EAST HAVEN — Amid books of spells and sticks of incense, a wooden sign in the front window of SubRosa Magick invites shoppers to “Come in, sit for a spell,” and owner Alicia Folberth hopes they will.

Folberth, 40, a Wiccan who practices witchcraft, casts spells and reads tarot cards, opened the shop at 15 Foxon Blvd. in August.

“I’ve been really amazed — people have been nice,” she said, adding that there are many misconceptions about her religion. “Some people are scared. They drive by kind of slowly. I’m amused.”

She said she decided to open the shop after being fired in March from United States Surgical Corp. in Norwalk after working as a graphic designer there for seven years.

While the company cited performance reasons, Folberth said she believes she was fired because of her Wiccan religion. She had asked to take Wiccan Sabbath days off without pay and was denied, she said.

She filed a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in May, Folberth said.

Lena Ferguson, a commission spokeswoman, said there is no record of Folberth filing a complaint.

State law prohibits employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of religious creed, said Ferguson, who added she doesn’t have enough information to comment on Folberth’s situation.

Wicca, a nature-based religion whose followers believe in reincarnation, witchcraft and magick — spelled with a “k” to differentiate it from the more common “stage magic” — is misunderstood by many, Folberth said. It is a federally recognized religion that celebrates eight major Sabbaths, she said.

Folberth and her boyfriend, Rapid Freeman — co-owner of SubRosa Magick — started a petition at the store that they plan to submit to legislators next year, urging them to enact a law of “religious freedom” in Connecticut.

Some states, including Massachusetts, allow residents to take all federally recognized religions’ holidays off from work without pay.

“There’s really no protection here in (Connecticut) beyond the federal (recognition), which doesn’t give you much,” she said.

So far, 326 people have signed the petition, she said.

Wicca is gaining popularity, but there are not many stores that cater to a Wiccan and Pagan clientele, she said.

“There’s only a few, really, in this area,” she said, adding that she often travels to Salem, Mass., where the famous witch trials of 1692 took place, to shop.

At SubRosa, bookshelves stocked with paperbacks about voodoo, spirituality, Wicca and various spells line the perimeter of the 660-square-foot store.

The scent of incense wafts through the space, which also has tarot cards, jewelry, CDs, candles and decorations for sale.

Folberth said she does not expect to see increased sales leading up to Halloween, and she’s closed Mondays. Halloween is actually a major Wiccan Sabbath day called Samhain.

There are many different traditions within the religion, including the Odyssean Wiccan Church of Canada, which Folberth follows.

“We do ritual work,” she said, adding that Wiccans are witches but not all witches are Wiccans. “We do spell work. We actively create change.”

Raised in a Presbyterian family, she became a Wiccan 21 years ago, drawn to the religion partly because of its emphasis on respecting nature.

She has had “second sight,” or the ability to see things before they happen, since she was 3 years old, she said, a skill she said she uses when conducting tarot card readings at the store.

Ten years ago, on Oct. 31, Folberth founded the Panthean Temple, of which she is high priestess. The temple, which has temporary homes in spaces it rents in New Haven and Oxford, has about 50 members, she said.

As the religion continues to grow, Folberth said she hopes people will learn more about it.

“There are amazing misconceptions,” she said, noting that some people believe witches worship Satan and do evil deeds, which is not true.

Most spells are designed to do good things, such as increase wealth, happiness or love, she said. Wiccans believe everything you do comes back to you three times over — a strong incentive to do good.

Cara Baruzzi can be reached at cbaruzzi@nhregister.com or 789-5748.

New Haven Register – News – 10/28/2005 – Wiccan priestess urges ‘religious freedom’ bill

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