The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, April 19, 1994 - 5
Student Wiccan group celebrates Earth, spirituality
By KATIE HUTCHINS
DAILY STAFF REPORTER
Several men and women of all ages
gather together in a small house just
across Monroe Street from the Law
Quad. There is a tall blond man in
sweats, a few women with long hair
and flowing skirts, a Nirvana-esque
dressed man named Cinder, and sev-
eral others sitting in a circle around a
small makeshift altar.
This is not just any religious gath-
ering at the Guild House, a meeting
place for various organizations and
religions supported by the Campus
Ministry --an independent interfaith
group advocating justice and peace.
This is a meeting of Wicca, a spiri-
tual, eclectic, Earth-based religion that
has grown in numbers since the onset
of the 1960s and spiritual experimenta-
Eye of the Spiral, the University's
pagan student group, was formed
about three months ago. LSA sopho-
more Jahna Otterbacher said she
wanted to provide a network for those
interested in Wicca and spirituality to
exchange information and engage in
rituals and discussions every Thurs-
At the April 14 meeting, the altar
was setup with specific symbols repre-
senting the north, south, east and west,
and their four respective elements:
earth, fire, air and water.
The ritual was delayed until Kami
Landy, one of the quirkier and more
loveable members ofEye of the Spiral,
bounced in 40 minutes late with her
box of goodies.
She added to the altar - which
already contained a wand, chalice and
other objects - antlers, an oyster
shell, sea salt (for the water in the
chalice) and many more unusual ob-
The ritual began when the partici-
pants, after exhaling their negative en-
ergies into the chalice, casted a circle of
energy and invoked the spirits of the
four directions as well as Gaia, the
Each ritualist then drew energy from
holiday or mood of the participants.
Many people may be more famil-
iar with Wiccans as "witches" or "pa-
gans." Although these are both accu-
rate terms for Wicca spiritualists, some
of them do not like the negative ste-
reotypes that come along with these
Otterbacher said she does face a
few stereotypes and some "hostility"
from her peers when they learn of her
affiliation with wicca. She said some
people she lives around in Stockwell
residence hall think "that it's very hocus
pocus and it's basically justreally flaky
Although Otterbacher said she has
run into her share of flakes who claim
to be Wiccan but just want "to learn
how to cast a spell," she said she is
proud she draws most of her ideas from
a tradition of Wicca that has many
eclectic qualities and a common fo-
The "Reclaiming" tradition is
"geared toward changing conscious-
ness towards the way we treat the envi-
said. There are many other sects of
Wicca, which is a subset of paganism.
And not everyone in Eye of the
Spiral, which has about 12-15 mem-
bers, subscribes to that tradition. Landy,
a 10-year veteran of paganism and
mother of two, said she is more of an
"eclectic Wiccan," deriving most of
her spirituality from a tradition that
began in Canada.
Aurora, a veteran Wiccan who
sponsors several spirituality work-
shops, classes and public rituals in
Ann Arbor, advises Eye of the Spiral.
She agreed with the more eclectic
qualities of Wicca. She often calls
upon Celtic, Greek and Egyptian gods
and goddesses - "whatever deity
seems to fit."
Not all of Aurora's classes are spe-
cifically pagan; some focus on
women's spirituality and psychic de-
velopment. And she does not neces-
sarily believe the deities she invokes
in ritual are literally present. "I be-
lieve that mostly this kind of stuff
comes from our deep subconscious.
... I'm practical and skeptical and I
like it that way," she said
Otterbacher said for her the gods
and goddesses are more like symbols
that represent certain aspects of her
personality. Invoking them creates an
atmosphere in which she can explore
and make changes within herself.
Landy said student groups like Eye
of the Spiral are very positive, be-
cause they "really give us a chance to
get together ... and find out what it is
to be part of a community ... (to find)
reassurance that we're not nuts."
These Wiccans do not practice
black magic, ride broomsticks or hex
people. Many derive a positive en-
ergy from their religion that they said
they did not find in Judaism or Chris-
Landy did not liken people's shift
to paganism as a conversion. Instead,
"Almost universally you'll find people
saying, 'Gee, that's what you call what
I've always believed,"'she said.
"There's a love for this planet,"
Aurora said. "An Earth-based religion
such as Wicca is a good way to express
Eye of the Spiral is meeting at a
special time this week for finals, at 7
p.m. tomorrow at the Guild House.
Eye of the Spiral founder Jahna Otterbacher prepares a Wiccan altar.
the center of the Earth. The energy
was used to create a spiritual atmo-
sphere in which the revelers could
sing and follow as Otterbacher led
them on a journey through the four
different elements, finally returning
to the center.
The ritual was made more magical
with singing,wooden flute playing and
drumming. As the ritual reached its
peak, some of the participants rose to
dance while others rocked in place
and all sang in harmony to the Earth.
After the ritual, participants re-
leased their energy back to the Earth,
some by placing their "third eye" -
the psychic center in the middle of the
forehead - to the ground.
This is only an example of a ritual
that focused on the Earth during Earth
Week. However, rituals can take any
number of themes, depending on the
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