Last week a monument featuring the Ten Commandments sat on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lansing. The monument originally sparked controversy when former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore refused to remove it from his own courtroom. It is currently on display across the nation because people like James Cabaniss, head of a group of war veterans, travel with the monument and believe the commandments should be displayed publicly.
Yet, we’re not one nation under only one God, and many non-Christians were upset by the display. Chemical engineering senior Hardik Dalal is a practicing Hindu and said the monument “bothered” him. “The federal government, granted is not totally independent of religion, but it should take measures to try to not associate itself with one type of religion,” Dalal said.
[pentagram] At the same time, east of the Capitol, in the city of Okemos, local Wiccans were also upset with this public display of Christianity, stating religious monuments like that in government places send the message that the Judeo-Christian way “is the only way it should be.”
Many people may not be aware of how many Wiccans there are, especially in our community, and most are not familiar with any of their beliefs. Although the official number of Wiccans is hard to estimate because many keep their faith a secret, there are approximately 750,000 in the United States. This makes Wicca the fifth largest religion in America behind Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism.
Wicca is a fairly new religion, derived from the Northern European pagan beliefs in a fertility goddess and a horned god. In 1952, Gerald Butler published the first book on Wicca, Witchcraft Today, which became very influential in the creation of modern Wicca. The religion was formally introduced in the United States during the 1960s.
There may also be several misconceptions about Wiccans, two of which being that it is based on “black magic” or “devil worshipping,” both untrue. Wicca is a religion based on nature. Its followers are greatly concerned with the environment because they believe that moons, stars, plants, rocks, animals and humans all have souls that should be respected. Some believe in a higher being, while others do not, but none of them believe in a satanic figure. Since Wiccans do not believe in Satan, they have no connection with the “dark arts” and do not believe in performing evil magic. Their Law of Return is best summarized with this: “All good that a person does to another returns three-fold in this life; harm is also returned three-fold.”
[cards] Wiccans have eight sabbats, which are major and minor holidays, per year. The four minor sabbats occur with the spring and fall equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices, while the four major holidays fall between the dates of the minor ones. The days of the major sabbats change from year to year and rituals are usually performed either on or within a few days of the actual holiday.
For Wiccans, the afterlife is also something left open to interpretation. Some members believe they will be reincarnated, experiencing life in many different ways before they transcend to something completely unknown; others believe in no afterlife, and think our only influence as human beings is what we create and leave behind on Earth.
Wicca as a religion offers its members a lot of flexibility. “Wicca is different things to different people,” said Kevin Duff, LCC student and creator of the Wiccan Rune Reader, a Web site dedicated to teens who are curious about joining the neo-pagan religion with parents who are a unsure about it. “There are no set standards; just be yourself.”
The accepting and open-minded approach of Wicca is what first attracted theatre freshman Rebecca Simons to the religion. She felt, “Christianity was prejudice.” In high school, Simons had a group of friends who were gay or bi-sexual and they could not identify with Christianity because many Christians disapproved of their sexual orientation. Simons felt there had to be a religious alternative and began to examine Wicca, despite her Presbyterian roots. She found she agreed with a lot of what the religion had to say.
[handbook] While Wicca itself encourages tolerance and advocates a “live and let live” approach, many individuals outside Wicca still subscribe to the negative stereotypes associated with witches, believing Wiccans are involved with the previously mentioned “dark arts.”
Katherine Duweck, a recent graduate of Eastern Michigan University and an Okemos resident, recalled an incident in high school concerning this kind of misconception. A girl asked Duweck to take off her pentacle, thinking it had a Satanic connotation, because “it made her uncomfortable.” In Wicca, the pentacle is a five-pointed star many wear to identify themselves as Wiccan. The symbol is connected to the elements of the Earth but many mistake it for a Satanic symbol.
Despite the stereotypes and no matter your faith, there’s something to learn from just about any belief. Dawn Botke-Coe, the owner of the Triple Goddess Bookstore in Okemos, said there is truth in all religion. “The key is to have faith in something.” It’s easy to get that message when stepping into Triple Goddess, as there is a little something for everyone, despite any religious affiliation. As Duweck explained, “…To not explore can limit so much.” If anything, as college students, we should be open to and accepting of new ideas, regardless of our own faiths.

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