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From The Sun Times:
Occult hit: Witches bucking religion trend
WICCA | Leader teaching classes here tries to dispel myth that 'we're satanists and that we belong to the devil'
March 30, 2009
BY MIKE THOMAS Religion Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
They don't toil over bubbling caldrons or cook lost kids. They have no use for flying monkeys. And their spice racks are more apt to contain ginger or paprika than eye of newt.
Still, witches are far from fictional. And according to the most recent American Religious Identification Survey, released earlier this month, there are more of them than ever.
While most other major religions lost ground, Wiccan -- whose members, Wiccans, sometimes refer to themselves as witches -- and other so-called "New Religious movements" grew by more than a million members since the last ARIS survey was published in 2001. They're now an estimated 1.2 percent of the adult population.
In Chicago -- home to an unknown number of Wiccan covens (congregations) and independent practitioners --there's even a Witch School. An outgrowth of the nationally popular and long-active Web site witchschool.com, the Downstate Rossville-based organization currently offers three monthly courses and returned to town earlier this month after a five-year absence.
"One of the things that we found is that people frequently did not have access to information and wanted to learn more about Wicca and metaphysics," said the school's chancellor and one of its owners, the Rev. Don Lewis. "And we went into online teaching in order to make it more accessible to people. But it was never our intention that [the site] should replace real-time teaching."
Local classrooms include the Occult Bookstore in Wicker Park and the Life Force Arts Center in Lake View. Lewis said there's talk of expanding to St. Louis and "a number of different regions."
On a recent Friday night, Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard visited the Occult Bookstore to talk on the topic of "Magick for the Masses."
Few people attended, save for a handful of employees and one drop-in, but the show went on.
"You can change your environment by the power of your will," he declared, as a tiny digital camera taped his lecture for the YouTube channel Magick TV. "The first step is thinking. You have to have that spark."
The air smelled of honey-amber incense. Shelves and tables displayed crystals, candles and hundreds of books, with such titles as Practical Angel Magic of Dr. John Dee's Enochian Tables and The History of Witchcraft and Demonology.
In a phone interview before the event, Hubbard said a common misconception people have of witches is "that we're satanists and that we belong to the devil. That's a big one. And it's very hard because that's the dualist world of Christianity, and we just don't accept it."
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