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“There is no escape from the cycle.” – Richard Ravish, With Love from Salem

Like another recent documentary involving modern Pagans that I enjoyed, Alex Mar’s “American Mystic,” Karagan Griffith’s “With Love from Salem” is not an introduction or history lesson, but is instead a portrait of a belief system, a culture, in action. It follows Richard and Amy Ravish, Wiccan clergy who led rituals on Gallows Hill in Salem, Massachusetts for more than 20 years.  While ostensibly about their Samhain ritual and procession on its 20th anniversary, what emerged to me on my viewing was surprisingly personal, an intimate look at the lives of two elders whose duty to Salem has become deeply intertwined with their faith, their friendships, and how they interact with community.

The mere mention of Salem, Massachusetts can be divisive within modern Pagan circles, with some Witches and Wiccans decrying the tourist-drawing Mardi Gras-like atmosphere around Halloween, and the Witches who have embraced that spirit of spooky fun as well. Yet, purposefully flamboyant Salem Witches like Laurie Cabot were instrumental in advancing tolerance and rights for Wicca and religious forms of modern Witchcraft. It was Cabot who founded the Temple of Nine Wells, “as a focus for worship and to facilitate a multi-traditional practice of the religion of Witchcraft in order to best serve the spiritual needs of the growing Wiccan community in Salem, Massachusetts.” A mission that was taken up by Amy and Richard as administrators of the temple. According to Amy “Gypsy” Ravish in the film, the ritual and procession at Samhain not only reminds people of the differences between Salem’s Halloween festivities and the religious observance of Samhain, it also gives an opportunity to those Pagan tourists who “can’t walk down the streets of their town, and say that they are Witches.” The tourism acts as a normalizing element, protective coloring for individuals across the country who see Salem as a pilgrimage.

Richard and Amy Ravish

Richard and Amy Ravish

“The commitment , passion and love for the Craft was and still is what moved Gypsy and Richard all these years.”Karagan Griffith, director of “With Love from Salem”

“With Love from Salem” subtly shows you how Salem has woven its way into the modern Wiccan mind, but it’s as much a meditation on aging in the Craft as it is about honoring those killed on Gallows Hill. Richard Ravish passed away in 2012, and as such much of the talk about aging, ancestors, and the spirit of Samhain take on a deeper resonance. It shows Wicca as a faith that endures through the Winter of their lives, and one that continues to resonate for new generations of Witches. The handheld camera work by Griffith gives an impression of home movies, which actually adds to the intimacy, rather than detracts. It’s like watching footage of the elders in your own group or community, talking about their work, their devotion. It gives us outsiders a chance to be a fly on the wall as these two elders plan a community ritual.

Ultimately, “With Love from Salem” is a time capsule, a document of a couple who quietly served a community since the 1970s, a fixed point where seekers and the curious could experience Witchcraft in a “land of ghosts.” It is about mortality and remembrance, not just for the victims of the Salem Witch Trials, but for our own elders as they age and pass on. As Richard Ravish says towards the end of the film, “there is no escape from the cycle,” there is only our acceptance, and our honoring of its gifts. Director Karagan Griffith has done an admirable job of documenting one couple’s journey within that cycle.

For updates on this film, see their official Facebook page.  You may also want to read my interview with director Karagan Griffith.

On June 12th, I reported on an upcoming documentary focusing on the Temple of Nine Wells in Salem, Massachusetts, and the lives of Richard and Gypsy Ravish, entitled “With Love From Salem.” Directed by Karagan Cratty Griffith, and produced by Logios Projects/Red Bird Productions, the first trailer for the film has been released.

Richard Ravish was one of the original “Witches of Salem,” and passed away in 2012 at the age of 59. Priestess Amy “Gypsy” Ravish is a popular Pagan singer-songwriter known for her albums “Enchantress” and “Spirit Nation.” Together they led Sabbats with the Temple of Nine Wells in Salem, Massachusetts for over 20 years. They helped shape the unique spirit that is modern religious Witchcraft in Salem, a spirit that is deeply entwined with those accused and executed for the crime of witchcraft in 1692.

“Salem is, on it’s own merit and historically so, a mark in American history. The year of 1692 was a time of suffering and injustice – 20 innocent people died at the hands of their accusers. Witchcraft was used as a definition and excuse for these trials. But what about now? How do witches today in Salem Massachusetts pay homage to these victims? The Temple of Nine Wells has been walking to Gallows Hill on Samhain night for more than 20 years to honor the dead and the victims of the witch hysteria of 1692. This documentary will walk you through this event, from preparation to ritual, as well as through the differences between Samhain and Halloween, the sacred and the profane. An inside perspective of Samhain night in Salem, and of the men and women who through dedication and personal commitment continue to make a difference. With love, from Salem.”

I was able to conduct a short interview with Director Karagan Griffith, an Alexandrian High Priest with a background in acting and directing, about the film, why it was made, and when the public will get to see the completed project.

Karagan Cratty Griffith

Karagan Cratty Griffith

What motivated you to tell the story of Richard and Gypsy Ravish and the Temple of Nine Wells? What does their story tell us about them, about the Temple, and about Salem?

I have been a personal friend of Gypsy and Richard for quite some time. Since I met them I became fascinated by what they were doing, their commitment and passion for the Craft and those who practice it. I remember going to the first Temple of Nine Wells Ritual. It was in the Old Town Hall in Salem, and I thought that if public ritual was something to be done, then that was the way to do it. The documentary is precisely about that passion and commitment not only in an internal perspective of the Temple of Nine Wells but also in a more broad community sense. The idea of making the documentary came from the first time I attended to a Samhain ritual at Gallows Hill with the Temple of Nine Wells. The adherence of the people, the walk chanting up to Gallows Hill and the ritual itself, told me that this could not remain untold. I had to keep it and record it. I didn’t want to do just a recording of the ritual, so I thought that it would be a good idea to expand the recording to a documentary that would include their history/story but also the history/story of Salem and of the victims of the Witch-Hunters hysteria of 1692.

I think those of us outside of Salem often have a distorted picture of Witchcraft there. There’s so much media, especially around Samhain, that I think the lives and practices of the Salem Witches can get buried. As clergy who officiated a Samhain ritual for 20 years, what do you think the Ravishes teach us about the reality of Witchcraft in Salem?

Love is the word. I think that this is why I did this and they let me do it. Twenty years of Samhain rituals (and not only Samhain but all the Wheel of the Year was celebrated by the Temple, although the documentary focuses more on the Samhain ritual) have to be done with love. There wouldn’t be any other way. Again, the commitment , passion and love for the Craft was and still is what moved Gypsy and Richard all these years. I would also add generosity to list of words, since it was out of generosity that Gypsy and Richard gave all of this to Salem. Every year, on Samhain night, they took us up to the Hill to remember all of those who passed the Veil, including those who died in 1692. As Richard say in the documentary, we claimed the unclaimed, we took and remember those who in 1692 no one took, those who are buried without markers. Gypsy and Richard teach us about love. That is truly what they teach us about.

Finally, could you share a little bit about the making of this film? What’s gone into it? How long has it taken you? What were the challenges of doing this documentary?

The documentary was completely filmed with a Sony Bloggie, hand-held, without a camera stand. It is a very real documentary. I follow the making and all the preparations for the ritual in Gallows Hill, including meetings and decision making. I covered the walk up to Gallows Hill and the silent candle light walk back to the Salem witch memorial, escorted by the wonderful policemen who every year are there to make sure we are safe. We can see the ritual in Gallows Hill, the beautiful music and dance up in the Hill, and intimate conversations with Gypsy and Richard about how did it all begin. It is a journey through the history/story of Salem, the Temple of Nine Wells and Gypsy and Richard’s life and contributions for more than 20 years for the Salem community.

I started to collect footage for the documentary in 2011, so it took me almost two years to complete this project. I do have a good excuse since I am the director, cinematographer, producer with Jimahl di Fiosa and RedBird Productions. It is a very modest project but one that took great pleasure to make. The challenges were of course many, but when you are doing a documentary where the love, commitment and dedication is contagious, you will thrive on that to overcome any of the challenges.

Oh, and now that we have the trailer, when can we expect to see the whole film, and how will it be released?

The documentary will be released soon in Salem to the public and we are looking at some of the venues here to do that. We do not have a date yet but will be between June and July. We will have of course a private viewing of the documentary at Nu Aeon here in Salem for the members of the Temple of Nine Wells. Right after the release in Salem to the public, we will host a world premiere through a Hangout on Google+ with the presence of Gypsy and a selected number of guests and representatives of the various communities all over the world.

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For updates on “With Love From Salem,” see the film’s official Facebook page. I’d like to thank Karagan Griffith for taking the time to answer some of my questions, and I look forward to the film’s premiere. The Wild Hunt will keep you posted once further details are announced.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

with_love_from_salemA documentary focusing on the Temple of Nine Wells, and the lives of Richard and Gypsy Ravish, entitled “With Love From Salem,” has announced that they’ve nearly completed the project. Quote: “I had the privilege of seeing some footage of this documentary, currently nearing completion, and to say it is phenomenal is an understatement. A beautiful, evocative and magical film – not to mention visually and emotionally stunning. Get ready to see something amazing.” Richard Ravish was one of the original “Witches of Salem,” and passed away in 2012 at the age of 59. Amy “Gypsy” Ravish is a popular Pagan singer-songwriter known for her albums “Enchantress” and “Spirit Nation.” I’m very much looking forward to a new Pagan-centered documentary, and will update you here once there’s screening/release information.

Erynn Rowan Laurie

Erynn Rowan Laurie

As mentioned previously here, Erynn Rowan Laurie, author of “A Circle of Stones,” recently won for best poetry collection at the Bisexual Book Awards (photos of the ceremony here). On her return, she announced at her official Facebook page that she’s considering a move to Italy, motivated in part by recent health issues. Quote: “As with so many other things in my life, I realized I could either let circumstance defeat me, or I could try to work it so that I could turn it into something interesting. If I’m going to be robbed of my ability to drive, why not have an adventure in a place where walking is normal? It won’t mean that nobody will ever see me again. The internet still exists, after all. I’m very likely to try to fly back to the US for PantheaCon every year, and try to visit Seattle once a year as well.” We here at The Wild Hunt wish Erynn all the best no matter where she goes, and any nation she moves to will be all the richer for her presence. Good luck! Oh, and speaking of the Bisexual Book Awards, they can apparently get you stopped at the Canadian border and held for several hours.

Christina Oakley Harrington

Christina Oakley Harrington

Acclaimed London esoteric book store Treadwells has announced the launch of a brand-new, more robust, website. Included is an extensive resources section headed by Treadwells founder, Christina Oakley Harrington. For example, individuals new to Paganism can find several introductory essays about Paganism in general, and about Paganism in the UK in particular. Quote: “The pages below are designed to be clear, direct and authoritative. The pages on  groups and events direct you to the more established resources, though there are many more that can be found in local communities.” Harrington notes that “if you feel like lookng round the site, it’s got lots of other sections, too. We’ve been working hard on it for ages and hope you all find it useful.” Treadwell’s recently held a number of talks and events in conjunction with the I:MAGE esoteric arts exhibition reported on recently at The Wild Hunt.

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Sabina Magliocco

Chas Clifton reports that Dr. Sabina Magliocco, Professor of Anthropology at California State University, Northridge, and author of “Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America” is launching a new research project on individual’s spiritual relationship with animals. Quote: “The purpose of this study is to understand how we imagine our relationship to animals, how we incorporate animals into our spiritual or religious beliefs, and how this may motivate our actions in the everyday world.” You can take the survey, here. At the survey page Magliocco elaborates on benefits of the study: “This research could shed light on how people come to imagine themselves as part of an interconnected community that includes domestic and wild animals, and develop feelings that lead them to want to protect, defend and care for both domestic and wild animals. It may also reveal areas in which individuals diverge from the theological teachings of their religion as a result of their personal experiences with animals. Findings could be useful in developing educational programs for children and young people that foster sustainability.” Again, the survey link.

pagan_history_projectThe Pagan History Project (PHP) initiated with a soft launch this week on Facebook, with a full website to follow soon. An oral history project created to “collect, store, share and preserve the history of the American Pagan Movement,” co-founder Murtagh AnDoile said the scope of the project would be broad. Quote: “We are using “Pagan” in its broadest sense, encompassing: Witchcraft , Traditional and other, Wicca, Heathenry, Druidry, various Reconstructionisms, Magical Lodges, etc. All the groups and traditions and paths that make up the American Occult/Magical/Pagan movement from the early days ( the 1930s, 40′s 50′s…) to present. We are focusing on everything and everyone pre-1995 at this time, due to our aging population.” Initial interviews have already been conducted, and an informational packet instructing those interested on how to participate in their local communities and festivals will be released soon. Wild Hunt staffer Rynn Fox has been following the development of this project, and will be filing a report soon.

In Other Community News: 

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride.

Temple of Witchcraft at Boston Pride.

  • I love seeing pictures of Pagan organizations marching in LGBTQ Pride parades, so be sure to check out the Temple of Witchcraft’s Facebook page, where they’ve posted several photos of their involvement with the Boston Pride Parade. Quote from ToW co-founder Steve Kenson: “Thank you to all who came out to march and represent for the pagans in Saturday’s Boston GLBT Pride parade and to those who cheered us on! The gods rewarded us with a clear and warm day after a grey and wet morning. Many thanks and blessings!”
  • As was indirectly mentioned in my installment of Pagan Voices earlier this week, the Patheos Pagan Channel has launched a new group interfaith blog entitled “Wild Garden: Pagans in the Growing Interfaith Landscape.” Quote: “Interfaith involvement looks much like a wild garden. A tangle of contradictions, surprises, delights and sometimes disappointments, one must walk carefully. But the risk is rewarded richly, often in ways one could never have seen coming.” Good luck on the new blog! 
  • Also at Patheos, the Pagan Families blog interviews Tara “Masery” Miller about the process of “adopting while Pagan.” Quote: “The Missouri Family and Children’s Services, a government agency, intention to adopt form illegally asked what our religion was. Just as I suspected. I was aware it was illegal because my atheist friend had sent me plenty of references on religion and adoption. Well, instead of blatantly saying I’m Pagan and my husband’s a mage, I said we are spiritual and I belong to the Unitarian Universalist Church! And sometimes we attend a Methodist Church. Which is true. My mother is a lay minister!” That quote is from part two of the interview, here.
  • The Summer Solstice is coming up, and Llewellyn is holding a Twitter party to celebrate! Quote: “The beginning of June marks shorts days, grill days, and summer hours for our luckly Llewellyn employees–but it’s not very fair that you don’t get to participate, is it? So we want you to join us in a summer celebration! We are hosting our second annual Solstice Twitter party! [...] Use the hashtag #moonchat in your party tweets. We’ll tweet the questions, you’ll tweet the answers, and we’ll chat!” There are going to be prize giveaways for participants, so if you’re stuck in an office that day, why not? 
  • In a final note for all our Trad-Wiccan friends out there (and you know who you are), June 13th is Geraldmas! The celebration of Gerald Gardner, the father of modern religious Witchcraft (born June 13th, 1884). I think it’s a great idea to have a day where BTW groups do a day of outreach and socializing. Are you having a Geraldmas celebration in your area this year? 

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

“You don’t forget who you loved even though they died 20 years ago. There is no time on the other side.”Rev. HP Richard Ravish

Word has come to us that Richard Ravish, Elder in the Alexandrian Witchcraft tradition, Hierophant of The Temple of the Strength of Hadit, and one of the original “Witches of Salem,” crossed the veil on Saturday after battling cancer. Ravish, 59, was an ordained minister and Magus of the Temple of Nine Wells in Salem, and ran a distribution and retail outlet in Salem, Massachusetts that sold occult, magical, and metaphysical supplies.

Rev. High Priest Richard Ravish

Rev. High Priest Richard Ravish

“Richard wrote and lead open circles for each of the Eight Sabbats of the Witches Wheel for over 20 years. He was the High Priest of the Coven of Akhelarre, and served as the Grand Master of his Kentish Witchcraft Line in America, training and initiating suitable students and chartering covens of the Wicca.”

A true magickal polymath, Ravish was an active Freemason, Rosicrucian, and Hermetic Initiate, in addition to his Witchcraft and Thelemic leadership roles. He was a strong advocate for Pagan Rights, lending aid in several Lady Liberty League endeavors.

“Remembering & Honoring Richard, his life, his friendship, his magic, his service, his legacy.  Support to Gypsy & all his friends, family, & supporters.  May all of us who mourn his passing take comfort in our memories of Richard & take solace in knowing that his magical sacred spirit continues to be in this world & the New Aeon through his good works & the many lives & organizations he blessed.  Hail & Farewell to your life now passed, Richard & blessings on your journeys in the Ancestral realm.” – Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Ravish is survived by his wife, Amy “Gypsy” Ravish, a popular Pagan singer-songwriter known for her albums “Enchantress” and “Spirit Nation,” his daughter Asherah Aphrodite Ravish, step daughter Kitoto Von Hebb, sister Sandra McCandless, cousins, nieces and his familiar, Cosmo Skyrocket Ravish. Funeral arrangements are posted below.

“The highest are of us. Wednesday, September 19, 2012 e.v. Starr King Masonic Lodge, at 70 Washington Street in Salem with whom Richard shared his spiritual light as Chaplain for 25 years, will host his final rites. All friends of the Ravish family are invited to an open casket final Blessed Be commencing at 11 am and ending at 1:30 pm followed by a Rite of Passage and Masonic tribute. At 4 pm a blessing will take place at Greenlawn Cemetary with an interment at 4:18 pm. The Ravish family and friends will host a reception at Masonic Hall after the burial as a celebration of Richard’s. Please contact Murphy Funeral Home 978-744-0497 (www.murphyfuneralhome.com) for further details.”

What is remembered lives. May he find rest and return to us again.