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


No More Money For Schools

Re: County Commission Told To Fully Fund County Schools Improvement Request Would Take 28 1/2-Cent Property Tax Increase; 78 School Personnel Would Be Added No. No way. Really, NO! is not a big enough word to express my sentiments here. Even the exclamation point doesn’t add enough to do the job properly.  Mr. Coppinger said, “They are saying if you do this, we’re ... (click for more)

Collegedale's Wreck Problem

Re: Speed Limits Being Lowered On Main Collegedale Thoroughfare  I just read your story on Collegedale lowers speed limit for main thoroughfare.  It's funny the city claims they will have TDOT put up dangerous intersection signs, because last summer when it was stated in a story (possibly not by your company) that they were dropping the speed limit from 55 to 50 on ... (click for more)

Kevin Muhammad Says City Programs Failing; More Attention And Funding Needed For Impoverished Inner City Youths

Nation of Islam leader Kevin Muhammad told a packed house at City Council on Tuesday night that a large segment of Chattanooga is impoverished, while parts of the city are enjoying a Renaissance. Given 20 minutes for a "State of the People" address, he said many city programs are failing, including the Violence Reduction Initiative and a Youth and Family Services reading program. ... (click for more)

County Commission Told To Fully Fund County Schools Improvement Request Would Take 28 1/2-Cent Property Tax Increase; 78 School Personnel Would Be Added

County Mayor Jim Coppinger told members of the County Commission at a budget workshop on Tuesday that it would take a 28 1/2-cent property tax increase to fully fund the county school budget request. The county schools are asking for $24,218,919 in new money for a focus on workforce readiness, literacy and low-performing schools. County Mayor Coppinger did not say whether ... (click for more)

Johnson Homers Twice As Baylor Beats Silverdale, 4-2

There’s nothing more fun than covering a softball game featuring two outstanding teams, ones who can get clutch hits, pitch through tough situations and even make spectacular defensive plays when the game is on the line. That was the case at Silverdale Tuesday afternoon where the Lady Seahawks were hosting the Baylor Lady Red Raiders. Silverdale had gone to Baylor on April ... (click for more)

Bradley Beats West, 8-1, To Wrap Up Impressive Regular Season

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Bradley Central wrapped up its regular season on Tuesday with an 8-1 non-district baseball victory over Knoxville West at Toby McKenzie Baseball Complex. In their final tune-up for the District 5-3A tournament that starts on Wednesday at Cleveland High School, the Bears improved to 23-6 and rode the five-hit pitching of Jacob Moses (3-2) to the impressive win ... (click for more)