PUGET SOUND On Oct. 31, 2006, Focus on the Family President Dr. Del Tackett issued a letter alerting Christian parents to the increase of “spiritual naturalism” in our culture.
“The spiritual animation of the material world is a growing phenomenon,” Tackett wrote. “Wicca attracts more and more young women into its covens.”
The letter held this caution: "The messages of popular songs, movies, and television are increasingly dark. .... New Age and Eastern mysticism thought are pervasive, found even in our kindergartens."
With its free-spirited, nature-based and eclectic appeal for Christian youth, Wicca is arguably the most alarming of these Pagan religions.
"Of all the religious movements that blossomed in the 1960s, Wicca is the most successful,” according to the Web site ReligionLink.org. “The 2001 American Religion Identification Survey found that the number of Wiccans [reporting in the census] in the U.S. had multiplied nearly 17 times in a decadefrom 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001.”
In the Puget Sound region there are no official statistics regarding how many people practice Paganism or Wicca. But according to Paul Stephens, a Puget Sound Pagan Clergyperson, there are probably more Wiccans than anyone thinks.
“We don’t keep records, but there are a lotespecially on the west coast,” Stephens said.
According to the Washington Department of Corrections, of the 75 percent of inmates that declare a religious preference, 14 percent claim they are Pagan.
Index, Wash., is home to the largest Wiccan church in the U.S., Aquarian Tabernacle Church, according to its founder the Rev. Pete “Pathfinder” Davis.
"We've worked hard for 20-plus years to achieve recognition of Wicca as a religion,” Davis said.
ATC’s mailing list includes 2,700 Wiccans.
"That's probably something in the order of half of the [Wiccans who participate in groups],” Davis said. "Probably far more than half are solitary Wiccans.”
Davis served two terms as the president of the Interfaith Council of Washington State, elected unanimously for both terms by delegates from 12 faith groups.
According to Davis, Wiccans are: electricians, doctors, attorneys, mortgage brokers, housewives, laborers, computer professionals, “you name it.”
“We may perceive deity differently than you, but we are otherwise quite common and as boring as members of any other faith group,” Davis said.
Wicca, as described at ReligiousTolerance.org, is a practice pursued by individuals who participate in, or concur with, witchcraft. Christian Research Journal wrote, "While all witches are pagans, not all pagans are witches. Likewise, while all Wiccans are witches, not all witches are Wiccan."
According to Wicca.com, the practice could be described as a modern religion based on ancient witchcraft traditions.
Despite claims that it's an ancient belief system, many Wicca sources agree its history began in the 1950s with a man by the name of Gerald Gardener after whom the earliest Wicca sect is named. There are several sects today, each with somewhat differing emphases or belief systems. Eclectic, which allows for much liberal thought and expression, is possibly most prevalent in the Puget Sound.
“Perhaps, from the Christian perspective of ‘if you are not for Jesus, you are against Him,’ we may be (in their opinion) on the wrong path to enlightenment or ‘salvation,’ but any objective investigation of the Wiccan faith reveals we have the very same core values as Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and any other world religion you may care to mention,” Davis said.
ReligiousTolerance.org reports that while the percentage of American adults who consider themselves Christian has been dropping by almost 1 percent per year, Wicca is growing rapidly, with Wiccans "increasingly becoming more public with their religious identity, their beliefs and practices.”
Mark and Frances Bishop of Texas-based Coracle Ministries offer assistance, both to Christians who want to protect their families from withcraft, and witches trying to escape it.
"There's an old expression, if you put five Pagans in a room, you're going to get at least six different religions,” Frances Bishop said. “They've got everyone making it up as they go along."
ExWitch.org, one of the Coracle Ministries organizations, provides an online educational resource for those seeking facts on the Craft. According to the site:
"Religious rituals range from solemn, with candles lit and incense burning, to ecstatic, with dancing, chanting and singing.”
Most Pagans support “neo-tolerance, women's rights and matriarchy, sexual 'freedom,' abortion, and the abolition of Christianity from public schools ... and governmental functions."
According to ExWitch.org, "Some [Wiccans] are active in promoting and getting schools to teach Wiccan holidaysHalloween, cultural holidays, winter solstice, and pagan elements of Earth Day."
"It starts when young girls get a little book by Silver RavenWolf," Bishop said.
Silverravenwolf.com introduces the author as a "member of Wiccan clergy and leader of 35 covens." Here the Witch invites the curious to learn from her in Web pages explaining facets of Wicca, as well as promoting her books.
"One aspect of Wicca is magick," it reads, "which followers of the religion spell with a ‘k’ to distinguish it from the sorcery one finds in fantasy novels and on television."
Her titles include a how-to book "designed for teens interested in studying the true art of magick," and about two dozen other books on the subject. Harry Potter enthusiasts are some of her most avid readers.
"If they are hooked on power they will go to the left and get hooked into the dark side pretty quick,” Frances Bishop said. “Generally when they go to the left they don't identify themselves as Wiccans, but as a Pagan or Witch [or other brands of the dark arts]."
Otherwise, the young Wiccan, guided by her preferences, will be drawn toward the deity she most identifies with, and pursue the magic associated with that deity.
Dr. Charles Christian, senior pastor of North Seattle Church of the Nazarene, said that Christians tend to categorize any forces not of God (natural energy, spiritual forces, spell casting) as forms of evil.
“There are many verses in the Bible about this,” Christian said. “The Bible … categorizes any kind of religious activity that magnifies the created above the Creator … as idolatry [or] worship above God.”
Attempts by man to manipulate God’s domain is a form of self-worship, according to Christian.
“In Scripture, Satan uses power to manipulate people to get involved in things they can’t get out of,” he said. “There’s a biblical pattern for this from Genesis 3. ‘Come, eat this apple, it’s not bad, it will open your eyes, give you power.’ This seems a clear parallel to me. I see this [Wicca/Witchcraft] as Genesis 3 all over again.”
"The fact is a demon is a demon is a demon," Frances Bishop said. "No matter how sweet or innocent it may appear, at some point the demon will probably take its mask off. … The magic path has been made real easy to get on and real hard to get off of."
Mark Bishop said whatever specific satisfaction a practitioner experiences from performing their magick, it becomes a personal addiction that continues to enslave them.
As with any addiction, prevention is easier than intervention.
Dr. Christian said it’s important how believers choose to deal with a family member who becomes involved in the supernatural.
“Teach them and point them to the alternate source of powerpoint them to Christ without making them feel like garbage,” he said. “Love them. Be patient with them.”