The NC Piedmont Church of Wicca was formed in November of 1999. It based much of its structure and process on an already existing organization, the (now defunct) South Carolina Church of Wicca. At its first business meeting, NCPCOW adopted a modified version of the constitution and bylaws used by the SC church. We also appointed people to serve as interim officers until membership grew enough to have actual elections. We started with just five members, barely enough to fill the church council.In December, our members traveled to South Carolina and celebrated Yule as our first Sabbat together with the church there. We spent January preparing a ritual circle at a member’s home as a site for an Imbolc rite; our first group Sabbat performed completely on our own. An unexpected snowstorm prevented us from celebrating outdoors and we ended up having our service in the member’s living room instead. The circle we’d prepared would see a lot of use in the coming years, though. It was at this Imbolc gathering that we passed the hat among attendees to cover the fee for filing our incorporation paperwork with the NC secretary of state. The interim chancellor prepared the forms and sent them in about a week later. Once the paperwork was processed, we became the first legally incorporated Wiccan church in North Carolina.
The church began developing liturgy with the goal of making Wicca a more accessible faith without giving up its unique spiritual identity. We focused on the experiential and spiritual aspects of group-based witchcraft. We began designing rituals that were keyed toward participation and interaction. We tried to strike a balance between including more traditional elements while still allowing for eclectic expression. As we continued to refine our approach, we concentrated on being a Neopagan community resource as well as a group of Eclectic Wiccan practitioners.By April, our membership had started to flesh out a bit and we were interested in building a relationship with other groups in the area. In what was to become an annual tradition, the church decided to host a weekend Beltane festival. The first “Beltane Brouhaha” was held in Old Fort NC and was attended by about 30 people. The next year we moved the event to Kings Mountain State Park, where it has been held every year since. After 18 years, The Brouhaha has come to be a widely known and well-attended festival for the Pagan community as well as serving as the church’s primary fundraiser.
November of 2000 brought our first officer elections, and the following months saw us ordain our first clergy. We also filled out many important committee chairmanships, designed our seal, and drafted important guidelines and policies concerning how the church would be run.
The next year we participated in our first Pagan Pride event by having a booth at the Central NC PPD in Raleigh. In just a few years, we would become even more involved in the Pagan Pride Project. Leaders from the church were among the first local coordinators for the Charlotte community’s own Pagan Pride Day, and the church remained engaged, leading the main Mabon ritual at many of Charlotte’s early PPD events as well as being a Gold Level sponsor over several years.
In 2002 we saw our first shift in authority as the offices of Chancellor and High Priest was vacated and refilled. The ease and efficiency with which that change was handled would become the template for future changes in the church hierarchy. We’ve maintained the tradition of smooth and frequent transitions of leadership ever since.
In subsequent years, we expanded our involvement in the local mainstream community by hosting a monthly meal at a local shelter and adopting a highway in Shelby NC. We began presenting seminars on the Wiccan faith and holding book club meetings in an area bookstore. We led Charlotte’s first large-scale public Pagan ritual, a celebration of the 2003 Summer Solstice.Over the next decade and a half, the church continued to flourish and to grow as a community resource. We joined in a variety of cooperative projects and events, both with other Neopagans and with the wider community. We produced and distributed educational material about Wicca and answered questions at public events. We participated in interfaith forums and conferences. We gave interviews to journalists and students. We marched in Charlotte’s LGBTQ Pride parade. We delivered the first Wiccan opening prayer before the governmental board meeting in Cleveland County.
We celebrated hundreds of Sabbats and Esbats. We performed Wiccanings, and initiatory rites, and funerary rituals. Our clergy officiated dozens of legal handfastings. Before same-sex marriage was even legal, we offered rites affirming love and commitment in those relationships.
In 2012, we crossed another major historical milestone. After years of raising funds and saving money, the church was able to purchase a 3 ½ acre rustic wooded property, becoming the first NC Pagan organization to own land in its own name.
NCPCOW is proud of its history and its legacy of service. We are also pleased to still be involved in the Pagan Pride Project. Please come by our booth at Piedmont Pagan Pride Day and say hello.
Tony Brown is a High Priest Emeritus of the North Carolina Piedmont Church of Wicca. He is proud to have been a founding member of NCPCOW. He has been an Eclectic Wiccan for about twenty years and has served as clergy for the last dozen or so of those.
Tony is a devotee of Dionysos, the Greek God of rebirth, transformation, tragedy, comedy, unresolved paradox and wine.
Photo of Tony Brown – Taken from NCPCOW Website