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All photos by Jared Young, from the 2015 Witches' Gathering.

Witches’ Gathering celebrates the growth of Paganism in Ottawa

By Kelsey Sunstrum on October 24, 2016

For a while, but in particular, the last few years, I’ve been noticing more and more signs of a great resurgence of Pagan ideals, beliefs, and practices in the mainstream consciousness as well as my daily life. I grew up with a familiarity with Paganism and I realized it was entirely possible my observation was biased by it.

To get a second, and much more trusted, opinion on this question, I asked Raven’s Flight, a local Pagan group, if they’ve noted the same phenomenon. “Paganism and spirituality has definitely been growing as a movement across the world,” they agreed.

All photos by Jared Young, from the 2015 Witches' Gathering.

All photos by Jared Young, from the 2015 Witches’ Gathering.

Indeed, in the 2011 Census, a jaw-dropping increase of 273% in Ottawa was reported by Statistics Canada in the category of “Other Religions,” in which pagan religions and other earth-based and New Age philosophies fall.

The wholehearted embrace of Paganism is not difficult to comprehend in the context of a society that too often feels draining instead of inspiring, a world that appears to thanklessly take more than it gives. In contrast, Ravens’ Flight description of Paganism is deeply empowering:

“Pagan religions are sensuous and see life on Earth as something to be savoured and appreciated, rather than endured or rejected. Paganism embraces the Divine in all its forms, Feminine, Masculine and in between, and encourages practitioners to love their whole selves. Pagan religions enshrine personal responsibility without Divine judgement and do not have a concept of sin or the threat of eternal punishment.”

All photos by Jared Young, from the 2015 Witches' Gathering.

All photos by Jared Young, from the 2015 Witches’ Gathering.

The Witches’ Gathering, a charity ball hosted by Raven’s Flight, has been a mainstay on the Halloween circuit in Ottawa for almost 20 years. In reality, the event is a celebration of Samhain, the Wiccan holiday that marks the new year. Its roots are in and complementary to Halloween.

Open to Pagan practitioners as well as curious non-practitioners, it is the perfect chance to educate and immerse yourself in potentially entirely unfamiliar and exciting concepts of religion and spirituality. The Samhain ritual that will be performed is a rare invitation to witness the beauty and power contained in the symbolism of the Wicca religion.

All photos by Jared Young, from the 2015 Witches' Gathering.

All photos by Jared Young, from the 2015 Witches’ Gathering.

For its 18th year, the Witches’ Gathering is plunging into the enigmatic and elusive wonder of the underwater world with the theme To The Bottom of the Sea. Be it the tricky tentacles of an octopus, a whimsical mermaid, or Captain Ron (remember that classic?), adorn yourself however you interpret the aquatic underworld. (Prizes will be awarded to outstanding costumes, if you need incentive more than the fun of adopting another persona.)

On top of uniting the Pagan community, the Witches’ Gathering raises funds for charities or non-profit organizations that benefit the community, or that are relevant to the year’s theme.

Ravens’ Flight is honoring 2016’s theme by donating money raised at the event to the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a Dutch organization that is passionate about improving the health of our oceans.

For individuals eager to learn more about Paganism, or existing pagans wishing to find a community of like-minded folk, Ravens’ Flight offers local resources for pagans on their website and Facebook page.

The Witches’ Gathering is taking place at the Rideau Curling Club, in the heart of downtown Ottawa, this Saturday, October 29. The doors open at 7:00 p.m. The ritual will begin promptly at 8:00 p.m.; please be sure to arrive early if you’d like to take part as doors will be closed once it starts. The ritual will last approximately one hour, then at 9:00 p.m., the party starts!