When I tell people I'm a witch, they are a little confused. I am six foot tall, wear bright colors, have fair skin, wart-less and have never turned any princes into toads. And I'm a guy. Yet, I am still a witch and Halloween is my holy day.

I am a follower of the religion Wicca. Wicca is an earth-focused, Pagan faith loosely based on old European religious practices. We follow the cycle of the seasons and believe in more than one god. We identify as Wiccans or Witches.

Halloween is called Samhein (pronounced “So-wen”) by the ancient Celts. It was their new year, a time when the veil between this world and the next was thin and one could honor the dearly departed. They, as do modern Wiccans, acknowledge death as part of the natural cycle of life. During this time of the year, when the Earth around us has turned barren and “died” till spring, we focus on the parts of our life we no longer need, pruning away the dead branches of our lives. I, for instance, promised to check Facebook only once a day. Other Pagans might give up a bad habit or a worry they have been dwelling upon.

The Pagan community here at Western has been quite active. Pagans and Students Together (PAST) has been an AS club for four years, and continues to provide support for WWU students who are Wiccan, Pagan or just curious. They hold teach-ins at their weekly meetings on a variety of subjects, monthly full moon rituals and big celebrations for the major pagan holidays. For more information on them, e-mail wwu_pagans@yahoo.com.

So next time you see that giant inflatable green hag at the Rite Aid, think about the real witches that maybe sitting next to you later in class and the real meaning of Halloween.

Riley Sweeney is a senior majoring in communication at Western and President Emeritus of PAST.