A Catholic high school counselor in Pennslyvania lost her job after inviting three “witches” to speak to students, who gave them crystals that Wiccans believe have alleged special powers.
A career and college counselor at North Catholic High School was placed on leave and later resigned following an investigation by the school’s administration, Pittsburgh news outlet KDKA-TV reports, while not revealing the counselor’s identity.
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According to Michelle Peduto, the director of Catholic education for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, the students themselves expressed concerns about the planned visit by the witches before Christmas break and brought it to the attention of the school’s administrators.
“We followed our process and protocol and as of today, actually, a few days, she’s not with the school anymore,” Peduto was quoted as saying.
Peduto said the school puts its faith in Jesus Christ, not in objects such as crystals.
“Rosary beads? Yes, but crystals, no,” Peduto told KDKA-TV Investigator Andy Sheehan.
The three individuals who identify as witches were invited to speak to juniors and seniors about marketing. The women own a store called Elemental Magick, which sells crystals, skulls and scented candles that they claim possess special powers. They, however, emphasized they do not use or conjure any dark forces.
“No, absolutely, we don’t believe in that. We worship as Wiccans. We worship nature. So our elements — earth, air, water and fire — that’s what we worship,” Tabitha Latshaw, one of the three women, told Sheehan.
The women also stated that the students were told it was for increased concentration and would be helpful for studying, and they were allowed to choose their own crystals, like fluorite.
Latshaw said she was not raised Catholic and didn’t know that giving students crystals would be considered an offense. In a post on Facebook, Latshaw clarified that Wiccans don’t worship Satan, who is part of a Christian belief system.
The counselor told KDKA-TV that she didn’t intend to impart the women’s beliefs to students. She maintains that while she was placed on administrative leave and then given the option to resign, there basically wasn’t any alternative for her but to resign.
“I should have had more conversation with them specifically about the crystal situation, but again it didn’t ping for me something that would be such a big issue,” she said.
According to Helen A. Berger of Brandeis University near Boston, Wicca is part of the larger contemporary pagan movement whose adherents call themselves witches regardless of gender. The movement began in the United Kingdom in the 1940s.
The population of individuals identifying as witches has grown in the United States in recent decades as interest in astrology and witchcraft practices have become more popular.
In 2018, Quartz noted that while data was sparse, the practice of witchcraft had grown concurrently with the rise of the “witch aesthetic.”