Jen Plastini

Jen Plastini holds a singing bowl to raise the energy as she leads a healing circle with other practicing Pagans at her Milton home.

While many Valley residents will be using Halloween as an excuse to dress up in costume and eat candy, members of the Pagan community will gather today to celebrate Samhain (sa-win), the Celtic harvest festival.

Jen Plastini has been a Pagan since the age of 12 and said the religion remains as misunderstood nearly four decades later.

“People roll their eyes at me, and my Christian friends think I’ll go to hell,” she said of the religion that worships many gods or godesses or nature and has many religions, including Wicca and Druidry.

The 49-year-old Milton resident said she, like many other Pagans, do not believe in the Devil and aren’t creating spells to hurt others.

“What I try to emulate in my life is do no harm,” said Plastini. “It’s about caring for the Earth, caring for each other.”

Richard Shellehamer, a 40-year-old Sunbury resident, has been a practicing Pagan since age 14.

“Polytheism always made more sense to me,” he said of the belief in more than one god.

And, like Plastini, he disputes any notion of devil worship in the the Pagan religion.

“Most Pagans which I’ve known (don’t) even acknowledge the existence of that entity,” said Shellehamer who was attracted to a very small group of Paganism called Urglaawe, which is inspired by the Pennsylvania Dutch community and embraces people of all ethnicity, gender, race and sexual orientation.

“I approached it as a faith, resonating with the stories,” he said.

Alyssa Fuller, of Muncy, said her Native American ancestry drew her to Paganism and its connection to nature.

“I call it my spiritual journey,” she said, adding that she also believes in the Christian god.

Growing up in western New York in the Roman Catholic faith, Plastini was allowed at about age 10 to choose whether to continue practicing the faith.

“None of my family’s religious beliefs resonated with me,” she said. “I wanted to be an altar server (in the Catholic church) and they wouldn’t let me because girls can’t participate.”

While reading books about witchcraft she found, at age 12, Paganism was a religion that she could embrace.

She formed Nature’s Magical Realm, a group where like-minded spiritual seekers meet every other week for healing and spell work, which is designed to help others in need and what Plastini compares to prayer. She brought the group to the Valley when she moved to Pennsylvania eight years ago.

“The healing circle is about raising energy and sending it out to whoever needs healing,” she said.

Healing others is a calling for Plastini, who is a certified Reiki master teacher and operates the business in a home studio.

Her husband, Doug Shannon, is not a Pagan. “He’s not sure what he believes,” she said.

Pagans celebrate eight holidays a year and Samhain is one of Plastini’s favorites.

“We’ll share a meal in silence and honor loved ones who have passed,” Plastini said of the annual ritual. “It’s believed that this time of year the veil between the living and dead is very thin.”

Shellehamer will also gather with the Pagan community today to celebrate by sharing a meal and telling stories.

“It’s sort of a Thanksgiving style,” he said, which highlights what attracted him to this faith. “It comes down to the community aspect. I feel more connected to this group.”

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