In offices and in suburbs, witches are among us
Don Callan, 58, is a pleasant, neighborly guy from Friendswood, who, on most days, wears a golf shirt and jeans to his job as an engineer, managing a group of professionals in Houston’s energy corridor.
On Oct. 31, he’ll don a simple, dark and hooded robe to assist in his coven’s sacred ceremonies observing Samhain, one of eight traditional holy days based on the cycle of the moon and the change of the season.
Callan is a Wiccan.
“Wicca is an ancient, evolving, Earth-based religion whose practitioners recognize a universal, creative force and work to manipulate positive energy for the betterment of all,” said Callan, who is a high priest in the American Eagle Clan, which includes the covens of Galveston County and Southeast Houston.
His wife, Missy, is a high priestess.
Halloween is the beginning of the Wiccan New Year, and as summer fades and the circle of life winds to the end of its cycle, the distance between planes of existence grows thin and the energy more powerful and easy to access, Callan said.
In Wiccan tradition, October is the optimal time to reach out to honor the dead and to study life’s darkest mysteries.
“We celebrate by drawing on the combined energy within our circles to create a positive change in the world and to help make the lives of those who have lost a loved one easier to bear,” Callan said. “It’s our belief that a soul never perishes, but moves to a different, hopefully higher, plane of existence.”
Samhain is an ancient celebration, widely observed in Scotland and Ireland, and, like Halloween and Day of the Dead, it marks the end of the summer months and the final harvest before the darker seasons begin.
But it has a lighter side.
“We are real witches, and for us, this is a magical time of the year,” Callan said. “Although solemn in many respects, it is also time to celebrate life. We have a lot of fun with Halloween — there are lots of parties and costumes.”
As for brooms? They’re also a symbolic part of the tradition.
“We use brooms to metaphorically clean the space we use for rituals,” he said. “Each circle celebration is a religious service held in the open air of nature. The sky is our temple.”
The Callans have been active in a coven for more than a decade. Each has completed an intensive five-year study program to become a third degree priest and priestess. Silver RavenWolf, the head of the Black Forest Circle and Seminary, compiled the program of study that moves a person from a general practitioner to higher levels.
To symbolize his degree of study and skill, Callan wears cords of silver, gold and black and five necklaces of amethyst, moonstone, smoky quartz, jet and amber. Missy Callan has similar adornments.
Covens as a rule have 13 members. Multiple covens make a clan. In Southeast Texas, there are about 300 practicing members, and more than half are women.
The craft appealed to the Callans because it was more balanced between male and female, something that’s not always understood.
“One’s spiritual practice is a private matter, but most members do not make their affiliation known because practicing witchcraft has a bad connotation to people who do not understand it,” Callan said.
He thinks they have good reason to be wary, because people who identify as Wiccan have been persecuted in the past.
“We promote harmony and balance, never evil,” he said. “One of the important tenets of our tradition is never harming another human being, including yourself.”
Graveyards are a Wiccan fascination, but it’s not for ghoulish reasons.
“For us, a graveyard is not a dark place of evil,” he said. “We gather there with those that have passed to respect and celebrate their lives.”
Before he became interested in Wicca, Callan never cared for organized religion, but he always believed in a creator, he said.
“I noticed that when I needed something to happen, it did, and at just the right time,” he said. “I also felt I was getting help through the trying parts of my life. In Wicca, we believe you don’t have to pray and wait for a result. We can be proactive in creating the result we want.”