It doesn't help their cause, probably, that Wicca is so often wrongly associated with cheesy occult paraphernalia and abhorrent demonic activity.
"At first, my interest in Wicca was very childish. I loved lighting candles and incense, writing 'magick' with a 'k' at the end," says. Robinson. "I was attracted to the fancy trappings of the religion — crystals, oils, ornate statues, velvet robes. Wicca had a deliciously 'forbidden' aura. The more I studied Wicca,” she continues, “the more I came to understand that the heart of this faith has nothing to do with candles, crystals, or even spells and witchcraft."
"There are people who really do believe that Wicca is a Devil-worshipping religion, which is ironic, because Wiccans don't actually believe in the Devil at all," says Berkowitz. "We're not a Satanic religion."
"Wiccans aren't trying to make Satanists into scapegoats, either," he explains, after pausing to laugh at his choice of descriptive noun. "Not only is Satanism a legal religion in the US, but Satanists don't sacrifice things. They denounce that activity. If you read The Satanic Bible, you'll see that sacrifice is actually considered a fallacy. But people are afraid of Satanists and, by proxy, witches and Wiccans."
Many young Wiccans maintain a sense of humor about their typecasting. Back at BU, Nemeton, hard up for cash like any other student organization, is discussing their latest fundraising efforts. (And, no, they can't just conjure it out of thin air. They're witches, not alchemists.) The discussion, momentarily interrupted when a cell phone erupts with a Star Trek theme song ring-tone, centers on the regular bake sales that Nemeton sponsors to earn extra money — efforts that are especially profitable around Parents' Weekend.
"When the parents realize who they're buying cookies from, it's the greatest thing ever," says Dame, and the group laughs about how awkwardly suspicious and nervous their classmates' parents grow when confronted with a pack of young Wiccans, laden with baked goods.
"I love when they get all freaked out but try to make jokes about it," says DeSimone, "and ask things like, 'Did you put a spell on this cookie?' ’’
"I like to tell them 'yes,' ” she continues. “A spell for deliciousness." Poof!
Sara Faith Alterman ensures that no goats (or even chickens) were harmed in the preparation of this article. She can be hexed at firstname.lastname@example.org