Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Troubling events and practicing witchcraft at a university.

I received some troubling news this morning from my dear friend Iolair regarding his personal possessions in his dorm room at his University. He sent me a rather startling text message this afternoon saying that he suspected his University of going into his dorm room and taking some of his things, specifically his candles, smudge stick, incense and ritual athame. He also said that it seemed as though his books and tarot cards had been disturbed, though none of them seemed to be missing.

Let me first preface this by saying, that we don't yet know for sure whether or not these actions were taken by the University or by students. I will also say that the burning of candles/incense is expressly prohibited in the housing policy of his University. However, to my knowledge his RA has said to him in the past that storing these things in his room was not a violation of the policy. The athame, as a blade, is more likely than not prohibited, but it isn't as though he leaves it lying out in plain sight (and anyone who knows anything about paganism knows that a ritual athame is typically not used for anything violent).

It still isn't clear whether or not the University has confiscated his things or not, and I should get a call from him sometime in the nest few days, but this incident brings up important topics for anyone practicing witchcraft at a University, particularly in University or College Housing.

First, knowledge of your University's housing policy is extremely important. Most universities don't allow the burning of candles or incense in dorm rooms, though having these things typically isn't against the rules as long as they aren't lit. Ritual blades (athames, bolines or swords) tend to be prohibited because they are viewed by some as weapons. Knowing these policies and acting in accordance with them can typically prevent most issues.

Discrimination is something else that can be encountered at a university, especially if that school is small or has a decided religious affiliation. Religious affiliation does not mean that the University is discriminatory, but that it can attract a more religiously homogeneous group of people, some of whom may discriminate against someone with a less-mainstream belief system. All colleges have policies regarding discrimination based of religion and it is also valuable to be familiar with these policies so that if discrimination occurs it can be dealt with in an official capacity.

These are just some of the issues that can come up when you're a witch attending and living at college. College Wicca is a great website with tons of information about all sorts of other topics pertaining to practicing Wicca (or other types of Pagan traditions and witchcraft) at college. The site hasn't been updated in a while but it's still a good tool for current and prospective college Pagans and I think it has a somewhat active forum.

Living in college housing isn't too restrictive when it comes to practicing witchcraft. I attended a small state college in Southern Ohio my freshman year and there was a very active community of college pagans, and it's fairly easy to make do without candles and some ritual tools in a dorm (or dorm-ish) environment. Even if there isn't an official university-backed pagan group, there tend to be some fairly open people (who aren't necessarily pagan) everywhere who can form a useful support system in college life.

Bottom line, it's not totally hopeless to be a witch at college, and many people will attest to that. And I should be back with an update on Iolair's situation fairly soon, with some concrete info and a summary of his University's response.

Until then,



  1. I must admit, I am feeling rather hopeless. As an out of the broom closet witch, i have dealt with my fair share of harassment. But it was mostly just stupid and immature ranting by uneducated and brainwashed bimbos. This, however, is different. I find myself being rather discouraged from even attempting to pracice here. After having these things taken, I find myself not feeling safe in my own dorm room. I don't know who went in there but either way it was theft. I spent an almost sleepless night last night with a knife under my pillow. The guys in my hall have been known to get drunk and do lots of dumb things. If they were involved in this theft then how am I to know they won't come back. I don't like not feeling secure in the shifty hole that I pay over 1000 per month to call my home. Know that I will be raising hell here, but, to be honest, I hold very little faith that the university would be of any help to me.

  2. It seems to me that the University should at least be of help to you because a theft occurred in their housing. It's not as though the things that were taken were of extreme monetary worth (compared to the other things in your dorm room), but they were still taken, and the university is supposed to get involved in matters of theft.

    I look forward to seeing what the check of the dorm security cameras finds in terms of who actually entered your room, because I think we've determined that if it was the University that they would have notified you before entering your dorm and/or confiscating your things.

    Keep me posted and don't get too discouraged. Perhaps you could just focus your practice more on things that don't require a whole lot of physical tools, or at least tools that aren't so obviously associated with paganism. For example, you could do more work with crystals or meditation (if you could manage that, because I know it's hard to find the time or the place). You could also dedicate more time to study instead of actual practice...

    These are all just suggestions but they might help, and know that you always have my support, even though I'm 3 hours away from you!

  3. Yeah, i am looking into it myself. I looked it up. If it was the university, they are allowed to enter my room without telling me, but they are not allowed to confiscate anything short of a nuclear bomb without informing me before they do so. Also, they illegally opened boxes and actually dug through things. They are not allowed to open anything up without me present, they are only allowed access to anything in plain sight. If it was security, they are still guilty of theft because they have not informed me. If it was the university, they are in deep shit because it was done sloppily and illegally.

    On the other hand, it makes no sense for people from my hallway to have done it. There are plenty of things that they should have and could have taken that were of much more value. However, i have received some harassment for my religion this year already, and it would not surprise me if this was a targeted theft. It also occurs to me that it possibly was a targeted theft made to look like the university had confiscated my things.

    To be honest I am completely lost as to where to go and who to blame. For now, the plan is to rely on my RA, who was generally concerned and shocked at my treatment. Tomorrow, if there is nothing new, I am going to campus security. If i get no further there, then i go straight to the Findlay PD. i am also tempted to call Findlay's discrimination hot-line. This campus is supposed to have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination and I plan to test that. I have accepted my previous harassment with my usual stoicism, and filed it as something that was not worth my attention or my pain. This is over the line and I am crushed. there is no reason that I should not feel safe in my own dorm room.

    I will keep updating this fairly frequently with any new news or venting that I have. I appreciate the support

  4. I would also direct some of your inquiries to the office of Student Affairs, because they are the folks who are supposed to deal with acts of discrimination. Their office should also get involved with Campus Security in matters of theft.

    Finding out the proper avenues to deal with the general discrimination you're being subjected to will be really useful if (goddess forbid) you experience more of it while you're at school. I'm about ready to hop in my car and drive for 3 hours to set straight the people in your dorm in person... Having another witch physically by your side could do wonders.

    I've said this to you many times, but you don't have to stoically accept the things people say to you. Your school has a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and it isn't a stress you should have to deal with...

    Know that you can talk to me always and I'm sending positive energies your way!