As Pop Culture Lures Kids Toward The Occult, Neutrality Toward Witchcraft Isn’t Enough

As Pop Culture Lures Kids Toward The Occult, Neutrality Toward Witchcraft Isn’t Enough

Written by Stephen G. Adubato |
Sunday, March 5, 2023

Ultimately, what keeps me from playing with witchcraft is the certainty that Christianity promises me a kind of hope and meaning that the occult could never give me. I find it much more satisfying to conform my will to that of a loving Creator and to receive what He chooses to give me rather than conjuring spirits that would help me manipulate and impose my will onto reality.

In a recent New York Times editorial, Ross Douthat called into question the naive, materialist readings of the new statue of a female pagan deity that was installed outside the New York courthouse. To those who think experimenting with “magic” and “spirituality” is a mere form of “playacting,” he warns of certain dangers that are “skated over in a lot of American spirituality,” urging people who think the statue is a mere ode to female empowerment to be “really careful in your openness and not just taking the beneficence of the metaphysical realm for granted.”

As someone who dabbled in witchcraft as a teen and has since “seen the light,” I found that Douthat’s words resonated deeply. I wonder how my own path may have turned out differently had I read his piece 20 years ago.

I got involved in witchcraft and occult practices after reading “Harry Potter” when I was about 10 years old. That said, I’m not the kind of Christian who thinks reading stories about witches and spells is intrinsically evil and that “Harry Potter” should be totally banned (book bannings usually end up having the inverse effect, anyway). But as Douthat indicates, the American materialist ideology that deems books like “Harry Potter” to be “neutral” and the stuff of pure fantasy overlooks the spiritual realities that the book taps into and the risks they carry with them.

For context, I grew up in a Greek family that is culturally Orthodox Christian and dabbled in folk witchcraft. In a lot of ways, I thought the rituals we took part in at church overlapped with the occult practices my grandmother and cousin did. There was something mystical, or as Charles Taylor would say, “enchanted,” about all of it, and it fascinated me. It filled me with the sense that there was more to life than meets the eye and that spirits were indeed present in our midst. Both Eastern Orthodoxy and witchcraft served as escape hatches to the stifling, unimaginative confines of bourgeois suburban materialism.

Several of my family members had a sort of spiritual “sensitivity.” I have an aunt and uncle who were a nun and a monk, respectively.

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