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Puzzling religious symbol found at reservoir

News editor

A circle-encased star discovered last week at Marion Reservoir, crafted from sticks and with candle stubs and melted wax at its center, offers only mystery as to its creator and purpose, but a local expert cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

A pentagram about four feet in diameter was found April 13, laid out in the dirt of a lightly-used parking area in the woods where 210th Rd. dead ends at the west shore of the reservoir. Two days later it had been obliterated.

Richard Kyle, Tabor College professor emeritus of religion and history, wrote “The Religious Fringe,” a widely-read 1993 text about alternative religions.

While Kyle described associations of pentagrams with belief systems such as Wicca and Satanism, he said it was impossible to know from the symbol alone who or what might have been behind it.

“Before I drew conclusions that this is some kind of Satanic group around here, I’d have to see more than that,” he said. “The problem is that people do exaggerate this stuff and sensationalize it.”

Kyle was the go-to expert for a Wichita television station in the 1970s when mutilated animals were discovered in Marion County, he said. The finds coincided with a general resurgence of interest in the occult in the 60s and 70s, he said.

“I would say the local sheriff at that time downplayed it because you don’t want to start a panic that there are Satanists running around,” Kyle said. “It was very clear they wanted it downplayed.”

Pentagrams hold varied meanings for different belief systems, Kyle said, and can represent good or evil, depending on the context in which they are used.

That can lead to misunderstanding, particularly related to Wicca, a nature-focused belief in which many practitioners are considered to be witches.

“There’s a big difference between witchcraft and Satanism,” Kyle said. “Wicca and witchcraft get very upset being classified as Satanists. They are a throwback to what you call the ancient religion, the pre-Christian religion of Europe. It’s primarily nature worship. They don’t even believe there’s a Satan to start with.”

Perceptions of witches as evil likely have their roots in the developed of what Kyle termed as “diabolical witchcraft” in the Middle Ages.

“They did have links with the devil, but that’s not what modern-day witchcraft or Wicca is about,” he said.

However, lacking any other information or evidence, it’s anybody’s guess as to who was behind the pentagram at the reservoir, Kyle said.

“It could well have been some kid just messing around,” he said.

Last modified April 21, 2016

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