All Beliefs are Welcome Here!
Paganism the Military
The Story Of The Fort Hood Witches
Rhiannon Rowan Rodriguez
Back in The summer of '99 when The Fort Hood Witches became a headline news story in Newsweek I was lucky enough to be part of it and a witness first hand to a part of history. That's when we officially had come out of the broom closet. They had just started to hold open circle publicly on Fort Hood and the Pagan religion was officially recognized by the us military and us government as a nationally recognized religion. Being right in the middle of the Southern Bible Belt at that time there were not a huge number of us there and we lived in Killeen, Copperas Cove and also going further out toward Lampasas.
We would come together at different times at a small shop that was open in cove called New Age Connections it was owned by a very neat lady named Heidi. At that time it was the first metaphysical shop that had opened to the public in the huge shopping strip in Cove.
We made national headlines on Memorial Day weekend that year due to the central Texas Christian Coalition's decision to picket our beloved little shop of horrors. So Heidi closed the shop that day to the public and by public I mean any stray foot traffic that may wander in off the street to have a looky loo and ones who were curious as what a metaphysical book store was and what type of things they had to sell. Of course from about 9am those of us who had come down for the show were there for the duration of the day, we were there to support her and as a buffer if anything should happen and erupt in a violent manner. Mind you we had never been confronted in such a way by the general populace of bible thumpers, they stayed away from us (avoided us like the plague) and we steered clear of them so as not to cause conflict or do anything to hurt our cause discourse in anyway because we had made such progress in having open ritual on post once a month and on the major and minor sabbats.
So we would pass through our shop more than once or twice a week to see friends who happened by those days. I think my son and I spent more time in that shop than we did at home, I visited on a daily basis due to the enriching atmosphere and lively conversation not to mention the expansive collective learning environment.
Those of us who had come to hunker down for the day didn't know what to expect. We were a bit afraid that the protest would hurt Heidi in the community and result in the end of our gathering place that was so dear to us all.
That morning a group of about 10 of us arrived at New Age and our dear friend greeted us well with a smile and excitement about her. She opened the door and announced "Well kids we are in for a battle if need be. Are you up for it?" We all announce hell yea so we went inside and waited for the protesting to commence. We had not to wait long for they arrived there after in buses and vans. Hordes of them with signs and even pitchforks! No exaggeration. They poured onto the parking lot and proceeded to picket the store shortly after the CCPD arrived and herded them to the curbside and informed them they had to stay off the property and could do the protest on the road shoulder. The signs read that the burning of witches was justifiable and should be in forced, that we were of the devil, that we were all most likely under demon possession. To keep your children locked away from us in safety or we would surely steal them and cook them for their fat and cover our spell books with their flesh.
The head of the coalition was screaming at us that we should be run out of town and made example of and was yelling at his followers not to look at us directly so as not to succumb to spells and possession. That if looked directly in the eyes we could enchant and seduce them to the dark side. I wish it were so simple.
He in essence tried his best to intimidate and scare us like he did those that followed him so blindly. At that point we knew we had to set up camp on the front stoop of the shop outside and watch the show. Not to mention of course the fact that scarring a butt load of ignorant small, closed minded extremists was going to be the highlight of our summer. So you should know we wiccans are extremely sarcastic and sometimes get a huge laugh over being a bit evil in inciting these people into a fright frenzy by just being outside. Not hiding, having we one hell of a Memorial Day gathering. Mind you this protest was supposed to be about the military recanting their support of pagans in the military and shutting down our open circle on Fort Hood but he had turned it into his own personal witch hunt. So we sat there, drinks in hand, in our beach chairs outside and proceeded to have a good time.
Showing them they did not instill any fear in us, they would not bother us, we were not going to hide in our broom closets and do ritual in secret any longer, We were here to stay like it or not! Throughout the morning all those who would patron the shop came by to show their support some came and left and some stayed to watch the show. Around noon or so was when it got even better. The media showed up. The local TV stations camera men in tow. Reporters for the local printed news publications and Newsweek sent someone to cover it also. That's when it turned ugly but not toward us. They started interviewing him first (he was the reason they were there to cover the story in the first place having gone on television voicing the fact that it was not going to be tolerated by the vast Christian populace here in Central Texas, much less throughout the nation to keep paganism as a recognized religion in our armed forces. That we should just give our evil ways over to god and have him save us all from damnation. That was the reason Newsweek came out to see it there was anything to report on and if this was the general thought of others. What they got instead was in ever since a witch hunts. When they interviewed him first he got so worked up over the fact that we were out there that he started to scream at us that we were going to burn for all eternity in hell fire, making it look as if they had the opportunity they would rush the lot of us, tie us to stakes and set us ablaze. We just hollered here and there for the Goddess to bless them even though they were not intelligent enough to follow their own beliefs and preaching’s. To love one another and be kind and caring to all humankind no matter what their beliefs were. They were screaming and some had to be carried off back to their buss from collapsing in fright thinking they had been bewitched, hexed or otherwise cast upon by us just from a well-timed glare in their direction. The local media was reporting only one point of view, the collation's side. Our local news had no clue that they were about to miss out on reporting first a national headline story that would run on all news stations and news publications. They didn't know that we were the target of this protest all along. With all the hilarious madness going on we noticed we were approached. It was the Newsweek reporter to get our side of the story. He walked over to us announced who he was and proceeded to tell us that what this had turned out to be was a huge debacle on the head of the coalition's part and wanted our side of the story. He was the only one there to do a report that noticed we were the focus of this protest. We appointed our little shop owner as spokesperson to the pagan community and she proceeded to tell him a generalization of our basic belief system we all follow. Number 1we do not practice devil worship. Satanists are followers of self not the Christian concept of Lucifer. We do not believe in the Christian definition of the devil and do not perform animal or human sacrifice either nor do the pagans who practice Satanism. That there is good and evil in all spiritual paths and religious beliefs, pagans who do practice Wicca are not casters of curses and black magick that there is light and dark in pagan ritual but not evil. That the U.S. Military has a growing population of all pagan paths and we were pleased as punch that the government deemed paganism to be a legitimately recognized religious belief and proud to be a citizen of this great country where we did not have to be afraid or hide what we believed in any longer. We could worship and hold ritual openly without being condemned for it. That we were grateful to Fort Hood for letting our solders hold open circle on post and overseen by the head chaplain of Fort Hood, and we were blessed that the pagans of the surrounding communities were invited to join open circle on post as well.
That our little book store was unique in the fact that it was the only source that our pagan community, as well as our pagan military had as a source for supplies locally, and her door was open to anyone that wanted information or to educate themselves on our beliefs, so they can have an informed understanding of this basic belief system, and be confident in the fact that we had no intentions of snatching children from their beds in the dark of night to boil them for their fat to make flying ointment. That in fact any ointment base was actually rendered animal fat and that we felt sorry for this mass of people who were so misinformed on who we were and blindly followed this fool into a mass hysterical protest based on the ramblings in her opinion of a very feeble old man who has delusions of grandeur. She stated in fact isn't this what happened to those poor souls in Jones Town that poisoned themselves in mass suicide for one man’s paranoid disturbed way of thinking?
We follow the common principle of harm none and do what you will. As it says in the Christian bible they believe in so adamantly. And this is to be the one and only truth of all. Turn the other cheek and to be kind to all your fellow brothers and sisters, and to try and lead a good life. Besides the fact it was written by drunken old men. That was the end of the interview. He thanked us told us to not let this lunatic ruin our holiday weekend and to keep an eye on the national new tonight you may be surprised by what you see and he got in his car and left. All the while the local TV stations had positioned their cameras up at the roadside to capture the protest all the while being totally oblivious to the news story of the night. The Story of the Fort Hood Witches. Imagine their embarrassment that they reported on a local protest that had gotten a bit out of hand and had not given us a second glance and having been there most of the day had the story scooped up by a news magazine reporter who put us on national news that night and didn’t catch it just mentioning it on the midday news the next day. These our TV stations locally that kept all abreast on the Happenings on Fort Hood and even considered themselves the reporting authority of Fort Hood didn't even known about the story until after it had been broadcast to the world. Wow can you imagine the ass chewing those reporters got from the station heads?
Of course we had our fun with those zealots! After the cameras were packed and gone we started pointing stiff fingers as if we were putting curses on them and collectively glaring as if we were actually making evil demons invade the crowd, all the while mouthing nonsense as if casting upon them evil spells. It made them run for the hills. We scared them so bad they were actually performing exorcisms on people during the day in the bus because somehow we had invoked demons to invade their bodies.
We had to have our fun with them, it was the principle of the matter, and of course it was mainly for our own sick entertainment. All the nightly news shows reported on us. Newsweek printed our story and it ran the very next day. It was still being mentioned the next day and the rest of the week on all the nationally broadcast news shows. Then as if by magick it was like we just disapparated into thin air and it was forgotten about.
Heidi gained a bit of new business from all the hoopla based simply on the fact that mass majority didn't know they had a local resource for supplies and that was fine cause it would disrupt the flow of our small community.
As to what has happened to us well a few new friends were made. Most of us came and went due to relocation and being stationed elsewhere. We lost touch with each other because Heidi closed the shop due to disputes with the property managers wanting to incorporate part of her shop space to make the space for lease next to her bigger to accommodate a nail and tanning salon. So she closed her doors just a year after the story was printed. Having been moved in on by the corporate assholes who owned the property and we lost our local resource for supplies and a common gathering place to see friends if just in passing going in or out. Our local pagan artisans and suppliers lost their outlet to put their wares on sale and ended up having to give up their extremely gifted crafting for regular jobs. It was a sad time, I have seen Heidi since in the past 12 years at the weekend local flea market with a small booth selling the items she still had left from her shop she is doing well but as it is with all of us there is a type of sadness you carry with you as if a loved one has passed away. Times like those will be fondly remembered but sorely missed.
The pagan community that was ever growing had nowhere to be properly informed by wise people who had vast amounts of knowledge they had been carrying with them. Having been passed down from older generations or brought with them as knowing from their past lives lived. It caused the younger generation of pagan path followers to be poorly misinformed causing them to seek magical paths for personal gain and thus ending up wreaking havoc on those of us who use magick cautiously knowing the repercussions of a misspoken word or dark thought. This having happened those out there misusing magick would just as well use you for tapping into your energy flow and thus becoming in essence vampires feeding off others psychic energy and using it for their own personal agenda. Instead of the group or healing type of collective. This is the cause of the balance shift from good intentioned positive magick to a dark and malicious form of magick used by the ill willed and selfish to gain power to cause pain, hurt and misery for their own gain. Be it over a person or material things. This is why if we don't collectively try to put balance back to order we are in for darker and darker days. I hope you enjoyed this story, and that it informs and inspires many. We can try and see the light despite the dark. Love and light to you all!
Merry Part to Merry Meet Again