Welcome back, my loyal, local fans! This week, I had the exclusive opportunity to talk with Dina Miller once again. You might remember her store, Whimsical Gems & Treasures, from the very first local blog article I ever wrote. I continue to patronize her shop and have found many trinkets and gifts for people who like having things that are not mainstream.
Speaking of not being mainstream, the reason why I interviewed Ms. Miller this time is because she’s introducing a class in her store that is something different than people around here are used to. In an area that is predominately Christian (most denominations of such, represented) Ms. Miller’s store is going to be host to a class for people wanting to learn more about the Wiccan belief system. I was able to interview Dina Miller as well as the young lady who is going to be heading up the class herself, Ms. Kayla Ramos. Here’s what they had to say:
Del Dotson: Okay! I’m Del Dotson, and today I’m here with…
Dina Miller: Dina Miller.
DD: Who is…
DM: The owner of Whimsical Gems & Treasures.
DD: And also, I’m here with…
Kayla Ramos: Kayla Ramos. The owner of Phoenix Rose New Age.
DD: Today I’m interviewing these ladies because Ms. Dina is incorporating a Wicca class into her store. Which is going to be taught by Kayla. So my first question is: Kayla, can you give me just like, a basic outline of the Wiccan religion, or the Wiccan beliefs?
KR: Yeah. Wicca beliefs are based on nature, they love nature. They don’t hurt anything- true Wiccans don’t hurt anything. They love life. We believe in reincarnation, and all that other good stuff.
DD: Okay. Um, I know it sounds like I’m reiterating, but what are the core beliefs, and a few of the differences that Wicca has with Christianity?
KR: We have one core belief and that’s “To harm none.” And it says “and you do what you will, as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody.” The differences between Wicca and Christianity is that Wiccans are.. Well they were the first religion, basically. They were there thousands of years before Christianity. And we are more of a scientific kind of religion, and we’re more individualized than Christianity. Christianity is a big group of people who believe in one God. Wiccans believe in two gods. Well, a goddess and a god. That’s basically the main differences. We’re a peaceful religion, we don’t hurt anything or anybody. We don’t do blood rituals or anything like that.
DD: So like, I know that probably one of the biggest misconceptions is that you guys [Wiccans] are closely related to Satanists, and things of that nature.
KR: Hahahaha, okay. That’s a misinterpretation in the uh, well it was a… how do you say that word? Translation! It was a mistranslation in the Bible, in the Olde English, the Olde Hebrew Bible. It was “Diablo” and “Satan”, which actually means “adversary” or “opponent”.
KR: So… we don’t believe in the devil. See back when the Christians came along, of course you have the good side and you have the bad side. And when you’re trying to convert another side it causes issues and… then Wiccans get slammed, basically.
DD: Right, hahaha. Well, I mean. I wanted to let you clear it up.
KR: No, we don’t believe in a devil and… if I get into that, it’s just one big go-around, y’know? Hahaha.
DD: Right, and I don’t think I have enough tape for that! The next question is: Are there any similarities that you can think of, between Wiccans and Christians?
KR: Well, Christians, true Christians don’t hurt anybody, they try to be peaceful and Wiccans do the same. We have our laws just like the Christians do. We actually, probably have more laws than Christians do. Both are supposed to be peaceful people, but sometimes that gets.. the line gets blurred.. with misunderstanding.
DD: Right, yeah. There can be a lot of gray area when you’re comparing two different belief systems, I can understand that. What religion were you raised in, or how did you end up making Wicca your belief system?
KR: I was raised Christian. And along the lines, I started developing new beliefs, I started questioning Christianity. And there were a lot of contradictions in the Bible that I didn’t understand. So I found a path that was more, for me and I could understand it better. It just.. it made more sense to me. I was basically… spiritual(?)… through my life. Like I was raised the Christian way, but that was kind of forced on me, so I did my own thing. My parents agree with it, my mom is kind of in between now, she’s older so of course she’s getting scared and stuff, and believing in the Christian God a lot more.
KR: I mean, like, it runs through both sides of my family. I’ve got a bunch of family and they’re all into it in some way, shape, or form. There are a lot of Christians, and there are more Wiccans then there are Christians.
DD: So, what kind of reactions do you get from people around here? You know.. down here we’re considered to be in “The Bible Belt.”
DD: Like, do people say “Hey, that’s cool and different and funky”, or do they.. is it more negative than positive?
KR: Well times have changed, a lot of things have changed in the past 5 years. Like before if you… I was beginning at the flea market, that’s where I had my little store open, it was at Lee Roy’s flea market in Abingdon. And like, 5 years ago you would have people completely ignoring you and shunning you and walking by you throwing things at you. These days, I have my best customers on Sunday! Hahahaha.
DD: Really? Cool.
KR: They came in and bought me out of all of my Wicca paraphernalia! But I mean, I finally had a few people and they were preachers and they came into my little stall in the flea market and they’d hand me pamphlets and tell me Jesus loves me.
DD: Yeah, well, he does.
KR: And I couldn’t help but think, well, I don’t go to churches and hand out Books of Shadows. Haha.
DD: Okay, so.. Dina, what kind of reactions did you expect to get, or what reactions did you get when you first introduced the fact that you’re going to do this class to people?
DM: I expected negative. Because people are more closed-minded in this area, and my goal in this shop is not just to be a retail shop but is to open.. help open minds in the area, in a peaceful way, without scaring people away. To let them have a better understanding of what Wicca, Buddhism, or crystal healing, spiritualism, and what all that is.
KR: A whole medley of religions.
DM: I had a little bit of negative feedback on facebook, when I posted it. But I had more positive reactions..
DD: More encouragement, than anything?
DD: Okay. Cool. This is a question for both of you: Can you tell me just a little bit about the class in general? Like, how is it set up, or are there going to be activities, or just anything you want to share about the class overall.
KR: Well the class will be set up over in the Phoenix Rose section in the back of Whimsical Gems. And the first class will be to explain Wicca beliefs. To help open minds and help people understand what Wicca is really about. And then I have 9 classes.. it expands over 9 classes. It’ll be every Wednesday after February 2nd. And those classes are more like workshops. And I’ll be teaching a little more about how to work magic, and do the whole spell thing. To help them [the students] understand what the tools are for, what the herbs are used for, the oils, everything. And that’s basically what that is. Overall, just to help people understand more.
DM: And what I would like out of the classes is for people to kind of relate whether you call it a “spell”, whether you call it “magic”, whether you call it “intention”, or whether you call it “prayer”, it’s all.. the end result is all the same. Whether you call it “God”, whether you call it “Goddess”, it’s all the same. You know… there was anointing in the Bible, prayer.. and meditation.. it’s all about the end result.
KR: There was a story I read once, it said there was a shaman lady back in, like, thousands of years ago who was teaching her people the way of shamanism and when she was done teaching them she sent them all out into the world. They discovered different religions, different beliefs, and different ways to live. Well they came back and asked her “Why are you teaching us this one way, when there are so many different ways to choose from?” And she said that different religions were like a pearl necklace. They’re all different and unique, but what’s really important is the string that ties them together. And that makes a whole lot of sense to me. And I wish I could find that story again, but I can’t find it anywhere.
DD: Alright, next question: I know you guys already mentioned this a little bit, but um.. can you tell me a little bit about the overall goals [of the class], is there just one goal for the full endeavor, or is there more than that? I know it’s to build more understanding, but is there anything else that kind of underlies that?
DM: Just to bring awareness that God is a loving God. He is not a judgmental, mean force that people try to make Him out to be.
KR: It depends on which God.
DM: Well, God is about love, and peace. If we knock out the judgment of others, it’d make the world a better place.
DD: Dina, what purpose did you have in mind when you decided to incorporate this class, into your store?
DM: Well, the same thing I just said. Not to only be…
DD: I’m not trying to reiterate myself over and over again, I’m just trying to get everything laid out. Haha.
DM: Right. I wanted to have a fun retail shop that could help the community, be a fun place to shop.. a “feel-good” store and also open minds in the area to different spiritual beliefs without scaring people away.
KR: To bring Wiccans out of the broom-closet!
DD: Alright. Let’s see. How do you both think that the class fits in with the whole ambiance that Whimsical Gems & Treasures had before the incorporation of the class? Before you even though about it?
KR: Well, she [Dina] found me at the flea market and.. well actually a mutual friend of ours has brought us together in a way. I don’t believe in coincidences. So I jumped right on it, and she had the goal to open up minds in the area and I have my goal basically to spread the word, and.. open up minds in the area. Haha.
DD: So it was kind of like a feeling of synergy, you guys coming together and all.
DM: I already had the crystal healing.
DM: And that is something not common in this area. So that was my first, and I offer a variety of different spiritual items in the store, not just Christianity.
DM: So it just tied in with what I’m trying to do already.
DD: So Dina, do you think that if these types of classes catch on become pretty popular will you expand on that?
DM: Yes. I’ve already spoken to a Professor at VI, and he is interested in doing a discussion here, at the store on the similarities and differences of world religions. And I think that for this to be an avenue to find things out that they didn’t know before. It would be a great place to do it.
DD: Is that scheduled yet?
KR: It’s not definite yet.
DM: He just said he was interested, and said that we’ve got to get together and make a plan.
DD: So you’re just “in talks” about it with him right now?
DD: Cool. Okay, so what else can we expect from this? Do you have anything else planned?
DM: Just to be a peaceful, fun, store for everyone. We are not a religious store, we are a spiritual store. We are a feel-good store. We want people to be able to find their own way, and their likes, and what they.. like! You know, belief-wise, and shopping-wise. If you notice, everything in the store is all about love, peace..
DM: ..feeling good. That’s my goal.
DD: And my last question is: Is there anything that either of you can think of or want to mention or talk abut, that I didn’t bring up? Or that I didn’t mention?
DM: I think you pretty much covered it.
DM: Good job, Delmer!
DD: Alright, well that’s it then. Thank you both a lot for your time.
KR & DM: And thank you!
I want to know what peoples thoughts are about this. I want you all to wear my comment section out. Any and all feedback would be appreciated. I myself don’t know how I feel about this; it could be good insomuch that it will open the minds of the unappreciative. But it also could be bad, because people generally don’t like change. I guess we will see in the coming weeks!
Also, if you want to send feedback, sign up for the class, or just ask some questions, here is the stores contact info:
Dina Miller & Kayla Ramos
509C State Street
Bristol, VA 24201
What to expect from me next:
I wanted to share with everyone something that happened today. In a series of serendipitous events, I came into contact with one of the coordinators (or somehow related) to an event being held in the near future right here in Bristol. The Special Olympics. Specifically the bowling event. In the coming weeks, I am going to try to get together with her and get some more information about it. It’s going to be a fun event, and I promise an excellent as well as detailed article about it. This is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart, and I hope to give it the publicity it deserves. I hope to see everyone there!