That year, Coven X had volunteered to lead the big Samhain ritual for the Wiccan Church of Minnesota.

Weeks before Samhain, the winds of controversy had already begun to blow.

The folks in Coven X, the new young coven in town, thought of the WiCoM folks as stodgy and regressive, mired in Wiccan dogma. Clearly, their intent with this ritual was to blow some of the cobwebs out of the attic.

It didn't take a seer to foretell where this was going to go.

The day before the ritual, the priestess told me all about it with a glint in her eye.

“We'll show them,” she concluded.

Well, if she wanted a firestorm, she got it.

I myself didn't attend the ritual—my recollection is that I was working that night—but I heard about it afterward.

And heard about it. And heard about it.

(Even if I hadn't been working, I'm not sure that I would have gone. Shocking people is easy. Offending people is easy. Actually communicating something: now that's more difficult.)

The climax of the ritual was the shattering of a pumpkin filled with red wine. It was intended to shock, and it did.

“So we killed a pumpkin,” the priestess said to me later. “So what?”

After the firestorm had died down a little, the consensus in Coven X seemed to be: They just didn't get it.

Maybe so. One of the elders of the church told me that what he personally found objectionable was not the violence, but that the violence was presented as the Great Rite.

Well, I wasn't there, so I can't say. But this much I can tell you.

There are many and various good reasons for doing ritual.

“We'll show them” isn't one of them.