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Wicca Goes to College

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Susan E. Wills - published on 10/30/14



Raymond Buckland, introduced Wicca to the United States, earning the title “the Father of American Wicca.”

Many colleges and universities also have practicing priestesses and Druids on staff. Boston College, for example, is home to the Druid Christopher LaFond, ex-Catholic and “born again Pagan," psychic, and astrologer. Although his bio on a site of leading druids and witches refers to him as a full-time professor of Spanish at BC, the college lists him as a part-time lecturer.  

An Iowa State Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Women’s Studies Nikki Bado is a practicing high priestess of Wicca and author of “Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual.”

Chas S. Clifton, an English professor at Colorado State University (Pueblo) until his retirement in 2012, and a practicing pagan since 1972, authored several books on paganism, including the 2004 book “Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America.

Laura Wildman-Hanlon, a practicing Wiccan, is a psychology lecturer at the University of Massachuetts.

Giana Cicchelli, Wiccan priestess, is a sociology professor at Fullerton and Santa Ana College, in Orange County.

There are also pagan college chaplains, like Mary Hudson, chaplain at Syracuse University’s Hendricks Chapel: Both she and her husband are pagans. Ms. Hudson left her IT job with Syracuse to be a full-time pagan chaplain. She describes Syracuse’s chapel enthusiastically: "Hendricks Chapel is an amazing place. When it was built it has no religion or symbolism. It embraces all faiths in an equal manner, seeking justice and truth, serving as an open forum to people who don’t believe they have a voice." Chaplaincy to pagans is available to help both monotheistic and polytheistic pagan students.

Worcester Polytech offers spiritual counseling and support to pagan students with the help of Rev. Cheryl Leshay, Unitarian Universalist minister and chaplain: “At WPI she shepherds students in Unitarian Universalist, Atheist, Humanist, Jewish, Wiccan, Pagan, Native American/Christian, and emerging faith groups.”

There is a seminary for witches: www.cherryhillseminary.org and an online Witch School, run by Rev. Don Lewis, to train practitioners of Wicca and other "natural" religions. Rev. Lewis boasts of "some 250,000 students enrolled in online classes." Its headquarters recently moved from Illinois to the more appropriate venue of Salem, Massachusetts.

How does one account for this explosion of interest in Wicca and paganism among academics and students?

There’s the "power" a practitioner derives from esoteric knowledge of "the Craft."

Every initiate is clergy – a priestess or the male counterpart, a warlock/shaman/druid/priest.

The theology is malleable and is up to the preferences of the individual. The only "rule" is "An’ it harm none, do what thou wilt" (As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, do whatever you want). This is a similar formula to Satanist Aleister Crowley’s "Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law." But it is wholly unlike Augustine’s injunction "love, and do what thou wilt." What Augustine meant is that we must love God first and let all our actions originate from our love for God. This assumes that our duty is to love God and our neighbor both, through concrete acts of kindness.

Christianity demands self-mastery and personal sacrifice for others, aided always by the grace of God, while the Wiccan formula puts us under no obligation to be anything but selfish, provided we don’t harm others by our actions. The Satanic formula bestows an unfettered power to do whatever wrongs one pleases. 

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