When sophomore Kyle Eber was a child, his mother came home from work one day and he immediately sensed something was wrong. Eber asked her why she was sad, even though she never mentioned it. Throughout his early life, Eber knew he was highly perceptive of people and their energies, and it ended up drawing him to mysticism.
“I’m personally someone who is super in-tune to people,” Eber said. “I can read people’s energies. I can tell what you’re thinking and feeling without you even saying anything. It would scare my mom all the time as a child.”
Eber now practices Paganism and founded Mystic—a club for practicing and exploring Paganism—in fall 2018. He serves as co-president of the organization with sophomore Lily Doolin. Eber said he wanted to create a community for like-minded people at Emerson.
Modern Paganism blends ancient religion with contemporary thoughts, according to the Pagan Library—a collection of writings about the craft. Paganism, witchcraft, and mysticism use many similar practices and rituals, and most practicing Pagans draw on personal experience for their beliefs instead of following a doctrine. Pagan worship ceremonies include rituals surrounding energy, healing, and spiritual growth.
“Paganism has been around for centuries, but for me, it means I use foundations to get results,” Eber said. “In my own craft, I mostly utilize crystals and spell jars. If I put something out into the universe or I take that energy and transform it into what I would like it to be, it will come back. It’s all about karma.”
Eber said his best friend introduced him to Paganism in 2016. He decided to begin practicing the craft after noticing positive results in relation to his self-confidence, self-love, and patience. Eber described himself as a poly-pantheon Pagan, meaning he follows two pantheons of gods. A pantheon of gods refers to a set of deities a person worships.
“Every question I had about my life, and every question I had about the universe, was reasoned by what [the deities] were telling me,” Eber said. “I was at a point where I didn’t necessarily believe in God because of personal reasons, but then I realized that [Paganism] makes sense.”
Eber met Doolin during their freshman year and asked her to help lead the club in spring 2019. Doolin does not practice Paganism but said she finds mysticism interesting and calming. She said her interest in mysticism can appeal to other members of the community who are not practicing Pagans. She practices tarot reading and other facets of mysticism as a hobby.
“I have generalized anxiety disorder, so I find things like yoga and meditation really relaxing,” Doolin said. “It helps me center myself and go about my day in a way that is healthy and mindful and positive.”
Eber started the group last fall but said he and other members could not commit enough time to host events or market the club. He said this semester they have a Facebook and Instagram presence, spread information via word-of-mouth, and hold events once a month on campus.
Mystic’s first event of the semester was on Jan. 31 in room 401 of the Walker building and consisted of tarot card readings. Tarot cards show figures and suits that are used to interpret an individual’s experiences. Doolin said that about 15 students showed up for the event.
“We invited people who were interested in either getting their tarot read or bringing their cards and reading their friends or learning more about the reading process,” Doolin said. “It was just a fun community event where everyone was reading each other and we were all getting feedback.”
Last semester, Mystic partnered with Emerson’s Advancement Group for Love and Expression to host an event during queer history month. Held on Oct. 6, the event centered around the connection between queerness and witchcraft.
“We talked about how a lot of queer-identifying people who follow a strict religion are told that they can’t be that in their religion, so they reach out and find new sources of religion that will accept them,” Eber said. “A lot of them turn to Paganism because it’s very queer-coded.”
Junior and EAGLE Vice President Rachel Gaudet said the event focused on making spell jars. They said the event aligned well with queer history month.
“At this event we combined forces and made different potions for feminine and masculine energy as well as for attraction and protection,” Gaudet said. “There was a bit of discussion about Paganism and finding solace in your queer identity through Paganism.”
Eber and Doolin said they hope Mystic can collaborate with other student-run and spiritual organizations in the future.
Eber noted the rise of mysticism and witchcraft in recent popular culture. He cited the Netflix reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Sephora’s Starter Witch Kit product—a box that includes tarot cards, crystals, and a sage smudge.
“Commercialization happens to every religion—just look at Christmas,” Eber said. “I didn’t hate the Sephora Witch Kit, but it upset me. The main thing it contained was a smudge stick, which is an appropriation of Native American practices … I think Sephora saw that there was an interest in it and that people were moving toward Paganism and other witchcraft practices and met the demand.”
Eber also said he noticed a common correlation between the Pagan craft and Satanism, or dark magic. He said this misconception can lead to a misunderstanding of Paganism. Eber said he hopes Mystic can help members of the Emerson community embrace the positives of the craft.
“If you’re interested, sit in on a meeting,” Eber said. “This is a completely positive craft. We just want a community where we can be students and do this with each other. Most of this is seen as taboo through other religions … People who are segmented in a very structured religion can be scared of things they don’t know.”
As a practicing Catholic, Doolin said mysticism does not interfere with her relationship to God.
“Before college I went to Catholic school all my life, and we were always taught that tarot or zodiac wasn’t something we were supposed to listen to or understand, and it was against the Catholic faith,” Doolin said. “In my personal relationship with God, I don’t think God hates tarot or anything like that. It’s a little tough for me to think that something I do as a hobby could be seen as sinful.”
Mystic meets twice a month—once on a Thursday and once on a Friday. The club met on Feb. 14 to discuss ideas for their next event and plans to meet again on March 1. Details for upcoming meetings and events can be found on EmConnect.
Eber said he hopes Mystic can provide a sense of community for practicing mystics, or anyone who takes interest in a specific aspect of the craft.
“It doesn’t have to be that they walk away saying, ‘I’m going to be a Pagan now and do all these things,’ but just to have some fun,” he said. “While these events are open to the entire public, anyone can benefit from meditation or yoga and channeling some energy within themself to make them stronger. Everyone talks about how important self-care is, and this is a type of self-care for a lot of people.”