PALACE club attempts to teach students about Paganism

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PALACE combats stigma and seeks to educate Doane students about Paganism.

The PALACE (Pagans About Living and Creating Energy) Club is a religious club on campus, with members of miscellaneous religions. The club is lead by Luminary (President) Jean Chevalier.

“People associate the word ‘Pagan’ with ‘heathen’, or ‘devil worshipper,’” said Chevalier.

Chevalier was around 12 years old when she converted to Paganism. Paganism is an umbrella term used to label non-Abrahamic religions. Abrahamic religions consist of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, said Chevalier.

AJ Friesen, Tiger Tech manager and the advisor for PALACE, has been a Pagan for almost 25 years.

“I was once asked if I sacrificed small animals and children,” Friesen said. “People assume Pagans are all green and warty and wear hats all the time, or that they are Satanists. However, Satan is a Christian construct.”

Leah Schulte, director of Religious and Spiritual Life, describes Paganism as a word that covers many paths of religions. Paganism is one of the oldest religions. Similar to Christianity, there are many branches of Paganism, Schulte said.

Some stigmas about Pagans are that they are anti-Christian or Satanists, which is not true. Paganism has their own set of beliefs and values which vary from branch to branch, Schulte said.

PALACE’s weekly meetings are at 6 p.m. on Fridays in the Sheldon Hall classroom. The meeting begins with moments of meditation, as tranquil music plays. The group then begins to plan events around campus to celebrate Pagan holidays.

Chevalier, along with help from Friesen, leads a lesson on an aspect of Paganism. Each week the lesson is focused on a certain myth or branch of Paganism.

Storytelling of the Hindu myth Kali was the topic of discussion in last Friday’s meeting. The lesson ended with a light-hearted “meme of the week.”  Members were then asked if they would like to be “smudged” outside of the classroom. According to paganpresence.com, a smudge stick consists of herbs, such as sage or sweet grass.  The smoke of the smudge stick clears negative energies.

The club members vary in religious background and not all are Pagans. PALACE is the most interfaith group on campus, said Friesen.

A strong emphasis of Paganism is a community and it’s a struggle when you don’t have one, said Chevalier.

“It’s hard to be religious when your religion isn’t widely accepted,” Chevalier said.

It’s nice to have space where members can be religious and learn more about Paganism, Chevalier said.

“Doane is on the way to being more inclusive of religions. We have work to do, but I see hopeful signs,” Schulte said.

PALACE wants a community, just like other religions, she said.