Ask the average person about ‘witches’ and ‘Witchcraft’ and you might get the usual responses involving Halloween costumes, Harry Potter and films like The Craft. Few people are aware that there are still practicing Wiccans and Pagans all over the world, and that Witchcraft is still very much alive in London. There are several groups, including the Pagan Federation, that organise events in and around London, as well as covens and women-only Wiccan groups. Even my university has a group for young Pagans in London that frequently meets to celebrate the various Pagan holidays and visits conventions, sacred sites and places of worship across the UK.
I spoke to Anne, 25, whose Wiccan name is Aradia SpiritMoon, about being a young Witch in London and asked if she had trouble with peoples’common myths and presumptions about Witchcraft.
“There are so many preconceptions about Wicca that I am careful who I tell people about my beliefs. If people were to ask more and assume less, everyone would be better informed. Many people ask why I don’t ‘look’ like a Witch – my only answer is that I can’t really turn up to my job in the city in my Wiccan robes! These days Wiccans adapt to modern life and have normal jobs, hobbies and appearances, while still finding time to indulge in the more traditional aspects of Wicca.”
What does London have to offer you, as a young Wiccan woman?
“I love London, and have found that living here gives me access to a lot more Wiccan groups, social events and communities. It is such an unknown part of society but the community is thriving – full of friendly, spiritual, intelligent and creative people, all with their own interests and talents. London also has some great Wiccan / New Age shops – one of my favourites is the Atlantis Book Shop in Bloomsbury, London’s oldest independent occult booksellers.”
As I was researching for this article, I came across a website called Avalonia where I found out about the Lapis Companions, a London-based open learning circle for people interested in exploring Wiccan spirituality and practice. So what kind of people do they attract? I asked the group’s leader, Sorita D’Este.
“All sorts, young & old and from all walks of life. Some people come along just out of curiosity, some come along to seek others with similar beliefs and philosophies about life and others simply to learn more about the subject which is being covered.”
So what exactly does this diverse group ‘do’?
“Avalonia organises workshops for people interested in the Western Mystery Tradition on subjects ranging from Wicca/ Witchcraft through to Egyptian Heka (magic) and Qabalah. We also organise a monthly meeting called "Lapis Companions" which is for people specifically interested in Wicca & Paganism, it’s an "open circle" which means anyone who is interested can attend. We also organise a yearly Midsummer Picnic every year in Richmond Park.”
Is the Wiccan tradition still thriving in London? Is it easy to practice in such a thoroughly modern city?
“Absolutely! There are a great many groups and people practicing Wicca in London today. In many ways it is easier to find others and learn in big cities such as London as information and events are plentiful and it is relatively easy to find out about public circles and rituals. Large organisations such as The Children of Artemis and the Pagan Federation also organise conferences, workshops and seasonal celebrations, and there are many moots (social gatherings) which provide a good place to meet others in a social context.”
One of the biggest events on any London-based witches’ calendar is Witchfest, a festival put on by the Children of Artemis, which was held in Croydon this year. It runs all day and this year had a variety of speakers and workshops, including talks by famous Wiccan writers Kate West and Cassandra Eason, as well as entertainment (bands and belly dancing!) and stalls selling Witchcraft & esoteric items. By all accounts it is a very friendly and social environment, as well as giving people the chance to hear from some of the most prominent Wiccan ‘celebrities’!
To find out more, go online! There are hundreds of websites devoted to Wicca that explain the basic principles, dispel any myths and have details of groups and events in your area. The friendly community and sociable approach to learning might cast a spell on you!