Bryn Mawr’s Athena’s Circle hosts alternative religion mixer

While Swarthmore students hopped between Olde Club’s Engineering Party and Paces’s Jock Jamz last Saturday, a group of Bryn Mawr students were hosting a similarly novel event in the Quita-Woodward Room on their own campus. The Pagan Mixer, although lacking in attendance (only one non-Mawrter attended), has nonetheless stirred up talk on Swarthmore and Haverford campuses, both of which lack any parallel student groups centered on magic, Wiccan traditions or Paganism.

The Mixer was designed by the student group Athena’s Circle with the hopes of meeting other practicing Pagans and Wiccans in the Tri-Co, as well as introducing students interested in alternative religions to the club. Although the description of the group listed on Bryn Mawr’s activity directory described the club as being home to mainly Pagans and Wiccans, Mawrter Emma DiQuinzio, co-head of Athena’s Circle, emphasized that the group nonetheless welcomes practitioners of various alternative religions. “Athena’s Circle is really powered by its members; they decide what we discuss, what workshops we hold, what meditations we do, etc.,” DiQuinzio said in an e-mail. “Having more members from different colleges and with different backgrounds [would] bring a wider range of opinions and ideas to the group, and any new members from different campuses [would] gain a safe, supportive and hopefully informative community that seems to be missing on their home campuses.”

Most members of Athena’s Circle did not join the group with extensive prior experience with Paganism, but instead became interested in the topic after reading about the tradition or dabbling a bit on their own. For DiQuinzio, interest in the area began well before Bryn Mawr. A Pagan for 10 years, she was previously a Catholic, and practiced mainly on her own before college. She has been on the executive board of Athena’s Circle for two years, and hopes to be elected co-head again for her senior year.

Meetings of Athena’s Circle typically span a two-hour block of time, bookended with meditations to get members in the mood for discussion and re-focus them before reentering their daily routines, according to DiQuinzio. Sandwiched in between are discussions, workshops or a show and tell. “This semester we’ve had discussions on different sects of Paganism and different kinds of witchcraft and magic,” DiQuinzio said. “We’ve had a craft workshop and a writing workshop. We’ve also had a myth and pantheon show and tell … [Additionally, we] have special feasts to celebrate holidays, such as Imbolc, which just passed, and Ostara, which is coming up after Spring Break.” Imbolc is traditionally a Celtic holiday which celebrates the arrival of spring; Ostara is a celebration of the spring equinox, with an emphasis on renewal and rebirth.

Members seem to realize that the group’s image is, perhaps, difficult to overcome, both in repelling and attracting potential Pagans and Wiccans. Stereotypes associated with Pagans and Wiccans are “a bit tricky to deal with,” according to DiQuinzio. “We’ve had some people who don’t want to be involved [with Athena’s Circle] because of them, and we’ve had people come to meeting and then leave because we didn’t meet them. We also have had to be careful of how we advertise; we don’t use pentagrams on our flyers because of how that symbol has been treated by the media.” The pentagram, a five-pointed star commonly inscribed within a circle, is thought to have magical associations, and is commonly associated with the Wiccan faith as well as Paganism; however, if turned so that two of the stars’ points point upwards instead of one, it closely resembles the pentagram that symbolizes Satanism. Interested members who bring stereotypes to their first meeting of Athena’s Circle are quickly corrected by leaders and existing members.

While disappointed by the turnout at the Mixer, Athena’s Circle isn’t done reaching out to possible Pagans in the Tri-Co. With a tentative goal of throwing another Mixer next semester, the group hopes to continue to garner interest on other campuses.

“Athena’s Circle is one of the best things in my life, and I feel that I really get to help people and do good work as one of its leaders,” DiQuiznio said.

For more information on Athena’s Circle, contact DiQuiznio at

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