DERBY Make-believe witches may worry most about not getting enough chocolate today. But a real-life witch has her hands full with more pressing matters.
Alicia Folberth, a Wiccan high priestess, has persuaded the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to review her complaint last June that she was fired, ostensibly because of her need for time off to practice her faith.
Folberth, 40, was a graphic artist for more than six years at U.S. Surgical Corp. in North Haven. She said she was fired because she began requesting unpaid Wicca holidays off. The holidays include the Celtic New Year, known as Samhain or Halloween as it is more widely known.
“If the investigation is decided in my favor, the state can force my reinstatement on the job, which I’m not interested in,” the Derby resident said. “Or they can compensate me with back pay from the time I was fired to the time the decision is made. “I’m definitely interested in that. I feel I’m owed that.”
Commission officials could not comment on specifics of the case, but confirmed they are working on it.
“Once there is a finding, there will be an attempt to conciliate the matter between the two parties,” said Lena Ferguson, spokeswoman for the commission. “If that fails, there will be a public hearing with referees to determine whether discrimination has occurred and we’ll make appropriate remedies.”
U.S. Surgical officials did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
In the meantime, Folberth has been working as a tarot card reader at her friend Rapid Freeman’s witch store in East Haven, called SubRosa Magick.
She has also made appearances on Freeman’s public-access cable show, “The Witchin’ Hour,” to drum up support for her campaign for legislation protecting religious freedom in the workplace for all faiths. The show is no longer aired in the Valley but is broadcast in the New Haven area.
“I haven’t gotten much support for my campaign for religious freedom,” Folberth said.
But she said she is trying to get legislators to pass a law providing unpaid religious days off in the workplace.
Christians, Jews, Muslims, and believers of other faiths would benefit from the law as much as any Wiccan, Folberth said.
Wiccans are pagans who follow the Celtic traditions of pre-Christian England. They have a pantheon of goddesses and gods, much like ancient civilizations including Greece, Rome and Egypt. They have roughly eight significant holidays, including Samhain today.
They get a chuckle out of all the attention paid to Halloween, which has become a multibillion-dollar consumer holiday.
“I laugh about it,” Freeman said. “There are so many pagan elements that nobody thinks about. Samhain [pronounced sow-wen] is our Celtic New Year, the day to honor our ancestors, and the day the barrier between the living and the dead is thinnest.”