Monday, November 06, 2006

Pagan hub remains intact

Published: Monday, November 6, 2006

Pagan hub remains intact
Store and building owners vow to rebuild after a suspicious fire gutted Moonflower Magicks in downtown Everett.

By Jeff Switzer
Herald Writer



EVERETT - Moonflower Magicks was a rare place for today's witches and pagans to gather and be accepted. It was as much sanctuary and cultural center as it was a book and supply shop.

When a fire two weeks ago closed the purple gilded New Age shop at the corner of Colby Avenue and California Street, word of the loss shot through the communities that called it home.

"It's pretty much a hub of the neo-pagan community," said Willow Moon, an Italian witch and Wiccan high priestess from Everett. "It's been a big loss."

The arched ceiling is charred black. Temperatures up to 900 degrees melted the shop's light fixtures.

Investigators said the cause of the fire has not been determined. Shop owner Jana "Moonflower" Benson, 63, said she suspects arson.

She moved to the location two years ago - replacing the Silvertips' first headquarters.

The store stocked a wide range of books on paganism, Wicca and old-world, non-Christian traditions. Owners sold aroma-therapy items, incense, oils, candles, gemstones and jewelry. They also sold statues of gods and goddesses, wands and magic supplies used in rituals.

"It had the sense of an old-time country store, a gathering place and very much a safe place," said Theo Williams, a Wiccan from Everett. He said he "came out of the broom closet" 11 years ago to find that most of his friends were Wiccan, too.

"Having Moonflower's here was a blessing," he said, a pentacle hanging from his neck signifying earth, wind, water, fire and spirit. "If I saw the pentacle, I immediately had someplace to send people."

He reflected on the loss of the store while standing in the darkened ruins last week, amid the cloying scent of a hundred broken bottles of fragrant oil.

"I would definitely not want the karma of the person who did this," Williams said.

Critics occasionally hurled slurs like "devil store" at Benson.

The fire claimed a piece of her livelihood, as well as a treasured picture of Jesus bought in a hashish shop in Nepal.

She got a call after the fire, and a person said "see what you get hanging a picture of Jesus in your store," she said.

When there is no knowledge of something, there is fear, said Tamara Benson, Moonflower Benson's daughter.

"We're kind of all walking toward the same place but we're all coming from different directions and follow our own paths to get there," she said. "We're very accepting of everyone and all of their paths."

The support of neighbors and shop visitors is more prevalent - and heartwarming - than criticism, Moonflower Benson said.

"At first it made me cry," she said.

An Everett-based modern pagan discussion group met regularly at the shop. Other classes met upstairs, including Wiccan and Druidry classes taught by Willow Moon.

Shop and building owners vow to rebuild.

"That particular place is still going to be a place within everyone's hearts," Willow Moon said. "The hub is still there. We're all part of that community, that spirit of place. It may be in shock, traumatized, but it hasn't changed. That spirit of place still exists."

Most fires stink, but this one smelled good because of the incense and oils that broke open or burned, Moonflower Benson said.

She said the fire was like the American Indian tradition of smudging, where sage or aromatic herbs are burned.

"I think we smudged Everett," she said. "Everett should be a lot cleaner now."

Reporter Jeff Switzer: 425-339-3452 or jswitzer@heraldnet.com.

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