Witchcraft – Whence and Wither?

The academic study of Witchcraft (and Western Esotericism) is progressing, in pace with many other d

The growth in the practice of Witchcraft has been substantial, since the 1950’s when the last Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed in England. It is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 “Pagans” in England and Wales (UK Census, 2001), with over 7,000 of these mainly white, middle-class, and significantly female, respondents identifying themselves as ‘Wiccan’.

I have just returned from the inaugural conference of ESSWE, the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, held in Tubingen, Germany, to be asked by the New Statesman online team to write this introduction to Witchcraft. It appears that the religion is now recognised in both Academic circles and in the Media, an acknowledgement of its status in post-modern society.

In popular culture, on television I can watch repeats of the witchcraft-based popular films, Charmed, Bewitched, or the series Buffy the Vampire-Slayer, featuring the Wiccan heroine, Willow, or even Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

At a more dedicated level, at the ESSWE conference, an academic gave a presentation on the three-year Priestess Training Program offered by the Glastonbury Goddess Temple.

The words diverse and eclectic barely do justice to the growth and variety of all forms of restored pagan spirituality!

The growth in interest in all the forms of Witchcraft is continuing apace. Self-initiated solitary witches, Hedgewitches, concentrate on the craft and folklore aspects of paganism, Dianic Witches focus on the Feminine, and Progressive Witchcraft calls for a re-evaluation of contemporary practice. Camps and Conferences, such as Witchfest are annual events attracting hundreds of participants.

The Internet is a significant tool in this expansion. In fact, whilst the internet was developing, witches were already active within the nascent online communities. The 1985 survey by Margot Adler, published in the comprehensive study of American Pagans, Drawing Down the Moon, was surprised to discover that 16%, the highest single percentage for any profession, of pagan respondents were involved in Computers and Technical careers.

The online, Magicka School has 25,000 members who have signed-up for lessons in Witchcraft, Tarot and Kabbalah since March 2006, and the site receives 1,500 new members a month. It attracts students from all over the world, primarily in the US and Europe, who follow modular online courses, take exams, and engage in lively forums ranging from “Brews and Broths” to “Spellbinding Books”.

Will Witchcraft continue to develop and attract more participants? I think so. The religion of Witchcraft is pre-attuned to growing environmental concerns and offers an antidote to the technological rush of modern society. It speaks to a discarded connection with nature and the feminine. It tolerates divergence and independence, and establishes a personal relationship with the seasons. This wheel of the seasons is seen as both an external occurrence, but also as an exemplar of dynamic inner change, learning and development.

We started this four-part series with an individual initiation inside a magical circle, and now our circle here can be made open but unbroken. Blessed Be.

Marcus Katz is an MA student of Western Esotericism at Exeter University. He is a teacher of Witchcraft, Tarot and Ritual Magick in the Lake District at the Far Away Centre
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Emmanuel Macron offers Theresa May no comfort on Brexit

The French presidential candidate warned that he would not accept "any caveat or any waver" at a press briefing in London.

Emmanuel Macron, the new wunderkind of French politics, has brought his presidential campaign to London. The current favourite to succeed François Hollande has a natural electoral incentive to do so. London is home to 300,000 French voters, making it by France's sixth largest city by one count (Macron will address 3,000 people at a Westminster rally tonight). But the telegenic centrist also took the time to meet Theresa May and Philip Hammond and to hold a press briefing.

If May hoped that her invitation would help soften Macron's Brexit stance (the Prime Minister has refused to engage with his rival Marine Le Pen), she will have been left disappointed. Outside No.10, Macron declared that he hoped to attract "banks, talents, researchers, academics" away from the UK to France (a remark reminiscent of David Cameron's vow to "roll out the red carpet" for those fleeing Hollande). 

At the briefing at Westminster's Central Hall, Macron quipped: "The best trade agreement for Britain ... is called membership of the EU". With May determined to deliver Brexit, he suggested that the UK would have to settle for a Canadian-style deal, an outcome that would radically reduce the UK's market access. Macron emphasised that he took a a "classical, orthodox" view of the EU, regarding the "four freedoms" (of people, capital, goods and services) as indivisible. Were Britain to seek continued financial passporting, the former banker said, it would have to make a significant budget "contribution" and accept continued immigration. "The execution of Brexit has to be compliant with our interests and the European interest".

The 39-year-old avoided a nationalistic tone ("my perspective is not to say France, France, France") in favour of a "coordinated European approach" but was unambiguous: "I don't want to accept any caveat or any waver to what makes the single market and the EU." Were the UK, as expected, to seek a transitional arrangement, it would have to accept the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Elsewhere, Macron insisted that his liberal economic stance was not an obstacle to his election. It would be fitting, he said, if the traditionally "contrarian" France embraced globalisation just as its counterparts were rejecting it. "In the current environment, if you're shy, you're dead," he declared. With his emotional, straight-talking approach (one derided by some as intellectually threadbare), Macron is seeking to beat the populists at their own game.

But his views on Brexit may yet prove academic. A poll published today showed him trailing centre-right candidate François Fillon (by 20-17) having fallen five points since his denunciation of French colonialism. Macron's novelty is both a strength and a weakness. With no established base (he founded his own party En Marche!), he is vulnerable to small swings in the public mood. If Macron does lose, it will not be for want of confidence. But there are unmistakable signs that his forward march has been halted. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.