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No hats or brooms: ASU witches express individuality within own community

ASU students who identify with the Wiccan community may not always practice in the same way

A student discusses the importance of her homemade natural remedy, a perfume made from citrus trees, in front of the Lattie Coor Hall on Tuesday, March 22, 2017.
A student discusses the importance of her homemade natural remedy, a perfume made from citrus trees, in front of the Lattie Coor Hall on Tuesday, March 22, 2017.

Witchcraft and paganism are making a comeback in the new world, a comeback especially visible at ASU.

Paganism is a diverse term, but it is most commonly used for anything outside of the primary abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is also frequently used in conjecture with polytheism.

Keena Huesby, a sophomore theater student, describes herself as a Wiccan Pagan Witch. That means she is Pagan, practicing the religion of Wicca, and is also a witch, she said.

Wicca is a specific religion, whereas “anybody can be a witch,” Huesby said. There are lots of pagan witches, but people can even be Christian witches if they want, she said.

Huesby said she has been practicing witchcraft for about six years after originally being raised in a Christian household. She didn’t mean to become a Wiccan, she said. It just “makes sense to me.”

“It wasn’t about becoming a witch,” Huesby said. “It was about realizing that I was a witch.”

Paganism and witchcraft are all very individualized practices, Mat Touchette, a sophomore interdisciplinary film and dance, identifies as an eclectic Neopagan Witch. 

“If you ask 100 different pagans about their beliefs, you will get 100 different responses,” Mat said.

Neopaganism, often referred to as Modern Paganism, has no single set of beliefs, practices or texts linking them all together. For individuals looking for a starter guide or some form of text to follow, Huesby said they can explore the Wiccapeida.

A lack of a strong central authority is often times what attracts people to practicing pagan religions, Viva Garrison, a master's linguistics student, said. Garrison is the president of the Pagan Student Alliance at ASU.

Though often confused with practices of Satanism, that is not necessarily true. The Pentacle represents their faith, and the Baphomet represents the Church of Satanism.

The club is not just for Pagans and witches, Garrison said. PSA works closely with another interfaith group on campus named Sun Devils Are Better Together.

Along with people being drawn to Paganism by a lack of central power and freedom to believe, it is also what drives them away, Garrison said. Minimal power means minimal accountability to some people. She said it can be hard to keep groups together.

Garrison identifies as a Polytheistic Scientific Witch, even saying that she is agnostic to some extent.

Katie Miller, a junior in religious studies, identifies as a Pluralist Witch. Polytheism is the belief in multiple gods. Pluralism is the belief in multiple religions, she said.

Miller said that because of the individuality that Paganism and witchcraft allow, it is becoming more prevalent. 

“Many people just don’t dress or act like witches in public,” she said.

For a long time being a called a Witch or Pagan was an insult, Huesby said.

Touchette said that similar to the LGBT community with the social pressure attached to being part of it, Paganists and witchcraft practicers often reside in the “broom closet."

In modern times it is used less as a slur, but to many it still carries that same weight, she said.

For many, it's about not being taken seriously when telling people they are a witch, Huseby said.

The inconsistency in beliefs allows members to express themselves, not only in the gods and goddesses they chose to worship, but also how they worship. Each witch and member of the community can have a separate way of divination and different rituals for the same events.

Much of Garrison's religion is earthbound, she said. She uses a large amount of natural ingredients, and even makes her own perfume out of citrus blossoms she said.

Miller uses a large amount of crystal, candle and sex "magick" (often spelled with a "k" in the Wiccan community to differentiate from the more common use of the word "magic") to perform her divinations. Because she is a pluralist, she talks to many different gods and which ever answers first she said.

Touchette said she uses herbal magick and often infuses necklaces with different moods or energies.

Being a witch can mean many things to many people. Not everyone will feel that same way or practice in the same way, Huseby said.

Garrison said that being a witch can best be described with a Stevie Nicks quote from Rhiannon: “To rule one’s life like a fine skylark. To be empowered to work through your faults and goals through art, through affirmation and community."

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