When many people think of Wicca, they imagine witches in flowing robes huddled over cauldrons, casting spells and sacrificing small animals under the full moon. That's just the kind of inaccurate stereotypes a group of Pagan practitioners on Victory Base Complex hope to dispel.
According to members of the Victory Base Open Circle, a Pagan-based group, their beliefs and practices don't include the sacrifices, blood rituals or Satanic worshipping often associated with their religion. "Even Satanists don't believe in Satan," one attendee pointed out. "Satan is not even part of our belief structure."
Satanists, Wiccans, witches and many other life-based religions fall under the umbrella term of Pagan.
The main similarity between Pagan religions is their love for life and the world around them. "We celebrate life and every aspect of it," one female Pagan explained.
Pagan religions allow practitioners to choose different paths for their personal beliefs and devotions. Paths are similar to denominations in Christianity. Paths are chosen based on personal characteristics and beliefs. "You find it or it finds you," said Staff Sgt. Frederick Twombly, Distinctive Faith Group Leader, Victory Base Open Circle.
There are eight holidays, or Sabbats, in the Pagan year. They are based on the seasonal changes in nature, included equinoxes and solstices. The Sabbats celebrate the good occurring all around us, every day.
Due to the fact that there are only an estimated 4,300 Pagans serving in the military, the religion is still widely misunderstood. Pagan Soldiers meet resistance on many fronts. Group members spoke of derogatory comments from coworkers and having to file complaints with equal opportunity to stop workplace harassment.
"People need to learn respect for other peoples' beliefs," Twombly said. "It doesn't matter what you think of our beliefs, the law says you have to respect them."
Many chaplains do their best to assist with a religion that is fairly unknown to them. Twombly said the chaplains on VBC are very supportive in providing supplies and locations for meetings and Sabbat rituals.
Victory Base's Open Circle is meant to be a gathering place for all, Twombly said. The group is accepting of all other religions and one of its main goals is to teach their beliefs to others, but not pressure them to convert, Twombly said. Group members give classes about special interest areas of Paganism to educate themselves and others.
For the true believers or the curious, the Victory Base Open Circle gathers at Warrior Chapel on Camp Liberty every Friday at 6:30 p.m.
(Editor's Note: Background information from this article was taken from Pagan Web site www.witchvox.com)