From podcasts to meetups, contemporary witches cast a spell on modern religion by Wallis Snowdon

Growing number of people practising ancient paganism in the modern world

A woman dressed as a witch walks on April 30, 2013 in a park in Prague during a traditional Celtic spring Walpurgis night celebration. Real-deal witches are becoming commonplace. (Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty ImagesAFP via Getty Images)

From potions to podcasts and spells to social media, today’s witches are taking stereotypes fuelled by children’s stories and making them disappear.

Far from the wart-nosed, broom-riding wretches, modern witches can be found in classrooms and cubicles. Growing interest in witchcraft has generated an industry of books, podcasts and social media forums dedicated to all things magical.

“Witches have always been cool,” said Glen Fairen, a religious studies instructor at the University of Alberta, who teaches the popular course Studies in Witchcraft and the Occult.

“[But in] the past four or five years, there seems to be a growing population of folks who are both interested in witchcraft, but also folks who practice what they claim is ancient paganism in the modern world.”

Dec. 21 — generally regarded in the northern hemisphere as the shortest day of the year and the first day of winter  — is also one of the eight holidays celebrated in the Wiccan calendar.

A worshipper of the Pagan Wiccan religion, left, and a friend stand near the ancient stone monument of Stonehenge, as access to the site is given to druids, New Age followers and members of the public to mark the annual Winter Solstice in 2006. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is a time for witches and warlocks to celebrate the birth of the Sun God.

“Everything has all these pagan elements to it,” said Katie Karpetz, owner of, an online retail shop specializing in witchcraft supplies. “For me, I’m just celebrating that this season of death is over. The cold is over and the sun is returning.”

She helps organize and manage The Witchery Market, a craft sale in Edmonton featuring pagan vendors. The market happens on Dec. 21 and 22 at 10433 83rd Ave.

Karpetz started studying witchcraft as a teen, but has been interested since she was a child, conjuring spiders and casting spells in the woods.

She follows the calendar for Slavic paganism, and celebrates winter solstice in a simple way.

“I’ll have my friends over and I’ll make a big dinner and set a place at the table for my deceased ancestors,” she said. “I’m not so much into ritual. I’m more into low magic, non-ritualized  READ MORE HERE:

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