COLLINSVILLE / WETHERSFIELD – Ghosts, goblins and ghouls may or may not exist, but witches are as real as the candy in your jack-o-lantern. Paganism is a religion where the realm of natural and supernatural often combine. It’s where broomsticks and black magic take a backseat to earth and energy.
Shrouded in mystique and mired in myth and misconception. Nikki Sleath is a practicing high priestess witch of the Society of Witchcraft and Old Magicka. “We shouldn’t have to be persecuted anymore,” said Sleath.
Connecticut State Historian Walt Woodward told FOX61 there was once a time where the motivation for witch hysteria was largely fear. “All believed in a world where the devil was real and powerful and able to exert really terrible magical things,” said Woodward.
Collinsville is where Nikki Sleath and her coven of 70 witches hone their craft. They practice candle magic, potion making and spirit conjuring just to name a few. Sleath told Fox61 she believes there is magic within everyone. But that doesn’t mean everyone can reach the same potential. “Not everyone can hone these things necessarily to the same state,” she said.
Nikki’s connection to the occult is in her blood. She claims to be a decedent of a Salem witch. She knew she was spiritually connected at a young age. “I would know who was calling before they called and I would hear messages from the dead and I would have dreams that would come true.”
Unbeknownst to many, a witch hunt happened in Connecticut. Pre-dating Salem, the lesser known but more violent Connecticut witch trials date back to the 1600’s. “They felt God could protect them from the many terrors they were surrounded by. When they found people deviating from that straight and narrow path they often overreacted. The worst overreaction of all was the witch-hunt,” said Woodward.
Woodward is an expert on witch history. He sat down with Fox61 in historic Old Wethersfield, a town where 35 accused witches were persecuted and nine were executed. Woodward took us inside the Buttolph-Williams house, the partial setting for the novel ‘The Witch of Blackbird Pond’ now, modern-day Wethersfield Cove. “For a lot of school kids even today, when they learn about witchcraft they come to this house and this is the house they read about,” he said.
Woodward says a lack of scientific understanding in colonial New England contributed to a culture of shame and blame. “When you had a drought that killed all your crops or it rained for three weeks and it ruined everything you didn’t think about why, you thought about who.”
Generations later, it’s that’s persecution that has Nikki Sleath fulfilling a mission to dispel the dogma and make the word ‘witch’ more approachable, one spell at a time. “We really try to use the energy that we have access to and our skills to just enhance our lives and to be connected to thrive and do good things,” said Sleath. “I think what the Connecticut witch hunt showed us is that people who are afraid have a tendency to look for scapegoats and witch hunts have happened in Connecticut from the 1600’s to the present and they are always a mistake,” added Woodward.
The Connecticut witch hunt continued until 1663, If you’d like to learn more about the lore of witches in Connecticut, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum in Wethersfield is a great resource.