Pagan society combats stigmas with education

On Saturday, Feb. 18, in the Warch Campus Center Cinema, the Lawrence University Pagan Society (LUPS) held an informational session. The session was held in order to educate Lawrentians on what paganism is and to dispel some of the false stigmas attached to this religion.

Paganism has existed for a long time, founded before many of the world’s major religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

However, with the rise of other religions, pagans throughout history were often persecuted. The religion itself almost became lost, but it was rekindled in the 1970s, with the production of Rider-Waite tarot decks and many other things.

“Paganism is basically an umbrella term for a bunch of different religions,” explained the club’s co-president and junior Calyx Moore to the handful of Lawrentians attending the info session. Although there was a small turnout, Moore expected this and plans to hold more sessions in the future, most likely during Spring Term.

“Wiccan is the most common of the neo-paganism, which is a term that has become interchangeable with paganism, but it is correct to call the ancient religions paganism as well,” added junior Sara Morrison, the other presenter of the session.

This is Morrison’s area of expertise. Having started out as a Wiccan, she has expanded her practice to include other types of paganism and is now a “pagan practitioner,” or eclectic pagan, which means she takes aspects of the different religions under paganism and combines them to make her own practice.

“Paganism is a very personal practice,” Moore said. “Some pagans have gods, some don’t. There are atheistic pagans, Judeo-pagans, Christo-pagans, Celtic pagans, Norse pagans…it all depends on you and what you believe.”

Most pagans use magic, but some do not. Pagan magic is not like what is shown in the movies. “The use of spells and rituals is more like prayer in other religions,” Morrison explained. “Just without the middleman.”

Moore and Morrison also explained the common symbols—especially the pentagram or pentacle—which have been associated with the Christian devil.

The symbol is actually one of protection for pagans, and in Wiccan it has to do with the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and spirit. It has nothing to do with evil, devils or demons. “We also do not summon demons or Satan or sacrifice animals! Just no,” Moore stressed.

In addition to the presentation, there was a small table with Moore’s runes and tarot deck and a lineup of Morrison’s many herbs and stones in little bottles. They each explained that the runes and tarot cards are used for divination and the bottles contained ingredients to make charms for good luck.

Interested students can drop by LUPS meetings at Sabin House on Fridays at 7 p.m. or look out for more info sessions in the near future.