by Christopher Penczak
“Yes Witches!!!” Or perhaps “YASSSS Witches!!!” was my favorite response to our Temple of Witchcraft group marching in the Boston Pride parade! It was amazing to see people light up in our presence, and at the very end of the parade route was someone with the T shirt “Be Gay! Do Witchcraft!” which summed up our experience there so well.
At various points, I think one group of spectators said “Best Witches” like “Best Wishes” and I thought of it like an invocation of blessing for us all to be our very best self, as many of us were chanting “blessed be” to those attending. The work of the Witch is often the blessing of the world, each other, and ourselves. The magick we cast upon ourselves is often the most powerful. We didn’t do much other chanting or slogans, as we were between Manray and the new Rocky Horror Picture Show group, with the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus nearby, singing up a storm. We got many “blessed be”s back, and various signs of the goat horns, or in some cases, ASL “I love you” whether they knew it or not. It’s a rare thing to be a group of Witches in public so embraced and welcomed, and I cherished it.
I think I’ve been attending Boston Pride since 1996, with the exception of the few years around COVID where it was not happening. First it was taking kids from Nashua Outright, the nonprofit youth support group my husband and Temple co-founder Steve Kenson helped create in the ‘9os with his roommate. Later, I supported the New England Independent Witches and Pagans, led by Hermes and Ursa. When the Temple incorporated we were able to march as a nonprofit religious group in 2010 or so and since then, Steve, Adam Sartwell (our partner and fellow Temple co-founder) and I have been marching ever since. Adam was well-known for glitter-bombing of the crowd, and we joke the parades’s “no glitter or confetti” rule was made for him. The new event group Boston Pride for the People did an amazing job on such a huge task. I was nervous about a new group taking it on, but it was so well-organized, and spirits were high. Erica Baron, Temple High Priestess and Gemini Deputy Minister for Queer Spirit was our main liaison and the organizing force of our participation this year.
As we marched, I saw friends, current members of our Temple, and past clients and students, as I taught in the Boston area for many years, mostly at Unicorn Books (and for a time through Boston Continuing Education). The crowd was diverse. While smaller, it was so joyful. I had heard from a few people who said they were concerned for their safety to attend, and I understand. I can’t say the thought never crossed my mind as well, so we kept the protection magick for all going. And the fuel for that magick was our joy.
Steve often talks about how Pride is a spiritual experience, a ritual in itself, no matter where or how you attend or celebrate. I think of the parade and festival atmosphere and can’t help but be reminded of Mardi Gras and the whole Carnival season in New Orleans, and Carnaval of Brazil. While most think of it as a party-time, it has its roots in Christian folk tradition preceding Lent. Yet it has expanded beyond its religious setting, as many who participate have no thought in mind to Ash Wednesday just after Fat Tuesday, declining participation formally in Lent despite celebrating. Pride started primarily as a remembrance of the Stonewall Riots, or Christopher Street Liberation Day. Though perhaps not its overt intention, it has become a magickal act of invoking and supporting the Queer Spirit of our community. LGBTQIA+ Magickal practitioners often invoke the Queer Spirit as an entity. I know I first was exposed to the concept attending Between the Worlds, a Queer Pagan Brotherhood. My experiences there have deeply influenced me.
The various Pride parades are like the religious processions of the saints, but rather than carry an icon upon a wooden barge, we are the enfleshed icons. There is the magick of darshan happening. Darshan is a Hindu term for the reciprocal process of gazing upon an icon, statue, art, or even a guru. Honor is offered and a blessing received. In this case, those on parade are not elevated above or beyond the spectators. There is mutual blessing and honor occurring, for one cannot occur without the other. The parade path is the Via Sacra, the sacred ritual path and container of the experience. The journey through a city, a symbol for our journey of life, our coming out, the stops and starts, cheers and protests we all experience in life. Like life itself, simply watching and walking, we find magick. We express our spirit by our divine presence and come together as something greater in a wholeness.
By the time we reached the Boston Common, we were greeted by a wonderful woman who simply said, “Witches, get it done!” Most of us took it as that we have a job to do in this world, and we have to get it done. Marching is simply one way to do the work and get it done, and the work continues.
Deep thanks to our little enclave of marchers gathered together this year, and to our fellows marching and watching wherever they might be! Happy Pride! Blessed Pride!