aka Tammie Jesberger
Owner of Gypsy Heaven in
Sign in window of Gypsy Heaven in New Hope, PA
Samhain is a busy time of the year for Witch stores like Gypsy Heaven and we thought it would be interesting if for this special issue of the Wiccan/Pagan Times we talked to the owner of one of the stores that I have had the pleasure of shopping at in the past and find out what its like to be out in front of the public at this time of the year. I spoke with Broceliande' (aka Tammie Jesberger) about Gypsy Heaven, its history and Samhain in general.
Starting at the beginning is the most likely place so I asked about how Gypsy Heaven came into being. Broceliande' told me that, "Gypsy Heaven was established in 1989 and our first store was located in Levittown, PA. I was partners with my brother Joseph and together we started this business because we could not find supplies anywhere else. In 1992 Gypsy Heaven was evicted from the Levitown, PA location because it was a Witch shop at which point the press found out about this and it went National. Because of that incident, we ended up opening a store in New Hope, PA and I met my High Priestess. New Hope is a very spiritual place and we didn't have any more problems. I started working with my High Priestess in a group and continued my work on a solitary basis as well. I have aquired 3 degrees of initiation and the store has continued to be very successful in catering to the Pagan/Wiccan community. My brother decided to continue his work with hypnosis and psychic readings on a solo basis while I continued operation of Gypsy Heaven also offering readings and classes on Wicca."
For many Samhain is a time to celebrate the new year that has come upon us and for others it is a time of remembrance for those who have passed before us into the Summerland. Broceliande' told me about Samhain and what it means to her, "Samhain was always an important holiday for me and for years I used to hold an Annual Witches Ball in New Hope so that the public could share in the magic and celebration of this season. Two years ago that all changed for me when my mother passed away suddenly two weeks before Samhain. When she passed, I was holding a ball that year and it was very difficult for me because Samhain is a time to honor your loved ones that have crossed over. Samhain has become a very emotional time of the year for me and privately I celebrate this holiday in my home where my personal temple room is located."
Another aspect of the holiday is the annual onslaught of articles in the newspapers and in online e-zines covering Samhain in factual and some not so factual ways. Samhain or Halloween lends itself to the sensationalism that has been created about it by the media and each year reporters and writers wish to stir the pot a little to see if they can find something that fits their image of what the season is all about. That rarely happens when they talk to those who have been on this path for awhile but usually there is someone out there who will give them what they want if they look long enough. Gypsy Heaven, being out in the open and easy to find, draws its share of local media looking for their annual fix of Halloween news.
"Yes, the media has a tendency to always look into Wicca around the Samhain season. I think that's because there is always that one reporter looking for the stories that are not talked about, besides the fact that it is different from the usual articles. Halloween always sparks interest amongst the media because of the witches flying on brooms and other misconceptions. That always gives me an opportunity to get to the public with the truth about Wicca. I enjoy that aspect of it. Most reporters are looking for a good story and the truth about Wicca always seems to be the right thing for a good story. The reason they are suprised by that fact is that most of the time they have learned something new about Wicca and Samhain."
New Hope being a heavily travelled tourist area brings in other seekers besides just the media, "Well, New Hope is a tourist area so of course we get alot of people who are just curious and looking for something weird or scarry. Samhain is my busiest month of the year and thank Goddess we get mostly Wiccan/Pagan customers that are looking for supplies for their rituals. Samhain is also a time when customers come into the store looking for classes and are interested in really leaning what Wicca is all about. I would say that the majority of people coming in during Samhain are true seekers looking for a new direction in a spiritual sense."
Brocelinde' continued about the volume of customers during this time of the year, "The flood of people is really not a problem for me. I am use to handling that over the years of having my business. I really do not need to judge who is real and who is looking for a thrill. I usually can tell by the questions they ask and by their attitude. Those who are real ususally end up taking the classes which to me is the first step of dedicating themselves to learning."
"Samhain is a good time to educate the public about Wicca. I think because as I would say, it is the Witchy Season. People tend to be more open minded around Samhain because of Halloween and I get the opportunity to tell them the true story of Samhain and how Halloween really came to be. I would like the curiosity seekers to walk away with a positive impression of Wicca. In most cases they do and they also learn something new which usually makes them happy."
As is the case in many places across the U.S. communities are not always friendly towards those that they perceive as different or who are viewed as a threat to their way of life. As Brocelinde' relates New Hope is not one of those places, "New Hope is very hospitable and I think that's because it is a spiritual place. New Hope is a historic place and being situated along the river gives it plenty of positive energy. I have been happy there over the years and would not consider another location."
Samhain is a time of parties, celebrations and remembrances which makes it a perfect time to host open public celebrations of the season so that those who normally practice the Craft as a solitary will be able to gather with those who have similar beliefs and celebrate as a community. "I hosted a Samhain celebration for 6 years. I did this to give everyone an opportunity to join in ritual and celebration. It allows others to participate that have no where else to go. It also benefits those in attendance by giving them the experience and knowlege of ritual performed in a group setting. I am a teacher and I work for the Goddess, that is my job and she has rewarded me well. Also, it has allowed me to raise money for those less fortunate."
Even though these rituals are public and open Brocelinde' has never had any trouble from the locals or the attendees when it came to performing the rituals and having their celebrations. The core group that performs these public rituals is Brocelinde' who acts as the High Priestess and her coven members who she has trained fill in the other roles required for carrying out the group Samhain ritual.
"Most of the people who come to the Samhain celebrations are my customers and those who are sincere. I always get a few curiosity seekers, but never had anything negative as far as a response from them. They almost always enjoy themselves. The pagan community has increased by over 100 percent since I opened my store in 1989. More people are becoming aware of Wicca and are interested in exploring with their own spirituality."
So the next time you are in New Hope, PA be sure to stop by Gypsy Heaven and say hi to those fellow travellers along this road. No matter the differences in the particulars of our path we are all headed in the same direction so why not share the journey with friends, loved ones and ancenstors.
"The thought I would like everyone to bear in mind about Samhain is that it is a very special time of year when you should remember your ancestors and the love you shared with them. They may be gone, but they shall always remain."
With that comment from Brocelinde' I will close this article and wish everyone a Happy Samhain. As the veil becomes thin again listen for the voices of those who have gone before and take comfort that all is well with them.