“Real Witchcraft” in the 21st Century

How can we begin to make sense of Laura Mallory’s thoughts about witchcraft in the real world? Most Americans living in the 21st Century might believe in luck, ghosts, or folk tales, but for the most part, we tend to assume that the idea of witchcraft as a real phenomenon ended around the time of the Salem Witch Trials in the late 17th Century. However, if we only view Mallory’s fear of real witchcraft as backwards or superstitious, we risk missing out on the wider social context surrounding these cases.

Not only did many Americans in the early 21st Century view witchcraft as a real practice which could affect the natural world in some capacity, they also saw it as one aspect of a growing, global religious movement, and as a major influence on mainstream politics in the United States. This section explores “real witchcraft” through the eyes of several different 21st Century communities related to Mallory’s cases, for whom magic, at least to some extent, existed beyond the realm of fiction. 

Part one, “The Religious Right,” indicates how a culture of biblical literalism in 21st century conservative communities necessitated a belief in the supernatural.

Part two, “Wicca,” explores the concept of self-identifying witches and religious esotericism in the 21st Century.