Local (Raleigh NC Area) history of the Pagan community

By Steven Stone

These are SOME of the Events in Local History That Affected the Pagan Community

-There was a billboard on highway 70 between Raleigh & Clayton /Smithfield with burning cross and grand dragon “This is KKK country... Love it or leave it” It set the tone for the area's tolerance for non Christian  belief for decades.

-Dancing Moon Books opens the first alternative religion store in the Raleigh area.  Dancing Moon Books and Gifts began in a house on Johnson Street near downtown Raleigh in January of 1990, and stayed there until October of 2002. They moved to Oberlin Rd. In March of 2005, theirr landlord wanted them out because of what they sold, so they moved once again to their present location on Wake Forest Rd.  The Dancing Moon sells spiritual and metaphysical items. 

-Lunatic Fringe starts. The Lunatic Fringe was the first private pagan group openly practicing in the area.  They were centered out of Saxapawhaw NC, just west of Chapel Hill.

-The Raleigh Flea Market Mall accidentally allows pagan stores with “Tiger & Vicky” making beaded jewelry and preaching a version of Native American Spirituality and “Sister Sedequia” selling African centered goods and talking about african beleif systems.

-The Raleigh Flea Market Mall allows The Cosmic Lemniscate to open selling Metaphysical goods.   When they see the religious items  and question it, they say they though metaphysical was exercise equipment.  They make the store  hide all “witch  stuff”  and non christian items behind walls and curtains  

-Full moon women’s circle starts at Raleigh ‘s Unity church as a Cuups groups

-Eno River fellowship starts “Celebrate the Circle”  Cuups

-The Cosmic Lemniscate  hosts an Imbolc gathering with Cherie Lassiter at the fireman’s club.  It is the 1st open Pagan event in town.  Interested people sign up to start new pagan group which later becomes The Church Of The Earth of NC (COTE.)

-CL opens on Hillsborough Street with tea room, elemental  altar room, readers rooms, and food and drink. It becomes a meeting place for Pagans.

-The Gypsy Cafe Alcohol and Fortune telling case gets Laws licensing fortune telling removed from NC.  The general statutes  state that phrenology palmistry and other fortune telling practices are against the law, and yet, hundreds of people paid the state  for licenses to do just that.  A huge controversy starts and the resulting lawsuits make headlines for years.  The law is not removed from the books, even though it is proven unconstitutional.

-The First Raleigh-Durham area Pagan’s Night Out (PNO) is held at the Gypsy Cafe, in hopes of  helping the restaurant stay in business. After the controversy, Cary residents avoided the cafe, causing it to close down.  PNO is moved to the Cosmic Lemniscate. 

-The Cosmic Lemniscate store is forced to move away from the Hillsboro Street location when the city discovers safety violations in the landlord’s building.  The store moved to a small converted free standing house on Morgan street.  CL loses thousands of dollars worth of decorations and building improvements when the old store is gutted, and business drops to 1/4 of the amount it was on Hillsboro street

-The Cosmic lemniscate and Church of the Earth make a worship gardens off Morgan Street.  After being forced to move, it becomes clear that the Cosmic lemniscate is not welcome back by the landlord because of what they sell.  The CL stays in the small house on West Morgan Street and together with the Church of the Earth, landscapes and creates Gaia’s Gardens 

-The community is tested by a horrible event.  A young girl in the Pagan community spends the night with some Pagans and has sex with them.  She is 14 years old, and the case for Rape is quickly filed.  Several people decide that it is time for the local Pagan group to ger organized and make rules to prevent things like this from hapenning again.  They begin sponsoring a “Pagan Leadership Conference”

-The Cosmic Lemniscate begins to have yearly “Street Faires”  The festivals have games for the kids, discussions for the parents, and fortune telling booths.

-A local college radio station interviews several Pagans and has a weekly talk show about Paganism.

-Church Of The Earth Of NC is  added to the churches list in the local paper.  The News and Observer lists the ceremonies in their spirituality section of the newspaper.

-The Movie “Merlin” sparks an interest in Druidism, TV news does several spots on local Paganism (Including Steve and Anitra from the Church Of The Earth, Dick Merrit from Celebrate The Circle, and more)

-The Movie “Bell Witch” Brings about sensationalism stories of witches in the area and several people are misquoted or out of context quoted

-A second person, this time in Ashville is arrested for fortune telling.  Again, before the law can be tested,  the case is dismissed without a trial.

-DIck Merrit and others start a weekend retreat called “Carolina Spirit Quest”  It is a campout at remote parts of the state with spiritual workshops included.

-A couple named Robin and Richard begin a Pagans Night Out in Durham.   They use this as a launch pad along with the national group to create a local pagan Pride day festival.  The first PPD is in a hotel conference center and it is one information table and several tables of for sale items. They later move it to the state fairgrounds.

-More bad press after a murder.  It comes out that the couple involved were polyamourous Pagans.  The news has a frenzy about paganism and polyamorous (or multiple partner  ) relationships.  The news destroys the lives of many pagans in the area, most specifically Phaedra, a young girl who the media insists was previously in a relationship with the couple.  Phaedra leaves NC  and later marries Isaac Bonewits, one of the Pagan elders who helped open the country to Paganism.  

-The Cosmic Lemniscate closes their doors, selling the lease and most of the products to a new store called “Thee Sylver Cyrcle.”  CL had been losing money since they moved from the Hillsboro Street location 5 years earlier.  They had stayed open for the community center aspects of the store.  Sylver Cyrcle negotiated buying the inventory and taking over the lease.  Sylver Cyrcle was open for 3 months before they closed and left, taking consigned goods with them as they vanished

-Serenity Oasis Store appears in Wake Forest.  They open, host PNO for a few months, then have money issues.  They close and go bankrupt, also not returning consigned items to their owners.  Then they restart, and 6 months later go bankrupt again.  They change names and do it a 3rd time.

-The Dancing Moon is kicked out of their store location by a landlord because of what they sell.  The move to their current location. 

-The Church Of The Earth moves to RTP for a year and then moves back to Gaia’s gardens.  

-Rick starts and maintains several Pagan meet-up groups.  These groups are through meetup.com.  They seem to continue to bring new people in to the community

-The Church Of the Earth  continues the Cosmic Lemniscate’s Street Faires at Gaia’s Gardens once a year. 

-PPD is taken over by a local Druidic group.  It grows and becomes a much larger event including free admission, and several vendors and artisans and teaching / discussion groups.

-Carolina Spirit Quest Moves to Umstead Park Raleigh. 

-COTE undergoes several changes and grows as a group.  It no longer has the original board members, but is as strong as ever.

-Carolina Spirit Quest moves out of the Raleigh area for a more centralized location

-PPD is again reorganized to be run by The Church Of the Earth. COTE stops doing the street faire and just does PPD

© Virtual Reflections 2016