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For Richmond’s Witches, It’s About More Than Halloween

Group posing
Pan (in yellow) and her group of friends visiting the market. (Photo: Clara Haizlett/VPM News)

*Clara Haizlett reported this story

Halloween might have been over, but this past Sunday, there were still witches on the streets of Richmond -- and they weren’t wearing pointy hats or flying on broomsticks.

At first glance, it looked like a farmers market -- tents set up in rows and people milling around window shopping. But instead of selling vegetables, vendors sold herbs and crystals, Ouija boards and resin jewelry. 

It was the Samhain Witch Market, held in honor of Samhain (pronounced Sa-win), an ancient Celtic celebration occurring when the barrier between the earthly world and the spiritual realm was believed to be at its thinnest -- allowing spirits to pass through. 

An attendee, who went by the name Pan, wore a yellow plaid dress with a stitched-on emblem of her Harry Potter house, "Hufflepuff."" Her family is from Romania and Hungary, and she says she comes from a long line of pagan and wiccan practitioners. 

“I am our family's first see-er in three generations. So that's what I do. I read futures,” she said.

Others at the festival identified as pagan, druid or simply curious about spirituality in general. But as the market’s name suggests, there were plenty of witches in attendance. 

Brittny Williams is a self-identified witch and a behavioral coach at a local nonprofit. 

“You won't be able to know a witch when you see them,” she said, speaking behind a unicorn print mask. “Most of the time, we look pretty normal.”

Williams brought her handmade jewelry to sell at the market. She runs a small business called “The Witches Altar,” where she sells spiritual items and offers services like tarot readings. 

Williams says witchcraft is often misunderstood and negatively perceived. That stigma makes witches hesitant to share their identity with others. 

“I myself have been victim of like religious discrimination in the workplace,” she said. “That's a really big issue, I feel like in the community as a whole.” 

Williams says her practice is a spiritual connection to things that you can't see -- things like spirits of the land, spirits of ancestors or a deity. 

María Badillo, Williams' business partner, says witchcraft is unique to each practitioner. Her practice involves herbal healing and meditation. 

“You know, a witch could simply be someone who makes their morning cup of tea and that's their, that's their magic for the day,” she explained. 

Badillo says witchcraft isn't always tied to paganism. In fact, it can coexist with any faith, like Buddhism or Christianity.  

“I think it's not all as spooky as people think it is,” Badillo said. “It really is more of an everyday practice.”

The Samhain Witch Market is just one of many local events organized by self-identified witches -- including yoga, tarot card readings, and food drives for the homeless.

Correction: We inaccurately referred to one of the people we interviewed as Pam. They go by Pan. The story was updated.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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