It’s early on a Wednesday evening and the conference room at Forza Coffee Co. on Spokane’s South Hill is filled to capacity with about 20 souls.
The group of mostly women are knitting, crocheting, coloring, writing, and generally seeming to have fun, judging by the sounds of laughter and frivolity.
It is the bimonthly meeting of the Facebook and Meetup.com group called Stitch and Witch. Founded in 2012, the group describes itself as a “pagan-friendly” gathering that welcomes anyone who knits, crochets, embroiders, cross stitches or quilts, and is kid-friendly.
The pagan community is loosely defined as related to witchcraft, shamanism, earth-based spirituality and the like.
De Griffith, in attendance Wednesday with her husband, Michael, smiles and chats while she works on a peachy-pink, beaded blanket, loosely spread on the table between coffee cups and snacks. Griffith, a member of the Stitch and Witch group for about three years, calls herself a witch, but says the word pagan is much more acceptable.
“What I find is that people accept the word pagan more nowadays than they used to, and they also accept the term ‘pagan’ more than other words. The word ‘witch’ is a trigger word,” Griffith said.
“Witchcraft is not all of the horror stories everyone has heard,” she added. “It’s just a way of working with natural energy. People call it different things such as the law of attraction … or positive intention … those are all the same kind of magical working, just by different names.”
Griffith, a system administrator for the Spokane County Library system, said spirituality is very personal to her, and doesn’t talk about her sense of spirituality unless someone asks.
“My church is more about nature,” she said.
Raised as a Christian, Griffith said her spiritual practice is integrated into her everyday life. She starts her day by greeting the sunrise and communing with the divine.
“I believe all the different names of the divine are all the same thing,” she said. “Throughout the day I do my own form of prayer. I say a blessing before I eat food. So it’s very similar to other spiritual practices,” she added. “I feel like the divine is within everything, and I look for that not only in myself but in others.”
Amanda LaFantasie, a member of the group for almost two years, said she is happy being called a witch. The word “pagan,” for her, denotes any religion that doesn’t call itself monotheism.
“Mostly it’s earth-based spirituality … witches come under the whole pagan umbrella. My concept is that witchcraft is a lifestyle that takes care of Mother Earth, and its tenets are about being a good person,” LaFantasie said.
Many of the Stitch and Witch group members are, or have been, members of the local Inland Empire Pagan Ministry Guild, a chapter of a national membership based on paganism.
Danielle Pope, one of the Stitch and Witch co-founders, said the larger group is a way for people to get acquainted with the pagan community in Spokane.
“It is a neat way to cut your teeth into the social networking and the pagan community,” Pope said, adding that about 10 to 30 people regularly attend events.
Pope, a stay-at-home mom of five, said there’a a joke about the definition of paganism. “If you ask 12 pagans the definition of what pagan means you’ll get 13 answers.”
Ann Astlesord, another group co-founder, attended Wednesday with her two daughters, a baby who slept in a backpack while Ann crocheted, and a 4-year-old who was busy creating paper projects as she sat next to her mom.
“We don’t always talk about ourselves and spirituality,” Astlesord said. She added that the group provides support, fun and easy discussions about healing herbs, getting rid of negative energy, essential oils … and just about everything anyone else talks about.
Pope said she’s comfortable with the word “witch” and all that entails, including casting spells and making potions.
She’s honest with her children and up front about her lifestyle because “I don’t want this to be a dark and scary thing and it’s an every day lifestyle,” she said.
“My daughter came to me and said she wanted to make a potion and I said so, you want to make tea. You realize we make potions from just weeds. And then we have this magical brew made from beans that helps me wake up in the morning,” she said, laughing.