A tall white candle surrounded by hundreds of vibrantly colored flowers, 100 self-described witches clad in their most comfortable beachwear and a bright orange sunset on the horizon is how this Florida coven celebrated the new moon.
“I love this community,” chanted the coven, repeating affirmations fed to them by Lindsay Melnick, the 27-year-old who is better known as the Florida Witch to her followers. On a recent weekend in July, the ground shook as the coven screamed the next one back: “Spirit runs the show, my trauma does not run the show. I remember who the f— I am.”
A coven like this one is made up of a group of self-declared witches, who are mostly women who celebrate spirituality through forms of magick and celebrations similar to this one. The new moon that brought them together one recent summer weekend was one that was supposed to have a lot of emotional energy that encouraged a cleansing ritual like this one. In an effort to do their part of giving during the ritual, the coven leaders decided to begin the evening with a beach clean as well.
Along the shoreline of St. Pete Beach, Melnick led her coven in a new moon ritual back in her hometown, where they began the evening with a beach clean-up before settling in a semi-circle around her and facing the sunset. During this ritual, she led them through the steps of releasing any emotional weight that they may be holding onto and help them welcome in confidence and peace. She did this through a set of breathing exercises, a lesson on kinder self-talk, and a creation of a mandala of flowers, that served as offerings to spirit, together.
The coven itself is made up of a very diverse mix of mostly women who are spread across the entire state but traveled to be there for the ritual. Members traveled from as far as Jacksonville or from across the street to be with their sisters at this event. The coven itself is very new, though many people in attendance have been in each other’s circles for years, they were brought together by Melnick.
This is the second new moon ritual the witch has hosted, and the coven has grown exponentially in the year since the first one. Due to the size of Melnick’s following, it has been difficult to coordinate events like this that bring the community together. But that hasn’t stopped them from staying connected. Despite having more than 25,000 followers and even a verification on Instagram, the Florida Witch remains close to her coven.
“Her authenticity is what really draws you to her,” said Sharon Prairie, a reiki practitioner and St. Pete native. She has been following Melnick on social media for a while and even credits her for encouraging a life-changing decision during a tarot reading she did years ago. Since then, Prairie has quit her job and restructured her life, she says it was the best decision she has ever made.
The event was accompanied by a few local witches and businesses as well to expand the ritual as much as possible. Herbologist Madi Flynn, DJ Dalia Rios, and sound healer Kristy Green all joined the coven to bring extra color to the experience.
Green followed Melnick’s ritual with her own version of healing, which was made up of breathing exercises while she used various instruments, like crystal bowls, a gong and even her voice, to cleanse the coven.
Melnick is just one-third of what has become the root of the coven. She is accompanied by her assistant and manager, Alex Hampton, and her cousin Sydney Sickles, the 27-year-old who makes up the other half of the business. Together, the three have been able to turn commissioned tarot and astrological readings over the phone into a community of spiritual people across Florida.
“I’ve been sad, I’ve missed you guys,” Sickles said as she led an astrological forecast for the coven. This was one of the first times she had been able to be with her community in person. “I want you guys to look at your neighbor, I want you to be like ‘I don’t know you, but I know you.’”
Sickles is the complementary other half of Melnick’s practice, she focuses on the astrological side of spirituality. She complements Melnick in more than just the business sense; they have a connection that allows their differences to accent each other’s strengths. Sickles joined the practice later than Melnick, but that hasn’t stopped them from creating a successful business out of their combined passions. To them, though, this is more than just a way to make money. This is a lifestyle and a found family, one that wasn’t complete until Hampton joined.
The rule of three is something that sits at the core of most witch practices, but is particularly special when forming a coven, Hampton said. In a very literal sense, she explains, they make up the three air signs, Libra (Hampton), Aquarius (Melnick) and Gemini (Sickles) which they felt was a big sign that their friendship was meant to be. Before meeting Hampton, a little over a year ago, the cousins could only dream of having a community as they do now. But together they have built an unbreakable bond, not just with each other but with the coven as well.
“Sometimes you feel like you want to be alone, but that’s not really the case. You’re looking for people that let you be yourself and see yourself. There is a different kind of company that you’re looking for, you know, it’s not alone it’s together in a different type of community.” Sevrena Stewart, a new St. Pete resident, said. The new moon ritual was the first event she was able to attend with the coven, and she says she took a risk by showing up alone. But the coven welcomed her with open arms, and by the end of the night she was promising to be at the next one with a smile on her face.
The coven is working to be together like this more often, they even tested the waters in May with a spiritual retreat to Costa Rica led by Melnick, Hampton and Sickles. The trip was four days long and consisted of a mixture of typical tropical adventures, spiritual rituals, sightseeing and even group yoga sessions. Though they are still riding the coattails of the success of their first big trip, they have already booked a second trip to Mexico at the beginning of next year. At this point, the most important thing for all of them is to keep up this energy and spend as much time together like this as they can.
Alex Hampton, Melnick’s 28-year-old manager, said, “Coven to me really just means sisterhood. Yes, it is a community, we are a sisterhood of witches. It has helped bring a sense of importance and purpose into my life that I haven’t had before.”
At the end of the day, the coven is just a medium for these people to connect deeper with each other and with themselves. There was an outpouring of compassion and understanding in the face of the more complicated and uncomfortable parts of life. They spent their time together helping each other heal and even as the coven was met with a protestor mid-ritual, they responded by collectively saying, “I am sending you healing energy,” before returning to their moment.
Melnick said, “Coven means we share our blessings and also our pain because we are a sisterhood.”