WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. (AP) Halloween is an important time for Wiccans, practitioners of a fast-growing polytheistic religion who recognize the day as the start of their new year.
Followers say the holiday, which they call Samhain, is when the veil between the living and dead is the thinnest.
“It’s a time to let those who have passed know we appreciate your time here and want you to know you are not being forgotten,” said Nicole Ross, 19, of West Bloomfield.
The self-described witch said she planned to join Wiccans and followers of similar faiths in Adrian to mark Samhain.
The number of adult adherents of Wicca grew from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.
Wiccans make up one of the faiths classified as Pagan. Other Pagan groups include Druids and Shamans.
Wiccans say their religion is based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons.
“For most Wiccan practitioners, (Samhain) is the New Year, and a time for letting go of the old and looking ahead to the new,” according to the Web site of Circle Sanctuary, a Mount Horeb, Wis.-based spirituality resource center and Wiccan church.
Samhain “marks the end of the harvest season. Since ancient times, Pagans have paid their respects to departed loved ones, ancestors, and guides in the Spirit World at Samhain,” according to the Web site. “The Goddess manifests as the Crone and the God as the Horned Hunter and Lord of Death. Sacred colors are Black and Orange. It is the festival of endings and transformation.”
Many Pagans keep their beliefs secret because they fear losing families or jobs, said Kimberly Varela, a Druid from Wyandotte.
Denessa Smith told The Detroit News that her 12-year-old daughter Tempest killed herself about five years ago in her Lincoln Park home after her classmates teased her about her Wiccan beliefs.
The 40-year-old said people worldwide have sent her letters and gifts. She said she founded the Tempest Smith Foundation to promote religious tolerance.
“I want to make sure I can help make other children safe in this world,” said Smith.
On the Net:
Circle Sanctuary: http://www.circlesanctuary.org
American Religious Identification Survey: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0922574.html
Information from: The Detroit News, http://www.detnews.com