Wiccan Religion on the Rise in America
Wicca is a modern version of ancient pagan religions, created in England and brought to the United States in the 1960s. Its followers worship a goddess and a god, honor the Earth and practice ritual magic. They follow the Wiccan Rede, a statement of principles that stresses the importance of doing no harm.
“We believe that everything is part of the One,” said Ed Fitch, 80, a Wiccan senior high priest and a member of Caldwell’s meet-up group, one of several Wiccan or witches’ groups in Austin. “Everything in the universe is linked to everything else in the universe.”
Because Wicca is a highly decentralized religion with no central authority, it’s hard to get a tally of its members. The American Religious Identification Survey, which periodically surveys 50,000 Americans, said the number of self-identified Wiccans increased to 342,000 in 2008, up from 134,000 in 2001. The 2008 figures are the most recent available.
Wicca’s growth tracks the changing religious landscape in the U.S., as a growing number of people leave established religions and become either unaffiliated or switch to alternative religions. About 5.9 percent of Americans followed a non-Christian faith in 2014, up from 4.7 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center,
“The number of people who have institutional affiliation are declining in general, so [Wicca] is part of a larger trend,” said Jennifer Graber, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Texas at Austin. “People are not aligning themselves in traditional religious ways.”