Catherine Edwards Sanders strikes me as an intelligent, compassionate woman who truly believes that despite its challenges past and present, Christianity remains the one and only way to Divinity. Funded by a Christian source and written to a Christian audience, her book aims to explain what Wicca and Neo-Paganism are, why people continue to leave the Church to pursue them, and what Christians can do to counteract this exodus.
Before I address the difficulties I had with Wicca’s Charm, I’d like to give the author credit for owning up to the hypocrisy of her religion on numerous occasions throughout the book. I was also glad to see her call on fellow Christians to be more environmentally conscious and to recognize women as spiritual equals. And though I’m sure this wasn’t her intent, I’m also grateful for the questions she raised about my faith – questions that have challenged me to look beyond the latest mass-market Wiccan publication and examine the history of Western Paganism from an academic perspective.
Edwards-Sanders garnered still more respect by pointing out how many Wiccans and Neo-Pagans are hypocrites. Many of us shake a disapproving finger at consumer culture with one hand while forking over cash for the latest ritual gear or tarot deck with the other. If Wiccans and Neo-Pagans weren’t spending increasingly large amounts of money on occult books, jewelry, clothing, and ritual tools, we wouldn’t see these things alongside other merchandise at mainstream retailers. How is this consistent with Neo-Paganism’s tenants of simplicity and sustainability?
Positives aside, the biggest problem I had with this book was the author’s attempt to appear balanced and objective when she was actually neither. It was impossible for Sanders to objectively compare and contrast another religion with her own because she came to the keyboard already convinced her way was the “right” way. Because of this, most of her writing came across as a scattered and passive-aggressive attempt to prove why Christianity is true and Wicca is false.
Yet another challenge was Sanders’ hypocrisy when discussing a Pagan creation myth. When she questioned Wiccans and Neo-Pagans about why they chose their current path over Christianity, one of the most frequent answers was “It empowers women, unlike Christianity.” The author then discusses why she feels Wicca isn’t empowering for women, citing the supposed fallacy of the matriarchal myth as well as the womanizing tendencies of a man who influenced early Wicca, Aleister Crowley.
To Neo-Pagans who practice Goddess Worship, the matriarchal myth (the theory that all of society was matrilineal and matriarchal prior to the establishment of Christianity) isn’t a myth at all – it’s a conviction. Though I’m in agreement with the author and prominent Wiccans like NPR correspondent Margot Adler that the theory’s historical accuracy is questionable, Sanders is hypocritical for citing academic references to tear it down while not subjecting Christianity’s creation myth to equal scrutiny. There is far more evidence that suggests why the latter is less plausible than the former. She also went to great lengths to convince her readers that accurate interpretation of the Bible shows how Christianity empowers women. I don’t mean to nay-say, but I have a hard time understanding how this could be the case when Eve is portrayed as the bearer of original sin. Perhaps Sanders was right when she said, “A myth does not have to be true to be meaningful.” 🙂
Every serious Neo-Pagan who reads this book will find opportunities for growth within its pages (though they probably won’t be the opportunities the author intended to present). It is worth reading for this reason alone.
Level: Initiate to Elder
Offers practical information that can be used now: B
Approachable and easy to understand: C
Intellectually credible: C