The media has remained fascinated with Ellwood “Bunky” Bartlett, a Wiccan who won a 33 million dollar jackpot in September. Last week a story hit the wires that Bartlett was going to open a “real-life Hogwarts” school for Witches, leading some to think the newly-rich-Witch was going to follow in the footsteps of online establishments like Don Lewis’s Witch School or Oberon Zell-Ravenheart’s Grey School of Wizardry. Today, Bartlett appears in the papers again, to clarify what his post-lottery Pagan plans are.
“Ellwood “Bunky” Bartlett … would like to clear up a few misconceptions about his plans for a “witch school.” Yes, he’d like to start a pagan seminary. But no, it’s not going to be some sort of Hogwarts-on-the-Patapsco, with precocious adolescents running around in wizard hats and casting spells. Bartlett instead envisions the place as sort of a yeshiva for all faiths, a “church” that’s less about God – or gods, if you prefer – and more about spirituality, nature and healing. The future Willow Springs Sanctuary and Community Center … will teach classes about all religions, offer technology courses for those seeking better jobs and counseling for those seeking to make sense of their lives.”
The article also talks briefly about the dearth of Pagan-oriented options for a formal religious education. A situation that often results in a sort of hodge-podge attempt at a well-rounded and relevant curriculum.
“Folks who have wanted to serve in a leadership capacity have managed to cobble together an education through Christian divinity schools, counseling programs, and the Unitarian Church,” said [Sherry] Marts, a practicing witch and spokeswoman for the Open Hearth Foundation, a pagan community center in the Washington area. “It’s been kind of a piecemeal. It would be great to have a pagan seminary.”
Strangely, the reporter tracks down Witch School founder Ed Hubbard to talk about the development of a Pagan seminary, but not a single direct mention or interview with anyone from Cherry Hill Seminary, one of the few serious attempts at building a comprehensive and professional Pagan-focused ministry education. One wonders if Hubbard is consulting Bartlett on his sanctuary/community center, or if that was the only relevant source the journalist could find on short notice?
In any event, it is good to know that Bartlett is trying to build something of lasting value to the wider community, and is attempting to engage in interfaith activities. I wish him every success, though after winning the lottery I’m sure his gods are looking out for him already. Plus, as Bunky asserts in the article, he has no worries about deflecting any misfortunes relating to how he manages his new-found wealth: “I have the ability to deflect the curses that come my way.”