Roy Exum: Vanderbilt’s Pagan Holidays

Thursday, August 18, 2011 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Maybe it is this summer’s searing temperatures or perhaps the fact “the dog days of summer” are now upon us, but the lunatics at Vanderbilt have just emerged before fall classes are set to begin. A few years ago people across the country got tickled when Vanderbilt’s somber trustees bought an actual S.W.A.T. team response vehicle for the university’s campus cops but this newest turn is even better.

Out of Nashville comes word that Vanderbilt has just added “Wiccan/Pagan” religious days to the university’s 2011-12 calendar.

Now I’m all for Freedom of Religion, but when pagans and witches are accorded center stage at a school where tuition is now nearly $50,000 a year, the crazies are clearly running the insane asylum.

Vanderbilt has always been a few inches left of plumb – we all know that – but the university’s Office of Religious Life has just sent university professors a list of “religious holy days and observances” where students can rightfully miss classes for reasons of personal faith. Wiccans and pagans unite!

Before there were holidays like Yom Kippur for those of the Jewish faith and now the Muslim holidays of Eid al Fitr are included, but don’t you think a bunch of pagans dancing around a maypole “to symbolize the mystery of the Sacred Marriage of Goddess and God” is a little over the top?

According to a story in the Nashville Tennessean, dear ole Vandy will excuse students who claim to be pagans and wiccans from classes on Nov. 1 to celebrate “Samhain-Beltane” and on May 1 to celebrate “Beltane-Samhain.”

Now the Nov. 1 date, according to my sources, marks the time on the calendar when “the dark half” of the year begins. It dates back to ancient times when, right after the harvest had been gathered, the Celts and pagans and wiccans and witches would always kick off the “dark half” of the year with “The Feast of the Dead.”

I don’t know who would go to “The Feast of the Dead” but, curiously at Vanderbilt, they’ve unwittingly recognized it in recent years because that’s when the downtrodden Commodore football team historically plays against its much stronger Southeastern Conference rivals. They never sell many tickets for football late in the season, either.

The “Beltane” part of the pagan puzzle is where the Maypole dancing comes in. Neopaganism calls it “cross-quarter day,” which marks the midpoint of the sun’s journey between the spring equinox and summer solstice. Everybody dances in a “sunwise” direction and some are known to be – yes - scantily dressed as they jump around like imps and nymphs.

Further, in Ireland when they celebrate Beltane the pagans and wiccans sometimes cook an oatmeal cake in a big bonfire later that night and mark one piece with some ashes. Everybody gets blind-folded and the poor pagan/wiccan who picks the piece with ashes on it – get this - has to jump over the fire three times.

Forget Vanderbilt Hospital has one of the best Burn Units in the nation. Instead just picture the maidens flaunting the flames! Knowing Vanderbilt as well as I do, my bet is there will be a little drinking going on and, if they do a night performance with the Maypole, look out!

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know much about pagans, about who’s pitching and who’s catching and all of that, but a straight-faced university employee told the Tennessean students who opt to take religious days do so based on the Vanderbilt honor system.

I mean, how is a professor to know who in class is a pagan or a wiccan? But from what I have read, there isn’t any honor if you are a witch or a pagan so who are you going to believe? If I had tried to tell a professor I was a pagan I’d have been expelled.

I suspect some courageous fraternity brothers will quickly claim kinship when they find out about the Maypole dance and the dress code. Throw in a bunch of cases of Natural Light and I’ll give overwhelming odds it will soon become the most celebrated day on the Vanderbilt student calendar.

But it is also sad. For a revered institution like Vanderbilt to officially recognize pagans and wiccans shows the Apocalypse should probably be included, too.

royexum@aol.com



Roy Exum: ‘Mom Don’t Have…I Do’

It’s hard to know what goes through the mind of a five-year-old, particularly one who watches her mom go in and out of jail due to drug addiction. But little Sunshine Oelfke is obviously being raised right by her grandmother because the other morning, the five-year-old came into the kitchen before leaving for kindergarten with a baggie full of coins from her piggy bank. “I asked ... (click for more)

Problems With The Key Staff Findings On The Landfill

Concerning the proposed C&D Landfill in Harrison, on Sept. 11, the staff of the Chattanooga Hamilton-County Regional Planning Agency made a presentation to the Planning Commission for the rezoning request.  Mr. Schultz for the staff made the following statements which were titled "Staff Key Findings."  I would like to contend with their findings.  1. "Proposal ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Committee Says Pulling Away From County Schools Is "Feasible"

After eight months of investigating the viability of Signal Mountain establishing a separate school district, a committee of six has determined that it is feasible and would meet the goal of improving the education provided to students. The committee was also tasked with identifying obstacles and if possible to find ways to overcome them.  Results of the report were presented ... (click for more)

Alexander, Corker Are Among Sponsors Of Bill To Stabilize Premiums And Access To Insurance

A group of 24 senators - 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats led by Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) - on Thursday released short-term bipartisan legislation to stabilize premiums and access to insurance in individual health insurance markets. Senators Alexander and Murray said: “We have reached an agreement ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Hits One Last Bump In The Road At State Volleyball

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – It’s not like Signal Mountain hasn’t been down this bumpy road before. Despite the obstacles created by losing early in the TSSAA state volleyball tournament, the Lady Eagles have proven to be cautious, but relentless drivers on a path back to title contention twice before. They’re on the same course this October. After losing to Knox Catholic ... (click for more)

Baylor Advances To State Final; Sale Creek Ousted

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Baylor Lady Red Raiders are one win away from another D-II Class AA state volleyball championship. Facing the Brentwood Academy Lady Eagles for the third time this season here at Blackman High School Wednesday morning in the winner’s bracket final, Baylor was able to advance by winning in four sets, but it was a battle for the ages where two really good ... (click for more)