Neo-Pagans Get Worship Circle at Air Force Academy

February 2, 2010 07:53

Witches, Druids and pagans rejoice! The Air Force Academy in Colorado is about to recognize its first Wiccan prayer circle, a Stonehenge on the Rockies that will serve as an outdoor place of worship for the academy’s neo-pagans.

Wiccan cadets and officers on the Colorado Springs base have been convening for over a decade, but the school will officially dedicate a newly built circle of stones on about March 10, putting the outdoor sanctuary on an equal footing with the Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist chapels on the base.

“When I first arrived here, Earth-centered cadets didn’t have anywhere to call home,” said Sgt. Robert Longcrier, the lay leader of the neo-pagan groups on base.

“Now, they meet every Monday night, they get to go on retreats, and they have a stone circle.”

Academy officials had no tally of the number of Wiccan cadets at the school of 4,500, but said they had been angling to set up a proper space since the academic year began.

“That’s one of the newer groups,” said John Van Winkle, a spokesman for the academy. “They’ve had a worship circle on base for some time and we’re looking to get them an official one.”

The Air Force recognizes several distinct forms of neo-paganism, including Dianic Wicca, Seax Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, shamanism and Druidism, according to Pagan groups that track the information.

Since a 2004 survey of cadets on the base revealed dozens of instances of harassment and intolerance, superintendent Michael Gould has made religious tolerance a priority.

Yet Van Winkle, the academy spokesman, said he could not confirm whether the school’s superintendent or senior staff would attend the dedication ceremony.

“(We) haven’t gotten that far yet: First we have to get a date, and then once we get a date for the dedication ceremony we’ll see who’s going to be available for it,” he told

“Once we get a date that’s going to be the real driving force for who’s going to attend.”

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