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The word "Witchcraft," for most, conjures mental images of pointed hats, broomsticks, and bubbling cauldrons filled with green goo. Witches are thought to be part of the past, and anyone who claims they are one must be delusional, right?
The little-known fact of the matter is this; witchcraft is a rich spiritual practice that is still very much embraced, in one form or another, by Americans. Now, there are a few basics that one must know about modern Witchcraft:
Witchcraft is not a religion.
It can be practiced in tandem with different religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. Wicca is a particular branch of Witchcraft with its own religious tenets. Wicca is a form of Witchcraft, but not all Witchcraft is Wicca.
It's all about energies and nature.
The "magic" part of Witchcraft has less to do with shooting electricity from your fingertips than it does with being attuned to the energies of others, nature, objects, and yourself. One of the main beliefs in Witchcraft is that everything contains energy. For example, certain plants and crystals contain calming energies. These objects can be used to help calm someone if they find themselves in an especially anxious mood. The use and manipulation of energies is a central part of Witchcraft.
It is neither good nor bad, it just is.
The stereotype that Witchcraft is an "evil" or "satanic" practice is almost completely false. I say almost because each person's Craft is different than the next, meaning if one so chose they could limit their practice to negative or destructive Magick. The vast majority of Witchcraft is positive and used for self-improvement.
So, why has such a practice seen a resurgence in American within the last decade? In a society so heavily ruled by technology, Witchcraft can seem lackluster and old-fashioned in comparison. Are people drawn to it because it provides an escape from modern culture? Are they drawn to the dark and mysterious aesthetic of it? Do they use it as a way to rebel? The answers vary from person to person. As a longtime Witchcraft practitioner and blogger, here is what I've found from those in the Witchcraft community.
"I was inexplicably drawn to it."
I hear this from many Witches. Sometimes people have an innate fascination with the mysterious or macabre, and Witches are usually one of the first such figures that American children are exposed to. Some become fascinated, not only by the mythology of Witches but by the historical components, like the infamous Salem Witch Trials which took place in the late 1600s in Salem, Massachusetts. Because of the integration of Witches into American culture, it's no wonder that some grow up with an interest in Witchcraft.
"I wanted to be apart of a community."
The Witchcraft community is a vast one, especially online, and surprisingly harmonious. Within any spiritual practice, there will be various opinions, beliefs, and preferences. This has the potential to cause rifts and divide a community, but the majority of the Witchcraft community understands that Witchcraft is a general and malleable practice that can be shaped to fit every Witch's comfort level and needs. Because of this, there exists a general acceptance within the Witchcraft community.
"It makes me feel powerful and in control."
This is the reason why I got involved in Witchcraft. After living with anxiety and depression for many years and feeling pretty helpless and out of control, learning about and practicing Witchcraft helped me feel safe, powerful, and stable. It also allowed me to become connected to nature and the energies of the world. Because Witchcraft helps one to have a way to control their own energies as well as the energies around them it creates a sense of power and fearlessness that many lack. This is especially important for those with mental illness, those who have survived abuse, those who are disabled, and people of color.
There are hundreds of other reasons that people choose to practice Witchcraft, but what does that have to do with modern America? For starters, many young people in America feel discarded and powerless. We live in a time where around 70% of college students graduate with tuition loan debt and only about 27% of college graduates obtain a job in their field after graduation. Earning money and becoming financially stable has become increasingly more difficult for young people in America.
The battle for social justice has become increasingly heated in recent years and has put people of color and LGBT+ people in dangerous positions within our society. Because of the lack of safety for these groups in public, the online community has become a battleground for the spread of information. It's obvious why Witchcraft would speak to oppressed groups like these. It provides a sense of control in an unstable and uncontrollable society.
Witchcraft is also unabashedly feminist. Women face many uncertainties in the world today. Even in America, reproductive rights are slowly being stripped away, equal pay continues to be an issue, and trans women are belittled, denied basic freedoms, and even murdered on an almost daily basis. Feminism is a concept that is embraced in Witchcraft, which has long been considered a female-centric practice. This is not to say that men can not practice Witchcraft, they absolutely can, but there is an undeniable aspect of gender equality and female worship in many kinds of Witchcraft.
All of these factors have influenced young people to embrace Witchcraft, and while they are political, social, and economic, they are not any different from the reasons why people choose to practice more "traditional" or "established" religions or spiritualities. Belief systems are meant to provide comfort, nourish kindness and empathy, build community, and ignite passion. Witchcraft does all of these things in a way that makes sense to young Americans.