Witchcraft in the postModern World

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o, what do we have in the way of modern witches at the dawn of the twenty-first century? There are those I've called Neoclassic Witches, who are herbalists and tarot card readers, and sometimes mid-wives, patterning themselves, consciously or unconsciously, after the Classic Witches.

Unfortunately, we also have Neogothic Witches, dressing in black robes and frightening the locals, attempting to fulfill Catholic and Fundamentalist expectations and annoying most other modern Satanists (who are far too arrogant to call themselves "mere witches" of any sort).

We even have some folks attempting to create forms of Neoshamanic Witchcraft, whether inspired by Zell's theory (mentioned in Chapter 3) or else just using the currently vague New Age concepts of shamanism combined with Wicca. It's ironic that, while authentic shamanism is about as nitty-gritty and practical as a magical system can get, the modern (Neo-)Shamanic Witches tend to be the "fluffiest" of "fluffy bunny Pagans" (those delicate souls who believe in, "Nature pink in gum and paw").

But the largest numbers by far, dwarfing those of all the other categories put together, are the overlapping communities of Neopagan and Feminist Witches, of whom there may well be over a million by now.

Defining who is or isn't a "real" member of these communities for statistical purposes is a complex task that changes the final tallies dramatically (see my Neopagan-ism: A Concise Guide for details on the difficulties). Nonetheless, our numbers will only grow in the coming decades, as our population seems (to us long-time observers) to have doubled in size every four or five years. Considering the many popular books about Wicca and Goddess Worship still filling the bookstore shelves long after the "fad" was supposed to be "over," I see no sign of this growth slowing down. The recent arrival of books about us in Spanish, French, Russian, and other languages, indicates that this family of religions is just getting started!

For that matter, the increasing desperation of Catholic and Fundamentalist Christian leaders to attack us as a demonic threat would seem to show that the dinosaurs have finally figured out who the mammals that are going to replace them are!

Let me stress that the relative youth of the Neopagan and Feminist Witchcraft movements, the deliberately vague and unorganized nature of our beliefs and institutions, and some occasional shenanigans by our founders, are all utterly irrelevant to any judgment of spiritual power and worth for the religions as a whole. Can you imagine what scholars would have said about Judaism, Christianity, or Islam if they had been able to do this sort of historical analysis within each of those faiths' first century? Unlike the authorities of other major religions, Wiccans have neither the power nor the inclination to kill people for digging into our dirty laundry, and have made no major efforts to destroy inconvenient bits of historical evidence.

The deities we worship are ancient, no matter how new our religions or our insights about Them might be. A large part of the maturing of the Neopagan community over the past twenty-five years has been due to the realization that we don't have to tell fibs about an unbroken line of succession going back to the Stone Age in order to have worthwhile faiths.

As for how "unspiritual" our founders may seem, Lamond told me:

The reason Idries Shah took such interest in Gerald, to the extent of writing his biography, was [he said], "I

have it on good authority (I assume he meant the inner planes) that this group is going to be the cornerstone of the religion of the coming age. But rationally (and he looked despairingly at us sincere but woefully ignorant young people), I can't see it!"

Ah, but we still younger folks have lived long enough to see it! Uncle Gerald, Aunt Doreen, and all the other dreamers, scholars, poets and rakes working with them (and even sometimes against them) created a beautiful synthesis of ancient and modern religious, artistic, and magical archetypes, one that has grown and evolved into a huge family of emotionally satisfying and spiritually powerful belief systems.

During its first half-century, Wicca has been a beautiful dream-ship riding the crest of the Third Wave of post-modern civilization. The past, whether seen as "His-story" or "Her-story," is only the beginning...

Part Two:

Wiccan Beliefs and Rituals

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