Amanda Hansen had never given paganism a second thought. That is, until she dreamed of trying to save her father from death.
She had been keeping his ashes in her closet. In the dream he was still alive but sick. Hansen was trying to locate a remedy for him, enlisting the help of a witch in an ominous building.
Afterward, in the physical realm, she sought the help of Woventear—her legal name—the owner of Bella's Grove, a pagan supply store and general gathering place for Boise witches. Woventear helped Hansen realize that keeping her father's ashes was holding back his spirit and her from moving on.
In addition to advising patrons through the deaths of loved ones, Bella's Grove hosts a variety of pagan classes, including a charms class set for Friday, June 26. According to Hansen, with its Tarot readings and organic living classes, the best part of the Treasure Valley Witches community is its inclusive atmosphere.
"I'm not into trying new things, but the people here are so inviting," She said. "These are my people."
At the upcoming charms class, attendees will be taught how to use traditional hoodoo techniques to prepare protection spells with egg shells and red brick dust.
"You smudge the dust on things you want to protect," Woventear said. "You can put a little on your door or sprinkle some on a coworker—or probably not that one. It's really just to create your own sacred space."
According to Woventear, anything can be protected from anything with red brick dust—whether it be to ward off spirits or protect an individual from harm. It all depends on the forethought and intention that the spellcaster puts into their completed spell.
The dust is prepared by grinding old church bricks with a traditional mortar and pestle, forming it into chalk and applying it to whatever needs protecting.
"It's where arts and crafts meet the craft," said charms class teacher William Murphy. "It's all about fluidity and inspiration."
Murphy takes turns teaching how-to classes with other local witches each month. He came to Bella's Grove last October and "fell in love with the environment and people."
Much of this atmosphere can be attributed to the passion that Woventear brings to every part of her business. To her, it's more than a career—it's her lifestyle and family.
After years of study, Woventear is now a master herbalist, licensed cosmetologist and a clergywoman. Her name, meaning "The Weaver of Tears for the Universe," was given to her after a shamanistic journey with her spiritual mentor.
"We went on a two-week survival trip in the Arizona desert where you lived or you died," Woventear said. "It was an inspiring moment. We sat around the campfire, went over our journeys and she told me my name. And now, my bank even knows it."
After spending so much time honing her own craft, Woventear now strives to create a space where budding witches and pagans can learn without judgment.
"We're here; we care," Murphy said. "It's not all about the money. It's about the people."
Bella's Grove operates its own community food bank, provides financial assistance for members in need, and features hand-made artwork and supplies from those within the Boise pagan community.
Nonetheless, local pagans struggle for mainstream approval.
"You see all of that stuff in Hollywood, and none of it is true," Hansen said. "There is real stuff to learn here."
According to Woventear, misconceptions about witches often stand in the way of acceptance. For the most part, she avoids media interaction—though she did speak to this reporter for a story that appeared in The Arbiter in October 2014—because many outlets use her community as the brunt of jokes during Halloween coverage.
"Witch means 'healer,'" Woventear said. "If you're into clean living and want to make your body healthier, you would come to one of us."
Many of the classes at Bella's Grove focus on organic living, home herbal remedies and meditation—things that Woventear believes would be more generally accepted were they not clouded by the images of green-skinned witches with brooms and cauldrons.
"We are brewing potions, but they're good for you," Woventear said. "And we love our pointy hats, too. That's just how it is."