Victoria, British Columbia—(RNS) The winter solstice, which marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, is a sacred day to Heather Botting, a pagan chaplain at the University of Victoria.
It is Yule: the festival to celebrate light, the sun and God. On the winter solstice, which occurs Dec. 22 this year, Botting will lead dozens of students and staff through a series of joyous Yule rituals involving cauldrons, knives, wine, dance, cakes, holly, ivy and stag antlers.
…Botting is a pagan (also known as Wiccan) priestess in what might also be one of the planet’s most witch-friendly cities, Greater Victoria (population 280,000), where more than 1,000 people officially told Canadian census takers they were pagans.
Paganism is Canada’s fastest-growing religion, according to Statistics Canada. The number of self-declared pagans in 2001 grew by 281 percent from a decade earlier. There are now 21,080 pagans in Canada, with 6,100 in the province of British Columbia, of which Victoria is the capital. There are more pagans on the West Coast of Canada than there are, for instance, Salvation Army members.