Wanna Buy Witch School?

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On Monday Ed Hubbard publicly announced that he is selling off Witch School (here is the official eBay auction for the site), the infamous online school for aspiring Witches.

“Imagine, if you could buy Harry Potter’s Hogwarts? Well, the world’s first and largest public school of Wiccan and Witches has become available for sale. Starting Tuesday, April 10th, WitchSchool.com will be auctioned off to the highest bidder during an eBay Auction. If you ever wanted to have your very own cyber school of magick and witchcraft, this is the auction for you. So you can own and run your very own Academy for Magick and Witchcraft. If you would love to become the next Dumbledore, this is your chance to do so.”

This announcement has come after a strange series of shake-ups and developments. First a schism between two factions of the Witchcraft tradition that the school was associated with, then the installation of a new president (from one of the factions), and then the news that a reality program was being developed around the school. But now it seems everything must go, including their “Minispells” business, the proprietary software that runs the school, and even their MySpace page.

“The Comprehensive Site for online Wiccan and Pagan Education. With over 85 courses, plus tons of features that have been developed over the last five years. With over 145,000 currently actively registered students, and hundreds of thousands have passed through. It offers a lot of interaction including testing, transcripts, etc.”

In a letter to me* (full text here, with permission for his comments to be made on the record), Witch School founder and owner Ed Hubbard explained that the school is a completely separate legal entity from the Correllian Witchcraft Tradition and that Hubbard resigned from any formal position within both of the feuding Correllian factions (though the Correllian web site still claims he is affiliated).

“I offered to give the school to the tradition and the church and Davron refused. At that time, I informed Don and Davron that I would give WS one more year, and that I would turn it into NFP … I resigned from Correllian Nativist Church International, Inc. and The Correllian Mother Temple which were two separate organizations.”

There is no word on how this will affect their bricks-and-mortar campus in Hoopeston, Illinois. Will the property go to the Correllian Mother Temple and Don Lewis (who is acting president of Witch School), or will it be sold off? It seems strange that the Witch School site is conducting a fund raiser in which it urges all its online students to donate money to fix up their building in Hoopeston.

“We are asking our students, friends, and supporters to ‘Adopt’ a brick, and have your name (or craft name) put on it. We are creating a wall that includes everyone who helps us in this fundraiser … His exact words ‘If each basic student were to give a dollar the building would be able to be fixed up pretty quickly.’ And he came up with this fundraiser. We hope that Michael is correct and the blessing of the three fold law is given full rein in this project.”

As for the online school, Hubbard seems to hope it will be scooped up by a major Pagan-oriented business like Llewellyn Worldwide or New Page publishing, but seems just as open to the idea of it being bought out by a non-Pagan corporation like Google or Disney. In an addendum to the auction, Hubbard explains that the new owner of the school will have to honor the development deal with the SciFi Channel, and that the new owner will have the power to grant religious initiations within Correllian Wicca, and will control the Copyright to Don Lewis’ (head of the Correllian Mother Temple) writing.

“The Main Thing it holds is the License to Don Lewis Correllian Wicca, and the right to use it in many different ways. It has a perpetual right to provide FIRST, SECOND and THIRD DEGREES. It has many other rights to sell product. Witch School also negotiates and handles Don Lewis Copyright licenses exclusively since the Year 2000. Currently, a major publisher has the option to publish Don Lewis books, and will be likely exercise this right.”

Of course given the rules of eBay, it is entirely possible that a stealth organization hostile to Witch School (like an evangelical church) could buy it out, or that the winner of the auction will be a non-Pagan who will start selling off initiations. Which makes the eBay selling method somewhat surprising (top bid as of this writing is $1,625.01). But aside from the pitfalls of a public auction, there are all sorts of troubling ethical implications, like what will happen to personal data once its sold, the selling of the power to “initiate” someone as a Witch, and the strange legal intermixing of the school with the Witchcraft tradition it has been affiliated with. It remains to be seen what the final fall-out of this sale will be.

A big thanks to Lupa for tipping me off to this story!

* The letter in question mostly concerns Ed Hubbard’s take on the split between the two Correllian factions, so it might be useful for those wanting more information on the split (from one point of view).