Witches, black cats and ghosts! Oh my!
Come Halloween, witches, wands, cauldrons and pentagrams seem to pop up everywhere. Shop windows, ads on the internet and the candy aisle of the grocery store all become inundated with pictures of ghoulish fiends, monsters and every other sort of strange and haunted thing.
For students who practice Wicca or paganism, wands, pentagrams and magic aren’t just meant for Halloween, they’re a lifestyle.
For Austin Toney, a senior working towards a Bachelors of Arts in Music, Wicca helps him live a thoughtful and peaceful lifestyle.
“Wicca is an Earth-based religion,” Toney said. “When we say we’re Earth based, we believe that the Earth in and of itself carries an energy. We seek to practice rites and rituals that attune ourselves to the energies of nature.”
Toney also explained that Wicca is a polytheistic religion, meaning Wiccans believe in and worship more than one deity. Wiccans believe in two gods, the Goddess and the God. Unlike Christianity, Wicca is a matriarchal religion.
“We focus more on the sacred feminine than we do on the sacred masculine,” Toney said. “In a matriarchal religion, the religious responsibilities are passed down female to female.”
Toney stressed that while much of popular culture has emphasized some of the darker parts of witchcraft and associated it with Wicca, Wiccans don’t believe or condone doing harm to another person, especially in the name of religion. Not only that, Wiccans believe that individuals who send out negative energy or thoughts will feel their negativity return back to them.
“We have that karmic thinking going on,” Toney said. “We call it the three-fold law. We believe that whatever you put out there, it will not only come back to you physical, it will come back mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
Toney explained that while popular media makes Wicca and witchcraft seem like they go hand in hand, they don’t at all. Many people in his coven, a Wiccan administrative unit similar to a congregation, practice Wicca but don’t practice witchcraft. He also said the reverse is true as well.
“At any given point, you can ask Wiccans what they believe and it all boils do to the Wiccan rede,” Toney said. “This basically says ‘Abide within the law you must, perfect love and perfect trust, harm not and do what thou wilt.’ That basically means do whatever you want, as long as it’s not harming yourself or others.”
Cecilia Delgado, owner of As Above, So Below, a pagan and Wiccan store in Roy, said that she belivees that one of the biggest misconceptions about Wiccans is that they are evil, devil-worshipers.
“People assume that because we wear a pentagram that we believe in Satan and that’s not true,” Delgado said. “We use the pentagram as protection. It symbolizes fire, earth, air, water and spirit. People are under the impression that we worship Satan but we do not. We don’t even believe in him.”
Delgado said that while she is Wiccan and her store provides herbs and stones used in Wiccan rituals, she said anyone can come in and use the herbs, oils and other products from her store. Delgado encouraged students who enjoy essential oils, incenses, loose leaf teas and homemade bath salts and lotions to come into her store.
Delgado also encouraged students that have questions to come in and ask them, not just to assume that because TV and popular culture has painted one image or another about Wicca that that image is reality.
“We teach people to heal themselves,” Delgado said. “It’s mostly healing and believing in yourself. Everything is spiritual here.”
Kirsten “Fluffy” Blake, event production manager for the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts, practices paganism with Wiccan influences. For Blake, she said she was attracted to paganism and Wicca after attending a spiritual gathering with a friend in college.
Blake said that while paganism is mostly solitary practitioners, she is amazed by the sense of community that she feels from fellow pagans and Wiccans.
“I think we’re all basically drawn towards very similar things,” Blake said. “Being good to each other, having hope and faith in something that’s bigger than ourselves. Within that, knowing that we aren’t alone, we can be with each other and find comfort in the world that we’re living in.”
Delgado encouraged students interested in learning more about Wicca and paganism to join them for their Samhain ceremony. The celebration will be begin at 8:30 p.m. on Halloween night at As Above, So Below at 5978 S. 1900 W., Roy, UT.