Why Are We So Popular?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  September 8, 2005 — 3 Comments

What is the allure of modern Paganism? Would you believe a Christian has the answer? The Edmonton Sun reviews a new book by Christian author Catherine Sanders that examines why modern Paganism is so darn popular.

“Magazine journalist Sanders used a work assignment on the intriguing subject as a starting point to explore America’s growing interest in Wicca, a complex spirituality rooted in nature worship, gods and goddesses, rites, rituals and feminism. A Christian herself, Sanders asks whether paganism has flourished as a result of the church’s shortcomings in regard to nature, the environment and women. She also looks at how Christians view Wiccans and their beliefs. What you get is a thought-provoking and open-minded discussion of spirituality in the 21st century. It’s a great resource for parents trying to understand why their teenager has suddenly started to wear all black and dance in circles around the backyard trees”

From the official book blurb:

“With keen observation, challenging insight, and compassionate critique, Sanders produces a lively narrative about what she experienced and discovered during her travels: Halloween rituals in Salem, anti-globalization protests in New York, and the contrasts between what seekers find in neo-Paganism that they perceive as lacking in Christian tradition. In Wicca’s Charm, Sanders explains the powerful attraction of an increasingly mainstream spirituality that celebrates the wonder of creation and the life-giving energy of women while also exploring why Christian churches often fail to engage these seekers, but how they can learn to tap into the deep roots of Christianity to nourish the hunger of so many who seek a holistic and authentic worship experience.”

Those seeking to parse the promotional language. The book points out why these poor souls are forced to turn to Paganism and how good decent Christians can win them back if they would only tap the “deep roots” of Christianity. This whole thing smacks of a kinder, gentler, version of hack-written books like “What’s The Deal With Wicca”, “Dewitched”. and “Witchcraft Goes Mainstream”. If you think I’m being unkind to a book I haven’t read check out this transcript from her recent appreance on Tucker Carlson’s show.

“They believe in?they don’t actually believe in absolute good or absolute evil. They believe in spirits and they believe in the spell casting and they believe in being able to control essentially powers that be. It’s kind of like Native American spirituality in a way…. they believe that they can, you know, control the spirit world essentially…I interviewed one girl…she was trying to cast a spell and she ended up having a very negative experience. She said she felt this flutter of unprotected power. It was very frightening but she says she wants to still practice it because it’s meaningful to her…I went to this one feminist gathering where they had sort of the goddess market downstairs where they just feel like they can get in touch with their feminine side and that’s why it’s popular.”

So it seems the publisher is trying to soft-peddle this normally fringe Evangelical type of book to a wider market. Because quotes from the publishers blurb like this:

“…found that the lure of this emerging spirituality was not the occult but rather a search for meaning in an increasingly fragmented and materialistic culture.”

Don’t quite vibe with her statements in the live interview.

“They believe in spirits and they believe in the spell casting and they believe in being able to control essentially powers that be.”

If you are looking to understand Wicca or the allure of modern Paganism this isn’t the book for you. I await the day when a book like this doesn’t try to play that old Christian hymn that still gets ’em going in the pews “you worship the creation and not the creator”.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Catherine

    I appreciate the comments you all have made about my book. I would very much like you to actually read the entire thing and then tell me your comments. Book reviews, TV etc are not the best forum for nuance and constructive dialogue.The fact that a Canadian reviewer says that my book will help parents understand why their “children are wearing all black etc ” is beyond my control. I mention nothing like that in the book.The book took a long time to write and a lot of thought went into it. If you read it cover to cover, then I think we can have a constructive discussion about it. I wrote this book in order to foster better dialogue between Pagans and Christians. It might be that neither side is interested, but I think they should be.I note some of the comments from becky, malory and inanna as to why they chose Wicca. I believe that my book, if they would read it, addresses much of these questions.Malory mentions she was drawn to Wicca because there is no need for “a middle man to communicate with the Divine…” This was one of the points of the Protestant reformation. As an Anglican, I have never ever used a “middle man” to communicate with the Divine. The power of the holy spirit for all believers is very real and exciting, but unfortunately not often discussed in many churches.Inanna writes she left Christianity seeking an embodied spiritual practicehonors all sexualities and the workings of the body, including sex, illness, pregnancy, menstruation, birth and death…a faith traditions that honors elders, women, queer folks, children, animals, and the earth – and makes the experiences of those beings central”I think these are admirable desires and my book addresses these things.Then Becky writes:”What about belief in the Divine? Goddess, God? Or the Wiccan Reede? It seemed that the expert missed the “religion” part of the religion.” There is much I could have said on television but time was very short. I would have liked to have talked about ALL these things, but a nuanced discussion is better found in my book or suited to radio.Once you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear what you think.

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Catherine, Thanks for your comments. If you would like your publisher to send me a review copy drop me an e-mail (jpitzl@patheos.com) and I will give you my address. I think that since you are writing from an outsiders perspective you have much to prove that this isn’t a kinder, gentler, evangelical text. The fact that you are willing to go on a program like Tucker Carlson’s (hardly a program that will give modern Paganism a fair shake) makes me suspicious of your motives. But I will promise to give your book a fair hearing if you want to send it to me.-Jason Pitzl-Waters

  • Jerome M

    Jason – apologies in advance for this minor hijack… :)Catherine – I did read your book, and though this thread is now a couple years old (with little chance of you coming across it again), I’m providing the URL to the review I wrote just in case you do wander back this way.http://violetsun.wordpress.com/2007/11/08/book-review-wiccas-charm-by-catherine-edwards-sanders/