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New Hilton Village store caters to witches, Pagan culture
[April 11, 2010]

New Hilton Village store caters to witches, Pagan culture

Apr 11, 2010 (Daily Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- As you might suspect in a store called The Magickal Attic, brooms, wands and caldrons decorate the space, waiting to be sold. And the owner, Melissa Kepley, is a witch.

But putting aside those cliches, Kepley's mission for her new Hilton Village store is to offer a one-stop shopping experience for local Paganists and to clear up common misconceptions about Pagan culture, and witches, in particular.

"I am proud to be called a witch," the 42-year-old says. "It is not a bad word. A lot of people think of a witch in terms of being evil or dark, but it's a very powerful term. Anyone who has consciously or unconsciously mastered universal law is a witch." In fact, your neighbor with the pristine garden might be a witch without knowing it. And your grandmother, who is constantly offering those home remedies, may be a witch, too.

"I have a friend whose mother is an excellent cook. She's probably got a little kitchen witch in her," Kepley says.

Like other religions, Paganism is the umbrella that encompasses hundreds of beliefs, or denominations. Kepley's version incorporates the use of crystals, a belief in reincarnation and adherence to eight religious holidays, as prescribed by a High Priestess based in Salem, Mass.

Her rituals and spells are performed in front of an altar in her home, where she clothes herself in a decorative robe and invites the elements of the Earth to join her in her sacred circle, created with the use of a wand.

After reading a short poem, tribute or spell, she burns the paper in a caldron as a way to release the request into the universe. For Kepley, god is a single transcendent force that can be represented by many things, like the black and white candles she keeps on her altar. Universal balance is a primary characteristic, incorporating themes of gods and goddesses, shadow and light, cause and effect.

Personal responsibility is another major component of Kepley's belief system, and spells, when used properly, are only meant to manifest the wishes of the witch, herself.

"Rather than praying to a god and then hoping that he'll hear you, I release my needs into the universe and then take the steps necessary to make those things happen," she says.

Love spells and the like, though possible, are sure to backfire, since they go against free will and universal law.

But Kepley's beliefs are more about the celebration of nature and the magic of science. For her, the daily spiritual practice manifests in a wonderment over the bone structure of a sparrow as he flies overhead or the way heat from the Earth's core can change purple amethyst to orange citrine.

"What is magical to me? Seeing a bird pop out of an egg," she says.

For Kepley, that connection to the animal world began during her 20-year career as a veterinary assistant and groomer. Over time, she returned to The College of William & Mary for a degree in comparative psychology, where she studied animal behavior, learning and memory models. She discovered that her intuitive knowledge combined with a formal education and empathetic insight allowed her to communicate with animals.

And that's been her main business, along with hypnotherapy, in recent years. Her success with animal communication and paranormal studies even has gained attention from several TV production crews.

In the Newport News retail store, Kepley's babies, Shih Tzus Pixie and Angie, greet customers at the door. They have their own corner, complete with dog bed and bowls, and Kepley hopes to cater to neighborhood residents who may be in need of a treat or a new leash.

"I tend to have a wall up with my own dogs, because I'm thinking more scientifically about what their needs might be," she says. "When I communicate with other animals, I try to meet them at their home, in their own space, where they're going to be more receptive." Though she hasn't found a common theme among the communications of animals, she says that owners know a lot more about what their pets are thinking than they allow themselves to acknowledge.

Crystals are Kepley's other love, and jagged rock formations are front and center in the 1,000-square-foot store.

Aside from the beauty of the rocks, each crystal has its own vibration frequency, or energy. Using the crystals properly can purify a room of negative experiences or promote an atmosphere of love and understanding.

"We know that crystals have energy from science," she says. "Quartz makes our watches tick, and they're using diamonds in lasers, now. Almost all of witchcraft is done on a subtle level, and by using crystals we can amplify and direct that energy we know about from science." Overall, the reaction to her store in Hilton Village has been positive, Kepley says, though a few have expressed concern over whether there will be enough local Pagan patrons to sustain her shop.

"Of course, I can't give you hard numbers," she says. "But I can tell you, there's a lot more of us than you think." To see more of the Daily Press, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.

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