FORT SASKATCHEWAN, Alberta, Canada – Alayah Esotera has been in disputes with her neighbor over the presence of ritual art found on Esotera’s property. The neighbor has filed a complaint with local authorities. Esotera believes that complaint has its roots in religious intolerance and discrimination.
TWH reached Esotera to discuss her experiences and what has been happening. This Monday CTVNews.ca reported the most recent clash Esotera had with her neighbor (who is unnamed in news reports, and by Esotera in her exchanges with TWH). Esotera said the problems with the neighbor go back about a year shortly after the neighbor purchased the property in July of 2019.
Esotera said, “When they first moved in I even told him. I am Pagan, he’s like, ‘ya no problem.’ I even reiterated that I do Witchcraft & rituals in my back yard and he even said it was cool and he didn’t have a problem with it, there was the first lie.”
Shortly afterward, he reported the height of her front fence to the municipality, citing safety concerns that the height of the fence obscured his view for safely pulling out of their driveway. According to Esotera, she received a visit from municipal bylaw officials and law enforcement. Esotera had to remove between four to eight inches from their fence to comply with the citation.
Even so, she says she did not hold it against her neighbor and instead tried to be welcoming. Esotera makes candles and other ritual items that’s she sells on Etsy. “So I created them one of my handmade candles as a welcome to the neighbourhood, even though they reported us for the height of our fence, I put it behind me & decided to brush that one off,” she said.
However, since that first complaint, her neighbor has reported her over 20 times for various infractions during the year he lived the house next door. Esotera places garden art out for the Sabbats. “From previous complaints against me they already knew I celebrate my holidays those times, but did this to me anyways,” she said to CTVNews.ca. “Nothing like being made to feel like nothing in your own community.”
Esotera has documented many of the interactions with both Bylaw officials and officers and her neighbor in videos she has posted online.
Estoera has had complaints filed about the ritual art in her backyard; her feeding the crows; having rabbits; having signs posted warning she has dogs and even the height of the grass growing in the section of the yard between the sidewalk and street.
The latest conflict which resulted in a visit from bylaw officials and law enforcement officers was over her depictions of the Sun God Anu, a horned, earth Goddess she created as ritual art for the Summer Solstice, and a rather unique “spider house” which looks like a spider but has a human torso and head.
This time the neighbor filed a complaint because he claimed it was having a negative impact on his ability to sell his home and driving offers down by as much as C$ 50,000.
Esotera’s ritual art and other structures are in her backyard and not easily visible. According to her, he would regularly stand in the bed of his truck to see over the fence, as evidenced below in her video shot while speaking with him and his girlfriend concerning her feeding the crows.
Now my Neighbors are complaining about me feeding the Crows,
What is wrong with these people?!
If my Cat doesn’t finish his mouse I toss the rest outside for the crows to eat. We do not believe in wasting food & Crows have always been here, they nest in all the surrounding trees pic.twitter.com/ZNFgimDH7V
— Alayah Esotera (@EsotericPagan) September 16, 2019
According to Esotera the neighbor placed his property on the market at the beginning of June and the house sold on June 15.
Ultimately, the city a citation under nuisance laws that “includes any use of or activity upon any property which is offensive to any Person, or has or may have a detrimental impact upon any Person or other property in the neighbourhood.” The citation carries a fine of C$250.
Worried about the potential costs, Esotera started a crowdfunding campaign to cover the fine and any litigation costs that might be incurred. However, since then the case has been closed and citation dismissed, Esotera returned all the money that had been donated via the fundraiser and what people had sent her separately through PayPal.
Esotera has previously advocated for Pagan rights. In 2014 she challenged an Alberta public school that read the Lord’s Prayer each week during a school assembly. While the school said her daughter could read a book during the reading or be allowed to sit in the hall, Esotera felt that her daughter might be ostracized or ridiculed by other students if she opted to do so. Ultimately, the school decided to end the practice of reading scripture during the weekly assemblies.
Esotera expressed gratitude for the support from the broader Pagan community and feels that made a difference, but she is still concerned about the future. “I know if it wasn’t for all the Voices crying out in support of our rights, the city would have just proceeded with the charges. I want everyone to know that this isn’t really a win. It’s just being put on hold until the next person decides to complain as the City made it VERY clear that they were ONLY dropping the charges because they SOLD their house. It had nothing to do with my Pagan Rights, so come Fall Equinox, I feel I’ll probably get more complaints again.”
She continued, “What I want people to take from this is Stand up for what you believe in. Don’t allow others to dictate what makes you happy. Remember, this is Canada, The Land of the Free… Every Native & Aboriginal from EVERY Country Including Canada was once Pagan/Heathen so it is a recognized religion as it is the Oldest religion & the most peaceful one.”