By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado has announced its intention to dedicate a worship area for pagan “followers of Earth-centered religions” on March 10.
The Academy issued a press release indicating that the worship “circle”, which will be located “atop the hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitor Center, will be the latest addition to a collection of worship areas that includes Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist sacred spaces.”
The project was spearheaded by Tech. Sgt. Brandon Longcrier, NCO, who said he became pagan shortly after arriving at the Academy in 2006.
“When I first arrived here, Earth-centered cadets didn’t have anywhere to call home,” he said. “Now, they meet every Monday night, they get to go on retreats, and they have a stone circle. … We have representation on the Cadet Interfaith Council, and I even meet with the Chaplains at Peterson Air Force Base once a year to discuss religious climate.”
Earth-centered religions such as Wicca, Druidism, Shamanism and many of the so-called “green religions” can include occult practices, goddess worship and animistic beliefs such as the worship or harnessing of spirits that allegedly inhabit the earth, air, rivers, forests, etc.
Before worshiping, Wiccans and other pagan practitioners “cast a circle” as a kind of “sacred space” where they believe they can conduct their rites/magick without interference from natural forces or unwelcome spirits.
Famous outdoor worship circles include Stonehenge and Avebury in England and Native American sites such as the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and Cahokia Henge in Missouri. A worship circle at Fort Hood, Texas, became a flashpoint for discussions about paganism in the U.S. military after it was established by the Sacred Well Congregation in 1999.
As of March, 2010, the Air Force Academy will now make a circle available to cadets who wish to practice these pagan forms of worship.
“Every servicemember is charged with defending freedom for all Americans, and that includes freedom to practice our religion of choice or, for that matter, not to practice any faith at all,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) William Ziegler, Cadet Wing chaplain. “Being in the military isn’t just a job — it’s a calling. We all take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and that means we’ve all sworn to protect one another’s religious liberties. We all put on our uniforms the same way; we’re all Airmen first.”
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