Because Wicca is not a formal mainstream religion, it's difficult to tally the numbers of people who practice witchcraft. But experts estimate 250,000 to 400,000 people in the United States are part of the craft, with a growing number of teens becoming involved. Should parents be worried?
Whether it is casting a spell on a boy to make him ask her to prom or a spell for getting along with a difficult teacher, many teens love the idea of magic. Jamie Wood, author of The Teen Spellbook: Magick for Young Witches (Celestial Arts, 2001), says teens are drawn to Wicca for more reasons than can be counted. Some teens are drawn to the common principle in many Wicca traditions such as equality between the sexes and the fact that Wiccans commune with the Goddess and the God. Wood says another top reasons includes the fact that Wicca is different, and teens love to be different.
"Teens are supposed to push society to wake up, think for themselves and step outside the box," Wood says. "Some may hope to manipulate the environment and the people in it because they do not feel powerful any other way."
Other teens may simply have a deep concern for the natural environment. Every time we walk outside we are in church, she says. Parents need to educate themselves about Wicca to overcome misconceptions.
"Teens are system busters," Wood says. "It is their job to work toward autonomy and independence. Finding their individual path is a journey through the unknown. Mystery is their world. Parents cannot control their children's destiny. This is all at once frightening and exciting. Wicca is an unknown or misunderstood, and therefore often feared."
Wood, who resides in Southern California, has three children: Alethia, 12, Skyler, 6 and Kobe, 4. She was introduced to metaphysics at age 4 and Earth-based ideas as a teenager, but did not accept Wicca as a formal religion until she was in her 20s.
With her own children, she encourages them to foster a communication with God, Mother Earth and Spirit. "We celebrate pagan and some Christian holidays as well as other traditions such as Jewish," Wood says. "I want them to be exposed to as many divergent paths as possible – only with education can they make a decision about spirituality that is right for them."
Harm No One
Many adults are taught that pagans are godless, not spiritual. Yet pagans are very spiritual and seek a higher truth in all they do, Wood says. "Harm None is a law and rule in our spirituality," she says. "The devil is a Christian construction. Pagans have long honored the spirit or seed of the land as the male aspect of deity, known as the Green Man or Horned one, and depicted as a green half man/half goat. He is benevolent, protecting and loyal. When the Christians took over they changed his figure to red, gave him an evil identity and called him the devil."
In short, teenagers' interest in witchcraft might be a passing whim or curiosity. Parents need to remain open and responsive to their teenager's questions without "freaking out" or becoming emotional. Stay level headed and work on building a strong relationship with the teenager. Help the teen find a sense of identity and don't be afraid to set guidelines and limits. In a few years, the teenager will be making all of his or her own decisions about their spiritual path and all other paths as well.