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Conjure Fest brings magic to the Magic City

APR/Blake Minor

The Christian faith and practice dominate much of Alabama and the South. But in downtown Birmingham, there’s a growing pagan and witch community looking to bring people together. That’s just what happened at Magic City Conjure Fest. The event happened at the beginning of October.

“It's like an art festival, but it's for more of the alternative crowd. It brings together a lot of different religions, and it creates a really comfortable atmosphere,” said Jessie. She also goes by the name “Chaos.”

Conjure Fest was founded in 2021 by Mambo “Meme” Baptiste. She’s the owner and operator of Magic City Conjure in downtown Birmingham. The shop fulfills the need of quality hoodoo supplies. It also caters to witches, wiccans, Luciferians, pagans and much more.

That was the crowd at Conjure Fest. And there was something for everyone: handmade jewelry and crafts, protection amulets, magical trinkets, plenty of food trucks, art and performers. And of course, the tarot card readings.

APR’s Baillee Majors got her tarot cards read for this feature, and she says she received much-needed advice regarding her love life. She said she’ll keep what was said between her and her lovely tarot card reader, Sarah Maven. But Baillee says she’s happy being single…for now.

There was much more to see going booth to booth at Magic City Conjure Fest. For example, apothecary objects from Rebekah Nevins of Skye Apothecary.

“I am showcasing a lot of my Apothecary items,” said Nevins. “I'm a certified herbalist, and I make all of our Apothecary products in-house. They're made of all natural products, so they're good for you, good for your skin.”

There was also a booth by Twisted Oddities run by Brittany Caswell. She said finds healing in making jewelry and different trinkets and crafts.

“I have PTSD, and I always have to do something with my hands,” said Caswell. "So, I was making some larger dreamcatchers. My husband sent me down and said, 'Can you make them smaller with wire?' And so, I tried and I was able to and it's something I really enjoy doing. So, I started making other things: trees of life and learning about different stones. And it's been fun something just to do with my hands.”

Those in attendance to Conjure Fest said it was a safe space for people who practice outside of the Christian faith.

Bella Donna was performer at Conjure Fest who grew up pagan in New Orleans.

“I grew up Pagan and kind of in a Pagan household. So, my mom is always like, 'Don't tell people your Pagan,'” said Donna. “I had people write me death notes in high school. So, I was actually really nervous because I've never been safe space for, I guess, people who practice witchcraft or who are Pagan. That's kind of not something that I'm used to in the South. But I’ve had the best time here.”

People on the outside looking in when it comes pagan practice can be left a little nervous by this “alternative crowd” that uses words “conjure” or “tarot” or “witchcraft.” But Rebekah Nevins of Skye Apothecary said there’s a stigma that needs to be broken down.

“Because those words, I think people that are not familiar with them that it might be a little scary. But if you come to an event like this and you mingle with the people, you're going to say that these people are the most down-to-earth accepting people that there are,” said Nevins. “So, I would recommend coming out here just to just to be in the atmosphere. Everybody's happy and having a good time.”

We met Brittany Caswell of the shop Twisted Oddities earlier in our story. She said Conjure Fest is a good representation of what downtown Birmingham has to offer.

“The thing is, people outside of the state of Alabama don’t think highly of us,” said Caswell. “So, being able to show that we are diverse, being able to show that we do more than churches, I think shows them that we're not so focused on just one thing.”

But Conjure Fest isn’t just for pagans and witches or the alternative crowds. Everyone was welcomed. Here’s Jessie A.K.A Chaos.

“They're acceptable of all religions, no matter what it is, and it's just a really safe comfortable,” she said. “I'm a Christian, but I am very into like the forest-like fairy vibe type of stuff. So, I come here to find jewelry that makes me really happy that I look at and I can incorporate to like different types of outfits. I come for like decorations and stuff like that and also to support family and friends.”

Jessie said events like Conjure Fest can help break down stigmas.

“Christian prejudice is absolutely ridiculous,” she said. “I've been Christian my whole life and also grew up around a very welcoming and inclusive home, and just because I am accepting of these types of things, it doesn't mean that I believe In Christ any less. And it doesn't make me any less religious.”

This year’s festival benefited Andrew’s Place. That group was formed to provide aid, shelter and counseling to victims of domestic violence with a special focus within the LGBTQIA+ community.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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