By Katrina Haws,
Flames hover above crimson candles and the smell of incense wafts through the air. With a rose quartz crystal in one hand and a journal in the other, eyes closed and contemplative, Davis High senior Ana Fenton positions herself on her carpet in her central Davis home to begin an evening of witchcraft.
According to Pagan author and educator Patti Wigington, Paganism is an all encompassing term that includes an array of earth-based faiths, including Wicca which is a brand of witchcraft. However the terms, Wicca and Witchcraft, are often used interchangeably. Not all witches identify as Wiccan yet all Wiccans practice witchcraft.
UC Davis Professor Elisabeth Krimmer teaches a course titled “Witches: Myth and Reality” and has studied the evolution of witchcraft.
“The contemporary Wicca movement is extremely diverse so you find all kinds of groups […] From the data that I’ve seen and the studies that I’ve seen, I would say the vast majority are life affirming, environmentalist and gender conscious. Often [it’s] with a feminist component, so a lot of it is very much worth supporting,” Krimmer said.
“A big part of modern Wiccan movements is to live in harmony with nature, and I could see that with the threat of global warming, you would be attracted to a religion,” Krimmer said. “[…] Maybe more so than conventional religions that have maybe in some forms have failed to address what, in my view, is the biggest problem that we face right now.”
There is a very strong gender component to witchcraft. The majority of witchcraft accusations targeted women for a number of reasons.
The witchcraft community is composed of a large female demographic, however those identifying in other ways also practice. Davis resident Charlie Julian doesn’t fit that mold, yet deeply resonates with many aspects of witchcraft.
“The thing it means most to me is basically taking back and reclaiming what has been lost […] A lot of folks I see who get into witchcraft are people that are marginalized. […] I am disabled. I am queer. So witchcraft is really a way to bring back power that has been lost to society, lost to people telling you you can’t do things [and] people telling you that you need to act a certain way,” Julian said.
Fenton identifies as a witch and follows practices from the Wiccan faith. She centers her practice around intentional meditation and enjoys exploring the many different avenues associated with witchcraft.
“I don’t make anything float, none of it’s like literally abra cadabra at all,” Fenton said. “I think that a lot of people think that it’s kind of absurd, like believing in unicorns and elves…but it’s not really any more absurd than anything else. People believe in books… people believe in all sorts of things.”
With the rise in uncertainty since the start of COVID-19, Fenton has enjoyed exploring her Wiccan practices.
“It’s a good time to start becoming spiritual or religious so you can find some solace in all of this and feel a bit more at peace with your life and state of being,” Fenton said.
Witchcraft provides a spiritual practice with few restrictions.
“There’s no creed, there’s no Bible and there’s no God almighty. We are bonded together by our interest in magic, but every person would probably believe something different from another person,” Fenton said.
Senior Zachary Breckner also finds this autonomy attractive. They attended Saint James Catholic School until 8th grade. However, the Catholic faith did not resonate with them, so they began searching for a new spiritual path.
“I found witchcraft […] and it seemed like something that I definitely aligned with. What drew me to it was the good energies. If you put out something good in the universe you’re going to get that back so that seems like a really good thought process to me,” Breckner said.
Breckner’s family has yet to accept their new found Wiccan faith and forced Breckner to remove an alter they had created.
Both Breckner and Fenton believe that young people are intrigued by the practical nature and flexibility of witchcraft and wiccan ideas.
“It’s a little more non traditional […] when you take the base of witchcraft and the Wiccan religion and you just kind of branch off of it and kind of pick and choose what you want to do. I feel like that’s a lot more convenient for a lot of people because you don’t have to strictly adhere to a lot of rules,” Breckner said.