the best-known court case is the libel charge that Lion-Serpent Sun brought against David Maines and the evangelical television program
The case offered Canadians a fascinating, if somewhat slanted, look into the beliefs and practices of witchcraft in BC in 1972, as well as at the time of the trial. Among the evidence presented was Sun’s own Book of Shadows. As well, during the testimony of Gary Gage-Cole, a coven-mate of Sun’s, a photograph of the ritual room on the night in question was brought into evidence. The room had a pentacle with symbols around it painted onto the floor. During his testimony, Cole explained that the symbols in the darker shaded ring between the inner and outer circles were Hebrew letters that stand for names of God, but also are symbols of fire, water, wind and earth. He also said that some of the symbols were for angels and bats, or devils. “It's a balance, or a blending of opposites. As with everything in life, there is a duality,” he testified.
Several prominent BC witches also testified at the case, including Jean Kozocari and Robin Skelton, a professor of English at the
A similar challenge in
A couple of years later in BC, Wicca was once again publicly challenged. In 1994, Sam Wagar had won the nomination as the provincial New Democratic Party candidate for Abbotsford, in BC’s ‘bible belt.’ His nomination was later challenged on the basis that he was a witch and that he failed to declare this during the nomination process. Wagar had been quite visible as a public witch for over 15 years and felt that his religion was irrelevant to the nomination. He agreed to a second nomination race, but lost. Wagar filed a human rights complaint against the BC NDP on the grounds of religious discrimination. The case was settled out of court. It also appears to be last time that Wicca has been publicly challenged I the court or in the media.
While some Wiccans and witches were busy defending their rights and freedoms in the courts, other individuals were using the power of networking and the written word to take a more pro-active approach to securing acceptance for their religion.
Not long after the Lion-Serpent Sun and Charles Arnold trials, the The Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca by Canadian Wiccan policeman, Kerr Cuhulain was published in 1989. This book was “an important Canadian first step towards normalising relationships between Pagans and the police,” according to Professor Lucie Dufresne of the
In 1994 the Pagan Federation Paienne
These cases, as well as the efforts of many others too numerous to mention in this brief article, have opened the doors to the acceptance of Wicca as an almost mainstream religion in
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I am also enormously grateful to everyone who took the time to answer my questions and share their stories. I am especially indebted to Castalia, Hawk, Richard James, Shelley Rabinovitch, and Sam Wagar for their help with this article series. These articles would not have been possible without their patience and time spent with me in person or online, or the valuable resources and contacts they provided.
Endnotes: 1. In Canada, religion is a freedom and cannot be contested in court. However, religion cannot be an excuse for behaviour that is excessive, dangerous or contrary to Canadian laws. (Lucie DuFresne. Lecture on Religious Rights in