The U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs has agreed to recognize dead soldiers who were Wiccans. The recognition
comes largely in the form of a Wiccan symbol (a five pointed star representing
earth, air, fire, water and the spirit) on grave markers (Christians get a
cross, Jews a six pointed cross of David and Moslems a crescent). Wicca is
basically repackaged pre-Christian "paganism." It was introduced half a century
ago in Britain, partly to celebrate the repeal of the witchcraft laws.
Wicca is basically nature worship, as were most
pre-Christian European religions. There are nearly 200,000 practitioners in the
United States, and at least eleven families of soldiers killed in action, have
let the U.S. government know that they are Wicca and they want their deceased
soldier buried under that symbol.
Wiccan soldiers have long encountered resistance
from the military establishment, but have gradually been accepted. Earlier,
Wicca was allowed as a religion identifier on dog tags, and Wiccan troops can
hold religious services on base. Despite that, it took a lawsuit to get the
government to allow soldiers to be recognized as Wiccan in military cemeteries.
Other established religions protested partly because, all of them are based, in
part, on their success in replacing the older "pagan" religions. The scriptures
of the established religions are full of material on combating religions
similar to Wicca. It is something of an insult to have people returning to the
ancient beliefs. But the U.S. is based on religious tolerance, and this
includes a broad array of beliefs.