New student club represents Wiccan faith
Among the 450 student organizations and clubs to choose from at Grand Valley State University, students are invited to join a plethora of religious and faith-based groups offered throughout the year. However, new to GVSU’s campus this year is the Wiccan club.
David Pettersch, president of the club, recognized a lack of representation around Wiccan and Pagan-identifying students in campus groups at GVSU. As a result, he reached out to friends and found an overall demand for a space to practice the faith.
During the fall of 2016, Pettersch and Teague Adyson, the club’s vice president, decided to form the Wiccan club. GVSU students Finn Marcks and Shawn Tally are also on the club’s executive board.
“I found that on our campus, this is a voice that GVSU has never had,” Pettersch said. “There are a lot of Wiccan or Pagan-identifying individuals on campus, but until this year, there had apparently been zero representation of us on campus in clubs or groups.”
The club works to provide discussion on different areas of faith, practices and rituals associated with Wiccan or Pagan religious sectors. Pettersch said this allows for each member to explore each aspect or belief they identify with.
“The club is a safe space for people to learn more about these faiths and dispel the misconceptions and ideas people have about us," he said, "as well as people who are just learning the basics of these faiths to get guidance and have friends or peers they can speak to about this stuff safely.”
Often in society, Pettersch said stereotypes exist around Wiccan or Pagan identifying people due to a lack of understanding of the practices or beliefs. In the future, his personal goal is to address these assumptions in hopes to create better education about the faith on campus.
“I think there’s definitely still the stereotype that our religion isn't real, that we make pacts with the devil or that we even believe in the Christian devil,” Pettersch said. “The idea that we do dark things and are inherently out to harm others is something people definitely still carry around today that I would like to dismantle as this year goes on.”
Despite the growing community on campus, Pettersch said many individuals may not understand the faith or know about it entirely.
“Wiccan, Pagan or witch can be classified as a system of faith that is all about self-empowerment,” he said. “It's about taking into our own two hands our destiny and future. It heavily relies on being connected to nature and the universe as a whole."
As the club provides an open forum, Tally said the setting allows a space for people to learn and develop their skills in a safe and constructive environment.
"We have a community too, and I'm happy we can finally reach out to each other," Tally said. "It's not always safe to talk about being Wiccan because there's such a huge stigma, especially in such a conservative area."
Throughout the semester, Pettersch expects membership to grow as the club becomes a permanent fixture on campus.
Those interested in joining the Wiccan club can attend meetings in the Kirkhof Center at 9 p.m. every Friday. Members are not required to attend all meetings.