Wiccans Keep the Faith With a Religion Under Wraps
Written by: Neela Banerjee (Published: May 16, 2007; New York Times)
In accordance to the American Religious Identification Survey conducted in 2001 by the University of New York, Wicca is the fastest growing religion within the United States. However, many practitioners instead choose to hide this fact in fear of their own safety, and losing their loved ones or jobs due to the negative stigmas and attitudes surrounding Wicca. Wicca, a neo-pagan religion that primarily centers itself on the worship of nature and spirits, gained momentum around the mid 1950’s when Gerald Gardner brought attention to the religion in his book, The High Magic’s Aid. Although the existence of many different neo-pagan religions can be seen today, centrally, the proponent of many of these groups places heavy importance on nature and its worship. Another feature uniquely tied to this group’s identity surrounds the use of witchcraft as instruments of personal and global transformation and fulfillment.
In summary of the article, It may seem that such concerns regarding Wicca primarily stems from the discouragement of dominant religions, as common practices and beliefs associated to Wicca deviate from “mainstream” religious systems and beliefs. Realistic depictions of witches and witchcraft are still unfortunately connected to past connotations, where practices and beliefs are often linked to satanic rituals and evil. For example, the five star pentagrams, a symbol closely associated and tied to Wiccan practices and beliefs, representing the elemental forces within nature, is often confused with symbols of Satanism. The misconceptions of this fast, growing religion are still very prevalent within today’s society as they are often falsely seen for what they are not.
What makes this new religious group so different from the existing religions we see today’s society? Why has Wicca been so successful in attracting people? In response to these questions, one of the many reasons why Wicca is flourishing can be attributed to its egalitarian principles and ethics. By removing itself from patriarchal attitudes of many mainstream religions, it promotes and embodies gender equality, most importantly that of women, and their growing roles within society. The lack of dogma as well often caters to this idea of it being an open religion, allowing Wiccan’s to practice without fear of repercussions and rejection from such issues such as one’s sexual orientation, etc. It’s also very easily accessible to individuals. Practices and rituals can be done in the convenience of the individual, abdicating the importance of religious authorities and institutions that are often tied to other religions. It’s a religion that removes itself from the hypocrisy of churches and that instead allows Wiccan’s to engage and practice freely and openly. Although coined a new religious movement, it draws upon ancient concepts of nature worship and is in essence, polytheistic, allowing for multiple worships in other deities. However, in order to combat such stigmatizing views surrounding Wicca itself, we must first change the portrayal of how witches and witchcraft are seen particularly within the media. The media alone falsely accuses and draws upon negative images of witches that are old and ethnocentric in perspective.