Little Witches

Wicca, witchcraft, and other forms of neopaganism are collectively one of the fastest-growing religions around. Among the swelling ranks of the pagan are an ever-increasing number of teenagers, and while they’re occasionally cringe-worthy in their unbridled, youthful exuberance (and tendency to try and turn their religion of choice into a 24/7 lifestyle), there is, quite simply, power in numbers (as witnessed by Patrick Stewart and his family’s recent victory against the Veteran’s Administration.)

The Independent in the UK ran an article yesterday on the phenomenon of youthful neopagans. Nothing too shocking in it – somewhat cynically, 700,000 websites sounds a little low; what, we haven’t hit a million yet? – but it does thoughtfully point out two of the biggest selling points, as it were, of Wicca and contemporary witchcraft as (almost!) organized religions – as Professor Denise Cush puts it, the “lack of homophobia… and positive valuation of women.”

These two things might not sound like a big deal, as virtues go, until you consider that they’re positively inclusive of more than half the population – a demographic majority excluded to greater or lesser degrees from the more traditional choices of faith. Honesty, pragmatism, and disorganization only get neopaganism so far; not treating women, gays, or anyone, for that matter, as inherently inferior does much of the rest.

Lest you walk away from the article thinking that people are becoming witches because of television shows like Buffy or Charmed, know that it’s not true. What those and other shows have done is introduce people to neopaganism, however briefly. It could be worse; Alyson Hannigan, as Willow in Buffy, is a far more, erm, attractive introduction to witchcraft than some of the more traditional options – like, yes, role-playing games, which were (and still are, probably) often blamed as benign “gateways” to Satanism and demon-worship by the old-school, hellfire-and-damnation kind of evangelical zealot. It wasn’t true; people became neopagans back then for the same reasons they do now – because something or another in the religion appeals to them, provides some thing or things the more conventional options lack.

Something worth mentioning, which the Independent article doesn’t, is that Wiccan, witchcraft, and neopaganism don’t prosletyze. At all. Ever. People who come to paganism do so because they were actively looking for answers, not because they were hunted down and sold a bill of goods by a self-centered hypocrite. That means, dear reader, that those 700,000, or one million, or however many neopagan websites are almost exclusively aimed at other neopagans. Repetitious? Duplicative? Certainly. But, nonetheless, a rapidly-growing resource for a rapidly-growing group of disparate religions.

Published in: General | on May 21st, 2007| 1 Comment »

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  1. On 5/24/2007 at 9:54 am Mike Said:

    Good points.
    I get so tired of hearing that TV shows and Harry Potter are the reason that Wicca and Paganism are growing. I guess saying something like that is much easier than actually looking into the religion and seeing what it is that so many people are getting out of it.