Closing Schools, Meth, and Witchcraft

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  October 27, 2007 — 5 Comments

The Chicago Tribune takes a closer look at Witch School’s recent move to Rossville, IL and finds a troubled town deeply unhappy with its new Pagan neighbors.

“Things were already going downhill in this small farming community when the witches arrived. Area factories had shut down. So had the local high school. A suspicious fire had gutted much of the downtown. The use of methamphetamine was destroying families. So when a group of Wiccans from out of town moved into a storefront this summer and erected a sign advertising “Witch School,” it was only a matter of time before alarm bells sounded and tempers started to boil in this village of 1,200, about 125 miles south of Chicago near the Indiana border.”

It seems that anti-Witch canvassing, regular prayer meetings, and even an anti-Pagan billboard reading “Worship the Creator not Creation” have all emerged since Witch School’s move here from Hoopeston with dreams of building a new “Salem” in the Midwest. But it may not be the Salem they were hoping for.

“‘Remember the Salem witch trials?’ resident Adam Marganski said. ‘That’s what is happening here.’ … more than 150 people filed into the shuttered high school Wednesday night for the meeting, Andy Thomas, youth minister at the Rossville Church of Christ, said residents had a spiritual responsibility to drive the witches out. If they didn’t, he said, young people were in danger of being pulled off the Christian path … ‘They’re trying to make us scapegoats,’ [Don Lewis] said as he slipped into the meeting unannounced.”

On Wednesday, another meeting was held concerning the “Witch problem” featuring speaker Robert Kurka. While Kurka presented a message of tolerance instead of hostility, this new truce seems fragile at best.

“When the meeting was over, many of the opponents appeared calmed. They vowed to turn down their anger and increase their prayers. Lewis was pleasantly surprised. “It seemed like he was trying to uphold the peace,” he said. But it was unclear how long the peace would last. When a local pastor approached Lewis shortly after to say he would pray for him, the exchange between the two men quickly heated up. It looked as if a fistfight might break out. Then Lewis decided Kurka was right. He turned and walked away.”

It remains to be seen if something like Witch School can survive in a small Christian town already troubled by economic and social problems. While tolerance should be practiced (and enforced) on all sides, one has to wonder if such ingrained hostility will ever allow the enterprise to truly flourish.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • whatsername

    Wow, that’s pretty scary to me. I am so glad I live on the west coast. :

  • fenix

    I had my concerns when I heard Witch School was moving to an even smaller town. I know how tough it is to be an open Witch and Pagan in a small town. I’ve fought more than my fair share of “mysterious” pasture and forest fires, and getting into fights at school every day is no picnic, either. For all the work we’ve done over the years, some people will never change their perceptions.

  • Cat Chapin-Bishop

    Well, I hate to think of Witch School as the poster child for Pagans as neighbors. Honestly, the worst thing about their being in a truly small town is how unlikely it is that there will be more grounded, amiable Paganfolk already living there to show the non-Pagan folks something a bit more representative.I wouldn’t diss the Witch School if they didn’t so consistently live down to my expectations. Even getting to the edge of a fistfight with a local pastor is dumb, dumb, dumb–not how to do interfaith and win _my_ respect, at least.And, yeah. I’m as Pagan as the day is long, for either 20 years or 35, depending on how you count it. But I’ve also been “out of the broom closet” in small towns for many of the last two decades.Maybe the fact that I’m slow to anger has contributed as much as good fortune has to my much more positive experiences with small town neighbors. Maybe not–but I wish Don Lewis were a bit more centered, and a bit less publicity-oriented.

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