Record numbers of young women are dabbling in witchcraft, fuelling a boom in sales of spell books and other pagan paraphernalia, according to new research.
A study of teenagers and their consumption of books, magazines, kits, film and other media found that there are some 700,000 internet sites for teenage witches. The Pagan Federation claims to have several hundred inquiries a week from young people, and has set up a network for those under 18.
“There has been a noticeable rise in the number of young people identifying themselves as witches,” saidDenise Cush, professor of religious studies at Bath Spa University.
The trend is being boosted by American TV series such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Yesterday, several hundred witches gathered in south London for Witchfest, held at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon.
According to Professor Cush’s report, based on interviews with witches aged 18 to 24, it is the attitude to women that most attracts them: “Paganism and witchcraft appealed because of their clear feminist credentials and absence of homophobia. A main attraction is the positive valuation of women in comparison with other religions.”
According to the women and girls at Witchfest, their reasons for taking up witchcraft vary. Jayde Harris, 18, became interested because her mother is also a witch. “I don’t always tell people about it,” she said. Fellow Wiccan Lyn Jones said: “I do spells of good luck for people mainly. I sometimes want to do bad spells but I don’t - they come back to you three times as bad.”
And Sarah Jayne Thompson, 13, said: “My family are Christian but it never seemed to fit with me so I began reading about Wicca. Lots of the younger kids at school are scared of me, which is cool.”
Despite the solidarity at Witchfest, many still keep their beliefs private. Ms Jones said: “I only tell close friends… standing in the queue to come in we were worried someone we know would see us and think we’re weird.”