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Wicca's Charm | Reviews | Praise | Excerpt


Charleston Post and Courier

Book sheds light on pagan beliefs

Wicca's Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality.

By Catherine Edwards Sanders. Waterbook Press. 233 pages. $13.99

On Halloween, miniature witches walk the streets with black hats and broomsticks while green-faced witches adorn yards and storefronts. In "Wicca's Charm," author Catherine Edwards Sanders goes beyond Halloween to look at practicing witches and the factors that compelled them to take up witchcraft.

Assigned to write a magazine article about Wicca for Halloween, Sanders began to reconsider her own stereotypes of witches and to wonder why so many young women left traditional Christianity to embrace Wicca. She spent a year interviewing pagans and witches across the country after being granted a journalism fellowship.

Although Sanders cannot decide whether to write as a sociologist or Christian evangelist, she attempts to take a fair and balanced look at Wicca and other pagan religions. While decidedly Christian in slant, this book offers a look inside the pagan community and offers direction and guidance for family and friends of witches who are struggling to understand the pull of alternative spiritualities.

Sanders briefly sketches the history of Wicca and the goddess movement. She quickly dispels the myth that Wiccans worship the devil and conduct sacrifices. The Wiccans she interviews are peaceful, earth- and animal-loving feminists. Usually white and well-educated, Wiccans have left mainline religions for a spirituality that can be molded to embrace their own beliefs.

Interest in neo-paganism mushroomed with the increasing availability of information and community on the Internet. Teenage witches could find information for spells and charms without leaving their homes and buy "teen witch kits" complete for $24.95. Web sites offered information and community so that solitary witches in Iowa could communicate with a coven in California.

Involvement in Wicca and other pagan religions continues to grow as mainline denominations experience declines in numbers. Sanders listens as young women cite reasons they have left the church. These young witches report that they grew frustrated with the "facade of social Christianity" and were searching for an authentic spiritual experience. Sanders cites "perceived hypocrisy among Christians" as the No. 1 reason given for leaving the church.

Another frequently cited reason for leaving the Christian church is its "lack of concern" for the environment. The earth-centered spirituality of Wicca appeals to those concerned about caring for Earth, and many witches are politically active in environmental causes. Sanders interviews anti-globalization protesters who are casting spells in Washington, D.C., at the World Economic Forum in December 2002. These witches "travel the world doing ritual and magic" at various protests, she writes.

Throughout the book, both young and old witches interviewed emphasize that one of the true enchantments of Wicca is the empowerment of women. Having turned away from the "male-dominated" Christian church, the witches report that paganism allows them to feel a sense of their own power and to experience the "creator goddess."

"Just the idea of a goddess," reports one woman, " [and] I felt this great weight drop from me. ... I felt the last prejudices against my female body falling away." By some estimates, female witches outnumber males two-to-one in the United States.

Sanders concludes her book with the observation that Christianity offers all of what neo-pagans seek. "Wicca's Charm" is a fascinating read for those within the Christian church who are struggling to understand the lure of paganism and alternative spiritualities.

Sanders encourages Christians to enter into dialogue with neo-Pagans and encourages those in the Christian church to hear the words of those who have chosen another path.

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