Air Force Academy Dedicates Pagan Chapel

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 4, 2011 — 27 Comments

Yesterday the Air Force Academy in Colorado held a dedication ceremony for an outdoor stone circle erected last year as a place for Pagan and earth-centered faiths to congregate and worship.

Photo by: Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

“The academy is home to about 10 cadets who regularly attend “earth centered” worship groups. Earth-centered is a catch-all phrase for groups including New Age religion, paganism, Wicca, Druids and ancient Norse beliefs. “This is very important for us, we didn’t have a place to call our own, to be outside in nature,” said cadet Nicole Johnson, a member of the earth-centered group. Johnson and others used to meet in an engineering classroom to worship before construction of Cadet Chapel Falcon Circle, on a 7,200-foot hill top that overlooks the main cadet chapel.”

While the circle was created in response to a genuine need among Pagan cadets, it has also been something of an PR tool for an institution that has long been accused of being a focal point for evangelical Christian takeover of the military, and is still struggling to create an environment friendly to all faiths. This struggle was underlined when the Pagan site was vandalized shortly after it received press attention, an event the academy is trying to ensure never happens again.

“It’s clear that the academy is worried about security at the site. The circle of stones is surrounded by metal poles containing video cameras and signs on the trail that leads to the site warn that the area is under electronic surveillance.”

Despite the controversy and setbacks this has been a step forward for the equal treatment of Pagan religions within the military. The Air Force Academy still has a lot of work to do in the area of equal treatment and safety for all religious personnel, but for now we can congratulate the Pagan cadets and their superiors for making this happen. You can read all my coverage of this issue, here.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Nightfall

    Amazing. What a gorgeous circle, and it is great that the military is recognizing the importance of these faiths.

  • This is wonderful! Now hopefully it's not messed with again.

  • Cara Schulz

    GO AIR FORCE! btw – my son heads to basic training for the Air Force on Tuesday. Silly boy thought he was going into the Marines. I'm former AF as is his Father so that just wasn't going to happen.

    • jadenita

      There is a wiccan circle for your son to attend while he is in Basic Training.

  • kenneth

    Pretty cool. The take away is that all institutions sworn to uphold the Constitution gladly do so if you lead them gently with the choke collar and taser of horrible publicity and/or lawsuits!

    • Tam Evans

      OMG what a Blessing!!!! *tears*

  • aediculaantinoi

    I'm glad to hear they're taking it very seriously…

    However, seeing these photos, I have a question: was the stone circle designed with any "stone circular orientations/principles" in mind, e.g. are there recumbent stones that mark particular sunrises or sunsets on the horizon, lunar phases, etc.? Or is it, literally, a "stone circle" that they just threw together with a bunch of stones in a circular pattern without much attention to those principles? I'd be interested in knowing more about that, if such information is available…

    • kenneth

      I rather doubt it, based on the looks of it and the practical considerations in undertaking such a thing as you suggest. There probably aren't a whole lot of modern folks who have both the knowledge of astronomy and pagan faith and time to do such a thing, especially in a military academy environment. I suspect many of the ancients also attached much more literal significance to things like solstices and equinoxes and often had a full-time priest./priestess class who concerned themselves with exact timing for ritual events and planting/harvesting etc

      . I think it would be cool if we started re-learning some of that art and practice simply as a way to re-familiarize ourselves with the planet. Unfortunately, many of us make concessions to the modern world by conducting many of our actual rituals "pretty close" to the astronomical event. Then there's laziness. I haven't had to teach myself the timing of moons and other events when I can just pop over to the Naval Observatory site or some other shortcut….

    • It's just a circle of stones. In the summer of 2009, construction crews moved several large stones away from the Air Force Academy's visitor center to reduce the threat of those stones rolling downhill onto the visitor center. The crews had to do something with the stones, so they placed them in a circle at the top of the hill. A couple of Pagans happened upon a circle of neatly arranged stones at the top of the hill, and the idea to make that area a sacred space was born.

  • Tea

    Congratulations Air Force Academy! The circle is beautiful.

  • It really is a lovely place. Let's hope that this kind of inclusion creates some new understanding between different faiths.

    • Oh, yeah… and the banner at Quaker Pagan Reflections is of the UMass Sunwheel on a beautiful day near the summer solstice. As you can see, it's quite lovely.

  • Rev. Ken S.

    This sure is wonderful. Good for the USAF
    Rev. Ken S. ( Wiccan Priest )

  • Earth-centered is a catch-all phrase for groups including New Age religion, paganism, Wicca, Druids and ancient Norse beliefs.

    Now they're just trying to piss me off.

    How about if we don't capitalize "new age" (in fact, since these religions are, as indicated, based upon "ancient" beliefs, how about if we leave "new age" off entirely), do capitalize "Paganism" (just as we would capitalize "Christianity" or "Judiasm" or other "umbrella" terms (I doubt we'd describe Christianity or Islam as "catch-all" phrases, but if "Pagan" is, so are they.)), and keep the capitals in "Druids" and "Norse"?

    Don't make me get out my blue pencil. You won't like me when I'm editing.

    Meanwhile, beautiful stone circle in a beautiful spot.

    • whateley23

      My understanding of the phrase is that "New Age religion" refers to a group of religions which is different than the following ones, "paganism, Wicca, Druids and ancient Norse beliefs", and that both phrases are not the entirety of religions covered (the term "including" is important there).

      Edited to add: Also, I agree about the capitalization of "Paganism".

  • Jadenita

    This a great way to let people know that the Stone circle was dedicated this past Tuesday. One thing that is not mentioned is that this circle has been working on this stone circle for a very long time. The person who lead this circle before he was deployed worked very hard and spent his own money to make this circle happen. The Air Force made him remove the work he did. After he worked with them the Air Force then provided the materials to create what you see today.
    This circle is sponsored by the Sacred Well congregation. They are very active within the 37 circles they sponsor worldwide and David Oringderff was present at this dedication.

  • Chenoa

    Electronic surveillance also means no privacy for the users of this circle. Talk about a rock and a hard place!!

    • It's a military academy. The cadets are used to not having any privacy. 🙂

      • TPMP

        So, is there surveillance in the main chapel?

  • Crap. Didn't sign in, so I can't edit… and I didn't close my html tag. Sorry!

  • Oh, yeah… and the banner at Quaker Pagan Reflections is of the UMass Sunwheel on a beautiful day near the summer solstice. As you can see, it's quite lovely.

  • wyldeflowyr

    What a beautiful circle! Congratulations!

  • Rev Ray

    Just awsome!! Is the only thing I can say. Congrats to evryone, and thanks to those who set ignorance aside to make this possible and those who fought for it!!!!!