Celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the Witches' Ball in 2014!
Beltane, also known as May Eve and May Day, marks the beginning of the summer half of the year, a time of budding, blossoming and fertility. Samhain marks the winter half of the year, a time of harvesting, culling and celebrating our dear departed.
The first Denver Witches' Ball took place on the Saturday night before Samhain in a rented United Methodist Church basement hall in Englewood in 1991. About fifty people came. There were a few merchants there, participants were costumed and they bobbed for apples and played other traditional games when they weren't dancing.
The next year the Methodist church was getting harassment from a few Christian fundamentalist neighbors, thus they decided that a Halloween party was too risky for them. It was difficult to find a church that was willing to rent to Pagans. The Ball was finally moved to the First Universalist Church at Hampden and Colorado Boulevard in Denver, a Unitarian Universalist church. An annual Beltane festival, the Magickal May Festival, was additionally launched by High Plains Church at the Jefferson Unitarian Church in west Denver/Golden.
Over several years the Witches' Ball grew in size and scope. It expanded to fill every available space at First Universalist. The Sanctuary was rented for musical performance and the midnight Samhain ritual, and their chapel became the designated drumming room. Merchants were filling the Commons, spilling into the circular hallway leading to the drum room, and eventually into the basement. Even with expansion, the space was filled to overflowing as attendance grew and the volunteer staff grew. Cars packed the parking lot and surrounding neighborhood. There was a pressing need to find a larger location.
For many years everyone worked as a volunteer to produce the Ball, including the musicians and belly dancers. In time, George and Jackie ended their marriage. Their coven, Dragonfhain, also dispersed after many years and many adventures. George Moyer and Rhiannon Asher took over the High Plains Church of Wicca, but closed it down a couple years later. The Magickal Mayfest came to an end after six or seven years. Jackie was spending over a month each year working full-time to produce the Witches' Ball. Living on very limited funds, she realized that if the Ball was to continue, she would need to begin to pay herself a salary to cover the wages she lost during the time she produced the Ball. She could not afford to be a volunteer any longer. The Witches' Ball was reorganized as a for-profit business.
If the event was to continue, the challenge was to find a new, affordable, larger space with multiple rooms for multiple activities and with private parking. At the turn of the century the Witches' Ball moved to the beautiful, historic Highlands Masonic Temple at 35th and Federal Boulevard, in Denver. The Masons were changing their centuries-old policy of restricting access to their buildings to Masons and their families. The Witches' Ball was one of the first large public events held at the newly-available facility.
Thus, the Witches' Ball expanded once more. The new venue gave the opportunity for professional bands and sound systems, extensive harvest and Halloween-themed decorations and a professionally-run kitchen. The merchants, artists, crafters and importers filled the basement with their Magickal Marketplace, while the grand ballroom fit up to 800 participants for the costume contest and the free, midnight Samhain ritual. The improvisational trance drumming and dancing found a new home in a Masonic Lodge room upstairs.
Over the years at least eighteen different covens or spiritual circles wrote and produced midnight rituals at the Ball. Ball attendees were entertained by harpists, ceremonial drummers, mid-Eastern musicians, an a cappella vocal group, a Pagan songstress from California, a New Age duo, a folksy rock band, a Celtic band, tribal fusion percussion groups, the Orpheus Pagan Chamber Choir and our favorite band for five years -- Tuatha. The sensuous belly dancers of Serpent Moon danced for us at many of those Balls and other dance troupes joined them.
One year the Ball was snowed out by a winter blizzard that closed down the whole city and Denver International Airport. It was a held a week later, but lost half its numbers in the rescheduling.
As rent and production costs inevitably rose and as attendance increased, the need for paid staff, computerization and other improved procedures also increased. Producing the Ball became a full-time job for three months of each year for Jackie. In 2009, Jackie hired a demi-Goddess, Joy Burton, as her lieutenant. Joy is the creator of Living Earth Church and Beltania, the very successful live-music, Colorado Pagan camping festival each May. Her youthful energy, skills and ideas helped the Witches' Ball evolve during the three years she worked as Jackie's assistant.
In 2010 beer and wine sales become a new addition to the Witches' Ball tradition. The volunteer staff averaged 80 people by 2011. In 2012, the rent at the Masonic Temple rose steeply, necessitating a change in venue. That year the Witches' Ball found a new home, the PPA Event Center, fourteen blocks south of it's old home at the Masonic Temple. In 2013, the Masonic Temple became affordable again, and both staff and celebrants enjoyed returning to the grand old building again.
As our community grows and evolves, the special events that are the expression of that community evolve. As of 2014, Jackie will no longer be producing the Witches' Ball, but Chris and Karen Mohr are committed to carrying on the tradition. They will pursue the expression of the mission of the Witches' Ball once again, to create the celebration of magickal community in a way that serves many diverse interests -- all in one place, one night, each year. See you at the Witches' Ball!
Our blessings go with the spirit of George Moyer, who departed for the Summerland on August 25th, 2011.