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South End Interview )0(

INTERVIEW NUMBER 1: Group brings Pagan religion to WSU

Full Moon Circle was interviewed a couple times while I attended WSU. I have reproduced two interviews here for your viewing pleasure.

Note: I removed my real name from this interview and added "Merlin", for the sake of privacy...Merlin )0(

THE SOUTH END

Tarot cards are part of the Full Moon Circle's system of beliefs. The student organization says that Halloween is a day that is ideal for tarot card readings and divination

(By Roberta Pennington South End Contributing Writer, Edited by MerlinRavenSong)

Some people like to dress as witches for Halloween but MerlinRavenSong needs no costume, he is a witch. Even so, he typically doesn't like to go out dressed in what he calls "witch drag."

"I do wear black," he admits, "but I don't go out in a witch hat or with a pentagram the size of a fist."

Still, Merlin, who is a music major at Wayne State University, can't deny his love for the aesthetic of witchcraft. This is especially evident by the many thick, silver rings that crowd his fingers and the three pendants - two small pentagrams and one dragon - that hang from leather cords around his neck, and look striking against the backdrop of his black sweatshirt.

He wears his dark hair long, and keeps it tied back, under a black cap. Sitting in a small cubicle-like room in the Student Center Building, where a sign posted outside the door reads "Full Moon Circle," Merlin talks about the pagan student club he runs at WSU.

"Full Moon Circle was started about four years ago to give a voice to alternative religions on campus. The reason it's called Full Moon Circle is because the circle has always been the symbol for paganism and for religions that see some divinity in nature. And also the moon, too ... is the symbol of the goddess."

On a table next to him is a small, handmade broomstick about a foot long. It has a thick twig for a handle and acorns at the base of the prickly brush, which appears to be made of dry wheat stems. Merlin says he found the rare wand on the sidewalk after leaving class one day, but he still hasn't decided what he's going to do with it. He could use it for casting spells, but will probably just keep it as an ornament.

When asked about his age, Merlin laughs.

"There's sort of a pagan, joke: Whenever someone ... asks you how old you are, tell them that you're a couple of thousand years old. I won't go that far. I'll just say that I'm in my 30s." Though his slight frame and youthful face make him look younger.

He's part of a small percentage of black men who participate in what has typically been considered a Western occult phenomenon; especially since its revival and popularization in the 1950s through books written by Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley.

"The thing is," with the craft a lot of people get the wrong idea. They think we're devil worshipers or that we're connected to evil or something like that, which we're not."

That's one of the reasons why **********, who goes by the magical name of MerlinRavenSong, is working to preserve the pagan student group. It attempts to demystify many of the misconceptions people have about witchcraft and paganism.

"For instance, the pentagram, does not symbolize evil. Rather, it represents earth, air, fire, water and spirit".

Since many of its key members graduated last year, the club's weekly meetings have been sparsely attended. Merlin encourages people from all religious backgrounds to join.

"We're open to just about any religion to come through and talk to us."

In the past, the club's vice-president was a Christian witch.

"She still held to her Christian views but she had a profound belief in magic and a love for the goddess."

Rituals are generally not practiced during FMC meetings simply because the lighting in the room where the members meet is too bright. But, occasionally Merlin will conduct a banishing ritual with his members.

"I (teach) them basically ... the Lesser Banishing Right of the Pentagram, which is a cleansing ritual," he said in his soft-spoken voice. The ritual is supposed to take away any negative forces surrounding the people within the ritual's circle.

At this point, he's well equipped to be teaching others the traditions of witchcraft. He's been practicing the religion for about five years, though he concedes that he was "born a witch."

"I was raised a Christian, yes. But as I grew older there were certain things in my life that I think pushed me toward a deeper sense of spirituality."

One of the "things" that convinced Merlin to follow the path of the pagan involved an out-of-body experience, in which Merlin believes he was officially anointed a witch by a spirit.

He explained: "I was asleep and all of a sudden I astral projected out of my body. I found myself on the other side of the room with this being. He must have been ... like seven feet tall. He took his hands and put it on top of my head and he started saying a bunch of words, which I couldn't understand. ...And I believe that was my initiation into the craft."

But, some students just don't buy this.

Chrystal Johnson, a 27-year-old freshman and a Jehovah's Witness, doesn't believe in the existence of witches.

"I think it's part of the imagination, what somebody conjures up," she said.

Johnson also said that she doesn't celebrate Halloween because it is "pagan and non-Christian." Despite her beliefs, however, Johnson is not against students establishing groups for alternative religions on campus.

"If that's what they want to do, it's their right," she said.

Other students were eager to learn more about Full Moon Circle.

Larissa Dub, 18, who will be dressing up as the devil this Halloween, was curious about the group.

"I think that's really cool. I'd be interested to see what they did," she said.

As for Merlin's own thoughts about the Halloween hype: "I'm living Halloween 365 days a year. ...Every day is like Halloween."

He and his coven will be getting together today to celebrate what he calls their pagan New Year. He said this is the day when the veil between the world of the seen and the unseen is at its thinnest, making it an ideal time to do tarot card readings and divination.

Contrary to popular belief, worshiping the devil or sacrificing virgins on the alter will not be on Merlin's itinerary tonight.

For more information about FMC or to have a personal tarot card reading contact Merlin at the club's official Web site http//merlinravensong.com

INTERVIEW NUMBER 2: Full Moon Circle promotes alternative religion (By Nancy Jaber | Staff Writer, Edited by MerlinRavenSong)

I wait outside a small room in the Student Center Building, when a lanky man ambles up to the door and reassures me that he has found someone who can open it. Clad fully in black and lugging a guitar that dwarfs him, Merlin Ravensong introduces himself. MerlinRavensong is the president of The Full Moon Circle, the Pagan-based group at Wayne State University.

Full Moon Circle was started about 14 years ago by a man named Shark, said Ravensong. At that time I was just a member.

Full Moon Circle is a small group. Ravensong's Tuesday gathering in the SCB can draw in anywhere from three to seven people. On this particular Tuesday, no one seems to show up, but Ravensong reassures me that they will get here.

They are on Pagan Standard Time, he said.

Full Moon Circle is dedicated to the practices of witchcraft and magic, but Ravensong assures that it is not mere hocus-pocus.

"We perform rituals for good grades, prosperity, he said. Rituals change your thinking. We call it sympathetic magic. Like attracts like".

Casting a spell on a particular person to receive requited affection is a no-no.

"You cannot control others free will exists and it is a big part of witchcraft".

The rituals and spells usually include a pentagram (a five-pointed star within a circle), statue of a God or Goddess, candles and incense (when possible). Ravensong starts by calling out the four quarters, North, South, East and West.

MerlinRavenSong understands that the idea of witchcraft or magic might scare people, but he is intent on promoting Witchcraft and Full Moon Circle.

"There is an open door for anyone who wants to come in. Sincere people who are genuinely interested or curious are more than welcome".

MerlinRavenSong contends that he has had problems with some Christian students on Wayne State University campus.

"I have seen people come in who wanted to debate, but it gets nowhere, he said. Some might understand what Witchcraft and magic are about but they still disagree with it".

MerlinRavenSong said "The reasons for the misunderstanding of Witchcraft are caused by the social constructs or because some just might not get it".

"The hostility might stem from the notion that people think Full Moon is a devil worshiping cult, he or because of people's lack of knowledge about Witchcraft" .

MerlinRavenSong said he was invited, along with other groups, to speak at an Amnesty International rally alongside other student organizations, and that is the extent of his dealings with them.

"I have had students come in here and try to convert some of the members or argue with someone who was just curious, he said. Many campus organizations and some students don't understand FMC intention and it comes from a lack of education"

His policy is to be wary of anyone whose intentions seem impure toward him or the group.

"I would like to meet with some students first, if they want to attend meetings to test their intentions".

The tiger eye ring on his left hand seems to blaze, but MerliRavenSong just wants to be careful. The gravitation toward Witchcraft and alternative religion goes back the 1960s,he said. There has always been a gravitation toward goddess spirituality and nature.

"Some might mistake the reverence that Witchcraft has for gods with horns as a link to the devil, he said. The horned gods and pitchforks, it has more to do with planting, nature and the earth. It is not sinister, he said. Truth is, Christian tradition has borrowed much from paganism".

MerlinRavenSong said he believes in progressive evil, not the clear-cut definitions as they are defined by other religions. He has always questioned the notions of God and The Devil, especially having been raised in a traditional Christian household.

"I think I was always a witch, he said. I do believe some people are born with it. This type of spirituality is not for everyone".

He assures me before lapsing into a chat about his interests: esoteric knowledge, black garb and messages embedded in horror movies. Then, he is quiet while he waits for others to show up.

People who have an interest in witchcraft or alternative religion have a more inward approach, MerlinRavenSong said. The monotheistic religions all have books which tell them about God and his rules. I approach Witchcraft by meditating on who the god or goddess is to you. His approach is inspired by eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

We are polytheistic but personally I'm more of a pantheist, said Ravensong. A pantheist is one who believes that air, water, fire and earth are all sacred and to be revered. God is another name for nature and the forces of nature its self. Witchcraft has many different Gods and Goddesses that are allotted different roles depending on the ritual, spell or worship someone is aiming toward"

Though certain rituals can only be performed at certain times, depending on cycles of the moon or the moon's relationship to different signs of the zodiac, Ravensong is not against taking democratic votes from the members on what ritual they perform. He prefers to think of Full Moon as both a religious and social organization.

"It's is all about channeling the will in order to cause change, as Crowley would say. Rituals need special ingredients, which have become more accessible and easier to find. The scents, colors and candles all help to channel focus of the mind".

MerlinRavenSong said that last semester, people came to the meetings regularly.

"We had people of different backgrounds, he said. But lately it seems that more Witches, new to the craft, have taken interest. WSU students are drawn in because they are looking for more than traditional monotheistic religions offer. College students seem curious to know what the truth is. Everyone is tired of being lied to or living a lie".

MerlinRavenSong says that Full Moon allows students to tap into what resonates within themselves.

"We are Michigan's longest running student organization that focuses on Witchcraft the Paranormal and the Occult. It has been a pleasure and a labor of love to run this organization for as long as I have.

Love is the Law: -MerlinRavenSong )0(