Witchcraft 101

The Growing Fascination With The Craft In Schools

by Eric Buehrer

Phyllis Seelye's son, Ryan, couldn't wait to tell his mom what happened during recess at his school that day. The fifth-grader blurted out to his mom, “A girl in my class brought a book on how to be a teenage witch and was sharing it with other girls during recess!” Apparently, his classmate wanted to start a witchcraft club with other girls at school and cast spells on people, beginning with their teacher.

During the previous weeks, the teacher had been reading a Harry Potter book out loud to the children. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is an inventive and charming book about a 10-year-old boy named Harry who learns that he is a wizard, born to parents who were wizards before their untimely deaths. He goes to a special wizards' school to learn how to practice the Craft and his adventures begin.

While the Harry Potter series is definitely entertaining reading, some have expressed concern that he is the “Joe Camel” of the Wiccan religion. The concern is that some children, such as Ryan's classmate, will not only be entertained by the book, they will desire to emulate Harry by seeking out the growing number of books and web sites on how to become a witch.

When Phyllis called Gateways to Better Education for advice, a staff member suggested that the teacher could rightly share with the school principal a concern that the children's attempts to cast spells on her could turn ugly. For instance, would she one day discover that her coffee had been laced with a “potion” from an attempt by the children to cast a spell?

Libraries Respond

Due to the growing popularity of witchcraft among children, the October 1999 issue of School Library Journal published an article entitled, “Witchcraft 101.” The author encouraged school librarians to go beyond merely stocking books on the history of witches or fictional books involving the Craft and include books on how to be a witch. He wrote, “Many teens, particularly girls, have a tremendous fascination with Wicca, and I do not find their attraction at all surprising. Adolescents often feel out of control - emotionally, physically, and psychologically - and the idea that they might control aspects of their lives or the lives of other people through spells is particularly appealing. Wicca offers young people the opportunity for personal empowerment they deeply crave.”

He recommended a number of books, including Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation, written by Silver Ravenwolf, which he extolled as “the most essential.” Ravenwolf, he glowingly wrote, “does a superb job of dispelling all the misconceptions and myths about witches and witchcraft and offers an excellent introduction to the Wiccan religion that can help teens decide if it's right for them.”

Can you imagine a journal for school librarians publishing a similar article for Christianity? (“Stock your shelves with evangelistic books that can help teens decide if it's right for them.”)

God detests witchcraft. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 18:10-12, “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord.”

Why Witchcraft?

So, why the recent fascination with witchcraft? While witchcraft is thousands of years old, the modern revival of it is credited to Gerald B. Gardner who — according to Watchman Fellowship, a cult-monitoring ministry — published his first book on witchcraft in 1949.

Besides the rejection of Christianity, in more recent years, two factors have created a cultural climate more accepting of witchcraft: environmentalism and feminism.

The environmental movement is about more than clean air and water. At its core, it harbors a religious view for many people that nature is spiritual, and that humans can connect with the spirits of nature. Environmentalism provides fertile soil for witchcraft because, as Watchman Fellowship points out: “the worship of nature or natural order is of paramount importance” to Wicca.

Also contributing to the increasing interest in witchcraft is a feeling of disenchantment with science and technology which increasingly press in on the individual and seem to have stripped the world of its mystery. As Roger Scruton writes in National Review, “They [witches] need to see their environment as their tribal forebears saw it: as an enchanted place, which mysteriously returns our glance. The spell answers directly to this need, since it enables the witch to reanimate her universe.” (9/27/99)

Of course, not all people concerned about the environment would agree with the religious views promoted by witchcraft.

Similarly, of course, not all feminists are witches. However, the rise of feminism provides support for the idea of the empowerment of women and connecting with the goddess within (as well as “Mother Earth”). Again, Scruton writes: “The idea that religion might be a matter of obedience and example strikes them [witches] as weird; the idea that it is a matter of the self and its empowerment connects immediately with the surrounding secular culture.”

Cathy Bodell, a public school mom in Michigan, was concerned to hear that her son's fifth-grade teacher was also reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to the class. Cathy and her husband met with the teacher. “We used Gateways' guidelines about how to approach a teacher when discussing a questionable book,” Cathy related.

When they asked the teacher why she chose the book, the teacher admitted that she had not even read it before deciding to read it to the class. In other words, it wasn't chosen because of the teacher's professional critique; it was chosen because a student shared it with her and she thought it would be “a change of pace for the students.”

Let us pray that this desire for a “change of pace” doesn't prompt more teachers and librarians to thoughtlessly arouse curiosity among children for things of the occult.