Pagan Student Union opens discussions on religion

Matthew L. Self

A new student run organization has come to our campus that focuses on some different perspectives on religion that are unique in today’s world. The Pagan Student Union gives students at Washburn a chance to explore a wide variety of religions that are not widely known and creates a space for discussions about these different faiths that encourage participants to ask questions and receive honest answers from their peers.

The Pagan Student Union was created by two Washburn students on Feb. 28, 2019. Austin Weaver, junior religious studies major, and Kimberly Woodworth, senior religious studies major, both had the idea of forming the union after taking a class about Paganism together. They realized that many of the other students in the class had difficulty understanding what Paganism is. Woodworth associates with the practices of Wicca, which is a new contemporary Pagan religious movement, while Weaver practices Asatru, which is a Norse revivalist movement.

Weaver expressed how many people didn’t know enough about Paganism to understand what their organization was about.

“Honestly, it is difficult [to describe Paganism] as it varies from person to person,” Weaver said. “If you were to ask a Christian what Paganism was they would say anything that’s not Christian. Everything that’s not Abrahamic is Pagan. Essentially, Paganism is just other.”

Woodworth went on to describe more about what Paganism is in today’s world.

“There are traditions that have come up in Paganism that are more structured but it started out as kind of a reach around to get through Christianity back to pre-Christian traditions. A lot of Paganism is reclaiming or reviving traditions from different cults,” Woodworth said. “The practice of magic and the belief in this old religion became so popular but there were other traditions that began coming up and new ones that no one had ever seen before.”

In short, Paganism has many niches within it for a plethora of different religious, faith-based, magic-based or cult-like groups that each have unique traditions which often reach back to belief systems that have long been dormant in society. Paganism, itself, can be easier to experience than to simply hear about and that is what the new student union is trying to achieve. By allowing students to openly discuss their beliefs with each other and ask questions Woodworth and Weaver hope to spread more knowledge about Paganism.

“We’re all here for you and there is no wrong answer to any of these questions that we all have,” Woodworth said. “We’re all here to learn from each other, and that’s the big thing I wanted with this group; that we can have these meetings and these discussions and just learn about each other and get a better grasp on everyone and a better grasp on what we believe in.”

If you are curious about the practices of different Pagan groups, the Pagan Student Union may be the right fit for you. The group is always open to new members and is looking forward to not only gaining more members in the future but also is working toward creating open discussion forums for students on campus to talk about Pagan practices. The organization meets weekly and can be contacted through Woodworth or Weaver’s email addresses at [email protected] and [email protected]