by Janine De Fao
                                                (Press Freehold Bureau)

Modern-day witches are looking for respect and understanding of 
their religion.


In a darkened room filled with the musky scent of incense, 10 
figures file into a circle lit by the orange flame of a solitary candle.

A young woman in a flowing skirt, her hair loose about her 
shoulders, holds a small dagger between her palms. Dipping it three 
times into a small dish, she calls on the spirits of water to "cast out 
fear, uncollected thoughts, unhappiness."

Adding salt to the water, the priestess then asks for "strength, 
courage and order in building this sacred temple" to the goddesses 
and gods of ancient myth whom she will invoke.

"Salt joins to water, as man joins to woman, as we would all join to 
the universe," she intones.

"Blessed be," the worshipers respond.

She paces round the circle three times, wand in hand, casting a 
sacred space somewhere between the realm of man and the realm of 
the gods.

Arms outstretched, the group turns to the east, inviting the element 
of air, "winds of learning, winds of beginning, winds of change." 
Facing south, they call on fire, element of heat, passion, desire. To 
the west, water -- "you of rivers and waves, you who quench our 
thirst" -- is summoned. And to the north, "she who gives all life", 
earth, is asked to join the circle.

Repeating the words of the priestess, the reverent chant:

"I am air. I am fire. I am water. I am all things. All things are me.

"I am the goddess' perfect child.

"I am free."


On the bright night of a new moon, this group of college students, 
doctoral candidates, a marketing project manager, an animation 
artist, a shopkeeper, a mother and a machinist have gathered in the 
cozy living room of a farmhouse cottage in Somerset County. But 
they could be meeting in a forest or field, a student apartment or a 
comfortable suburban home.

They wear street clothes, the only similarity among them the five-
pointed star in a circle hanging from their necks. But they could be 
dressed in long ceremonial robes or "skyclad," wearing nothing at 

They have come to celebrate a religion misunderstood by many, 
unknown to many more.

It goes by various names: Wicca, the Old Religion, Nature 
Spirituality, Goddess Worship, Neopaganism, the Craft, Witchcraft.

Drawn by the concepts of a female deity, a reconnection with the 
Earth and an emphasis on spirituality and personal participation, 
thousands of Americans have joined Wicca since it first appeared in 
this country in the 1960s.

But its roots reach far deeper, its followers say, back to the 
agricultural societies of pre-Christian Europe where "witches" were 
"wise ones", the village healers and midwives, and "pagan" meant 
simply "country dweller".

In those simpler times, survival meant following the cycle of the 
seasons. And worshiping Mother Earth, doing folk magic to make 
the crops grow or the rain fall, was as essential to everyday life as 
planting and harvesting.

Whether those worship rituals were passed down through the ages -
- surviving the Inquisition and other Church efforts to eradicate 
"false" religions -- or whether they have been re-created in modern 
times is a subject of heated debate among witches today.

But it is that relationship with the Earth, and with divinity, that they 
seek through reclaiming the myths of old Britain,  ancient Rome 
and Greece and even Egypt.

"In the high-tech society we live in, (Wicca) speaks to a deep 
human need to reconnect with the Earth," explained Norm Vogel, a 
Bound Brook witch.


At a time when the word still conjures up images of pointy hats and 
noses, of black cats and brooms, and of wicked spells and devil 
worship, today's witches can sometimes explain what they aren't 
more easily than what they are.

Foremost, they insist they are not Satanists.

"We don't have anyone in our religious belief that represents evil," 
said "Prytan," a Barnegat man who asked to be identified only by 
his Craft name because he fears discrimination at work. "Satan is a 
Christian concept...It would be impossible for us to have a concept 
such as Satan simply because it didn't happen until Wicca was 
already an established belief."

The negative stereotypes about witches were created with the 
establishment of a dominant Catholic Church, which sought to 
demonize the pagan religions to gain converts, members say. Those 
misconceptions have been perpetuated by fundamentalist preachers 
and sensationalist media, they say.

"It's very ingrained, when you consider what everybody knows 
about witches they've learned from fairy tales, cartoons or watching 
Samantha on TV (on "Bewitched"). Absolutely everything anyone 
has ever seen or heard or read about witchcraft is wrong. People 
don't have a chance to be exposed to it," Prytan said.

So what is witchcraft truly about?

It often depends on whom you ask. As a religion that centers on 
individual belief, on experience rather than dogma, its members are 
quick to point out that there is no one standard set of beliefs or 
rituals. (The partial ritual described above is from Blue Star, one of 
many Wiccan traditions.)

"What this religion focuses on more than anything else is going 
through (the) rituals until you make a connection with deity. Action 
and participation come before belief...When I run circles, I can 
really feel it -- it's a divine experience," explained Sabrina Chase, a 
doctoral candidate in anthropology at Rutgers.

But while they are hesitant to speak for all Wiccans, most members 
agree to a basic set of tenets.

They worship a goddess and a god, in some cases multiple 
goddesses and gods, as the creators of all things.

"I really didn't see a point to not having a female represented in the 
Christian concept of deity. There's male and female in everything, in 
all forms of life. The balance (in Wicca) struck me as more 
harmonious," Prytan said.

Wiccans hold nature and the elements sacred and seek to attune 
their lives to the cycle of the seasons, worshipping at half moons 
and full moons and celebrating their holidays at the solstices and 
equinoxes and midpoints between them.

The pentagram witches wear -- a circle surrounding a five-pointed 
star -- represents the elements and the spirit. The pentagram is 
sometimes mistaken for a Satanic symbol because Satanists have 
adopted it and inverted it, much as they use an inverted cross as a 

Spirituality permeates Wiccans' everyday lives, in which they 
recognize divinity in animals and plants and each other.

"Wicca is a religion that celebrates life. You're taught that you're an 
integral part of the Earth Mother. You are necessary for her 
survival just as she is necessary for your survival," said Susan 
Carberry, who opened a Craft store, Equinox Books and Curios, in 
Long Branch last April.

Wiccans believe firmly that they are responsible for their own 
actions. Without a figure representing evil, there is no scapegoat of 
"the devil made me do it." That acceptance of personal 
responsibility is tied to their belief in reincarnation.

It is also connected to the Wiccan Rede, "And harm none, do what 
you will."

Many Wiccans also believe in the Law of Three, that any action 
they take will come back to them threefold, often used as an 
explanation why Wiccans would not use magic to harm another. In 
addition, they do not proselytize.

"I think if the general public would learn that we have a code of 
ethics, that we wish to do no harm to people or to nature....there'd 
be a lot more understanding. But the 'witch' word and the 'pagan' 
word and the 'magic' word set off people's alarm systems," said 
Selena Fox, who runs a Pagan network outside Madison, Wis.


But those words are becoming less alarming to some as Wicca 
grows and people learn more about the nature religion.

"In 20 years, (membership) has at least quadrupled," said Fox, 
director of Circle Network and Circle Sanctuary, a legally 
recognized Wiccan church and nature preserve.

Much of that growth is attributed to Margot Adler's "Drawing 
Down the Moon" and Starhawk's "Spiral Dance," two influential 
books on the Craft published in 1979. Witches say those books 
inspired many to begin practicing Wicca alone or to seek out a 
coven, or group.

No definitive membership numbers exist, as any national structures 
are loose and many witches don't belong to groups, but Fox and the 
unfinished Pagan Census Project put the number between one-
quarter and one-half million Neopagans in the United States. 
Wiccans are a large subset of that group.

Estimates of Wiccans in New Jersey range from 500 to more than 
1,000, local witches said.

While the majority of witches are women, some 40 percent 
nationally are thought to be men, Fox said. As many as 70 percent 
may be former Christians, she said.

Mark Speeney is one such witch.

The soft-spoken, 30-year-old Rutgers anthropology doctoral 
candidate and South Jersey native was "a devout Catholic as a kid."

When Speeney was 10, his father died, sending him into a faith 
crisis in which he began to question "everything (he) was taught 
about religion."

A short time later, he found a copy of "The ABCs of Witchcraft" 
and "it made sense to me," he said.

"It's kind of like something I've almost been looking for my whole 

"I think I always had an envy of the religious orders, of priests and 
nuns, who seemed to have a closer connection to the divine," he 

In Wicca, he explained, there are no intermediaries to the goddess 
and god. Every man is a priest and every woman a priestess.

"When I get initiated, I can apply for ministerial credentials. I can 
marry people and preside over other rites of passage...I could say, 
'Well, Mom, you finally got your wish. I'm a priest.' "

Like Speeney and many Wiccans, "Windrider" also found her way 
to Wicca, at least in part, through books.

After several experiences with Wiccans, psychic dreams and 
healings, Windrider pulled out a copy of "Spiral Dance" that she 
had been given five years earlier.

"It was almost as if someone put words to my feelings," said the 
resident of a Monmouth County shore town, where she lives with 
seven other Neopagans in a communal home, one of 11 such 
arrangements she knows of on the shore. Windrider asked to be 
identified by her Craft name because she and her housemates fear 
job discrimination and worry that their home could be targeted.

In the five years they have lived there, the communal home has 
become a place where people come for emotional and physical 
healing, Windrider said.


Most Wiccans do some type of magic or spells, healing magic being 
the type most often cited.

Whether chanting or dancing in groups, or lighting a certain color 
candle and mixing herbs when alone, the witches seek to raise 
energy and direct it for a purpose -- for healing, protection, to ease 
childbirth, or even for money or a new job.

Wiccans say they have no more power than anyone else. They 
simply learn how to use it. And while they admit that some may use 
magic against others, most witches say they believe anything they 
do will come back to them.

"People are often upset about Wiccan magic. Wiccan magic is 
about focusing the will, the mind...It's no different from saying a 
rosary and trying to focus it on something," Windrider said.

Said Speeney, "Miracles are real to (my Catholic mother) but 
there's no such thing as magic. To me, miracles and magic are the 
same thing.

"Wicca is very poetic -- the poetry of believing that there's 
something like magic in the world and you can experience it,"  he 
said.  "I'm also aware of the little things, that there's magic in every 
sunrise and every sunset and poetry in seeing the full face of the 
moon. I acknowledge that I'm part of everything that happens."

Said Carberry, the Craft shop owner, "It's more of a philosophy of 
life than a religion in the traditional sense."


Back in the circle, the Witches have made their new moon vows for 
the lunar cycle, with promises ranging from taking a walk each day 
to writing letters to avoiding chocolate. Kneeling one-by-one before 
burning incense, they recite their pledges and bind them, tying a 
knot in the air.

The ritual is more personal than rote, serious but not solemn, 
infused with mirth and laughter.

The group of friends then sits casually discussing the ritual and 
sharing news of their lives since they've last met.

When they are finished, they rise to bless the wine and cakes in the 
Sacred Marriage.

Standing before the kneeling priestess, the priest draws his athame, 
a small knife, and says, "Be it known that a man is no greater than a 

"Nor is a woman greater than a man..." she replies, offering a wine-
filled chalice.

"For what one lacks, the other can give," they say together.

"As the athame is to the male..."

"So the chalice is to the female..."

"And when they are joined they become one in truth," all join in as 
the athame is lowered into the chalice, "for there is no greater 
magic in all the world than love."



While many witches agree that being more open about their beliefs 
and practices would help dispel some of the myths about their 
religion, some say "coming out of the broom closet" is a risky 

Many people "don't realize it's a serious religion, and a highly 
responsible one at that. A lot of the secrecy in the Craft today is 
hurting us," said Norm Vogel, who directs the New Jersey chapters 
of the Witches' Anti-Discrimination Lobby and Witches Against 
Religious Discrimination out of his Bound Brook home.

But for some, being more open about their faith opens them up to 
discrimination from their family, friends, neighbors, and employers.

The horror stories abound. People have lost their children, their 
jobs, their homes and their businesses, despite the fact that religious 
freedom is guaranteed in the Constitution and Wicca -- as their 
belief is most commonly known -- is a legally recognized religion.

The Mississippi woman fired from her jog in the late '80s when her 
boss learned she was a witch. The Georgia college student whose 
shrine was confiscated from her dorm room. The Arkansas couple 
whose Craft store was driven out of town by local preachers. The 
Florida group whose neighbors shot at them during a backyard 

Many who oppose them refuse to believe Wiccans don't worship 
Satan, despite what they say.

"What they are doing is promoting witchcraft, which is evil. Read 
your Bible," said Gary Taylor, a Christian minister in Jonesboro, 
Ark., who was instrumental in keeping a Craft store out of his 

"They're worshipping Wicca god and Wicca goddess. There's only 
one God, and that's the God in heaven," Taylor told a New York 
talk show audience. "Witchcraft, Satanism, New Age -- they're all 
under the same umbrella."

Some say the Northeast is more tolerant; others just that 
discrimination is more subtle. 

"I know they can't fire me because of (my religion), but it would be 
difficult for me to prove that I didn't get a promotion or something 
along those lines based on it. So I figure the less the people in 
charge know about it, the better," said Prytan, a Barnegat witch 
who asked to be identified by his Craft name because he fears 
discrimination in his job.

Susan Carberry, who opened a Craft store in Long Branch last 
April, said she has had few problems. But on occasion, people stand 
outside her Brighton Avenue shop and try to dissuade customers 
from entering.

And Vogel had his "first acquaintance with public bigotry" when he 
was invited by Ocean City to speak about Wicca on Halloween in 
1991, and later had the invitation withdrawn when local ministers 
protested he was "bringing Satan to town" and could influence 
children, he said.

Rev. Darryl Duer, associate pastor of St. Peter's United Methodist 
Church in Ocean City, was one of the ministers who objected to 
Vogel's appearance.

While Duer said he realizes a number of good people are Wiccans, 
"where I begin to get wary of it is that there seem to be a large 
number of Wiccans who attend occult shows giving these young 
people ideas about amulets, potions and certain things they can do 
to affect fate...

"The core of (Wicca) is rooted in a falsehood: that you can control 
what happens to you," Duer said. "The central issue of the Christian 
experience is that we are not in control. God is in control."

The Catholic Church takes an even stronger position on witchcraft, 
condemning it as superstition that is contrary to the teachings of the 
Church and the Bible, said Joseph M. Donadieu, spokesman for the 
Diocese of Trenton.

"One who believes in and practices witchcraft is putting one's faith 
somewhere else in this world, in objects and spirits" rather than in 
God, Donadieu said.

                                                                              -- Janine De Fao


(Asbury Park Press, Tuesday, April 26, 1994)


Authorities accuse a man involved in witchcraft of inducing teen-
age girls to become his victims.

by William K. Heine
Press Toms River Bureau

TOMS RIVER -- A New York man described by authorities as a 
sorcerer who uses witchcraft to lure young women is being held on 
charges he had sex with two 15-year-olds in Brick Township last 

Carl S. Truchel, 47, faces 15 charges of criminal sexual conduct, 
sexual assault, criminal sexual assault and endangering the welfare 
of a child. The assaults all happened in Brick between April 18 and 
June 19, 1993, according to the complaints.

Truchel, of Queens, used his affiliation with the Wicca religion to 
attract the girls, a law enforcement source said. State police and the 
Ocean County prosecutor's office are investigating whether there 
are more than just the two victims, the source said.

"It's the type of approach he's using to attract young women to 
follow his teachings, his beliefs," the source said. "It's alleged he 
engaged them in sexual activity."

Truchel also claims to be a full-blooded Comanche Indian chief.

Truchel has been the subject of numerous articles in Long Island 
newspapers about Indian artifacts and culture. He calls himself 
Chief Strong Sun and describes himself as an actor, a stunt man, an 
archaeologist and an Indian rights activist.

State police arrested Truchel Saturday morning at the Point 
Pleasant Beach train station. A warrant for his arrest was issued 
Jan. 26.

Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Hanlon-Schron said she did not 
know why Truchel was in Point Pleasant Beach nor did she know 
what his connection with Brick was a year ago.

Truchel appeared in an Asbury Park Press story last May about a 
swan that had been killed at Godfrey Lake in the Herbertsville 
section of Brick. Truchel found the swan, which had a reputation as 
being aggressive toward humans, in its nest with its neck broken.

The story identified Truchel as a Long Island resident who was 
staying with a woman on Godfrey Lake Drive. Sources yesterday 
said he was staying with his girlfriend.

Truchel told the Press then that he used to visit the lake to feed the 

Truchel claims to be self-employed and told authorities he owns the 
Chief Strong Sun Trading Post on Route 209 in Marshall Creek, 
Pa. Hanlon-Schron said she did not know whether he had actually 
opened the business yet.

She declined to comment on whether authorities suspect more than 
the two victims.

Truchel was being held last night in Ocean County Jail, Toms Rive, 
in lieu of $100,000 bail set by Superior Court Judge Peter J. 

Wicca is a legally recognized religion that goes by various names as 
a subset for Neopaganism: the Old Religion, Nature Spirituality, 
Goddess Worship, the Craft and Witchcraft.

Thousands of Americans have joined Wicca since it first appeared 
in the United States in the 1960s, drawn by the concept of a female 
deity, a reconnection with the earth and an emphasis on spirituality 
and personal participation.

Wiccans hold nature and the elements sacred and seek to attune 
their lives to the cycle of the seasons, worshipping at half moons 
and full moons and celebrating their holidays at the solstices and 
equinoxes and midpoints between them.

Wiccans also believe firmly that they are responsible for their own 

No definitive membership numbers exist. The unfinished Pagan 
Census Project put the number between one-quarter million and 
one-half million Neopagans in the United States. Wiccans are a 
large subset of that group. Estimates of Wiccans in New Jersey 
range from 500 to more than 1,000.

The majority of witches are women, but about 40 percent nationally 
are thought to be men, said Selena Fox, director of Circle Network 
and Circle Sanctuary, a legally recognized Wiccan church and 
nature preserve in Madison, Wis.

Local sources within the Wicca religion said yesterday they do not 
condone taking advantage of others, said Lady Shannon, a member 
of a Monmouth County Wicca group who identified herself only 
with her Wicca name.