Witchcraft: Changing patterns of participation in the early twenty first century
AbstractBased on statistics from selected search engines, websites, and blogs this paper argues that there are indications that the phenomenal growth of Witchcraft and Paganism during the late twentieth and early twenty-first century may be slowing. In particular, inquisitive inquiry about contemporary Witchcraft—that is, those who are not Witches but are looking for information about it, such as seekers, dabblers, researchers, students doing term papers, and newspaper reporters—has declined since 2004. This decline, however, does not indicate that the religion is “dying” out because while the rate of increase has slowed it has not been eliminated; and of greater import, community networking appears to have remained stable, or possibly to have increased. Community networking can be seen in the use of Internet sites to share information about Witchcraft, upcoming rituals, or books and teachers; those participating in dialogue; or using the Internet as part of their spiritual work or for communications between coven meetings, or with coven members who are unable to attend. The statistics suggest that contemporary Witchcraft and Paganism may be in a period of change, in which there is a consolidation of membership with a slowing of the rate of new members, particularly among the young. Community building on the Internet continues to be important, but the intensity appears to be lessening, with indications of more people “posting” but doing so less frequently. We suggest that this indicates that Witchcraft is now entering a new phase that of consolidation with less intense participation by members.
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