Number of People Practicing Wicca, Paganism Growing Dramatically
The number of people who identify religiously as Wiccan has seen a meteoric rise in the United States, according to census data and a study conducted by Trinity College. Some attribute this witchy surge to an increased interest in astrology and the esoteric, while others say it’s clearly a sign of the times. Whatever the case may be, appropriation and corporate attempts to monetize the trend abound.
According to a study collected by Trinity College between 1990 and 2008, identification with Wicca in the U.S. increased from 8,000 to 340,000 members over the 18-year period.
And that trend continues today, with a 2014 Pew Research Study finding the number of people who identified as Wiccan or Pagan jumped to close to a million people. And yes, there is a difference between Wicca and Paganism, but for the sake of making a point about the demographic, let’s consider them together.
The reason the two have grown so significantly may be due to a breakdown of misconceptions about what these religions actually stand for, many of which have been falsely spread by the church in the past. Unlike the evil stereotypes that have historically been cast on witches and pagans, millennials understand these practices have a reverence for nature, are polytheistic, and averse to the strict dogmas of mainstream religions.
Wicca has no centralized, authoritative body and embraces a number of diverse sects, lineages, and traditions – of course, this generation finds it appealing.
If you haven’t heard recent claims of pop-stars practicing Wicca, or stories of hexes placed on political figures, then this sudden spike in witchcraft may come as a surprise. But for those aware, the recent occult fascination makes sense. In fact, the rise in the number of witchcraft practitioners may have outpaced certain Christian denominations, including Presbyterianism, according to some sources.
But these situations have always presented themselves as a clarion call to corporations looking to profit from a newfound lifestyle interest, leading to cultural or religious appropriation seen in tone deaf marketing and advertising.
A recent article published by Quartz, shows how the cosmetics brand Sephora, was called out for its sale of a “Starter Witch Kit,” which included essential oils and a sage stick to jumpstart the aspiring witchy neophyte. The company quickly pulled the product after true Wiccans expressed their disapproval.
And it’s not just corporations that get it wrong when it comes to esoteric spirituality. Earlier this year we interviewed a couple who run Mountain Magic Tarot in Richlands Virginia – a shop that was told it could not practice tarot readings due to a misperception that it was hostile to the town’s mostly Christian population.
It seems inevitable though, that if you’re going to practice any religion – especially one historically thought to be synonymous with evil – someone will misconstrue your philosophy. Let’s change that paradigm.
To learn more about Wicca and its philosophy check out this episode of Beyond Belief with former-rockstar-turned-witch Fiona Horne:
Goddess Mythology Throughout the Ages
Mythological gods and goddesses have long symbolized the eternal heaven within human beings. This is how cultures connect to and move through life in a way that enables them to make sense of their surroundings and circumstances and move beyond what often is a hard physical reality.
Cultures throughout time have embraced and worshipped the image of a mother goddess for a variety of reasons. Mainly, she is looked to as a symbol for abundance, fertility, kindness, family, marriage, good harvests, and good fortune. Traits ascribed to these lovely beings, such as femininity and womanhood, have also represented hearth, home, family, fertility, compassion, strength, and loving-kindness throughout the centuries. Others, like the Norse giantess Hel and the Egyptian goddess Isis, represent the darker sides of life — the underworld, death, magic healing, and guiding the fates of men.
History of Goddess Worship
Goddess or woman worship began around the Paleolithic period (2.5 million years ago to 10,000 BCE), which is humanity’s longest recorded time on Earth. Archaeological digs unearthed artifacts dating back to this time period, the most frequent of which is Venus, believed to have been carved between 24,000 to 22,000 BCE.
The next period to follow was the Neolithic, in which more carved goddess figurines were unearthed and appear to date back 10,000 years. This era was when farming became standard practice, and figurines from this time period most likely represented fertility and offerings to ensure ample harvest.
The Egyptians were also at the forefront of goddess culture, beginning with their Nagada culture. Quite a few murals depict a goddess figure standing between two lionesses. Lionesses were a symbol of good motherhood. Earth, moon, sky, and primordial waters were also associated with the feminine and the care-giving powers therein. Egyptians worshipped many gods and goddesses, but the most prominent of the female figures in Egyptian mythology was Isis and Hathor. These traditions were then passed to other cultures.