BOB ABERNETHY (anchor): Wicca, as modern witchcraft is often called, and its symbol of the five-pointed star, or pentacle, are becoming more visible. Although estimates vary, many scholars believe there are at least 200,000 Wiccans in America today, 70 percent of them women. Deryl Davis reports on what it means when modern witches "come out of the closet."
DERYL DAVIS: It's a May Day celebration in Central Park. Complete with
maypoles, ribbons, and dancers. Only this isn't the usual May Day. It's the holiday
of "Beltane." And these people are witches.
Wicca, or modern witchcraft, is a polytheistic, earth-based religion. It emphasizes
feminism and the environment and encourages diversity of beliefs. It has no theological
system or creed, no central text, and no hierarchy.
ADLER (New York Bureau Chief, National Public Radio): Wicca is about the idea
that the earth is real, that the earth is the place where you locate the sacred.
That you do not need to die to get the good stuff.
A lot of women who were locked out of the priesthood, or the minister role in
their own religions, have come into Wicca because in fact they had a religious
calling and this is the only religion that could meet that calling.
DAVIS: A number of Wiccans have come from other faiths, particularly Christianity.
But Wiccans say they don't proselytize, and that "coming out" as a witch can be
CUROTT (Civil Rights Lawyer and Wiccan Attorney): We have high school students
who wear pentacles to school and who are then suspended because they are wearing
a symbol of this religion. We have people who face job discrimination who are
fired because they are discovered to be witches.
DAVIS: Phyllis Curott is a civil rights lawyer who leads a coven, or group,
of witches in Manhattan. She says "witch" is still a bad word in American society.
Wiccans emphatically deny that they worship Satan or practice black magic -- stereotypes,
according to them, created by Christians hundreds of years ago. Wiccans say they've
found divinity within themselves.
Coven chanting: "You are God. You are goddess."
CUROTT: We don't have to have faith that there is a God in his heaven, that
there's a transcendent divinity, because we have the experience of the divine,
we are able to feel it.
DAVIS: Adults aren't the only ones interested in Wicca. Pop culture depictions
of powerful, attractive witches have enchanted growing numbers of teenagers.
ASHLEY MUSTO (12-year-old Wiccan): You have a spell that could help you
with anything you could be worrying about, anything on your mind. If you need
to talk to someone, you could pray to a spirit. It's just really, really helpful.
DAVIS: This sort of talk worries people like Marcia Montenegro, who educates
Christians about the dangers of the occult.
MONTENEGRO (Christian Answers for the New Age): Christians definitely ought
to be aware that witchcraft is very appealing to teenagers. A lot of teenagers
today are actually targeted by the publishers of occult books. Web sites also
will have information for teenagers and encourage their interest.