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Witchcraft and Magic

Witchcraft and Magic: Contemporary North America

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Witchcraft and Magic
    Book Description:

    Magic, always part of the occult underground in North America, has experienced a resurgence since the 1960s. Although most contemporary magical religions have come from abroad, they have found fertile ground in which to develop in North America. Who are today's believers in Witchcraft and how do they worship? Alternative spiritual paths have increased the ranks of followers dramatically, particularly among well-educated middle-class individuals. Witchcraft and Magic conveys the richness of magical religious experiences found in today's culture, covering the continent of North America and the Caribbean. These original essays survey current and historical issues pertinent to religions that incorporate magical or occult beliefs and practices, and they examine contemporary responses to these religions. The relationship between Witchcraft and Neopaganism is explored, as is their intersection with established groups practicing goddess worship. Recent years have seen the growth in New Age magic and Afro-Caribbean religions, and these developments are also addressed in this volume. All the religions covered offer adherents an alternative worldview and rituals that are aimed at helping individuals redefine themselves and make their interactions with the environment more empowered. Many modern occult religions share an absence of dogma or central authority to determine orthodoxy, and have become a contemporary experience embracing modern concerns like feminism, environmentalism, civil rights, and gay rights. Afro-Caribbean religions such as Santería, Palo, and Curanderismo, which do have a more developed dogma and authority structure, offer their followers a religion steeped in African and Hispanic traditions. Responses to the growth of magical religions have varied, from acceptance to an unfounded concern about the growth of a satanic underground. And, as magical religions have flourished, increased interest has resulted in a growing commercialization, with its threat of trivialization.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0125-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)
    Helen A. Berger

    Magic, always part of the occult underground in North America, has experienced a resurgence since the 1960s. Religions such as Witchcraft, Neopaganism, Goddess Worship, the New Age, and Yoruba (also known as Santería), which incorporate magic or mystical beliefs, have gained adherents, particularly among well-educated middle-class individuals.¹ Some of these religions, such as Witchcraft and Neopaganism, openly embrace magic. Others, most notably Yoruba, do not define their practices as magical, although outsiders have viewed the religion as incorporating and using magic. For example, healing within the Yoruba tradition involves both herbal remedies and divination to determine and address the underlying...

  4. 1 New Age and Magic
    (pp. 8-27)
    Michael York

    The New Age movement emerged in the West during the closing decades of the twentieth century as a popular and alternate form or forms of spiritual practice. However, in Rothstein (2001:59), Masimo Introvigne already raises the issue of the demise of New Age spirituality—at least “ ‘classic’ New Age [as] a movement dating back to the 1960s in the English-speaking world [and] based on the utopic, millenarian expectation of a golden age.” Predictions of the failure of New Age are, of course, nothing new and have occurred regularly since at least Basil 1988 in which various scholars saw the...

  5. 2 Witchcraft and Neopaganism
    (pp. 28-54)
    Helen A. Berger

    Contemporary Witchcraft, along with the larger Neopagan movement in which it is embedded, has grown and become better known since its arrival in North America from England in the 1960s. Contemporary Witches—or Wiccans, as many of its adherents prefer to call themselves—are not devil worshipers. Instead they are members of what they define as an earth-based religion, in which the goddess or goddesses and the god force or gods are venerated, nature’s yearly cycle of seasons is celebrated, and magic is practiced. Wicca, which is the largest sect of Neopaganism, has provided the template for magical practices and...

  6. 3 Webs of Women: Feminist Spiritualities
    (pp. 55-80)
    Wendy Griffin

    When Hungarian immigrant Zsuzsanna Budapest first coined the term feminist spirituality in a 1972 issue of a monthly paper in Los Angeles called Sister, it was in the context of her argument regarding the interdependent dynamics of politics and religion. She posed the question that if patriarchal religion denigrated women and helped to perpetuate male domination, what would happen if women “rewrote the script” and created a religion based on feminist values, a feminist spirituality? In the succeeding thirty years, the phrase has been applied to groups as varied as Dianic Witches, generic goddess worshipers, Roman Catholic members of Woman-Church,...

  7. 4 Shamanism and Magic
    (pp. 81-101)
    Michael York

    From the 1980s if not earlier, the term shamanism has become the catchword for many of the most innovative efforts within contemporary spirituality. As any concept borrowed from an alien culture, it is one not without its controversial issues—ones which here raise questions of legitimacy, authenticity, and validation. The historic trajectory of the word alone encompasses many if not most of the contentions and raging debates concerning spirituality, its place in society, and its very raison d’être: What makes spirituality spiritual? Is there such a thing as “spiritual ownership”? What are the ethical issues raised by cultural appropriation? Can...

  8. 5 Lucumí: The Second Diaspora
    (pp. 102-119)
    Ysamur M. Flores-Peña

    This chapter is concerned with Afro-Caribbean religion as it has taken form in North America. Caribbean Spiritualism, Palo, Curanderismo, and Voodoo have all been brought to North America with Caribbean immigrants. However, the most popular and most important of these religions is Santería, the religion of the Yoruba people as it developed in Cuba during and after the slave trade. As the use of the term Santería has racist connotations, I will use the emic designation Lucumí when speaking about this religion and its culture.¹ Largely misunderstood, Lucumí has produced a brilliant and vibrant diasporean culture, which has appealed to...

  9. 6 Satanic Cults, Ritual Abuse, and Moral Panic: Deconstructing a Modern Witch-Hunt
    (pp. 120-136)
    Stuart A. Wright

    During the 1980s and early 1990s, reports of alleged satanic cults, child abductions, baby breeding, ritual torture, infanticide, and cannibalism became quite commonplace. This phenomenon has been described by a number of scholars in North America and Great Britain as forms of collective behavior leading to “rumor-panic” or “moral panic” (Cohen 1972; Goode and Ben-Yehuda 1994:57–65; Jenkins 1992; Richardson, Best, and Bromley 1991; Victor 1993). As the panic spread, the claims of interest groups grew more outlandish, bordering on mass hysteria. Parents feared that missing children were objects of diabolic efforts by devil-worshiping cults seeking to secure sacrificial victims...

  10. 7 The Commodification of Witchcraft
    (pp. 137-168)
    Tanice G. Foltz

    The fascination with witchcraft and magic has a colorful history: one only need look at children’s fairytales such as Snow white and the Seven Dwarfs or films such as The wizard of Oz to appreciate the enchanting world of witches and magic. Beyond this fantasy, however, lies the religion of Witchcraft, popularly known as Wicca or Paganism.¹ As the religion has grown exponentially since its importation into North America, Witchcraft has become increasingly commodified and marketed to spiritual and material consumers.

    Three themes are directly related to Witchcraft’s commodification in contemporary North America. The first concerns the numerous manifestations as...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 169-176)
  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 177-196)
  13. List of Contributors
    (pp. 197-198)
  14. Index
    (pp. 199-207)