Circle Wicca

Circle Wicca; Circle Sanctuary

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Founded by Selena Fox, with Jim Alan, in 1974, Circle sponsored its first sabbat gathering at Yule that year at Selena's and Jim's home in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1975, headquarters was established at Sun Prairie, WI, and public lectures were sponsored in Madison. By the following year, Circle became the first Pagan center in the United States to have its own weekly radio show (Circle Magic on WORTFM, Madison), which aired for four years.

Circle's first coven was formed in 1976, and a year later Circle Network was formed as a worldwide Pagan resource center. Circle Network News began as a one page newsletter for this network. In 1978, Circle was incorporated as the Church of Circle Wicca in Wisconsin, and the organization shifted from coven structure to church structure, with a board of directors, ordained ministers, a community of affiliated covens and solitaries.

The Circle Guide to Wicca and Pagan Resources was first published in 1979 and was an annual networking book that quickly became a staple among Wiccans and Pagans. That same year, after being evicted from its Sun Prairie farm by a prejudiced landlord, Circle began to raise funds to buy their own land. In 1980 they were officially recognized as a church, receiving 501(c)(3) tax exempt status under the IRS code, becoming one of the first Wiccan churches formally recognized in the United States. That same year, Circle Network News became a full quarterly newspaper with international distribution. In 1998 it changed format again to become a magazine, with full-color cover.

In 1981 Circle began inter-tradition Pagan minister training, offering intensive training for those from a variety of paths. Five years later a school specifically for priestesses was started. The Pagan Spirit Gathering was first held that same year, starting an annual tradition of bringing together hundreds of Pagans from around the country and from countries abroad. It has since served as the prototype for a variety of festivals sponsored by other groups.

After four years of fundraising, land was purchased in southwestern Wisconsin in 1984, and Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve became the first such project supported by Pagans from many traditions and many countries. Headquarters was moved to Mount Horeb. The mortgage was paid off by 1995.

In 1985 Circle began to battle anti-Witchcraft legislation, leading a nationwide campaign that eventually defeated the Helms Amendment, designed to remove church status from Wiccan churches. The amendment was introduced by Senator Jesse Helms and passed by the U.S. Senate in late September. But thousands of Wiccans and other Pagans joined with the American Civil Liberties Union and others concerned about first amendment rights in opposing this amendment.

In 1988, after a four year battle, Circle won church zoning for the 200 acres of Circle Sanctuary land. This battle with the local zoning authority was won with the help of the Wisconsin chapter of the ACLU and the support of Wiccans and Pagans worldwide. In 1993 Circle participated in the Parliament of the World's Religions, an international interfaith conference, and the following year Selena Fox collaborated with federal prison chaplains in the creation of a video for use in diversity training for chaplains in correctional institutions.

Selena Fox was appointed in 1999 to serve on the Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, becoming the first head of a Wiccan church appointed to that body. That same year Circle Sanctuary joined with others to counter the national anti-Wiccan campaign of Rep. Robert Barr of Georgia against Wiccans in the military. An application to the U.S. Department of Defense Ecclesiastical Endorsing Organization status for a Circle candidate seeking placement as a military chaplain in the Air Force is currently pending.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.