Graveyard magic: Call of the Cauldron club teaches graveyard etiquette at Graceland Cemetery

By Kimberly Kapela, Staff Reporter

Alex Kropp, club leader and filmmaking major, takes time to appreciate the beauty of the graveyard, using their camera to take photos of the scenic landscape. Bianca Kreusel

Angels carved into gravestones, mausoleums and ivy-adorned gates greeted Columbia’s witchcraft club Call of the Cauldron at its graveyard etiquette event held at Graceland Cemetery.

Created in the Spring 2020 semester, Call of the Cauldron is a club dedicated to creating a space for witchcraft and spiritual practitioners no matter their experience level. The club is a safe haven for occultists to talk to one another and share their knowledge and history of witchcraft.

Karel Ramirez, a junior television major and the social media coordinator for Call of the Cauldron, works with crystals and celebrates pagan holidays as part of her spiritual practice which centers around nature.

Ramirez organized the April 29 event as an educational opportunity for members to be aware of rituals surrounding graveyards and how to properly respect gravestones. She got the idea of visiting graveyards with respectful intentions from her mother.

“We are entering a sacred place where it is the resting place of so many people,” Ramirez said. “You have to be respectful in that area; it’s like entering a church or synagogue. Practicing graveyard etiquette is just for people to know that graveyards are not a scary place, and they are a resting place. You need to be kind and respectful when it comes to entering, but at the same time you need to protect yourself.”

Ramirez’s advice for graveyard etiquette includes asking spirits for permission to enter the site.

“That permission at times requires you to leave stuff at the entrance of the graveyard, such as alcohol, pennies and coins,” Ramirez said. “Some people leave those things on certain graves as a peace offering. It’s best to behave in that place.”

The William McKibben Sanger monument at Graceland Cemetery shows a praying woman and Celtic medallions on the cross. This is one of the many monuments in the cemetery. Bianca Kreusel

The graveyard etiquette event helped raise awareness that graveyards are sacred places to visit and celebrate.

“Our goal is to not make graveyards scary,” Ramirez said. “We’re just trying to erase that stigma.”

The club chose Graceland Cemetery because of its historically rich origins, and it’s said to be one of the most haunted locations in Chicago.

“Graceland has a few graves that are notorious for being haunted, and it’s such a great location,” Ramirez said.

Some members of Cauldron practice “veiling” in graveyards. Veiling refers to the practice of wearing a headscarf to hide one’s head or hair to cover their crown chakra, protecting against other energies from interfering with their own.

Carlene Sonnefeldt, a freshman film and television major and member of Call of the Cauldron, works with Hellenic pantheon deities and is an animist who believes that every object has a soul.

Sonnefeldt said they grew up on summer camp stories of holding your breath while passing a graveyard.

“Generally, don’t tread on gravestones, don’t be rude, don’t litter,” Sonnefeldt said.

Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N. Clark St., holds many famous and important Chicago figures, including athletes and politicians. Bianca Kreusel

Alex Kropp, a junior film major and the club’s communications director, SOC representative and one of the original founders for Cauldron, is a Wiccan and Satanist who practices witchcraft.

Kropp said they enjoy going to cemeteries to admire the graves and perform seances — practices to communicate with the dead — with fellow Wiccan practitioners.

“Every culture has very specific ways to honor the dead, and that’s being respectful of other people’s cultures,” Kropp said. “You wouldn’t go to someone’s church and start spray painting the walls.”

Kropp said basic etiquette includes not running around and breaking gravestones, avoiding trespassing into graveyards when they’re closed and not littering on the grounds as respect to the dead.

“It’s not even about knowledge that you already have. It’s learning more in the first place, and knowledge is power,” Kropp said.

Alongside working to dismantle stereotypes associated with witchcraft, the club touches on practices such as crystal healing and astrology, while providing educational resources on pagan holidays and the origins of witchcraft and broomsticks.

If you would like to learn more about Call of the Cauldron, you can visit their page on the Engage Portal and follow them on Instagram.