Nina Neilson, a 19-year-old Wiccan
Nadia Hernandez (she/her); Chicago, IL—
In the 1690s, colonial Massachusetts grappled with divisive witch trials and fears of Paganism. But, today, there could be as many as 1.5 million Americans who practice Wicca, a modern Pagan religion also called Pagan Witchcraft, according to Newsweek.
Much of the United States assumes Wicca is a bunch of hocus-pocus, but Nina Neilson, 19, highlights how Wicca represents the relationship between the individual and the universe.
“It’s kind of just the way I perceive things and the world,” Neilson said. “It’s very much in tune with myself and how I affect the things around me and how the things around me affect me.”
Neilson identifies as Wiccan. Her mother introduced her to the Wiccan philosophy.
“The whole Wiccan philosophy [my mother] carried with herself for years,” Neilson said. “I always grew up around that. She gave me my first tarot deck; she kind of introduced me to the whole realm of spell work.”
Wicca has several sacred symbols similar to other religions. Neilson said that the Tree of Life is the one people tend to recognize the most.
“The Tree of Life means everything is connected through the roots of the tree and through the branches,” Neilson said. “Everything goes together, and everything helps each other in the universe. We’re all interconnected.”
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding Wicca. Neilson said many of them include associations with Satanism.
“People assume witches are all about spells and hexing, and there’s a lot of imagery of Satanism within it,” Neilson said. “That usually comes from the pentagrams, but that has no tie to Satanism. Of course there is dark magic, but even dark magic isn’t necessarily Satanic.”
But Neilson has never encountered someone who has judged her for being Wiccan, despite the stereotypes.
“People are pretty welcoming about it; they’re very intrigued and curious about it, if anything. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone who’s been like, ‘Oh, that’s weird,’” she said.
Wiccan holidays—called sabbats—align with seasonal changes and major American holidays. Samhain falls on Oct. 31 along with Halloween.
“Our world is the 3D, and the spiritual world is the 5D,” Neilson said. “[Samhain is] the one night where these two are very sensitive to each other because the line between the two realms is very, very thin.”
Other sabbats include the winter and summer solstice occurring on the shortest and longest days of the year.
Yet, many people are reluctant to recognize Wicca as a religion.
“I think most people simply do not believe in it because they hear ‘spellwork’ and think that’s not real,” Neilson said. “I think people simply just don’t believe it.”
Major TV shows, like “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” explore witchcraft. However, these shows explore Satanic witchcraft.
On TikTok, creators may fake Wiccan practices. However, Neilson said that Wiccan creators are making an impact.
“I feel they are portraying it very well and very beautifully because you read the comments and people are like, ‘This brought me to tears. Thank you for this. This has brought me so much clarity,’” Neilsen said.
However, Neilson said she thinks Hollywood will continue to misconstrue Wicca to fit the public’s stereotypes, rather than what the religion actually entails.
“[Hollywood] is just going to show [actors portraying Wicca as] doing spells and their Hollywood magic and make those spells seem like they’re causing all these things,” Neilson said. “They’re just using special effects.”
Wicca uses several sacred items such as crystals. It also values symbols such as dreams and self-affirmations.
Neilson thinks crystals and self-affirmations are a good place to start when exploring Wicca.
“Start with these basic crystals, the ones you always hear about, like rose quartz and amethyst, and start cleansing them,” Neilson said. “I would start with easy positive affirmation, connect to the 3D through visuals through affirmations and dreams,” Neilson said.