In 1990, the American Religious Survey found 8,000 people who identified themselves as Wiccans. In 2001, that number was 134,000, an incredible growth! Wicca is currently the largest non-Christian faith practiced by members of the U.S. Air Force. An independent group places the worldwide number of Wiccans at 1,000,000.
How did Wicca (“wick-uh”) become the fastest growing religion in the world, even though Wiccans don’t proselytize? There are two answers. The first reveals how Wicca grew—it started in England in 1951. The Anti-Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed, and people were free to admit they were witches. Gerald Brousseau Gardner claimed to have been part of a genuine witchcraft group, and in 1954 published Witchcraft Today, the first book about witchcraft by a self-professed witch.You may be wondering what witchcraft and Wicca have in common. Wicca is an Old English word meaning “to bend or twist.” Originally pronounced “wee-cha,” it became our word “witch.” So a person who could bend reality—work real magic—was a Wiccan or witch. Wiccans also generally worship a Goddess, as well as a God.
The basic organization of Wicca was focused on small groups called covens. To fully participate, you had to be initiated into a group. For years the scarcity of covens held back the potential growth of Wicca. Raymond Buckland introduced Wicca to the U.S. in 1964. Authors published books on Wicca, revealing its secrets. Slowly, the tradition grew.
During the 1970s, I began studying Wicca with Raven Grimassi. Another of his students was Scott Cunningham. Frustrated by the structure of covens and limiting beliefs, he asked two simple questions:
IF WICCA IS AN INITIATORY RELIGION, WHO INITIATED THE FIRST WICCAN?
WHY DO YOU NEED TO BE INITIATED IN ORDER TO WORSHIP THE GOD AND GODDESS?
A decade later, Scott wrote Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. That opened the floodgates. People saw that they could worship the God and Goddess as they wanted, and use any positive set of spiritual beliefs and practices. Suddenly, the numbers of a small but growing religion began to explode!
The numbers show that Wicca is not just another fad. Certainly there was added growth thanks to the 1996 movie The Craft, the TV show Charmed, and the character Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the faddists come and go while the number of Wiccans continues to grow.
More importantly, though, is the second question of why Wicca has grown so quickly. The answer is in the beliefs of Wiccans. Wicca is not only spells. It is a modern evolution of earlier pre-Christian religions. Beliefs include:
• The worship of a Goddess and a God, bringing balance to the nature of the Divine. This has helped to make Wicca very popular among some feminists.
• Reincarnation, the belief that our soul returns in a new body.
• A version of karma (what you do will come back to you three-fold), giving ethical meaning and personal morality to all actions.
• Celebrations based on lunar and solar events, helping people attune to universe. This appeals to many people who feel isolated within modern civilization.
• Honor and respect for all things: animals, plants, and the environment. This has helped to make Wicca popular among some people interested in ecology.
• Techniques to use your conscious and unconscious mind, combined with psychic abilities and the power of the Divine to achieve your goals. Commonly called “magic,” these techniques give people power over their lives. It is not supernatural or evil.
It is these beliefs that have attracted so many people. Some Christian groups and politicians, ranging all the way to President George W. Bush, have attacked the legitimacy of Wicca. This, however, is a common response to new faiths—didn’t the Romans attack Christianity? Even with such opposition, it seems likely that Wicca will continue emerging, maintaining its claim as the fastest growing religion in the world.
Donald Michael Kraig graduated from UCLA with a degree in philosophy, and has become a certified hypnotherapist and Master NLP practitioner. After years of personal work and study, Don began teaching workshops on the Kabalah, Tarot, Magick, past lives, Tantra, meditation, the chakras and numerous other subjects throughout the U.S. and in Europe. His book, Modern Magick, is the most popular step-by-step course in real magick ever published.