Spelling Lessons: Wiccan Studies Is on the Rise

But in a down economy, paying for herbs and cauldrons takes more than a trip to Gringotts.

Students who have mastered the basics are eligible to apply for priesthood, a state-sanctioned ministry degree that makes them eligible to officiate marriage and teach classes at the temple. These official recognitions didn't come easy. Ravenhawk and Rojas spent about two years trying to register the Wiccan Family Temple as a legitimate religious institution with the New York County Clerk's Office.

Rojas says that as a teenager, she struggled against the stereotypes that witches are evil. Without the Internet, it was difficult for her to buy books and study paganism without alerting her parents, who subscribed to a more traditional concept of religion.

Today's witches have it easier, Rojas says. However, there are still a lot of stereotypes and stigmas that witches have to work around. For Rojas, education is key to breaking the cycle—a venture threatened by the academy's financial hardships.

Kiandra Venson samples her fellow Wiccan Michelle Gonzalez’s “power potion.”
Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato
Kiandra Venson samples her fellow Wiccan Michelle Gonzalez’s “power potion.”

On graduation day, someone dimmed the lights, and a steady drumming enveloped the room. Candles flickered at the center of the circle. The witches dabbed their foreheads with oil and then clasped hands. Lifting their arms skyward, they called upon their gods and goddesses to provide them with safety, love, power, and, most importantly, wealth. They'd need it to pay the rent.

Kiandra Venson samples her fellow Wiccan Michelle Gonzalez's "power potion."

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