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Religion: Witch Hunt

They're not spooky - just misunderstood. SPM talks to ASU's real-life witches

 by Stephanie Berger
 published on Thursday, October 27, 2005

Carly Forebach holds her pentacle necklace. The five-pointed star represents fire, earth, air, water and spirit and is a Wiccan symbol. /issues/arts/694614
Carly Forebach holds her pentacle necklace. The five-pointed star represents fire, earth, air, water and spirit and is a Wiccan symbol.


Political science and psychology senior Carly Foreback sits outside the library behind a pile of textbooks, a lock of her wavy brown hair falling over her glasses. Around the neck of her yellow "ASU Gold Rush" T-shirt is a pendant that some students mistake for a Jewish Star of David.

But Foreback's pendant is a pentacle or pentagram, a five-pointed star that represents fire, earth, air, water and spirit.

The pentacle is a symbol of Paganism, which Foreback wears proudly because she is a Wiccan.

Witches, Wiccans and Pagans are terms that Foreback says many people familiar with conventional Judeo-Christian religions may not understand. Pagans and Associates club adviser Sheila Brushes, who works in Hayden Library, explains that Pagan religions honor deities of the pre-Christian era, such as Greek, Egyptian, Norse and Celtic gods.

"Wicca is a subdivision of Paganism, sort of like Catholics or Baptists would be in Christianity," Brushes adds. While all witches are Wiccan, not all Wiccans are witches, because some choose to practice only the spiritual as opposed to the spell-casting side.

Foreback says every Wiccan uses different types of spells and prays to a variety of gods.

While Brushes says that she prefers the Egyptian and Norse gods, Foreback identifies most with Greek gods.

"Usually, I pray to Athena specifically," Foreback says. Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom. "I've always been kind of bookish, so I connected with her values," she adds.

The first foundation of Wicca is the Rede, which says, "An [sic] it harm none, do what you will."

"It's sort of like the Golden Rule," Foreback says. "You don't wish harm on other people and don't interfere with other people's free will."

The second main foundation is the Rule of Three.

"Any energy sent out to the universe is going to come back three times as strong," Foreback says. This means that any good or bad a person does will come back to them three times stronger than the original good or bad energy.

But what about black magic, devil worship and pointy hats?

"We hate it when people ask us if we worship Satan, because we don't even believe in Satan," Foreback says.

As far as performing acts of evil, Foreback says the Rede prohibits witches from casting any harmful spells. Even love spells are heavily frowned upon, because they restrict a person's free will.

Foreback says that some witches like to perform rituals in special outfits that help them get in the right mindset, but it isn't a requirement. And while she doesn't practice in a hat, Foreback says witches' hats can help channel energy because of their shape.

In addition, Foreback says cauldrons can be used to burn ingredients in a spell, and ritual knifes, called athames, can be used to channel energy, but never to physically cut anything.

Brushes says, as a rule, witches don't usually discuss their spells with each other because they are very personalized. While she does spells for healing, money and inner growth and spirituality, Foreback says many of her spells focus on academics and concentration.

Although many Wiccans are solitary, some practice in groups called covens, she says. Pagans and Associates sometimes perform group rituals, such as a celebration that they will have for Halloween, which is known by Wiccans as Samhain.

"It's the time of year when nature is dying, and it's our day to celebrate people who passed away the year before," Foreback says. "We also believe it's the day of the year when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, so it's the best day for contact with people who are dead."

There are seven other Wiccan holidays that are spread evenly through the year and celebrate the different seasons. Yule, for example, falls on Dec. 21 and involves gift-giving, family and rebirth, much like Christmas.

Foreback says she got involved with Wicca when she was 16 and looking for a way to express her spirituality beyond her family's "commercial Christianity." She says her family doesn't talk about her religion very much, but her father finally doesn't ask her to do the Thanksgiving prayer anymore.

"If he did, I'd probably say a prayer to the goddess Demeter [the Greek goddess of the harvest] and make everyone uncomfortable," she says, laughing. "My religion is the best for me. Whatever you are is going to be the best for you. If you're meant to be a Wiccan, then you'll find your way to us eventually."

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