tampabay.com

We the people

A periodic photo column exploring our constitutional rights in everyday action.

By CHRIS ZUPPA
Published March 11, 2007


First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."

They begin the spiral dance holding hands, weaving in and out of each other around the candlelit altar. Some fear persecution, so they hide their faith from public view. The drumbeats drive the rhythm during this full-moon celebration.

They say Hollywood portrays them as an evil cult. That's not true.

The drumbeats grow louder. Faster and faster the circle goes.

They don't perform blood sacrifices. They won't harm anyone or anything. They respect life. They honor earth, wind, fire, air. Everything they do, everything they say is for good, not evil.

Faster and faster. Louder and louder.

They are pagans. They are also soldiers, lawyers, doctors, business owners, students, neighbors. They are everyday people.

Suddenly the circle stops. A crescendo. The energy is released.

On this February night, they gather at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa to safely practice a faith with origins more than 2,000 years before Christianity. They are Wiccans.