Those who dislike or are relatively unfamiliar with the occult will likely be surprised to learn that a witchcraft school -- like an adult version of Hogwarts -- is in full operation in the center of New York City. The Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies, while certainly different from the fictional school that Harry Potter and his friends attended, does provide some intriguing elements that will serve as a surprise to those with little familiarity with Pagan beliefs and witchcraft.
The academy, according to information on its web site, offers affordable training, which includes coverage in the "Path of Wicca," Starlight Vision Series, Herbal Intensive Series, tarot and pendulum use and many other elements important to the practice of Wicca. The educational facility claims to be the first of its kind in New York City.
"The Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies prides itself on it's affordability and in-depth nature," its website touts. "We truly enjoy teaching, sharing and experiencing the Craft with others. Our courses are well thought out, wonderfully written and very comprehensive."
In a New York Times article over the weekend, the Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies was profiled, with its leader making some intriguing comments about the school's goals.
"I know that sounds shocking to most people because witchcraft is usually thought of as evil,” High Priestess Starr Ravenhawk told the Times. "But if people really knew what we are about, they would know that studying to become a good witch is no different than studying to become a good Catholic."
The Times explains the current breakdown of students and how the degree programs work at the school, which was founded back in 2007:
Fifteen men and women are currently studying witchcraft in the mystical shadow of Ms. Ravenhawk, who helped found the school in 2007. They are enrolled in a three-year program that includes courses like “Introduction to Wicca,” a modern pagan, witchcraft religion that worships the divinity in nature. Other courses include “History of Witchcraft,” “Introduction to Magic,” “Spells and How They Work” and “Esbats: Celebrating the Phases of the Moon.”
After a year of introductory courses, second-year students ... strive to become full-fledged witches. Third-year students aspire to become high priests or high priestesses. Each school year is made up of 24 two-hour classes, with students paying $25 per class. That amounts to 144 hours of total class work and $1,800 in tuition for any student who pursues the entire three-year curriculum, which is not accredited outside the realm of Ms. Ravenhawk’s teachings and beliefs.
While the students appear enthusiastic, the high priestess claims that they can't all necessarily share their penchant for witchcraft with those around them. Considering potential societal ramifications both at work and among friends and family, Ravenhawk said, "They are not yet ready to come out of the broom closet."
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Shantel Collins, one of the students at the school, explained that she has kept her witchery from certain family members, noting that people who aren't as open-minded simply wouldn't understand. Plus, there are per-conceived notions about Satan, evil and other related elements that she charges aren't a part of the Wiccan faith.
"We do not worship the devil -- we do not even believe in the devil," she said. "This is about connecting with the natural forces to advance yourself spiritually."
Certainly, Wicca isn't mainstream and there are many misconceptions. However, the practice of witchcraft, which is forbidden in many Christian denominations, likely isn't going to be embraced by the majority. Taking a gander at the school's curriculum, alone, will be a surprise to those unfamiliar with the religion.
What do you think about the Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies? Let us know in the comments section.
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(H/T: NY Times)