By Jacob Scheier
As one of the newest official student groups on campus, the Ryerson Pagan Circle is setting out to dispel some common misconceptions.
“We don’t sacrifice cats. We give to the homeless,” said Amber Stechyshyn, who co-chaired the group’s first ever meeting last Thursday night.
Stechyshyn a fourth-year new media student, said future ideas for the group include a food drive for the homeless, a robe making workshop, a Pagan Pride Day and a possible bowling night.
Roxanne Brideau, the organizer of the new group explained the difference between Paganism and other religions.
“It’s just prayer with props,” she said, adding that there are already close to 27 members in the group.
One major myth Stechyshyn wants to dispel is that about witchcraft and Pagan rituals.
She said Pagans do create magic spells but believe magic is just the power of the mind and that “the mind has the ability to heal.”
A typical ritual doesn’t consist of animal sacrifice. It involves dancing, singing, chanting and drumming. Stechyshyn said this is done “to focus energy towards a goal, like surrounding someone with positive energy.”
Some group members did not share exactly the same views, but they all agreed that an awareness of nature and a feeling of being connected and responsible to the earth was at the heart of their faith.
Stechyshyn also talked about the pentagram as being another misunderstood element of the Pagan faith.
“It is not a symbol of Satan worship,” she said. “We don’t believe in the Devil.”
She explained that the five points of the pentagram symbolize earth, wind, fire, water and spirit. She was quick to point out that Satanists wear it upside down.
At last week’s meeting, the group talked for more than three hours about its beliefs and about concerns of being misunderstood.
Brideau spoke of plans in the U.S. to ban the wearing of pentagrams in school and said Pagans need to be wary of discrimination.
One member told a story of a Pagan woman in American being beaten to death.
Regardless, the group was in good spirits. Several members joked about common myths such as Pagans turning people into frogs or riding on broomsticks.
There was also a short ritual at the beginning of the meeting of making ‘study stones.’
Brideau laid out a pile of stones and each member took one. They held the stones and meditated for about a minute.
The Ryerson Pagan Circle meet about once a month on the evening before, during, or after the full moon.