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TEENS AND WICCA

Why (and how many) youth are drawn to Wicca

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Why are so many teens drawn to Wicca?

Youth often go through a period of spiritual searching. They sometimes abandon the religion of their parents, and seek a different religious group or spiritual movement that is more suited to their beliefs. Some of the factors in Wicca that they might find attractive are:

bulletLack of sexist beliefs and practices: A common principle in many Wiccan traditions is the equality between the sexes. Both men and women are viewed as having their female and male side. Each person has the task of balancing the two. Within Wicca, the female principle is considered as powerful and sometimes even more important than the male. 

Wiccans commune with the Goddess and the God. Many teens reject the male domination seen in many Christian denominations -- particularly in Roman Catholicism and in some faith groups within the conservative wing of Protestantism. Here, positions of power and authority are reserved for men. Wiccans view the female and male principle in balance everywhere in the universe.
bulletConcern for the environment: Like all other aboriginal and aboriginal-based religions, Wiccans are deeply concerned about the environment. They strongly respect and care for the earth itself, and all of its species of animals and plants. They feel closely tuned to the cycles of nature and to the earth itself. They reject the concept, mentioned in Genesis 1:28, that mankind is to subdue the earth and to dominate all of its living creatures. They feel that humans should live in cooperation with other species and with the universe.
bulletPublic perception of Wicca: Wicca is becoming more acceptable to teens because the public's perception of Wicca/Witchcraft has improved over the past centuries:
bulletIn the period circa 1450 to 1792 CE, the Christian churches committed a great deal of their effort into obtaining a religious monopoly in Europe. This involved rounding up individuals that they thought were Witches and burning them alive.
bulletOver the next two centuries, the concept of the evil and dangerous Witch was preserved in many children's nursery rhymes and taught within many Christian denominations. This continues today.
bulletMore recently, a series of TV programs have shown women involved in various magical pursuits:
bulletBewitched showed an attractive mother and her daughter using their magical powers for positive purposes. It is now in syndication.
bulletMelissa Joan Hart plays Sabrina, the teen-aged Witch. 
bulletSarah Michelle Gellar plays Buffy the vampire slayer.
bulletIn the initial cast, Shannon Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano played three young adults who are sisters in Charmed -- a program "that weaves daily life with the supernatural." One episode was titled "Something Wicca This Way Comes" Shannon has since been replaced by Rose McGowan.

Although these programs have very little to do with Wicca. they do include positive portrayals of women practicing various forms of magic.

bulletPortrayal of Witches in Hollywood movies is generally negative. 1 However, a few movies have scenes that contain accurate segments. Two Witches in the Wizard of Oz were shown in a positive light. The Wicker Man portrayed a Pagan island off the coast of Scotland. Although much of the story shows Neopagan themes, it ends with a human sacrifice which is definitely not Wiccan! A popular recent movie, "The Craft" (Columbia, 1996), accurately showed the Wiccan owner of a New Age/Magic store. The rest of the movie, involving teen age women engaging in domination and manipulation, was totally unrelated to Wicca. Still, it probably generated a great deal of interest in Wicca (a.k.a. The Craft) among teenagers.
bulletTV documentaries and news items involving Wicca have supplied the public with more-or-less accurate descriptions of Wicca and other Neopagan traditions.
bulletIn recent years, Wiccans have been coming out of the [broom] closet and demanding the religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. and Canadian constitutions. Conflicts over Wiccans in the military and the wearing of Wiccan religious jewelry (pentacles) in public high schools have been well covered in the media. With each article and program, more cowans (non-Wiccans) learn aditional details about Wicca.
bulletMorality: Many young people view traditional moral beliefs of the dominant religions to be excessively restrictive. This is particularly true in the case of sexual morality. Remaining a virgin until marriage was easier to accomplish in previous eras when the time interval between the onset of puberty and marriage was only a few years -- perhaps only a few months. But, in recent decades, the menarche and its resultant hormonal overload has occurred earlier, while the average age at marriage has increased greatly. The gap between puberty and marriage is approaching 15 years; less than 10% of brides and grooms are virgins at their first marriage. Most have lived together before tying the knot.

The Wiccan religion does not have a list of "thou shalt nots." It has a single, universal rule of behavior: the Wiccan Rede. This states "An it harm none, do as thou wilt." i.e. do whatever you want as long as it harms nobody including yourself. The decision whether to become sexually active before marriage is thus not banned by an absolute prohibition. A Wiccan makes her/his decision is based on an analytical process which determines the potential for harm to either party. Instead of pre-marital sex being prohibited, it is can be seen as a morally positive activity in some circumstances, as long as precautions are first taken to avoid pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, health problems, negative effects on the relationship, and damage to each person's self-esteem.
bulletPersonal involvement: Some youth are unhappy with the church of their parents because direct participation is lacking. They view the minister performing rituals and the congregation passively watching. In Wicca, they have the opportunity to perform rituals either alone as a solitary practitioner, or as a member of a coven. They often create rituals of their own -- a function that is inconceivable in many other religions.
bulletLack of discrimination:  Many teenagers are repulsed by the current level of discrimination within some Christian churches in the areas of gender, sexual orientation, religious belief, and marital status. They see Wicca as being more tolerant, more accepting of diversity, and promoting a higher standard of morality than many Christian denominations.
bulletFlexibility: A Wiccan can cast a circle and perform other rituals either alone or within a group. They can do this in any location on earth. It can be performed inside or out of doors, at any time of day and any day of the year. They can concentrate on whichever parts of Wicca that interest them. Some stress spells; others divination. Some concentrate on healing rituals; others on worship.
bulletQuest for power: Many teens are at least initially attracted to Wicca for all the wrong reasons. They believe some of the propaganda in movies about Witchcraft:
bulletThey expect that they will learn spells that will enable them to gain control over their lives; they will be able to dominate, manipulate, and control other people. 
bulletThey assume that Wiccans all wear all-black clothing and scare their friends with threats of curses.

Many teenagers with these beliefs drift away from Wicca as soon as they learn what it is truly about -- that any form of manipulation or harm to others is forbidden. However, some to stay long enough to realize that Wicca is a religious and spiritual path with a lot to offer a minority of people. They learn that Wicca path is for personal spiritual growth, and not for impressing others.

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How many Wiccan youth are there?

There is no method by which an accurate estimate can be made of the number of Wiccans in North America. Phyllis Curott, author of an autobiographical Wiccan journal "Book of Shadows" is reported as estimating the number in the U.S. as 3 to 5 million. 2 This seems high. Because of the decentralized nature of the religion, no records are kept of the Wiccan population. However, various attempts to estimate the number have been based on book sales and the numbers of visitors to Wiccan festivals. U.S. estimates of 250,000 to 400,000 Wiccans are typical. 

Estimating the number of Wiccan youth is even less accurate. However, there are some indications that the total number of members is large and is growing quickly:

bulletSilver Ravenwolf recently wrote a book: "Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation." 3 It was published by Llewellyn Publications, a publishing company that specializes in Wiccan, New Age and magick books. Llewellyn Publicist Jamie Schumacher reports that Teen Witch has sold more copies than any other book in their 95 year history. 4
bulletDanny Aguirre is a spokesperson for the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. 5 SCP is an Evangelical Christian non-profit organization that is part of the counter-cult movement. They are heavily motivated to draw people away from Wicca and other new religious movements, because they believe that only through faith in Jesus Christ can people be delivered from eternal torture in Hell. Their bias against other faith groups is obvious from the term "spiritual counterfeits" in their name. Their role is to monitor "new religions and spiritual trends" and to analyze them from a conservative Christian "biblical perspective."

Aguirre reported that: "In the last six months, I have received more inquiries about Wicca than any other religion in the 10 years I have worked here." He mentioned that the callers are "all teen-age girls."

bulletThe Witch's Voice website, 6 was once the most heavily visited religious site on the Internet according to Hitbox.com. A survey of their visitors revealed that 60% were under 30 years of age; 62% were female. 
bulletThis author has noticed an increase in recent years of:
bulletThe percentage of small bookstores carrying Wiccan and other Neopagan books
bulletThe percentage of Wiccan books in bookstores' New Age section
bulletThe numbers of Emails received by this website from teenagers with questions about Wicca
bulletMedia reports of the number of conflicts between Wiccan students in public high schools and their school boards over the wearing of pentacles as religious jewelry.

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References:

  1. Ashlynn's Grove has reviews of selected films with Pagan and/or Occult themes at: http://paganism.com/ag/articles/films2.html 
  2. Phyllis Curott, "Book of Shadows: A modern woman's journey into the wisdom of witchcraft and the magic of the Goddess," Broadway books, (1999). This book is written in the form of an autobiographical Wiccan's journal as she transitions from her legal world of facts and evidence into the Witch's world of imagination and spirituality. You can read reviews or buy this book.
  3. "Teen Witch: Wicca for a new generation," Llewellyn, (1999). If you can get past the book's truly awful cover, the contents give an excellent introduction to Wicca for youths, and some guidance for parents. You can read reviews and/or safely order this book from Amazon.com
  4. Catherine Edwards, "Wicca casts spell on teen-age girls," Insight Magazine, 1999-OCT. 
  5. Spiritual Counterfeits Project has a web site at: http://www.scp-inc.org/ They have a counseling hotline at access@scp-inc.org or (510) 540-5767.
  6. The Witch's Voice has a website at: http://www.witchvox.com/

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Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Wicca > Wiccan teens > here

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Copyright © 1999 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-FEB-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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