Pagans claim they are not misanthropic, just misunderstood

By Mike Linn

They don’t worship the devil. They don’t prick voodoo dolls with pins. And while some members call themselves Wiccans, or witches, they say they don’t attempt to impose evil spells on their enemies.
About 20 members of a newly formed Eastern New Mexico University group of college students call themselves pagans. One of their main goals is to dispel any negative vibes the word may impose on a Christian, monotheist-based community.
Group members say they welcome Christian membership, although the term pagan (an acronym for “people achieving goodness and nurturing spirituality”) has its roots in polytheism, which is the belief in more than one God.
About 10 of the members consider themselves part of the Wicca religion, and dedicate their spirituality to a god and goddess.
“Because everything on earth has dual sexes, we believe that divinity also has a dual sex — there can’t be just one male that created everything. We believe there’s a female and a male,” ENMU sophomore and group Vice President Brandy Propps said.
The group is in the process of writing a constitution so they may be recognized by the university as a student organization.
Will Kayatin, director of student activities and organizations, said he would welcome the group if they apply.
“I think it’s a group of students who have a different philosophy about their spirituality and want a safe forum to practice,” Kayatin said. “As long as they conduct themselves with decency and modesty … we’re not going to have any problems.”
Brian Townsend, the director of the Baptist Student Union, believes such groups are common on college campuses. He said it’s human nature to seek the intangible.
“Maybe for this generation the mainline religions just aren’t fitting the bill,” he said. “We’ll see if that meets their need. I personally don’t think it will.”
Townsend said he’s not encouraging BSU members to boycott or confront the group at their meetings, but said there may be some radical Christians who would.
“They’re just students, looking for a meaning in life,” Townsend said.
But group members say so far they have not received much resistance from other students or Christian organizations. And many group members come from Christian backgrounds, while some members grew up Mormon, or practicing progressive Middle Eastern-based religions.
Senior group member Monica Macias grew up Catholic, but isn’t sure what she believes now.
“I communicate better with this group than I do with the Catholic religion in terms of my spiritual understanding,” she said.
Macias said she is searching for a spiritual meaning in life. She said she is neither Christian nor Wiccan, a polytheist nor a monotheist.
A majority of the group are Eastern theater students and female. They get together about once a week, and on Thursday evening seven members had a social meeting at ENMU’s Ground Zero, where they explained that their beliefs are rooted in positive energy — hexes and wicked spells are strictly prohibited.
Propps, the vice president, on occasion will conduct a healing spell on another member who isn’t feeling well. She calls it magic, but the group said prayer is also a form of magic, as is lighting a candle for a loved one at a church.
Since the group started meeting this semester, members said rumors have circulated among students, some who think of witches and pagans in a negative context.
“There’s been whispers and hints of hostility but nothing has come to fruition as of yet,” said group member Rae Gross, an ENMU graduate student. “We’re not about hostility.”