Witches, Wiccans, Pagans and HeathensOn Halloween, it is not uncommon to bump into a witch or two. You'll find them at costume balls, wrapped around light poles in downtown Astoria, or accompanying little goblins on candy-gathering excursions. But where do they go for the rest of the year?

Well, most of them go back to being "non-witch" citizens but some remain witches, wiccans, pagans or heathens all year long.

The Witches' Voice, a neopagan/networking source, has been operating on the Internet since 1997 and endeavors to "network Witches, Wiccans, Pagans and Heathens from all over the world." Acknowledging that it is hard to define exactly what any of these designations are, they explain that a pagan is anyone who defines themselves as such and adheres to a code of ethics.

The principal code is The Witches' Rede, commonly attributed to Lady Gwen (Gwynne) Thompson, a Celtic traditionalist, and is "rich with compassion, empathy and respect for others, the individual practitioner, the Goddess and God and Mother Earth. It guides and directs ... energies 'for the good of all.'"

Their ancient beliefs and pentagram symbol have roots in both eastern and western philosophical thought. The pentagram represents the human body and earth, and symbolizes the ability to bring Spirit to Earth and God's protection of all.

Groups such as The Witches' Voice and The Witches' League for Public Awareness strive to dispel the myths and misconceptions surrounding their craft that keep many of their practitioners "in the broom closet." The group says real witches believe that doing evil or harm is unethical and immoral; they do not worship Satan; they wear black only to absorb light and be more receptive to psychic energy; they come from all social and economic backgrounds and professions; their spells are thoughts, projections or prayers and are not intended to do evil; wands are only used to direct energy in healing; and witchcraft is a Celtic word meaning "wise, good people."

Below are some more facts and figures regarding witches, wiccans, pagans and heathen in Oregon:

Number of pagans: 609

Number of organized groups: 64

Number of professional services available: 35

Number of shops specializing in witchcraft: 15

Number of visits to The Witches' Voice Web page for Oregon: 236,666

Oregon's rank for site visits among states: 24th

Sources: The Witches' Voice (www.witchvox.com)

The Witches' League for Public Awareness (www.celticcrow.com)

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