NonTraditional Religions - Wiccans, Pastafarians and More
By Sara Teasdale / October, 2011

As days shorten and daylight becomes scant, our autumn minds are transported to all things spooky and strange. Images of witches stirring brew pots, mumbling magic spells, capture our collective imagination. We also think of beliefs beyond the traditional.

For those out of the pagan loop, the Wiccan religion is an earth-centered tradition that celebrates nature and the circle of life, much the same as the concepts followed by ancient Celts. Broomsticks and pointy hats don't really apply to believers, though many Wiccans appreciate the humor associated with these items.

The Wiccans believe October is when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. You might be surprised to learn that witches are not just Christian outcasts anymore. They're getting federal approval. Several families in Wisconsin filed a lawsuit to have the Wiccan pentacle added to the list of emblems allowed in U.S. cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen U.S. soldiers. On July 4, 2007, the country's first Veterans' Administration-issued headstone containing both a Wiccan pentacle and a Christian cross was dedicated at Arlington National Cemetery for Wiccan priestess Jan Deanna O'Rourke of Port Charlotte, Florida.

"This time of year is my favorite, always has been," writes Albiana, on her blog, www. "Even before I became a (witch)... I was enamored of the spirit of October and the fun of the autumn revelry." The season is so sacred to Wiccans that the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans of Fort Lauderdale hosts its annual 14th annual Witches' Ball at the end of October. Members organize ancient Celtic rites, attunement rituals, and labyrinth walks celebrating harvests and the earth.

Wiccans aren't the only ones enjoying this new climate of pagan power. In the world of alternative beliefs, Wiccans look like mainstream monks. Consider the religion of the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Its members believe the invisible pink unicorn exists as a parody of the theological reasoning of other religions.

You laugh? The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded to promote the teaching of intelligent design. The religious group recently wrote to the Kansas School Board, petitioning that its view of intelligent design, as opposed to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, be taught in its schools. Congregants call themselves Pastafarians and wear spaghetti strainers on their heads. Its mission has been spread on the Internet and gone viral.

Austrian-born Niko Alm, a self-described Pastafarian, has been given the right to wear a colander on his head in his Austrian driver's license photo, reports the BBC. Alm wrote on his blog, "My religious head covering is now recognized as such by the Republic of Austria."

The U.S.-based wing of the group is reaching out to all nations. In Australia, many have listed Pastafarian as their religion in the nation's census report.

Another fringe movement is Nuwaubianism, founded in the 1970s in New York City. Members follow the teachings of Dwight York. According to Nuwaubianism, women existed before they invented men through genetic coding; each person has seven clones; and, after a baby is born, the afterbirth must be buried so Satan doesn't make a copy.

Other nations have extraordinarily unique tastes in their beliefs. The Universe People or Cosmic People of Light Powers is a Czech religious movement whose members firmly believe that their leader speaks directly to space aliens.

The universe is teeming with other-worldy cults, clans, coalitions and covens, from believers like the "Woodies," who worship B-movie horror director Ed Wood in the rights to all things weird and strange, to the illegal activities of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, whose members practice sexism, pedophilia and polygamy.

As October's Blood Moon rises and illuminates the darkest corners of people's beliefs, weird religions in all their manifestations have to make you wonder. Have you hugged a Wiccan today?

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