NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (UPI) -- A witches' ceremony came to an abrupt halt over the weekend
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (UPI) -- A witches' ceremony came to an abrupt
halt over the weekend when angry neighbors and members of the nature
worshiping coven exchanged gunshots, authorities said.
The witches said the attack Sunday was just the latest in a series of
violent acts against their group and its island shrine near Moon Lake,
northeast of New Port Richey.
Five witches from the Coven Lothlorien told Pasco County deputies
they had just finished a ritual seeking protection from threats when
gunfire ripped through the trees surrounding their ceremonial grounds at
about 11 p.m.
No one was wounded and no arrests were made, the Pasco Sheriff's
Witches, or wiccans, are nature worshipers who honor celestial cycles
and the seasons, said Ron Parshley, president of National Association of
Wiccans' ceremonies include torch-lit dancing, chanting and burning
of incense, he said.
"We heard the bullets ripping past and we all crouched down on the
ground and started crawling back to my house on our hands and knees,"
said Kassie Cornwell, a witch and a registered nurse.
The small island sits in the middle of a pond at the end of a lush
pathway behind Cornwell's house. Only one other house stands within 200
yards of the pond, which backs up to a vast stretch of swamp.
Members said Sunday's ritual was in response to threats they received
the day before. Cornwell's house had been pelted with eggs, she said,
and a note was left in her front yard Saturday.
The note warned the group to stop their "Satan worshiping or be
prepared for worse. Next time we won't stop at eggs."
Another note said, "We are the ultimate enemy. We are out to kill!"
Cornwell, 43, said she heard people cursing, calling them Satanists
and other names during Sunday's attack.
When the gunfire started, coven member Curtis Niles of Spring Hill
grabbed a shotgun and fired several rounds in the air, Cornwell said.
Neighbor Art Gray, 39, told a sheriff's deputy he heard shots coming
from Cornwell's property and he fired back, also in the air, to warn the
people away from his house.
Several of Cornwell's neighbors said they believed the group
practices Satanism and sacrifices animals. But Cornwell said the group
doesn't allow animals near their worshiping area.
She said the group's credo is to "do what you will, but harm none."
Parshley said the group has "nothing to do with Satanism."
The coven has worshiped at Cornwell's property since she bought her
home a year ago. She said the worship area has been desecrated six or
Mary Niles, another member, said the coven is named for the tree that
the elves inhabited in "The Hobbit," J.R. Tolkien's novel about an
imaginary dwarf-like people.
Detective Jerry Puig, a religion specialist for the Pasco Sheriff's
Office who has interviewed coven members, said there is a big difference
between Satanism and the group's religion.
"Wicca is all nature worship; worship of the sun, the wind, the moon,"
Puig said. "There is no blood and no devils involved."
Copyright 1990 United Press International
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