Gillian Darichuk knows it’s a statement that will surprise some: “I will say, loud and proud, that I am a witch.”
Darichuk made the remark Tuesday at the University of Calgary, where she’s promoting a new official club on campus, the Witches & Pagans Club.
“This practice and faith goes back for millenia,” Darichuk said. “A witch is a healer, someone who heals themselves and other people with their practice.”
The third-year ancient and medieval history student, along with her fellow club members, is hoping to counter some of the prejudice and persecution witches have faced over the centuries.
“We do protect our members very much, because not everyone is, as we say, out of the broom closet,” Darichuk said. “It’s an incredibly diverse group, and to bring that to the forefront, to give people a safe space to explore their history, is incredibly important right now.”
The group’s practices include summoning up good forces with spells, using the ancient tools of the trade.
“Herbs and spices, and stones can also be used,” Darichuk said. “But the most common is candles.”
Several club members are following in some famous footsteps.
“So many of us started our journeys with things like Harry Potter,” Darichuk said. “I love the story and it did actually encourage me to look into this practice more. It was kind of my starting point, wanting to be Hermione Granger.”
The U of C Witches & Pagans club now includes about 20 members, many of them getting ready to celebrate together.
“What most people call Hallows Eve or Halloween we call Samhain or the Day of the Dead,” Darichuk said. “(We’ll) dress in robes, go out to a forest and have a ritualistic bonfire.”
And while they won’t be trick-or-treating, Darichuk said club members will be enjoying some traditional Samhain treats: “Pie, lots of pie!”