On November 15th, The Witches’ Voice, Inc. announced the retirement of the witchvox.com website. For those of us who’ve been around since before social media sites existed, this news plucks the heartstrings. It is like discovering that a favorite haunt of your teen years is closing down long after you last were there. Nothing quite illustrates how far you’ve grown like when the place where you finally “found yourself,” and your real family of choice, closes their doors for the last time, and you can just accept the news, much like the changing of the seasons.
While I am not surprised that the site is shutting down, I’m more than a twinge sad to see the ending of an important era for our Witchcraft Community. I am also grateful for the important work done by the creators and managers of The Witches’ Voice website, lo these last 22 years.
Their message can be found here:
Notice 11/15/2019: The Witches’ Voice Inc will be retiring the witchvox.com website in late December of 2019. Its time has come. If you have any articles or poetry posted here please collect/copy them to your computer*. Over the past couple of years site traffic has dwindled down to a few dozen visitors/posters a day. In anticipation of site retirement we stopped taking any sponsorships donations on 7/1/2018. Next month we will pull ALL data offline and safely archive it. The extremely active Witches’ Voice facebook page featuring Spirit news and information will remain as an online presence.
We thank those you that supported this site over the years. You have changed the world.
In Your Service,
Wren Walker, Fritz Jung, Peg Aloi and Diotima Mantineia
Witchcraft before the Internet
Today it is hard to fathom a world that existed prior to the internet, but like any teen-witch in the early 90’s, I can report that it was really, REALLY hard to find other pagans to talk to back then. There were at least 10 years between widespread access to the internet, and the creation of social media sites like Myspace and Facebook. It took years more before Twitter or Instagram became this ubiquitous thing. I still don’t know how any witches found or founded pagan community before the internet, because it didn’t work out for me.
Legend has it, that pre-internet witches found each other by going to a local witch store and asking around, at which point those withes were obligated to deny their nature three times before accepting you as a student. Or, perhaps you’d find a surreptitiously worded notice on the bulletin board of a new-agey shop, and be able to read between the lines. That method required you to be lucky enough to have a shop like that within hailing distance, and in the southeast US, they were few and far between.
The other method of finding a coven or teaching circle that I heard about too late, was to go to any bookstore, and IF they had any of those early witchcraft books, like Scott Cunningham’s Wicca, or Raymond Buckland’s Big Blue Book, you could flip through the pages, and if magickal providence were on your side, you might find a coven’s business card or flyer clandestinely tucked within those pages.
The Witches’ Voice Changed Everything
Then came Witchvox.com in 1997. I finally found the site in 2002 after I just couldn’t abide my lonely broom closet any longer. This is the very first website I can remember which allowed 0ne to create a safe and anonymous profile that was searchable by location – for individuals, covens, shops, festivals, and open teaching circles. Best yet, the site facilitated messaging between people without revealing one’s own email address. In a time when deep secrecy was necessary, this ability to reach out and communicate discretely was a huge blessing. It was through witchvox that I *finally,* after 10 years of lonely searching, made contact with a local coven. There I met others of like mind, and eventually attended a Litha sabbat as a seeker. Witchvox was the medium through which I received this life-saving miracle, without which I doubt any of the subsequent work I’ve done in the Craft would have come to pass.
Unfortunately, as soon as I’d completed the seeker process with that first coven, I relocated with my family many hours away. In 2003, Greenville, North Carolina, had zero established covens, or findable witches or pagans, on any platform. So with the help of Witchvox.com, I started one.
Witchvox.com built my Local Community
People today regularly remark to me that they wish there was an active pagan community like ours where they live. They appear to be waiting for someone else to sweep into town, wave their magic wand and poof one into being for them. That isn’t how it works, folks. You have to build your own community from the ground up.
2003 was a dark and desperate year for me as a newly-activated witchling, wandering alone in the wilds of eastern North Carolina. Right after Samhain that year, I created a profile on Witchvox.com for a new social networking group I called East NC Pagans. I made an email discussion group on the Yahoogroups platform. Remember that old haunt? Through Witchvox, I contacted every single witch and pagan with a personal profile that was within an hour drive of my city.
In a personal message introduced myself, and invited them to join my eastNCpagans yahoogroup. This is how I finally met the priestesses who would mentor me, my Reiki Master, and the Pagans who would eventually start the local pagan festivals. However, it took years to grow that membership.
I also printed business cards with our group link, and hid them in every Pagan and Wiccan book in our local Barnes and Noble bookstore. I put up the requisite surreptitiously-worded flyers in the local crystal shop. However, it was the events listings on witchvox that actually found the seekers who would show up to build our pagan community with me.
I recently found one of the old “bookstore” cards among those old paper fliers I kept as mementos…so quaint…
Most people who wrote me back, either through witchvox or yahoogroups, were too terrified to meet in public, and we mostly just discussed our fears of losing jobs, our kids, or our parent’s love should our true nature ever be discovered. Having these “friends” on the internet who understood the struggle was so important to me.
For more than a year, I would announce a monthly “coffee night” meet-up, then sit alone in a coffee shop with an innocuous “ENCP” sign on my table, in hopes that any of them would meet me to chat about the Craft. After a few hours I would give up and go home, dejected and lonelier than before. After more than a year, one or two brave folks I’d met through Witchvox were bold enough to show up to have coffee with me in person. Those were the happiest nights!
Then finally in late 2004 a Unitarian Universalist member of our YahooGroup announced a new pagan discussion meeting starting at their church. It was there that I finally met the local P-curious folks. Many of us are still friends 15 years later. In turn, the UUs came to my East NC Pagan coffee night, which grew exponentially every month after that, until we were forced to move our meetings to the UU sanctuary. We scheduled classes and open Sabbat rituals. We held huge Witches’ Ball parties at Halloween as a fundraiser, which would eventually pay for author Christopher Penczak to come to town for a weekend intensive training weekend with us. All thanks to the introductions first made through Witchvox.com.
Over the years I’ve received a hundred messages at least via Witchvox, from seekers inquiring about that first East NC Pagans yahoo group we listed there, or the training circle which eventually formed in 2005. Then, The Sojourner shop was opened by another original member and myself in 2009. From there, The Sojo Circle Coven emerged in 2016, and continues the good work of publicly available witchcraft training and interfaith work. If we follow the roots of these resources, they all lead back to the opportunities created long ago through Witchvox.com.
Unfortunately, as Myspace, and then Facebook, Twitter and other searchable profile sites grew in popularity over the past 15 years, we sort of forgot about Witchvox. What was once the main hub for finding articles, news, and events, has been largely abandoned in favor of Facebook pages, pagan blog sites like Patheos Pagan, and pagan journalism sites like The Wild Hunt. I can’t remember the last time I logged in to update my witchvox profiles, nor list any events there, so I contributed to the dwindling attention.
I am not surprised that those excellent folks who’ve been dedicated to its maintenance for so long have now chosen to retire the platform. I see this progression as a success! Witchvox.com was like the dandelion that produced so much seed, spread by such a strong wind, that they spread so widely, and grew so vigorously, that it is now OK that the original mother-flower now passes. She has already reincarnated as so many new flowers.
In reply to Wren Walker, Fritz Jung, Peg Aloi and Diotima Mantineia, I thank you for your excellent service to building our community when we needed it most. I thank you directly for saving my wee witching life way back in 2002, by introducing me safely to so many others in my area. While I’m sad to see this era end, I agree that it is likely the right time to make this change. Just as the autumn leaves of the last cycle show us how beautiful they are before retiring into dormancy, we appreciate all that was accomplished by the witchvox site over the previous era. Thank you for connecting us to each other, for informing and inspiring our practices for so long. Thank you for archiving the record of our early history, and keeping up that good work via your Witches’ Voice Facebook page. I know we’ll all be paying close attention to what you folks get up to on the next big adventure of modern witchcraft networking!
For additional perspectives about the closing of Witchvox.com, check out these blogs by
Jason Mankey and Aine Llewellyn.