Wicca emerged in the mid 20th century as an esoteric anomaly that was thought to be a surviving remnant of an ancient religion. In fifty years it grew to become Britain’s largest new religious movement, with a significant following across the globe. This paper charts the development of Wicca. It discusses how its mythos changed as it grew, how it spread, and how its adherents changed, and continue to change, their religious traditions within the overall parameters of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. It discusses how contemporary Pagan Witches no longer hark to an imagined past for inspiration, but see themselves as embracing the choice of a religion that is congruent with concerns of late modernity, and offers an inviting vision for the future. The paper concludes by examining factors which caused the rapid growth of Wicca, and discussing whether these will continue to help the religion grow, or may naturally curb further expansion.
Science is now transcending the materialist philosophy, and pointing toward a new sense of a living world. The cosmos is no longer like a machine running down; it is more like a developing organism with an inherent memory, and so is our planet, Gaia. The old idea of determinism has given way to indeterminism, chaos and complexity. The laws of nature may be more like habits. Minds may extend far beyond brains. Memories may not be stored as traces in our brains, and may not be wiped out at death. Mental causation may work from the future towards the past, while energetic causation works from the past towards the future. New experimental research points to the reality of our mental connections to the world around us. These new paradigm shifts in the sciences shed a new light on spiritual practices like pilgrimage, ritual, prayer and the survival of bodily death. In this workshop we will explore some of these many implications.