In 2006, if you looked at the wall of brass plaques at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, you wouldn’t see one for Patrick Stewart, the very first Wiccan killed in combat. You would be greeted by a blank space. This was because the Department of Veterans Affairs did not recognize and allow the pentacle to be used as grave-markers for fallen U.S soldiers. This was at a time when they had approved symbols of 38 other faiths like the Mormon angel, the Muslim crescent, and the nine-pointed star of the Bahai, to name a few.
Stewart was 34 and served in the Nevada National Guard when the helicopter he was in was shot down in Afghanistan. He also served in Operation Desert Storm and in the Army in Korea. After his death, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. Patrick Stewart was a U. S soldier, and a hero who fought for the United States Constitution. And he was proud of his spirituality. He was proud to be a Wiccan.
As of 2007, a year after his death, the Department of Veteran Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to the list of approved religious symbols that can be engraved on soldiers’ headstones. They acknowledge Wicca as a religion that honors nature and its cycles. Included in the petition was the number of Wiccans in Air Force, which were 1,800! “I was just aghast that someone who would fight for their country and die for their country would not get the symbol he wanted on his gravestone,” said John W. Whitehead, who litigates many First Amendment cases. “It’s just overt religious discrimination.”
Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States, second to Islam. As of 2001, the number of Wiccans has grown from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000. That is a growth of 143 percent! And as of 2013, the number has grown to 200,000 registered Wiccan practitioners and an astounding 8 million unregistered. As of 2013, Wiccans in the military are allowed to wear clothing and accessories that represents the belief as long as they don’t disrupt order and discipline.
Although the number of Wiccans are steadily rising and it’s gaining the recognition and acceptance of many institutions, it’s still a hard long battle for many Wiccans out there who are unable to express themselves, with some finding themselves criticized and ostracized.
We at the Moonlight Family provide you a safe place to just be yourself and present you with options on how you can better express yourself. We have come a long way since Patrick Stewart’s passing, and there is still so much more learning and growing together to be done here.