Western Washington University students interested in magic, nature and divination who haven’t yet found their community are in luck. WWU Witches is a new club for witches and magic practitioners, as well as for those curious, and welcomes students of all religious identities and backgrounds to join.
The club’s first meeting was on Oct. 27, 2023 and are now held every Friday at 6 p.m. in Miller Hall room 152. It aims to provide a safe and supportive space for all individuals looking to explore the world of witchcraft, said club founder Anjolie Vega.
At recent meetings, members have done tarot and astrological birth chart readings. Because the club is just starting out, they’re still in the process of planning and organizing events, Vega said. They hope to host a book exchange soon.
“Even if you don’t ever fully get into [witchcraft] or are just curious, you’re welcome to come to our meetings and explore,” Vega said.
Although witchcraft seems to be popular in Bellingham, Vega noticed there were no clubs for witches on campus. She reached out on a popular Western social media account, Newest WWU Voice, to gauge interest and went from there.
It can be intimidating to find other witches, especially in a college town, said club Co-Leader Mea Zanders.
“A lot of the time, people don’t get into witchcraft until their late teens or early 20s,” Zanders said. “It’s kind of this new thing and you’re not sure what level everyone else is at and you don’t want to embarrass yourself.”
It can be hard for witches and magic practitioners to open up about their beliefs because of the harmful misconception that witchcraft is satanic, Vega said.
“I grew up in a Christian household. In my experience, when I went to church, anything that wasn’t Christianity was Paganism,” Vega said. “And for them, Paganism and witchcraft meant devil worshiping. Even someone using crystals meant they were inviting demons into their household.”
Along with colonial and Christian influence, as Vega notes, media and pop culture are other contributors to misconceptions. The pentagram, for example, a five-pointed star, is commonly portrayed as a satanic symbol, although it is regarded by Pagans as a symbol of protection, safety and life, Zanders said.
Because of stigma and prejudices from employers and the community, many people in the Pagan community don’t use their legal name, said Ahn D., facilitator of Bellingham group Embracing Darkness, in an email.
“It’s called being in the broom closet,”’ Ahn said. “You never give out your real name for fear of retaliation.”
Embracing Darkness is a non-religious group formed in 2019 for women-identifying individuals to explore and celebrate nature at night, with a focus on self-reflection and examination. While the group is not Pagan, it has a large crossover of attendees from Bellingham Pagan groups, Ahn said.
“Embracing Darkness goes to a … primal space, by gathering without moonlight and by touching on some topics people tend to not bring up during the light of day,” Ahn said.
The group meets during the dark moon, the night before the new moon, at various locations around Whatcom County. They use the lunar cycle as inspiration for shadow work, Ahn said.
“Topics have included generational trauma, sexual abuse survivor support, group storytelling creation, and seasonal observances through the lens of femininity,” Ahn said. “Maybe it's an open discussion, or a guided meditation, or a game, or screaming into the void. After our group activity, we all spread out and have alone time with the darkness, to process the theme of the evening and to be present in darkness.”
Pagan groups often celebrate the lunar cycle, the changing of seasons, the divinity of nature and the feminine. Bellingham has a variety of Pagan groups, such as Whatcom Pagans and Skagit Pagans. Those groups meet to celebrate the Wheel of the Year, which are is the major celestial and seasonal changes, sometimes referred to as the Sabbats.
For many, witchcraft and Paganism are empowering. For Zanders, it helps her remember to respect nature and ensure they are taking care of themself and their energy.
For Vega, witchcraft encourages self-reflection and helps her build a stronger connection with herself and the energy around her and become more grounded and aware.
No matter what point students are at in their journey, Vega and Zanders encourage students to come to a meeting.
“Everyone’s still learning. Even if you’ve been practicing witchcraft for 20 years, there’s still new things to learn, practice and figure out,” Zanders said. “[The club is] a community where you can do that and not feel like you have to do it alone.”
Kiora Surratt (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is a senior majoring in public relations and minoring in English literature. In her free time, she enjoys working out, shopping and spending time with friends and family. You can reach her at email@example.com.