Is Your Child Practicing Witchcraft? Probably Not

By John Popham

November 3, 2022

Female witch making potion on dark background, magic bottles with potions and candles on table of alchemist, Halloween theme
Photo: Getty Images

Halloween is now over and per the norm movies like Hocus Pocus, Harry Potter, and Halloweentown popped up as suggestions on streaming accounts across the country.

While many watch horror movies year-round, movies featuring witchcraft and wizardry have a special place in the fall months. But where did witches come from and is it concerning that witchcraft is so common in popular culture?

As always, hosts Noel, Ben and Matt of Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know are here to explain the details behind what has spurred a supposed rise in witchcraft, and why it’s not really the same type of witchcraft shown in movies.

“It is something that is a little bit tough to measure given that there are so many different things wrapped up in this,” said Matt. “The term itself is so loaded, it's been used as a term of abuse in the past, it's one of these things that has sort of been taken back. It is a very catch all term, so it makes it a little tough to parse out what all is included under that umbrella.”

While historically the definition of witchcraft changed from culture to culture, it became a phrase to classify beliefs and customs that Christians in the Middle Ages were not familiar with. This idea stuck around all the way to the Salem Witch Trials in in 1692, and in some cases is still pervasive today.

For example, wicca and paganism can be loosely defined as modern witchcraft, but there is less spell casting and potion brewing than one would expect. Both practices seek out a spiritual connection with nature, however pagans actively worship nature and/ or the earth. It should be noted, these are general definitions and do not represent the beliefs of every wiccan or pagan.

“When you hear claims that witchcraft, however defined, is on the rise those claims are based on several things, noticeable trends, but the hard numbers you are going to find are usually going to be from self-reporting polls,” said Ben. “In 2014 the Pew Research Center said that the U.S. adult population of pagans and wiccans is about 730,000 and that is on par for the number of people who are unitarians (Christians who don’t believe in the Trinity).”

So, while no belief system is monolithic, it's safe to say that modern witches and pagans are exploring a personal spiritual connection to nature and not serving demonic entities or trying to consume the essence of children like the "Sanderson Sisters".

Listen to more Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Check out the full episode “Is 'witchcraft' on the rise?” to hear the full conversation on what witches are and what they are not.

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