Just the Start of School Again

Just the Start of School Again September 13, 2018

(c) 2018 Richard Reimer – Sam enjoying hanging around at the U of Alberta Interfaith Chaplains Association information table at International Student Orientation on Wednesday 29 August, with his colleague Heather Liddell, the Anglican chaplain. Photo by Richard Reimer, used with permission.

Dear readers,

I’m a little scattered today, recovering from a cold, rushing around to pull together the various strands of my life. Trying to be focused.

The academic year has commenced at University of Alberta, where I am the Wiccan chaplain. So, for a week or so ahead of that we chaplains were involved in orientation activities – this is the two week or so window in which we have a chance to connect up with students before they get completely locked into their schedules, before they’ve completely committed themselves to all of the things that they will make time for in the school year. So, we offered cookies and lemonade to the international students, and tried to slow down the relentless march around the campus of clumps of first year students being shown where things are (again with cookies and lemonade, our secret weapons).

Just to tell them that when they hit the wall, as they inevitably will, and there are too many papers due all at once and their brains are fried, that they can come and talk with us. We can’t write their term papers, but we can provide a caring ear and a calm and non-judgemental space to just find their bearings again. Maybe a few of them will drop in.

(c) U of Alberta/Richard Siemens 2017 – Sam leading his portion of the Dedication ceremony for the Multi-faith Prayer and Meditation Spaces at University of Alberta January 2017. Used with permission.

Of course, the chaplains are not only a preventative counselling service for the university. We collaborate to promote spiritual development in the students, faculty and staff of the university. Spirituality is a dynamic internal process of seeking authenticity, genuineness and wholeness, developing a sense of oneself in community and connected with others, finding meaning, purpose and direction in life. It is a meaning-making force, a creative, energizing source of inner strength and morality, a way of knowing and being in the world. It is linked to but separate from religion.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about spiritual development in young adults, in preparation for this academic year. I’m really pleased that this year it looks like I will have a group of Pagan students to work with and to build some support activities around campus with. Last school year I had regular Tarot Tables in the student union building to publicize the chaplains and my own chaplaincy, and I met a small number of eager would-be Wiccan students. I’ve kept in touch with them over the summer, and we’ve managed to do a few things together, so this year I can hope to start out with six or seven students working with me. I’m planning workshops, Sabbat rituals, and a Wicca 101 basics series. It should be fun.

And I’m bringing an associate chaplain onboard – like me, he’s a volunteer. He’s a student in religious studies, twenty-five years old, bright and passionate about seithr and Norse / Icelandic magicks.

(c) Sam Wagar 2016. The view of the campus from my office window.


In my own scholarly life – I’ve completed the whole process of gathering data, now comes analysis (once I finish transcribing all the interviews) and writing it up. It’ll still be between 18 months and two years until I am completed the dissertation, and I am just starting to see patterns in the data. But I can see that there will be an end, and it will be interesting and useful to temple-centred Wiccan groups.

Thinking about my long-term objective, growing the baby Wiccan seminary, whilst dealing with a lot of little day-to-day details about how to get there. I’m not so much step-by-step. I tend to want to leap past where I am to the objective that I am trying to reach, and I have too much tendency to go it alone. I’ve been successful in the past, but for different purposes and different objectives, so I am struggling to follow a format set out in front of me.

How to be a Wiccan Chaplain

About Samuel Wagar
I've been doing this Witch thing for a long time (since 1982) but I'm still having fun. Now that I'm an old fart, my focus has switched from doing a lot of things to mentoring, teaching, and writing. I'm a chaplain at University of Alberta, in charge of the Congregationalist Wiccan Assembly of Alberta's clergy training program, a doctoral candidate in theology, and the dean of the baby Edmonton Wiccan Seminary. You can read more about the author here.
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Just the Start of School Again

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