I learned of the Magic Valley Pagans after my managing editor came across an event in the newspaper's online community calendar.
It was billed as "Pagans Night Out" and was held at a local Mexican restaurant. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of such a group existing in Twin Falls. I interviewed Cynthia Hindes, a lone practitioner of Wicca, back in 2014. But she was the only witch I knowingly encountered in Twin Falls since. I reached out through social media in November and was told the group needed to think over whether to let a reporter observe their group.
The Southern Idaho Humanist Alliance was a little easier to find. I attended the group's showing of the documentary “A Better Life: An Exploration of Joy & Meaning in a World Without God” in January at the College of Southern Idaho. It was a great event especially because the film's director Chris Johnson was there to give insight into his process. He had a lighthearted and funny approach to how he presented the film and his perspective of life as an atheist.
Because "Pagans Night Out" is held only once a month, it wasn't until January that I checked back in. I was told the members said it was fine if I attended their gathering.
I met Wendy Koffer, a pagan for 20 years, and the founder of the group.
Koffer was raised an evangelical Christian in North Carolina.
"For me, I always questioned what I was told at church," she said. "It didn't quite fit for me. I was into things that were supernatural and paranormal. When I found it, I didn't know there was such a thing as paganism."
Koffer said growing up, she was told everything that wasn't taught in church was of the devil.
“It wasn't God’s will for us to know,” she said. “You were told what was right or wrong but never taught to think about it. There was a lot of gray areas and as a kid it's easy to accept that but as an adult it’s different. I learned there was a lot more gray in the world than what I was led to believe.”
Koffer prefers the label “witch” more than pagan.
“I don't believe in any gods or deities,” Koffer said. “I don't incorporate those into my practice.”
She practices meditation and ancestor worship where she tries to connect with her long passed relatives.
“Within paganism, not everyone considers themselves a witch and not every witch considers themselves a pagan. Paganism is a big umbrella term that covers a lot of paths, tradition and beliefs. Heathens do not consider themselves a witch or those who follow the Norse tradition do not consider themselves a witch. There are people who are Christian witches.”
And, Koffer said, she doesn’t mind answering questions if you spot her wearing her pentagram necklace.