The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published a nice profile of Wiccan priestess Lady Sintana, a former burlesque dancer in the sixties who opened a public house of Witchcraft 32 years ago. Now nearing seventy, and suffering from ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), Lady Sintana has handed over Ravenwood Church and Seminary of Wicca to her students and is currently living out her remaining years in North Carolina. The article does an admirable job of trying to sum up Sintana’s colorful life.
Lady Sintana in 1976 and 1993
“For two years in the late 1960s, she said, she owned Sintana Burlesque at 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue in New York. Later, disturbed by what she saw as the “blending of burlesque and the pornography industry … and the abuse of young dancers,” she sold the theater. She worked several years in Buffalo, N.Y., in product promotion, where she met a Wiccan priest who sparked her interest in the Old Religion. When a friend in Atlanta became ill, she came to nurse him and started Ravenwood in a dilapidated, two-story house on Moreland Avenue. She became known among Wiccans by the title “Lady,” a term of respect for a woman considered, by knowledge and commitment, to be a teacher of witchcraft. Besides serving as a center for Wicca, Ravenwood became known as a refuge for abused girls and battered women, Lehrman said. “They’d call or come by in the middle of the night, seeking safety, needing help and sanctuary,” she said.”
The article also looks at the extreme difficulties Sintana had with keeping a public Wiccan space open in the early years of modern Paganism in America.
“…someone once took a chain saw to the building’s 8-foot sign. “People would sic their pit bulls on us, and fraternities would use us for initiations — ‘go [urinate] on the witches’ house.’ ” In 1979, a young female runaway was shot to death in the living room by the friend of a Ravenwood resident. Neither was formally affiliated with Ravenwood, but the incident attracted unwelcome attention and more hostility, including threats. Lehrman hired off-duty police to provide security. In the mid-’80s, she moved Ravenwood to a neighborhood on the south side of Decatur. There the Wiccan center survived court challenges and zoning battles. Ravenwood is now located in a private home near Sandy Springs…”
Luckily, Ravenwood no longer needs security guards, and Wicca (for better or worse) has become “mainstream” enough to avoid some of the more extreme reactions from misguided Christians. Lady Sintana herself is described as comfortable in her home and sanguine about her illness, content and happy with the support she has received from her students. Kudos to the newspaper for digging into a bit of our history. For more on Sintana and Ravenwood, their web site has some wonderful press clippings spanning their history.