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Barry Schrader


I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.


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A visit to a local witches' coven

By Barry Schrader.................................November 16, 2010

Two years ago, while driving in the eastern part of DeKalb, I was intrigued to see the car ahead of me with bumper stickers that read: “I’m Pagan and I Vote” and “No war was ever fought over witchcraft.” The driver parked at a residence, so I noted the location and returned sometime later to inquire about the strange slogans.
The woman who answered the door explained she was a modern-day witch and belonged to a coven of witches in northern Illinois. I swallowed hard and said I would get back to her and maybe do a column on witchcraft someday.
Well, it is two years later and I finally got around to pursuing this further by asking to attend one of their gatherings. I was invited to one of their high holy days, Oct. 31 to be exact, and met several women and their spouses having a nice social afternoon party.
The high priestess was a woman named Novalla Sutter from the Elgin area, and she explained that the dozen or so people who belonged to this particular coven, similar to a congregation in the Christian religion, come mainly from DeKalb, Kane and Ogle counties. This group is known as a “Faery Covenstead” and they meet at homes of members on a regular basis.
Adjourning to a decorated room in the basement, known as the Underworld, we sat down for an hour of conversation. A woman named Tiffany said “a witch is a witch, just like a Baptist is a Baptist …There are good ones and bad ones in both religions.” She added that “the thing that bonds us all together is we see the divinity in all things.”
This particular sect does not believe in Satanism or the Black Arts, and its heritage comes mostly from the “country witches” movement that included midwives, shamans, soothsayers and healers in ancient times.

Gathered in the DeKalb basement on Oct. 31 are these "country witches" from left: Karin R and High Priestess Novalla S in front; Terri B, Karen S, and Andie S in the back.

Witches' High Priestess Novalla Sutter of Elgin with a cat named Sassy.
(Barry Schrader photos)

Legend has it that witchcraft goes back some 35,000 years and it wasn’t until the 1300s that witchcraft was declared a heretical act. Millions were persecuted until the 1700s, mostly in Europe, but even at Salem in the new colony of America.
They see their paganism somewhat like that practiced by certain Native American tribes before Christianity was forced on most of the reservation Indians. Witches have eight Sabbats, or holy days, annually, which are mostly based on harvests and planting. They often use a basement room for worship and give thanks for the bounty, “crossing over and stepping onto the shining shore of the new world (season) as they emerge from the basement,” as it was explained to me.
Sutter said they believe each person has the same standing before the supreme power, someone they choose to call “ ‘The Mother,’ because we believe to give life you need to be female.” But she was quick to add that they don’t demean the man’s role. In fact, one of the spouses of a female witch was himself a practicing witch.
A tenet of their religion that could be equated to one of the Ten Commandments is “Harm no one – do as you will,” but unlike Christianity they do not recognize a devil. “We believe in self-responsibility. The devil did not make you do something – you have free will choices,” Sutter said. And they have no one sacred book like a Bible.
I found they do have a sense of humor about witchcraft; one coven member told me she has a bumper sticker that reads “My other vehicle is a broom.”
I learned a lot that Halloween afternoon and was also given a website for more information: www.faerywoodcovenstead.com

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115