In the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of people asking very simple questions on the internet about witchcraft and paganism. “How I can get in touch with the element of air? What offering should I make for Aphrodite? What should I do on the full moon? What’s a spell for self-love? Do I have to be Wiccan to be a witch?” This trend seems to be increasing as the pandemic continues.
Asking questions online isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it seems as if the people who ask them have never read a book on witchcraft or paganism before. As tempted as I am to ask them whether they’ve read any books, I hold my tongue. Seekers come in all forms, and the new generation of witches and pagans, which might be younger than ever before, could be limited to using the internet for all of their research.
Let’s take a step back and consider how access to pagan and witchcraft books is a privilege. Not everyone was born into a witchcraft family. Many of us started out as magical children in a non-magical household with no witchy or pagan books in their homes. But guess what is in most homes? The internet.
And even though there are free books to borrow from libraries, many libraries have a hard time curtailing theft of witchcraft and pagan books. Furthermore, the pandemic has reduced access to brick-and-mortar bookstores and all of the free browsing that used to happen there–if they even carried witchy books in the first place, which they definitely should.
To further complicate things, a young witchling might not have enough money to buy books. Even if they did, they may not feel safe enough to do so. Some families are hostile to the mere concept of witchcraft, much less the study and practice of it.
With the need for privacy, a free source of information, and the added concerns of safety and public health, the internet seems like the only option. It’s much safer to read about things online while using a made-up name and on a device that can be programmed to instantly forget internet history.
These days, new witches can read as much as they want on the internet. There are blogs, websites, and even free-source historical books that can be downloaded onto a phone or tablet. New practitioners can read to their heart’s content on all kinds of subjects.
Is there misinformation on the internet? Of course! There are good websites and bad ones–there’s accurate information as well as misinformation and Unverified Professional Gnosis which usually isn’t marked as such. Many times, it’s intermingled, with solid facts right next to hyperbolic revisions of myths, so it’s hard to tell what’s fact and what’s not.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that some witchcraft and pagan books have misinformation as well. This occurred a lot in the golden age of witchcraft, but it’s even true with recently published books. One author who published in 2018 promotes the widely disputed notion that Wicca is a centuries-old practice, despite the lack of proof.
But what’s most interesting to me about this trend is that the questions from new witches and pagan could easily be answered by a simple internet search. I’m sure many new practitioners do search for these answers, but it’s possible that there’s so much information on the internet that it’s hard to say what’s good and what’s not.
When we see new witches asking strangers online or internet friends for information, this shows they trust the people who are active in their virtual communities more than they trust a basic internet search. They’re using their contemporary elders to try to find the best information, which is endearing. In a way, that makes us all in their flexible, virtual coven.
I feel this human-connection is really special, and it harkens back to the time before there were so many books on witchcraft and paganism–so in some ways, we’ve come full circle. We’ve leveled up on another spiral of witchcraft with the next generations.
So although the research methods of these new magical practitioners may not look like ours, it’s no less valuable or meaningful. Their techno-heavy witchcraft practice is still valid. In fact, it might be the way of the future.