Vanderbilt University is recognizing Wiccan and pagan holidays on its interfaith calendar.
Students at the Nashville, Tenn., school will be allowed excused absences to observe those holidays. The school already recognizes Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Baha'i, Hindu, and Buddhist days.
Wicca is a fast-growing religion in America though many Americans have never heard of it, according to a 2009 Barna Group survey.
Notably, those most likely to hold a "very unfavorable" view of Wicca were found among residents of the South and among born-again Christians.
Vanderbilt is an internationally recognized research university with more than 12,000 students in the "Bible Belt." The school's Office of Religious Life recently sent out a calendar marking religious holy days, that included "Mabon" on Sept. 23, or the Wicca observance of the autumnal equniox when day and night are of equal length, and "Ostara" or the Wicca welcoming of spring and the goddess-as-maiden.
Wicca is a loosely organized, under-the-radar religious group that is best known for its use of magic sorcery, and engagement in witchcraft. It has no recognized guidebook or body of “sacred literature” to define its practices, but instead is based on rituals and pagan beliefs.
Members go through initiation rites and worship gods and goddesses found in nature. In general, Wiccans embrace the concept of karma and reincarnation, and do not follow any strict code of morality.
According to Marla Alupoaicei, who co-wrote Generation Hex, the number of Wicca adherents is doubling every 30 months. Wicca, the Christian author claims, is set to be one of the largest religions by 2012.
The interfaith calendar, the university's Office of Religious Life says, is meant to "raise awareness of the diverse religious practices that may exist on campus."
It says, "Students who wish to observe holy days are asked to coordinate with their professors ahead of time to make arrangements that will help them be observant while balancing their course work. Arrangements are made at the faculty member's and the student's discretion."