By Lexie Boren
Many of us grew up hearing stories about witches and magic, reading Harry Potter and dressing up as wizards for Halloween. But for some, magic and witchcraft takes on a much more important and serious meaning.
Lewis & Clark is home to Common Ground, a group that focuses on paganism, Wicca, shamanism and earth-based spirituality. The group was created by Miles French ’18 in his freshman year to provide a sense of community for those who practice earth-based spirituality.
“It’s an animistic, earth-based, often pantheistic or polytheistic way of forming a relationship with nature, and so there is real spiritual substance behind it, and it is a living and thriving practice, and it can be very specific and very powerful,” French said.
The club meets weekly for discussion-based meetings in which they examine specific topics concerning spirituality.
“(When I first started practicing) I was interested in various things like crystal healing, the chakras and plant-based medicine,” Austin Merchant ’18 said. “I didn’t really know a lot about any of those things, I was just kind of interested in all of them, and earth-based spirituality allowed me to kind of dive into it and find out what all this meant in a really personal way.”
Merchant is a co-facilitator of the club and helps to lead its discussions and the several retreats and ceremonies throughout the year.
“We did this ecstatic dance ceremony on South Campus a couple of years ago during the lunar eclipse, and that was just a really wild night,” Merchant said “We were all just dancing.”
Although the club does organize several rituals and ceremonies throughout the year, members point out that their practices are rooted in being one with the earth.
“The nice thing about earth-based spirituality and witchcraft is that as long as you’re attuned to yourself and the natural world, it’s very hard to not practice it,” Common Ground member Stephen Hanley ’20 said. “Even beyond practicing and doing rituals, it’s just taking a moment to attune yourself to nature, and to notice how it’s moving and how it affects you and how you affect it.”
Many stigmas exist around the practice of earth-based spirituality and magic itself.
“People think, because of things like Harry Potter, that the belief in witchcraft specifically is hogwash and was never real, or that it’s just a fashion trend and there’s no actual spiritual substance behind it,” French said.
Despite these stigmas, members of Common Ground work hard to ensure that they are accepting to all.
“It started as a way just for people to talk about alternative spiritualities, and that’s something that I really want to continue,” Merchant said. “You don’t have to align with any particular belief system to find meaning or contribute to the discussion.”