It’s a great time to be a Witch. And I’m not talking about the month being October or that Samhain will be celebrated soon. We feel that in the energy as the veil thins. Hail the Witch’s celebration! Hail to the Ancestors — May we remember and honor them well.
Rather, I’m referring to the continuing momentum toward witchcraft as a practice or spiritual path that has been happening over the past several decades. I’m talking about the many podcasts (including 3 Pagans and a Cat), books, and social media outlets available for those interested in learning more about Witches, Wiccans, Pagans, and our spiritual paths and practices.
Sure, There Are Difficulties That Come With Popularity
There is still a stigma with the word “witch” throughout the country, especially in rural sectors. There are many Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans living in the “broom closet” for a variety of reasons. In various parts of the world, it is dangerous to be a Witch. Mainstream interest even in America does not guarantee acceptance. Rather, it is more like an acknowledgment that we exist. We remain part of society, no matter how some may be inclined to portray us.
And yes, seasoned Witches, teachers, and leaders do still have to correct misinformation being promoted about our deities, traditions, practices, or beliefs. But let’s be honest. That is not really new. The witchcraft community has always had to deal with hucksters, frauds, and those sharing bad information. Or people using the trappings of mysticism to make a quick buck. That is part and parcel with living on “the fringe,” unfortunately.
In my opinion, this means as Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans, those of us who use our skills as diviners, occult store owners, etc., that we conduct ourselves with a higher standard. We teach new practitioners to discern UPG (unverified personal gnosis) from historical mythology. Instruct people how to weed out useful information from what’s bad or questionable in their research (that we encourage them to do). And then we do what we do — practice witchcraft.
The Witch In The 20th & 21st Centuries
Now, what got me thinking on this happened to be the 2018 Christian Post article citing Witches Outnumber Presbyterians In The US; Paganism Growing “Astronomically.” I’ll admit those words still give me a frisson of glee when I read them. I’m not even sure why that two-year-old post appeared in my Facebook feed. But it led me to the Quartz article that inspired the previous.
Starting with the uptick of interest through astrology, crystals, Tarot, et al., among Millenials, the authors of the article (Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz & Dan Kopf) move into data collected about Wicca from 1990-2008 by Trinity College.
The survey showed growth from 8,000 Wiccans in 1990 to 340,000 in 2008. Professing Pagans also numbered around 340,000 in 2008. The Pew Research Center ran its own survey in 2014. From the Quartz article: “It found that 0.4% of Americans, or around 1 to 1.5 million people, identify as Wicca or Pagan—which suggests continued robust growth for the communities.” And in my opinion, the number is probably higher when adding those who identify as Witch without being Pagan or Wiccan.
Now, to be fair those numbers are not agreed upon by all researchers. Pew may have been combining Wicca and Paganism with New Age practitioners. However, according to an article in The Atlantic (March 2020 edition – Why Witchcraft is on the Rise), interest in witchcraft tends to follow feminist trends: “In the 19th century, as transcendentalism and the women’s-suffrage movement took hold, witches enjoyed the beginnings of a rebranding—from wicked devil-worshippers to intuitive wise women. Woodstock and second-wave feminism were a boon for witches, whose popularity spiked again following the Anita Hill hearings in the ’90s, and again after Donald Trump’s election and alongside the #MeToo movement.”
Witchcraft For All
The article goes on to state that while more women tend to be drawn to witchcraft, men are also becoming practitioners, as are people of color, queer and transgender folx. Also, Millennials who feel disenfranchised from traditional religion, the “system”, or are drawn to the mystical side of spirituality. Magickal resistance is a draw for those who feel powerless to create change through traditional political or social justice outlets.
Strange as it may seem, I believe the interest which Millenials and others have brought (regardless of the introduction) has encouraged (maybe forced?) magickal communities (Wiccan, Pagan, et al) to re-examine “traditional” beliefs, ritual practices, and has created discussion of gender roles and inclusion within the Craft and Paganism. This has also brought awareness of cultural appropriation vs appreciation, racism within our communities, abuses of power, etc. While these conversations are not comfortable, I do believe they are necessary.
Additionally, there are now more opportunities to learn, grow, and express your true self which is part of the reason many of us begin practicing the Craft in the first place. We awaken to what we have known about ourselves all along.
So what if some people are more into the look, the witchiness, the energy, or the “spookiness.” As mentioned, we do need to be watching out for bad teaching or misunderstanding about various practices but I cannot help but feel this forward momentum can or will continue to serve the community for years to come. Like I said, it’s a great time to be a Witch.
But It’s Hard To “Witch” During Covid!
I’m stating the obvious in saying 2020 has been hard on people, worldwide. Everyone is exhausted from all of the societal upheaval (especially for those of us in the United States during this election season), health challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, losses of life and livelihood, etc. We have all lost something this year. But that does not negate the reality that witchcraft and paganism practices/paths/traditions are thriving as a whole, all the challenges in the world be damned.
For me, it is devotional and witchcraft practices that have kept me going these long months. Resulting in taking on students, recording the podcast with my family, performing Tarot readings for my online clients, and now monthly fire-pit rituals with my family as well.
For others, it may be engaging within a social media group, creating witchy content for TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube. Participating in online rituals or group spellcasting. Or maybe some folks need a rest from everything. Sometimes we need to navigate through a magickal fallow period. We are all finding ways to live in spite of the “The Rona.” A magickal practice can be a way for some to strengthen and heal.
We Will Get Past These Troubling Times.
As Witches, we are Earth’s Wise Ones. And the “witchcraft trend” in American culture is doing more to help us in that endeavor than one might think. Because exposure means more avenues of learning, ability to connect, build understanding of who we are and what we do (and yes, I’m including the knowledge and ability to both heal or hex in that description), overcome prejudice, fear, and stereotypes.
So whether you are a beginning Witch or a seasoned practitioner, love you some pretty stones and oracle cards, are living in the “broom closet” or “out”wearing a pentacle with pride in front of your Christian grandma—celebrate this time of witchy freedom. Because you’re a Witch and it’s a great time to be one!