Vanderbilt allows students to observe Wiccan holidays

Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:37pm EDT
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By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Vanderbilt University, a prestigious school in the buckle of the South's "Bible Belt," is now offering excused absences to students wishing to observe Wiccan and pagan holidays.

This practice is already followed by the U.S. military.

Four Wiccan holidays were on the calendar Vanderbilt University's Office of Religious Life sent to faculty as days on which they should work with students who asked for excused absences.

"Vanderbilt's Office of Religious Life makes available to the campus community a calendar of holy days from a respected international source to raise awareness of the diverse religious practices that may exist on campus," reads the official university statement. The source is the BBC Interfaith Calendar.

"Students who wish to observe holy days are asked to coordinate with their professors ahead of time to make arrangements that will help them be observant while balancing their course work," the statement said. "Arrangements are made at the faculty member's and the student's discretion."

The news that students could get excused absences to celebrate Samhain (Halloween) or dance around the Maypole for Beltane (May 1) drew an enthusiastic reaction from at least one member of the Nashville Wiccan community.

"Wow, that's good news," said Frank "Elf" Gattis, who calls himself "resident skeptic and philosopher" at Goddess and the Moon, a Nashville bookstore that focuses on Wiccan and other "fringe belief systems that incorporate magic."

Wiccan practices involve honoring nature and the ritual practice of magic.   Continued...