By Elise Schoening
Every week, Features Editor Elise Schoening hits the archives and finds old Signals that relate to current College topics and top stories.
With the end of the semester approaching quickly, stress levels are at an all-time high and students may appear more disheveled than ever. In 2004, one student roamed campus grounds with a cape and walking stick in-hand. But the unusual outfit wasn’t due to finals insanity. Will Lewis was one of a handful of practicing pagans on campus at the time.
When Will Lewis strolls around campus dressed in a Scottish kilt and flowing cape, carrying an oversized walking stick, heads turn — and he likes it that way. Lewis’ unique style has caused him to be the subject of glaring eyes, hushed whispers and confused stares around campus. If students don’t know him by name, they definitely recognize him by sight.
But the sophomore English education dual major doesn’t mind the attention. In fact, he dresses in the manner he does in part to raise awareness about his religion — paganism.
“It gets people to ask me questions,” he said. “I like to combat ignorance. (Paganism) is really a faith like anything else.”
Although many pagans are not as easy to identify as Lewis, there are more practicing pagans in the United States than people might realize. A June 2001 study performed by the Graduate Center at the City University of New York showed that there is an estimated 140,000 pagans in America today.
It is commonly believed that the number is even larger since many pagans are still “closeted” about their faith in fear of being outcast and ridiculed by society. There’s even a small number of pagans at the College.
Lewis stressed that pagans are not evil devil worshippers and do not act like characters in the popular movie, “The Craft.”
Still, because many people hold such negative opinions of pagans, Lewis is always somewhat on edge when he tells people about his faith.
“It’s almost frightening to say you’re a pagan to people because you never know ow they’ll react,” he said.
Although Lewis has been a practicing pagan for six years, he was actually raised Catholic. Lewis turned to paganism after his faith was shaken when he was studying for confirmation.
Brandon Pena, junior interactive multimedia major, converted to paganism a year ago after he too began to question his Christian faith.
“I was tired of the Hell, fire and brimstone of Christianity, Pena said. “I researched a lot of different religions and I found that paganism was the best fir for me.”