An Interview With Antiga, a Longtime Asheville Witch…On Chants
by Elizabeth Kirwin
Use the audio player below to listen to free podcasts of Teresa Cline and Mareena Wright singing pagan chants, collected and shared by Antiga.
Oh Mother Come Close
Take me Back
Spiral Into Darkness, Spiral out to Light
Over the past 10 years while I have lived in Asheville, I have heard whisperings about Mother Grove, a collective of pagans based in the Montford and North Asheville area. Mother Grove is always active on sabbats and holds full moon rituals, often right here in my own neighborhood, in the French Broad River Park just down the street. Recently, Mother Grove has established a Goddess Temple where “people of all faith traditions may openly and safely celebrate the Divine Feminine.”
The faeries and witches have always loved one other. For millennia we have worked together as guardians of the earth and as holders of its tender secrets. So, when a mutual friend, Donna Massaria, offered to introduce me to Antiga, a well-known and respected witch in the community, I jumped at the opportunity to meet her in person. The day we met for lunch, Antiga was wearing a t-shirt that proudly proclaimed: ‘hag power.’
I had been reviewing some CDs of Antiga’s chanting before I met with her and Donna at Chai Panai, a local Indian restaurant. In addition to this interview I will share some samples of chants with Antiga singing.
Q. When did you start learning chants?
R. I began learning chants at college, in Saint Paul, MN — The College of Saint Catherine. We started a group called the Feminist Arts Core in the 1970s. It was supposed to be a two-year program, but the college ended it abruptly after one year. They weren’t ready for feminists, actually. From there, I started a dark moon circle for women. I kept this up for 6 years. We chanted together in this circle. This is where I began to learn and collect many of the chants I know today.
Q. Do you write the chants down?
R. I seldom write them down. For the past 20 years I have been collecting songs. They are mostly passed on orally.
Q. When did you first realize you were a witch?
R. I went to Wisconsin one year and I stopped off at the Pagan Spirit Gathering. I realized they were practicing paganism, and that I wasn’t alone. It was then and there I decided I was a witch. At this gathering, I met Starhawk. She had just published The Spiral Dance. Starhawk knows many chants. I began learning more from her. I also participated in the Re-form Congregation of the Goddess, a women only group in Wisconsin. They are songstresses. Here I learned even more chants.
Q. What are your beliefs about chanting and ritual?
R. A chant is something simple you can pick-up by listening and repeating. You should have the chant by the third time you hear it. For me, singing is very healing. You can say difficult things if you sing them first. These are things you might not be able to say otherwise. Take for example the group Sweet Honey in the Rock, the African-American female a cappella ensemble. They sing about lots of topics that are controversial.
Q. Do you teach others how to chant?
R. Yes! I hold a dark moon sing at my home each month. Everyone is supposed to come with a chant to share. Sometimes people just bring ordinary songs – not chants. That’s O.K. with me. Sometimes I will take a chant and fix it to suit my needs.
Q. Why have you recorded these chants?
R. I recorded the chants because people want to learn them. It’s one way to teach people pagan chanting.
Antiga has been a member of Mother Grove for seven years. She is clearly a community person who chants for spiritual purposes and empowerment. She invited me to join the dark moon sing or participate in one of the full moon circles. I said I would take her up on that.
Lunch ended too soon. There were many more things I wanted to ask Antiga. I hope to see the old witch again soon. I know there are many more like her in Asheville. Like many in my community, I value the wisdom of my elders and love to hear their stories.
Click on the link for more information about MotherGroveTemple.org.