Is the Rise of Wicca an Immune Response of a Conscious, Living, Planet?

March 5, 2017 at 11:43 am (Uncategorized)

Triple Moon Pentagram

Triple Moon Pentagram

In the face of continued misunderstanding and persecution of Wiccans everywhere, including myself, I give you the final version of my undergraduate thesis…and I challenge anyone reading this to turn this into devil worship…you can’t, pull your ignorant heads out of your arses.and actually look at what you think you know.

Introduction and Thesis
We live in a time rife with environmental degradation and pollution (Francis, 2015). The roots of the exploitation go deep. Since the successful challenge of Augustinian philosophy and Church dogmatic hegemony, Western religious thought has steadily been embracing the idea of what Spinoza termed, Dea Natura, God is Nature (Goff, 2011). In the second half of the 20th century it would appear this movement has reached a critical stage, splitting in two, on one side being the Catholics with Vatican 2 and the Protestants whole-heartedly embracing the importance of Nature, both religiously and ecologically within the existing framework of their faiths, and on the other the (re)emergence of earth-centered religions, such as Wicca, as pure nature religions, not adapted from a theist framework. Rather they are the revival of ancient pre-Christian nature-worship, otherwise absent in the West except for the practices of Indigenous Americans. In this paper I will argue, that 1) yes Wicca is a nature centered religion with a direct continuity to the pagan earth-worshipping past, 2) it’s emergence/reemergence is in direct response to environmental pollution reaching a critical stage in the second half of the 20th century and 3) most importantly it is the strongest manifestation yet of a natural immune response of a living conscious planet.
Methodology (755/1607)
The primary purpose of this paper is to illustrate the correlation between the rise of the religion known as Wicca and the progression and then partial abatement of environmental pollution. It is to elucidate not only the connection between the two from a sociological/historical standpoint, but also from a more profound purposeful perspective, that being that the Earth is alive, capable of speaking to us in the symbolic language of the unconscious mind that Carl Gustav Jung theorized, that it is the manifestation of the Creative power of God, and as such God is not a remote being silent and removed from His/Her creation, but rather imbued in every fiber of it and speaking to us through it every second of every day. Furthermore, this realization would fill in the holes of the Theists, the problem of evil, and the true nature of original sin and how it can be transcended. It is my fervent belief that not only would this give hope to the legions of the despairing in this world, but it would halt environmental exploitation in its tracks.
Furthermore, it is to fill the void of scholarly works on Wicca as a legitimate religion, especially credible philosophical works on the religion’s practices and beliefs. However, it is also intended to be accessible to the “lay” readership, non-scholar adults interested in religions, and environmental issues, whether they be Wiccan or not. That being said, the arguments and to whom are those arguments directed are a myriad group of people. Scholars, environmentalists, ecologists, sociologists, politicians, theologians and others, will find informative value in the subject I am covering.
To do this I considered multiple sources of data, they are:
• Demographic data
• Reference Data (useful in establishing a concept definition of the groups and terms discussed herein)
• Political data (legislation primarily)
• Historical data (history of witchcraft and the modern Wiccan movement,
• Personal perspective (statements from Wiccan authors as well as my own knowledge and experience as a Wiccan initiate as to the purpose and philosophy of the religion)

I am taking a scholarly approach to analyzing this data, by that I mean I am not including anything that cannot be verified and corroborated by legitimate peer-reviewed sources and research, as a glaring weakness of the Wiccan movement is a lack of scholarly works, weakening valid claims of legitimacy as many writers within the religion are simply not writing in this manner, for what reasons I could only speculate. Furthermore, as a Wiccan myself, I want to give a perspective on the religion to outsiders, scholars specifically, that simply is impossible to give unless intimately involved with the religion, as I have been for over 15 years.
As this is a paper largely dealing with religious and ecological subjects, it helps to define exactly what I mean in the usage of the various terms associated with both subjects. I speak of ecology, both in environmental sense, as in a biome of interrelated creatures; but in the sense of religious ecology, a grouping of interdependent ideas, practices etc. that make up a religion, as well as the indigenous understanding of “religious ecology” where there is no separation between Humanity and Nature, and separation is an artificial construct (Grim & Tucker, 2014) I primarily focus on the definition of religion attributed to Paul Tillich, “Religion is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern” and I define spiritual as being concerned with not only religious matters but again in the indigenous sense, spirits as in entities possessing humans, flora, fauna and the elements themselves.
As to understandings present about the connections of “religion”, “ecology”, and “environmental degradation”, a Wiccan would almost intuitively grasp, much as a native would, that the separation of religion from the environment/natural world, is the source of environmental degradation and as it pertains to my thesis, pollution. As Wiccans invoke the elements of Nature in all rites, there is no separation between one and the other, religion is in no way separate from the ecology of the natural world, nor is there any separation between the individual and the perceived world. This separation quite plainly is an artificial illusion Wiccans in no way subscribe to. There might be some difference of opinion as a characteristic of Wicca and Neo-paganism is its freedom of interpretation, but any author I have ever read on the subject makes it quite clear, there is no separation.

Finally, I borrow from Grim and Tucker’s “Ecology and Religion” their elucidation of the process by which to analyze the data and put it in perspective. They laid out retrieval, reevaluation and reconstruction. As it applies to Wicca, I will use this method to retrieve what was Wicca, or as it is referred to historically, Witchcraft & Paganism, to reevaluate it, as where it went wrong, and what it had right, and reconstruct it as a system of beliefs, a religious ecology that has reconstructed itself to form the religion we now call Wicca.

Analysis
Part 1 Wicca as a nature centered religion
Retrieval
To begin with, there must be an understanding of where “Wicca” came from. It should be noted that Wicca is part of a greater Neo-Pagan “revival”, and so it is important to understand what practices it borrows from. A thorough analysis of the various historical teachings and practices of these paths would be impossible in the context of this paper, so instead I will give an overview of the traditions that the founder of the modern Wiccan movement, Gerald Gardner, used to formulate his system as well as my own experience as to what are used today in a typical Wiccan ritual. Gerald Gardner specifically mentions the Keys of Solomon in his book “High Magick’s Aid” (Gardner). However, within the context of the greater Pagan community, Wicca borrows mostly from the reconstructed Celtic Druidic traditions, and it also uses elements from what would today be classified as Hermetic or Ceremonialist Texts, a tradition almost inextricably linked with Masonry, Thelemics and the Works of King Solomon, all of whom were heavily influenced by Kemeticism. In addition, it incorporates “European witchcraft”, Gardner himself claimed to be initiated into one of the last surviving covens in Britain in 1939 (Adler, 1979) It is a mistake I believe to attribute Wicca solely to one individual, one that is made by scholars approaching Wicca from a dogmatic theistic perspective. Wicca is unique in that it is not dogmatic, there is no central theology one must ascribe to, and that is an important facet that must not be overlooked if one is to truly understand this religious movement.
Druids
Wicca borrows heavily from old Druidic tradition. “[Druids were] priests of ancient Celtic Britain, Ireland, and Gaul and probably of all ancient Celtic peoples, known to have existed at least since the 3d cent. BC. Information about them is derived almost exclusively from the testimony of Roman authors, notably Julius Caesar, and from Old Irish sagas, supplemented to some extent by archaeological evidence. The druids constituted a priestly upper class in command of a highly ritualistic religion, which apparently centered on the worship of a pantheon of nature deities. Druids were also responsible for the education of the young and generally for the intellectual life of the community; although apparently literate, they taught by oral transmission, and their courses are said to have lasted as long as 20 years. The druids believed in immortality of the soul in a nonjudgmental world of the dead. Their religious ceremonies seem to have been performed chiefly in tree groves (the oak and the mistletoe that grows on the oak were held sacred) and at river sources and lakes. The druids performed animal and human sacrifices and practiced divination and other forms of magic.” (Lagasse, 2016)
It should be noted that the accounts of human sacrifice are entirely from the perspective of a foreign conqueror, the Romans, who no doubt had a vested interest in portraying the natives as savages, as at stake was the Isles copious amounts of silver. Current archaeological evidence it would appear remains inconclusive, as there have been skeletons found, but there is little to say that these “victims” were ritually sacrificed, or merely casualties of the many wars between Celtic tribes. A full search of the UW database revealed absolutely no scholarly articles to back up the sensationalist claim.
Of note however is the fact this was indeed a nature religion, practiced amongst the sacred groves, with worship primarily focused on Nature deities. As cited above there are old Irish sagas that survived that detail the legendary powers and prowess of these priests, blighting kings and calling up storms and mists to confuse the enemy in battle (Cowan, 1993)
Ireland is an incredible reference tool in terms of reconstructing what Druidism was, what the old sabbats were. To this day, Samhain is still celebrated there, and the Old Ways never 100% died out. In fact, Celtic Christianity is unique among the Catholic faiths that it managed to adopt and assimilate much of the Old Ways without too much disapproval from the Church, of definite note, given that other areas (the Cathars most notably) were burned to the ground for heresy, even though the gnostic thought that condemned them was to some extent prevalent among the Irish.

Hermeticism
The paths that can be classified under Hermeticism are varied, they range from Thelemics and Aliester Crowley, to Masonry, to Kabbalah, to Alchemy. It is too much to try to cover in the context of this paper, however Gardner specifically cites the work, “the Keys of Solomon the King”, in his book High Magick’s Aid, both works that are on the level of classics among Wiccan/Neo-pagan circles. The keys of Solomon is supposed to be written by the Jewish King himself (McGovern, 2007). The work itself discussed rituals (some involving blood), planetary hours, which are specific times to do specific magical workings, ritual garb, casting sacred space, summoning spirits and the like. It is a very useful and detailed work regardless of its origin. Contrary to popular belief it specifically invokes the Christian/Hebrew God, as well as angels, thereby giving the practitioner the authority over spirits and demons in the name of God. (Mathers, 1888)
Kemeticism
Kemeticism, or the reconstructed religion of Ancient Egypt, is also a tradition too vast to cover within the scope of this work. However, its contributions to what Wicca is are as follows, it is the basis for some of what is Hermeticism, and therefore the basis for Wicca in part, and it also is the basis for Alchemy. Alchemy too often is misrepresented as simply turning base metals into gold. It is not just that, it is also a spiritual practice, one where the human spirit and soul are transmuted. I fear my intellectual counterparts fell into the trap set by the ancient alchemists, they failed to see the hidden meaning for those with eyes to see. It is this definition, the spiritual one, that concerns me here. “Egyptian alchemy involved physical, psychological, and spiritual methods and rituals.” (Cavalli, 2016)
Witchcraft
“As the practice or the production of malign or beneficial magic, witchcraft has an enduring place in the western, and in much of the non-western, imagination of the dynamics of esoteric and exotic powers. Its practitioners and producers, putative or real, range from the magus and the sorcerer to the devil-worshipper and the demonically possessed. They are as ancient as Medea and as contemporary as the benign neopagans of Tanya Luhrmann’s Professions of the Witch’s Craft (1989) …Institutionalized churches can and often do incorporate magical technologies into their standard cultus, but they are uniformly hostile to the sorcerer or witch who asserts or represents a challenge to their ritual authority. The western history of the persecution of such challenges is as inseparable from the history of the Catholic inquisitions as from the structural conflicts and fractures that mark the ascendance of the bourgeoisie in the modernizing states of Europe and the Puritan colonies of North America.” (Turner, 2006)
“[Witchcraft is] a form of sorcery, or the magical manipulation of nature for self-aggrandizement, or for the benefit or harm of a client. This manipulation often involves the use of spirit-helpers, or familiars…. Anthropologists distinguish sorcerers, who acquire their powers through study and initiation, from witches, who inherit their powers. In some cultures, especially European, however, the two terms are used interchangeably…The origins of witchcraft in Europe are found in the pre-Christian, pagan cults such as the Teutonic nature cults; Roman religion; and the speculations of the Gnostics (see Gnosticism), the Zoroastrians, and the Manicheans….Religious persecution of supposed witches commenced early in the 14th cent. Trials, convictions, and executions became common throughout Europe and reached a peak during the 16th and 17th cent. Under the authority of the Spanish Inquisition, as many as 100 persons were burned as witches in a single day. ” (Lagasse, 2016)
It is the greatest irony, that to some extent the very body charged with rooting out witchcraft, the Spanish Inquisition, might have inadvertently created it (Adler, 1979). It is important to note that Wicca is not specifically witchcraft, any more than it is specifically pagan. It is a reconstruction, a best guess based on the evidence left. But a good portion of the evidence, specifically the testimonials used by Margaret Murray, were actually from the Inquisition. So to the extent that Wicca resembles witchcraft, its roots may indeed be based on the fears of the medieval Catholic mind.

Reevaluation
Part of what scares people when you tell them you are a witch, is the history of that word. Whereas some within the community would insist it is undeserved, I would say such a statement is disingenuous and naive. It is well known that Roman historians documented practices of human sacrifice among the Druids in Britain, and whereas we can argue as to whether that was simply a form of political slander to justify conquest, or actually the truth, the perception of it being factual is there, and that is what matters for the eventual success of this “new religious movement”, the proverbial court of public opinion. Furthermore, there are plenty of instances of the practice of blood magic and necromancy(technically the Keys of Solomon elucidate certain types of these rituals), rumored or factual again being irrelevant, and let us not forget that the ancient religious ancestors of Wiccans, the pagans, took great delight sacrificing Christians to the lions in Rome for their refusal to take the vow of state allegiance to Jupiter, as well as great delight in sacking Rome and Christendom as the Visigoths and Vikings respectively. There is a reason there are Biblical injunctions again sorcery in Leviticus, and that allegations of witchcraft were enough to make the entire town of Salem Massachusetts lose their collective marbles; no matter how much caution and care is put into using supernatural powers and teaching the Art of same, some will use it for selfish or hurtful ends, just as some will use it to avenge wrongs, with hideous results.
There are the elements of the old pagan paths, however, that should be “revived”. Both Druid and Egyptian acknowledged of Feminine divinity alongside the Masculine, as well as the Druids displaying an understanding of elemental power. By that I mean understanding that we, like the Earth are a balance and combination of the four natural elements, and through this mystical understanding, seemingly magical change could be effected. Druids on either side of battles in ancient Britain lended aid to their king’s troops, by calling up fogs, or blighting the opposing force’s crops or kings. (Cowan, 1993)
The old wise men and women, whether they be of the Druid or the Egyptian tradition were known for their healing arts, their knowledge of natural medicines in the form of medicinal plants and herbs. “Meanwhile, in the common culture that elites shared with others, English country tradition already supported a world of cunning women and men who used the products of nature in magical practices that existed side by side and, sometimes, intermixed with Protestant church ritual, If colonial libraries can be taken as evidence, alongside these cultural manifestations an elite magical and metaphysically oriented tradition, influenced by continental Hermeticism that had been subsumed into Paracelsan, Rosicrucian, and Jewish Kabbalistic forms, flourished in early America” (Albanese, 2002).
Indeed, it is often brought up that Wicca is a new religious movement with no continuity to the past, as well as the environmental movement has roots in Christian thought, however both statements gloss over crucial pieces of evidence, hidden within both arguments. Berry writes an entire book in essence asserting that the worship of nature arose out of shifts in Christian thought, and whereas there is plenty of evidence to say that yes, Protestants did in fact adopt the notion, what is ignored is precisely what Catherine Albanese pointed out in the previous paragraph, the Old Ways never 100% died out and were indeed influencing Protestant thought continually, at least since the 16th century if we are to take the broadest definition of “colonialism” as it pertains to America.
Why is St. Patrick of such great import if he did not drive the rest of the “snakes”, a symbol of the Druids, out of Ireland, i.e. convert the Celtic pagans in the 5th Century? Why did the Scandinavian countries conduct raids of Christendom as Vikings, all the way up until the 10th Century, those countries not fully converted by some accounts till as late as the 12th century, and the Sami, never 100% being converted? There would have been no Spanish Inquisition beginning in the 14th century if there were not dissent in the ranks. Indeed, if one decides to break with orthodoxy and do a little non-church approved reading, there are plenty of accounts that Christianity did not have the theological hegemony it would like to claim. Rather there are plenty of examples of Christianity being spread by violence, the inference being that those being “saved” had to be converted by sword or torch. Furthermore, by Berry’s own admission thinkers such as Muir wrote in pantheistic terms, even if the language they used was of the Christian vernacular. Indeed, the whole time Christianity has been around, there has been an undercurrent of pantheistic, Gnostic, pagan thought that refused to be snuffed out, even if it was forced underground. Quite frankly revelation has always come from Nature as God, it’s just a question of when the Christians decided to listen.
As to Wicca and the supposed disconnect to the pagan past, if one throws out the obviously flawed argument that for 1700 years all there was in the West, was Christianity, and realizes that there is indeed plenty of evidence to prove Paganism in one form or another survived despite the Churches best attempts to eradicate it, then the question is no longer whether Wicca & Neopaganism in general is new, as in that light it obviously isn’t, but rather how accurate of a reconstruction it is, and if there were Cunning folk as Catherine Albanese described in Colonial America and England, then Gerald Gardner’s claim of initiation in 1939 no longer seems far-fetched, and Wicca as a whole may indeed be extremely accurate in its reconstruction. In fact, reconstruction implies the faith was at one point was deconstructed, when it would appear, that even though it was severely hampered by Christianity’s efforts to destroy it, it never fully was wiped out.

Reconstruction
It is important to note that the sociological ground was fertile for something like Wicca to arise, even though when looked at specifically it would seem to have come out of nowhere. Evan Berry in his book “Devoted to Nature”, not only documents the religious framework of the Middle Ages and earlier that lead to Nature in essence being demonized, but he also chronicles the shift from those attitudes beginning around the Enlightenment with Rousseau and others. From the dominant Christian perspective, Nature slowly evolved from a spiritually dangerous thing, to something that could not only offer redemption, but salvation as well. Specifically, towards the last half of the 19th century, and gaining steam in the 20th, great ecological thinkers, such as Thoreau, Muir and Leopold gave this transition steam, viewing the land in radically different contexts than their medieval forebears. I would note, that this shift occurred, and gained steam the most, at the same time the Industrial Revolution, and the Inquisition ended. There is a correlation, and I would emphasize the narrative Berry tells, indirectly credits Paganism a source of revelation that influenced the whole environmental movement, Protestant Christian and otherwise. By his own admission Naturalist groups are referring to nature in distinctly pagan terms. If one is to see the proverbial forest through the trees, Christian groups were doing this, because they were being influenced by Paganism, and what fueled the transition, to a great extent were environmental factors reaching critical mass.
Not surprisingly then, the precursors to the founding of Wicca as a religion in its own right occurred at this same time. During the Victorian era there was an interest in Orientalist philosophy and the occult, in the form of mediumship and séances. This is also the time of the Theosophical society, Madame Blatavasky’s “Isis Unveiled” and in general an uncharacteristic interest in subject material that only a century or so earlier would have been branded heretical and quite possibly punished by death. Again, the Inquisition was not ceased until the 18th Century, and arguably, it was never fully dissolved, just became an office in the Roman Curia under a different name.
It is in the context of this renewed (or perhaps more appropriately, liberated) interest in alternative philosophies and occult ideas that Wicca arose. Wicca attempts to be the modern incarnation of these ancient paths pieced together, quite the challenge when the corpus of texts was by in large destroyed or stolen by the Catholic Church (Ellerbe, 1995). It is somewhat scholastically dishonest, and dangerously close to the same kind of intellectual orthodoxy that brought us things like the Dark Ages and the Inquisition, to say that Wicca has no link to the past, that it is not indeed an accurate reconstruction of the pagan past. If what characterized the Druid religion was nature deities, nature worship and a solar calendar, then Wicca does this, even though it adds several things.
To the extent that Wicca resembles Paganism, specifically Celtic Paganism, there can be little dispute that the 8 Wiccan Sabbats, or Holy Days, held on Dec 21(Yule), Feb 2(Imbolc), Mar 21(Ostara), May 1(Beltane), June 21(Litha), August 1(Lughnassadh), September 21(Mabon), and Oct 31(Samhain), do indeed have pre-Christian roots, as they are solar/agricultural days of import, and these dates were co-opted by the Church. What was Yule, or the Winter Solstice, became the birthday of Christ. ” Christmas day (December 25th) was usurped and inaccurately fixed by Christians from the Roman festival of Mithra. It came in turn from the Celt festival of the winter solstice, an astronomical event the Druids observed to set the exact beginning of the new solar year ” (Hinduism Today, 1994). The Celtic Goddess Brigid, not only became a saint, but her holy day on February 2nd became Candlemas, the feast of the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The vernal equinox became the crucifixion of Christ. Beltane, became the ascension and Pentecost. Midsummer became St John’s Day. Lughnassadh, or Lugh’s Day, the Celtic God of the Sun became Lammas, August 1st. The autumnal equinox became a day for the angels. Samhain became All Saints Day.
There can be no dispute that these were originally Pagan holidays, specifically Celtic/Druidic holidays. Indeed, there are numerous epistles of Christian priests bemoaning the persistence of the Beltane (May Day) fires, and the wholly unchristian orgies that took place there, as well as the persistence of the Celtic Day of the Dead on Oct 31st, as well as the fact Christmas was actually banned because it was “too pagan”. In short, paganism did not go away quietly (Karras, 1986).
In addition to solar/agricultural based observances as the primary times of worship, and ancient Nature associated Deities as the focus of worship, there are the four elementals that figure prominently in all Wiccan rituals. The elements (or watchtowers as they are usually termed) of earth air fire and water, are specifically invoked, without fail. (Moura, 1996). The origin of “four elements actually come to us from the ancient Greek philosophers, specifically Empedocles, although both Plato and Aristotle reference and debate them as well (Lagasse, 2016)
These three things, nature centered observances/holy days, nature oriented deities, and “natural elements” figuring prominently in every ritual, solidly cement Wicca as a nature centered religion. In addition, in the higher levels of understanding, it is to be recognized that the elements of nature, also exist in the person, and meditation on this spiritual truth is key.
Interestingly enough, Grim and Tucker without being Wiccan to my knowledge honed in on this in their work. “The elements of earth, air, fire and water are important in religious ecologies as bio cultural realities that literally and symbolically weave humans into the vibrant processes of earth and the cosmos. However, as bio cultural symbols, air, earth, water, and fire can be seen as corresponding to religious ecological processes of orienting, grounding, nurturing, and transforming humans” (Grim and Tucker, 2014) They speak of the elementals, without even knowing it.
Characteristic of Gardner’s brand of Magic however, was an almost folksy romanticizing of Nature, his notion of redemption through nature only echoes the voices of Rousseau and Thoreau. Gardner just takes it a step further and puts a magical/supernatural bent on it. What he did however spawned a movement whose true reach and size cannot be fully accounted for. His ideas gave rise to a philosophy completely unique in the West. Goddess worship is usually something we think of in regards to Hinduism, but Wicca acknowledges feminine divinity as an equal partner to masculine divinity. Whereas some Christian theologians may balk at this, it cannot be argued that Yahweh, the Canaanite precursor to the God of the Bible, had a wife, the Goddess Asherah.
Wicca is indeed the reconstructed religion formerly known as paganism &/or witchcraft. Wiccans revere the Lord and Lady, God and Goddess, who are meant as an amalgam of any of the ancient dying a resurrected Gods such as Baldur, Dionysus, or The Green Man, Holly King or Oak King etc. etc., and on the feminine side, any of the ancient pagan Goddesses such as Brigid, Demeter, etc. etc. Those who seek to disqualify Wicca as a successful reconstruction of paganism based on the missing evidence from one specific vein of ancient paganism fail to understand that Wicca was never meant to be one specifically, but rather a blending of the best antiquity had to offer, and what we were left with.

Part 2 Coincidence with Modern Environmental Movement
As an American, I am the most familiar with events in American history, and so I will study the rise of Wicca from the American perspective. In modern times the first “Wiccan” in the United States was Raymond Buckland. Known affectionately as Uncle Bucky, he was born in London, his mother English, and his father Romani, or as we would better recognize, Gypsy. He was influenced and later initiated into Gerald Gardner’s coven. Not soon after, Gerald Gardner died and the two never met again. Buckland arrived in the U.S. in 1962, bringing Gardnerian Wicca with him. He established a coven, known as the Long Island Coven, and every Gardnerian Wicca in the United States pretty much can trace their magical lineage back to this coven. There are some exceptions, but by in large, they all come from him.
The 60’s is known as a turning point in American social history, Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love, the civil rights movement. While the hippies were better known for free love, drugs and rock and roll, the social revolution of the 60’s also included the Occult. It is in this atmosphere, that Gardner’s/Buckland’s ‘new’ religion found fertile ground. Whereas demographic data can be very hard to find as the census does not require people to self-identify their religious affiliation, independent sources show a very clear trend of increasing membership. In short, Wicca caught on like wildfire.
It should first be noted that I could not find any data for the number of Wiccans in the United States before 1970. However, after that, a sampling of the data I was able find is as such:
• 1972, “John Godwin estimated in “Occult America” that “there were at least 20,000 organized members in this country.”
• 1980: J. Gordon Melton of the Institute for the Study of American Religion estimated 30,000 to 40,000 adherents to some form of Craft doctrine. The estimate was based on data collected at the 1979 Pan Pagan Festival.
• 1990: The US Army published a book for the guidance of its chaplains when dealing with a soldier of a non-traditional faith: “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains.” 3 In the 1990 edition, the author comments: “MEMBERSHIP: Because of the complete autonomy of covens, this cannot be determined. There are an estimated 50,000 Wiccans in the United States.”
• 2000: The Covenant of the Goddess conducted a year-long poll of Witches and Pagans, starting 1999-JUL. They estimate that the total number of Witches and Pagans in the United States is about 768,400.
• 2001: On MAY-13, Stats Canada reported on the religious identification of Canadians, as determined by the 2001 census. Unlike the U.S., the government of Canada asks religious questions during their census data collection. They found that Wiccans and other Neopagans showed the greatest percentage growth of any religion in the country. They totaled 21,080 members in 2001, an increase of 281% from 1991. “If we assume that Canada and the U.S. have similar cultures and thus have a similar percentage of Wiccans, then there would be on the order of 197,429 Wiccans among the estimated 277.60 million Americans, compared to the 29.64 million Canadians. ” (http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_nbr2.htm)

In the same year as Raymond Buckland arrived in the United States, the modern environmental movement was born with the publishing of Racheal Carson’s “Silent Spring”, 1962. “Silent Spring is one of the most influential books of the 20th century, and its author the founding mother of modern environmentalism” (Bethune, 2007). “Carson is best known for her class 1962 book Silent Spring, which spawned the modern environmental movement” (Ecologist, 2005). “Her recommendations based on sound science helped to shape the initial environmental protections that evolved through the nineteen seventies.” (DeMarco, 2017). This work cannot be overstated in its importance and effect. It was the impetus for The Clean Air and Water acts, which in turn lead to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Those two pieces of legislation in turned spawned many other acts, the Safe Drinking water act as well as the Superfund Act among others. Indeed, Gaylord Nelson, Wisconsin Senator and founder of Earth Day, also conceived his idea in 1962. As he puts it, “When Racheal Carson’s blockbuster book Silent Spring came out in 1962, it started a vigorous national dialogue on herbicides and pesticides that continues to this day.” (Nelson, 2002). Conservation already was part of the national agenda, but no one exposed the endemic issue of chemical and industrial pollution quite the way Carson did.
What exactly happened in 1962? Why do these two major figures and the movements they spawned coincide, being not only in the same decade, but in the same year? Pope John XXIII convened Vatican 2 in October of that same year, shaking up doctrine and practice within the Church in dramatic ways. Kennedy was president. The threat of nuclear war was quite real and we were turning our eyes to space exploration. But why did all of these things occur when they did, especially in the context of the time? One final piece to the puzzle makes it clear, the Witchcraft laws in England were repealed in 1951. Witchcraft, with its spiritual reverence for the Earth never went away. What happened is that it was no longer suppressed, and without that artificial suppression, it naturally flourished. Combined with the growing unease at the exploitation of natural resources as well as widespread use of herbicides, the mass consciousness of society rebelled, and in many cases it rebelled by turning to the path always associated with reverence for Nature, and it rebelled by fully embracing the wisdom Nature had to offer, shedding the artificial garb of Theism that had separated it.
It should be noted however that this transition to Nature spirituality was many decades in the making. As Berry points out, many before this time were starting to grasp that certain things about how the dominant religion in the West viewed nature, might be erroneous. “It is certainly true that Muir took issue with central tenets of mainstream Christian belief, notably the idea that human beings have utter dominion over creation and that only human beings are ensouled…Muir affirmed Emerson’s “expansive concept of God that went beyond all organized religion,” which thus required extra religious practices to achieve knowledge or experience of the divine. From the emerging perspective of nature spirituality, explicitly Christian rites and ceremonies were not to be rejected but rather spiritualized…The popularity of Muir’s sentiments signaled a moment of radical flux, in which Americans along the West Coast were “most open to new spiritual exploration”” (Berry, 2015)

Part 3 Rise of Wicca as the strongest manifestation yet of a natural immune response of a living conscious planet.
I am not a believer in mere coincidence. Formation of the modern environmentalist movement occurred at exact same time as rise of Wicca in United States; just as Silent Spring signaled a major shift in resource policy for the nation, so did Wicca signal a major socio-religious shift.
There are two ways in which one could look at this. The first is from a directly causal correlation/relationship. Most Wiccans would self-identify as environmentalist, and so one could argue that people already concerned with the environment saw what I saw in it, that is a religion that grasps the sacredness of incarnation, and the Earth better than any other commonly available in the West. Or one could look at it from the other perspective, that as Berry argued religious attitudes were already shifting in a more ecologically friendly manner and Wicca just somehow sprung up in the midst of all this. Certainly the data backs up the claim that there is a correlation between the two. Whether one caused the other or vice versa is up for debate, but the connection definitely seems to be there in some way.
But I think there is something deeper going on here, and far more profound, and it strikes at the heart of what every single devotee of Nature throughout recorded history saw. For centuries the scientific orthodoxy has regarded the Earth as inert, a lifeless hunk of rock with a molten core that just so happened to generate a magnetic field that keeps us all from frying to death in the solar rays, and just so happened to have all the conditions to create and support life and did so, in all of its myriad forms for millions of years. It seems so odd to me to conclude that something that seems to heave forth life from every orifice and cranny, would itself be lifeless, especially when one looks at that magnetic field as very similar to the aura surrounding humans and every other living thing. Even the religious orthodoxy did not do much better, Augustinian philosophy stating it was a source of spiritual ruin and even on a good day, only Gods creation, not something conscious and divine in its own right.
Indeed, I am not the only one to find such a conclusion, that the earth is inert, erroneous. “The writings of Giordano Bruno of the 16th cent. carried such weight as to influence the development of modern thought, especially through Spinoza, in whose monistic system pantheism receives its most complete and precise expression.” (Columbia, 2016) Pantheism in general states, quite simply, that God is Nature, Dea Natura as Spinoza termed it. Indeed, Bruno was burned at the stake for stating such beliefs, in addition to challenging the Church’s geocentric view of the universe, and Spinoza was excommunicated by the Jewish orthodoxy.
Berry points outs that many people over the years have challenged the idea that the Earth is lifeless, again he notes Muir’s propensity to use almost pantheistic language. Even though the official position of the Catholic Church has remained that the Earth is not alive, many in Western thought have found this to be incorrect, even if they could not prove it. As a side note, neither Science, nor the Church cannot prove the earth is dead.
A characteristic of a living being is the energy field it gives out. The Chinese term this Chi, or vital force. “For the photo file, the practitioner or nonpractitioner could press his or her palm onto 1 envelope that contained film…Thus, the study measured reproducible field energy or an EMF and micro discharges” (Zheng, 2016). “In modern science human body is regarded as an energetic system, which creates bioenergetic radiance around the body.” (. Trumsiņa, 2009). Well, the earth creates a similar field, the magnetosphere, as a result of it being a hydro magnetic dynamo. “The dynamo mechanism is a generic physical mechanism which excites large-scale magnetic fields in stars (including the Sun), planets and galaxies” (Sokoloff, 2007)
Not so coincidentally the Earth just so happens to generate a magnetic field very similar to the one generated by any other living thing. Consider systems theory in general. The earth is a biological, geological and chemical system, whose parts are so numerous and complex that quite frankly the odds of it all working right for a day, let alone billions of years, are astronomically against life continuing. In fact, if looked at from that perspective it does actually become somewhat impossible that it has worked, and the fact that it has, is nothing short of a daily miracle. But perhaps it isn’t all random, perhaps there is a consciousness guiding it all. Then the odds change from being stacked against life, to wholly in favor of life. “’the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, that is, that systems exhibit properties and behavior which emerge from the complex interactions of the system at multiple levels and which are not readily deducible from a study of the system’s individual components in isolation.” (Harris, 2012)
James Lovelock along with Lynn Margulis developed what is known as the Gaia Theory in the 1970’s, again extremely close to the time frame when Wicca and environmentalism (as defined by natural resource managers as someone whose primary concern is pollution) also appeared. In it they state that the biosphere, is a self-regulating entity, able to maintain and adjust the balance within the environment to sustain life. It goes on to say that not only is the biosphere self-regulating, but both organisms and environment affect each other and co-evolve. This thinking has further evolved into Earth systems science and the primary assertion of same is “The Earth system behaves as a single, self-regulating system with physical, chemical, biological, and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts are complex and exhibit multi-scale temporal and spatial variability;” (Harris, 2012)
What if this inert lifeless hunk of rock hurtling through space isn’t lifeless at all, what if the Earth is not only alive, but conscious as well? The Hindus, one of the oldest continuous cultures, as well as notably pantheistic, have long held this notion of everything being sentient, “the Vedāntic view states that the origin of everything material and nonmaterial is sentient and absolute (unconditioned). Thus, sentient life is primitive and reproductive of itself – omne vivum ex vivo – life comes from life. This is the scientifically verified law of experience. Life is essentially cognitive and conscious. And, consciousness, which is fundamental, manifests itself in the gradational forms of all sentient and insentient nature.” (Shanta, 2015). Even the West is starting to catch on, “In this framework, Awareness is the underlying reality, not reducible to anything else. Awareness and existence are the same. As such, the universe is non-material, self-organizing throughout, a holarchy of complementary, process driven, recursive interactions. The universe is both its own first observer and subject.” (Theise, 2016) In short, not only is the Earth alive and conscious, but all of existence and the Universe is.
What if coevolution is exactly the way of things, precisely because of that universal consciousness and by what we are doing with massive industrial and chemical pollution, an entity that moves slowly by the laws of physics (greater inertia to overcome, dimensional scaling), cannot keep up with the rapid changes created in the 20th century? What if we truly are killing our mother and all other life on this planet. What is a being with complex agency supposed to do when one group of her children seem hell-bent on killing all the rest?
We are just now discovering that trees communicate with each other in ways never realized before, that the network of micorrhizal fungi under the soil surface acts as a neural network. We are discovered that plants are far more complex than we ever thought. Even soil itself is teeming with life. If the trees are speaking to each other, is it so farfetched that the entity they grow from might be alive and capable of communicating in some way? And how would such a being communicate and what would it say to us?
In the face of the myriad threats facing us I’m pretty sure that that being would try to communicate to us to stop, and in some way to show us she’s alive. Eduardo Kohn recognizes this in his book How Forests Think, in taking semiotics, i.e. the study of symbols and meanings, and applying it to the forest cultures of the Amazon. His anthropological study points out that maybe we have been looking at this all wrong the whole time and that yes, the forest is speaking to us in a language most of us in the West have forgotten. However, there are a few left in this hemisphere that do understand, the indigenous shamans, and the Earth-worshipping Pagans, of which a subset is Wiccans.
There have been messages over the years, the dust bowl in response to over plowing the Midwest, increase in earthquakes around fracking injection sites, mine collapses, storms of increasing intensity, the signs are all there, if one ceases to look at it as all random, and one just so happened to have the “translation”. If this Being were very wise, she would understand the most potent symbolism known to man are the unconscious symbols of religion. This is a spiritual truth that every single indigenous shaman, as well as their European counterparts, the Pagans, would acknowledge. Such a being would not speak in words, for the Earth does not have a mouth, but rather in unconscious thoughts and feelings, as we are all linked by the Collective Unconscious. Quite simply, the Earth speaks to us in the language of dreams, again, every indigenous shaman on the planet would agree. With the rise of Wicca in the last 50 years, has come an unabashed promulgation of the wisdom of Nature. No longer must Dea Natura be cloaked in Theistic terms, no longer must we deny the intuitive knowledge that there is something real and tangible imparting Divine knowledge. As a result, the path is clear to reverse anthropocentrism. If this earth is alive, it radically changes our relationship with it, and that knowledge has the potential to revolutionize the way we view it, as a result treat it, and quite possibly can halt environmental degradation in its tracks.
For if it is one universal consciousness, then shamans, witches, Hindus and say Jungian analysts, are furthermore right in maintaining the underlying unity of all phenomena, and we humans are not removed in any way from this process, we only perceive ourselves as separate. We are completely 100% part of the consciousness of the Earth, of the Universe, of God, and of each other. If the definition of an immune response is a reaction by the host to resist or render neutral a foreign substance or threat, then the reemergence of Nature centered religions can be seen as a reaction by our host planet, and us a part of that consciousness/system, to neutralize the technically foreign substance threat known as pollution (buried deep in the Earth’s crust, or created in a lab means they are foreign to the biosphere).

Conclusion
All that being said, yes, Wicca is a nature centered religion, it is a response to environmental pollution and it is the natural immune response of a threatened planet targeted at the very society responsible for the threat, as yes, Western Society is responsible for the environmental threats we face, especially as other cultures adopt our diet and methods.
Of what import is this theory? We are using, and abusing and in danger of destroying the being who gives us life, with everything from climate change, to geoengineering and seismic weaponry, among other things. We suck the blood of the earth, oil, out like vampires, with reserves swiftly running out, and disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon becoming ever more commonplace as we desperately seek it in more remote and difficult locations. We chop down Gaia’s lungs, which are our lungs, not only for the paper industry, but with slash and burn agriculture in the Amazon. We genetically tamper with creatures with no real respect for the virulent potency of life, a danger even Nikola Tesla saw in his book, “the Problem of Increasing Human Energy”, and what happens when it is profoundly changed without millennia of evolution to stabilize it in the context of the environment. Such a revelation, changes quite simply, everything. Quite frankly, continued anthropocentrism will kill all humans and other life on this planet eventually. Maybe it won’t happen in our lifetime, maybe it will, but the IPCC, the UN, and about 99% of all scientists agree, where we are headed, is global death.
In terms of what it means for the legitimacy of Wicca, a religion that is quite possibly the voice of the Earth in the European West, no longer is it the angsty fringe, for losers and weirdos who couldn’t fit in, but rather the haven of prophets in a society that thinks God is dead. In short it would revolutionize society. Furthermore, Dea Natura cuts to the root of one of the greatest philosophical quandaries of all time, the problem of evil. For if the earth is alive, evil arises out of what we do to this planet, and every case of suffering on this planet, comes from the original break with Nature (God) in the garden of Eden. Leviticus then would be wrong to amend the original statement in Genesis of every seed bearing plant being our food, to say meat eating was ok, for such an idea is based on the idea the Earth and all Her creatures are but tools to be used. If the true allegory of the story of Cain and Abel, was the historical conflict and evil that arose from the adoption of agriculture, whose modern practice is responsible for 20% of all carbon pollution, and animals raised as food now vastly outnumber those in the wild, with Cain representing agriculture, and Abel representing hunter-gatherers, it stands to reason our condition, one of feeling trapped by modern society and doomed to toil till we are spent, might actually be the karma of such actions reflected back upon us. It is no coincidence then that God’s curse for our partaking of the fruit of knowledge is that we are cursed to toil for our food (agriculture). It is a matter of fact that every single war on the planet has always been about resources, the reason being that agriculture causes a population boom, and as the subsequent generations mature, they spread out, into someone else’s territory (Manning, 2004). A hunter gatherer society does not have this problem, as with a scarcity of nutrition, a woman’s menstrual cycle, and as a result, ability to reproduce, ceases. Quite simply evil exists because of us, and our original break with Nature. That is the true original sin, an insight St. Francis honed in on. All that being said, not only is it a matter of our continuity as a species that we stop viewing the Earth as separate from us to be dominated, but rather a matter of our spiritual redemption as well. The two are one, we are in no way separate or better than what surrounds us in light of the evidence. That is why it is sin, for it causes us and everything around us suffering. So the resurgence of nature spirituality is really the Universal Consciousness, God, trying to save us from ourselves, and get us to remember the original sin and evil that caused the break so buried in the sands of time it has either been forgotten or misinterpreted. Wicca is a nature centered religion, a substantial part of this renewal, it is a response to environmental pollution and it is the natural immune response of a conscious threatened planet targeted at the very society responsible for the threat.

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Is the Rise of Wicca an Immune Response of a Conscious, Living, Planet?
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