Where do visits from the dead fall under city codes?

A Wiccan business owner seeking a permit faces a doubtful New Port Richey mayor.

Published May 17, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY -- What happens when a witch shows up at City Hall?

Teresa Gurnell, a Wiccan, wants to offer "spiritual counseling" at her New Age gift shop, the Dragon Den, at 5417 Main St. She also has a retail location at the USA Flea Market in Hudson, which was featured in a Pasco Times story last year.

City codes say nothing about whether spiritual counseling is allowed in the downtown district. So Gurnell had to appear before the City Council on Tuesday and ask that the counseling be allowed as a "conditional use."

Mayor Dan Tipton had his doubts. Below is the exchange between him and Gurnell on Tuesday night before the council's vote.

Tipton: What -- how does this work? Or what is this about? Let me just ask you a question: Does it have anything whatsoever to do with witchcraft?

Gurnell: No, not necessarily. ... Well, I am a witch. But does my spiritual counseling have anything to do with witchcraft? No.

Tipton: Well, how do you get --

Gurnell: My information?

Tipton: No, what does the -- I don't want to say degree, but how are you -- your professional ...

Gurnell: I'm an ordained minister. I'm an ordained minister, which allows me to do the ... spiritual counseling as any priest or reverend or minister is allowed to do. I do not run a church out of the facility. That's a very private thing and that's not in the building whatsoever.

If you would come to me and you'd have a personal problem, you'd come in and you'd probably want to know who I am first. So you're not going to say anything at first. And I'm going to say to you, 'Okay, well, this is what I feel is coming from you. This is what I see.' I'm going to tell you what I see and, guaranteed, it's going to be what's going on in your life.

And then you're going to go ... 'Okay, well, this lady knows what she's talking about.' You're going to say, 'Well, what about this?' And then I'm going to bring you to where you need to go spiritually, on your own spiritual path, which could be Christian, Buddhist, Wiccan. It doesn't really matter what your spiritual journey is. I can guide you in that direction, or on a personal, day-to-day basis, problems with money, relationships.

Tipton: Well, looking at the other information you furnished us with -- will you actually have clients in there where you'll want to go back and, try to, uh, visit the dead?

Gurnell: Ummm --

Tipton: I spent a lot of time on this so I want to be clear on this.

Gurnell: That's okay.

That's not a normal practice. But do deceased people come to me? Yeah, they do.

Tipton: Deceased people?

Gurnell: Deceased people come to give me messages for people. Yeah, that happens.

Tipton: Okay, I'm not going to support this myself. I know everyone else has their own ideas. But I, but thank you very much for clearing up my questions.

Gurnell's request passed 3-2, with Tipton and council member Bob Consalvo voting against it. The measure will require a second reading for final approval.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at (727) 869-6247 or jtillman@sptimes.com.