It seems like an odd thing to me, and I’m sure to many others, that some would claim that Wicca is dead or dying. But I have heard this from at least a few members of the Craft. Strange to think of Wicca, the fastest growing of the rapidly growing Neopagan religions, as being doomed to die in the near future. I have received different opinions for ‘why Wicca is dying’ and ‘what the fate of Wicca will be’.
More than a few Wiccan elders who have expressed this sentiment to me are just simply disheartened by what they view as a lack of progress made in and for Wicca over the past few decades. These elders, I think, believed that there would be a great unity in the Craft and that Wicca and Neopaganism would make great social progress. Many of these Wiccan elders have also seen the rise and fall of covens and friendships between witches. And so if asked the fate of Wicca, they would respond that there would be no future for Wicca. Neopaganism in general will fail as a religious movement.
I have heard from other Wiccans that Wicca is dying do to a lack of central authority. And this I have heard from Witches who are not members of any tradition! I’ve found that some of those I’ve heard this from have backgrounds in Catholicism, so perhaps they are used to the idea of the papacy as a central authority. But the whole reason why many come to the Craft is I>because of the lack of central authority. The Craft teaches self-reliance. I think some of my fellow Crafters have forgotten this.
I have also heard that Wicca has become too public. ‘No one wants to stay in the broom closet anymore like a good witch should’. Oh My! I think those who hold this sentiment may still be holding on to past life feelings of persecution. But if this is an age of religious tolerance, and Judeo-Christian beliefs are no longer supposed to operate in the secular domain, then we have no reason to hide or fear being burned at the stake. Wicca needs to be open if we are to show the world that we are not dangerous.
There are also those who see the rapid rise of solitary witchcraft and the collapse of covens as evidence of Wicca’s impending doom. I have never felt that it ‘takes a Witch to make a Witch’ but certainly there are some who could use a bit more experience before they declare themselves a Witch. I know there are plenty of solitaries who don’t really know the Craft as much as they should and that they may sometimes suffer from hubris, but it is the right of every Wiccan to explore the Craft personally and without a coven. I think covens are great, but for some people a coven just doesn’t work, and I feel there are some who use the coven structure to make themselves feel more important and powerful. We all know there is no place for tyrants in a coven structure.
Now unlike the belief that Wicca will die and cease to exist, I have found those who believe Wicca is dying but that it will develop into a new religion, or religions. I somewhat share this sentiment, but I don’t think Wiccan witchcraft will just cease to be. And if Wicca is to become something else then it is not dying, it is evolving. All religious movements evolve. There are many who would point out that modern Wicca is ‘not the Wicca of sixty years ago’, and this is because of a natural evolution in the religion.
I feel that part of the reason for this whole ‘Wicca is dead’ thing seems to be that Wicca and Neopaganism have failed in the last sixty years to supersede western society’s Judeo-Christian dominance. I know that there are many screaming at me after reading that last line. ‘The point of Wicca isn’t to supersede Christianity! All faiths lead to the same source!’ But I have not yet met the Crafter who didn’t hold some level of anti-Christian sentiment. I’ve found that much of the ‘Wicca has failed’ belief comes from those Wiccans who experienced the great social and spiritual revolutions of the late sixties and seventies. At the time it must have seemed like Neopaganism would become a powerful social force by the turn of the millennium. Its failure to become so has soured the movement for some.
It may not seem like it for many, but Wicca’s ability to suddenly go from a few dozen followers to thousands (or millions) of followers in only half a century is an amazing achievement. It is a direct parallel of early Christianity’s rise from a few dozen believers in 30 C.E. to hundreds or thousands by 150 C.E. Wicca has perhaps grown twice as fast in half the time thanks to television, the Internet, and especially, modern printing and publishing. Most new religious movements do not rise out of the underground in their first hundred years.
Is Wicca dead? Has Wicca failed in some way?
No one ever said being a Witch is easy. Some of my elders may find me youthfully naïve, but in the six years that I have been in the Craft, I have found a vast, vibrant, though mostly underground, community that is ever growing and evolving to meet the needs of its followers.
I can definitely say Wicca is very far from taking its last breaths.