A Real-Life Witch School

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Witch School, the physical campus of an online school by the same name, opened to the public earlier this year in Hoopeston, IL. Since its Internet beginnings in September of 2001, Witch School has grown into a community of more than 172,000 students. It provides students with exposure to a broad range of subjects affecting and related to pagan thought, Wiccan thought, and magic, which Arch Priest of the Correllian Tradition (a religion affiliated with Wicca) Don Lewis described as "the idea that, by connecting to your soul, you can influence your life metaphysically."

When the campus was first built, in 2003, the reactions of the local community were "mixed," according to Lewis, who will become the president of Witch School on Halloween. In a recent interview with LawCrossing, Lewis described a large protest against the school. At first, it seemed that the Hoopeston populace expected to be harmed, not charmed, by the goings-on at Witch School. The Hoopeston police chief assured Lewis and Witch School founder Ed Hubbard that many protestors were not residents but members of conservative churches from outside of Hoopeston. Letters later came from true Hoopeston locals expressing that the protest did not represent the views of the majority.

The primary factor fueling objections to Witch School is the rampant misinformation that dominates popular conceptions about Wicca. Most of us have probably heard of Wicca and may even associate it with the commonly recognized symbol of faith used by many Wiccans: the pentagram within a circle. This association is not an error. However, many people make the misguided assumption that this symbol expresses the followers' allegiance to the devil, Satanism, or any number of evil affiliations. In contrast, adherents of the Wiccan religion claim they engage in magic for the purpose of creating good. Lewis cited a tenet from The Wiccan Rede, "Do as you will, but harm none," and stated that this is "the religion's strongest rule."

When asked what core message he would give people about his religion, Lewis replied, "That we are on a spiritual path, which is concerned with being better people...our goal is to advance our spirituality. We're not really different, except in our 'window dressing,' from anybody else." Lewis agreed that harmful or evil magic is considered antithetical to Wiccan beliefs, yet despite efforts to educate protestors about his religion, he has found that most people revert to false stereotypes. However, Lewis added, "We don't worry about them."

At Witch School, Lewis, Hubbard, and fellow faithful pagans forge ahead in the education of would-be Wiccans. Students learn about the historical and philosophical sides of Wicca, as well as the skills needed to be active participants in the Wiccan religion. While magic of various kinds is an integral part of a witch-student's education, there is more to the curriculum than a hocus pocus focus. The school is divided into departments such as History, English, Community Development, and Arts and Crafts. Less mainstream department headings include Divinatory Arts, Paganism, and Gods and Goddesses. Classes inform pupils-of-the-paranormal on Kabbalah, tarot, voodoo, aromatherapy, crystal and gem magic, floral healing, palmistry, magical cooking, incense, and séance.

But don't be fooled by the seemingly superfluous subject matter. Students also learn about subjects included in a number of well-respected educational foci. Herbalism and animal herbology, for example, are important aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or Yizhong Zhongyau. Equally important in Traditional Chinese Medicine is the concept of yin and yang as codependent, mutually interchangeable universal principals, which is echoed in the Wiccan tradition of the Lord and Lady. Witch School also offers classes in meditation, yet another widely respected practice, which, like much of the curriculum at the school, was studied centuries before the occidental educational prospectus was devised.

Witch School provides mathematics instruction in classes about Pythagoras and numerology. Perhaps Freud would be happy to know that dreams are an important topic of study. The humanities are not neglected at Witch School, either; students study poetry, foreign languages (including the Hebrew alphabet), cultural history (including that of the ancient Druids and Celts, ancient Egyptians, and ancient Etruscans and Sumerians), Russian paganism, and even the current-day implications of Wicca in the military. Witch School also dedicates a number of classes to spelling; of course, by this we mean incantation, not denotation.

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