Witches wish you a Happy Yule
HOUMA — That woman in the camo pants and sweatshirt looking through the holly boughs at Michael’s is not just another Christmas shopper.
She is putting finishing touches on a different kind of celebration, shared by a small number of people in local communities.
Rhea Rihanna is a witch, and her preparations are for a Yule, or winter solstice gathering, to be held at her home just south of Houma. A lot of people who don’t know this wish her “Merry Christmas,” but the 45-year-old mother of two doesn’t mind.
“When they say ‘Merry Christmas’ I say ‘Merry Christmas,’ ” she said. “Amongst sisters and brothers and mothers of my faith, we say ‘Blessed Yule’ or ‘Happy Yule.’ ”
Rhea and other local witches willing to discuss their religious practices did so on condition that their Wiccan names, those adopted as part of their faith, be used rather than the names on their driver’s licenses. Prejudice and misinformation, they said, create risks for people who identify themselves publicly as witches, ranging from threats of physical violence to loss of jobs.
“It is important to keep my privacy because there is a fear of religious prejudice,” explains Rhea, who works in the medical field. “I have had situations where I have worked for people for two years, and when they found out that changed everything.”
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