‘Paganism and Witchcraft in Youth Culture’

An interview with Mrs. Linda Harvey below the bump (H/T Perelandra).

Crusade: How would you define witchcraft?

Mrs. Linda Harvey: A narrow definition of witchcraft would be a series of rituals, spells and actions that attempt, whether they realize it or not, to contact the demonic realm to try to get the evil spirits to cooperate with them with whatever they want to do.

Crusade: How is witchcraft affecting our youth today?

Mrs. Harvey: What’s happening today is that our kids don’t know Scripture or Christian doctrine because so many of them don’t go to church. They don’t have the spiritual armor they need to protect themselves, and they are bombarded by the very anti-Christian nature of the media and public-school education they are getting. In view of this, paganism seems much more charming and fascinating to our children than Christianity and they have rejected Christianity as being outdated, bigoted and unresponsive. So our kids are being lured into this, which makes it much more critical for parents to be very discerning of what their kids are learning and what effect that is having on their spiritual life.

Crusade: Now, what are the reasons why youth feel attracted to witchcraft in the first place? Is there a vacuum in society that makes this more enticing?

Mrs. Harvey: It is packaged as very charming and fascinating. Harry Potter, for example, is packaged empowerment. Our children have an innate need to develop whatever can help them be stronger and better able to deal with the stresses of ordinary modern life. For example, Harry Potter is an 11-year-old nerd who is shoved under a stairway by his cruel relatives and suddenly his whole world changes when he discovers that he is by inheritance a messiah wizard, and this is the empowering thing for him. What kind of kid doesn’t want to hear that? It says, “I have tremendous supernatural powers already inside of me.” This is an insidious and disturbing message to send to our children.

Crusade: Where is witchcraft promoted most in our American society?

Throughout the entertainment media. The publishing phenomenon of Harry Potter proves for the first time that they got away with a positive, frank, open expression of witchcraft and wizardry as a role model for kids and parents. Conservative parents did not rise up in rebellion and say, “Oh no, you’re not selling that to my kids.” Parents are clueless. As a follow-up to Harry Potter, there have been a lot of other media that have been tried because Satan is out there prowling about and perfectly willing to use selfish marketeers to package these products. In addition, there is the TV cartoon area. The Japanese publishing industry has influenced manga and anime cartoons, which are full of sorcery and demons. Within video games we have Dungeons and Dragons, which has been around for almost twenty years, World of Warcraft and many other occult-themed offerings.

Of course there are the movies, but also the TV shows that have been out for a while. For example, in Charmed, Sabrina was a bubble-gum witch. Then there are soap operas. There was a soap opera called Passion that was canceled last year because it had dolls coming to life and witchcraft. It is just amazing to see how this has penetrated virtually all areas of entertainment and the media.

My stray thoughts on this:

I confess that, in a world whose youth and elders are both consumed by a particularly insidious materialism, I am not surprised or alarmed by children being fascinated, even excited about the idea that “I have tremendous supernatural powers already inside of me,” as Mrs. Harvey puts it. I certainly understand the downside of such a fascination but think the potential this charm has for breaking the spell of the atheistic naturalists, the high priests of our de facto State religion, more than equal the risks of the occult.

Remember Malcolm Muggeridge the next time you see a teevee program or roadside billboard featuring beautiful bodies scantily clad to sell a product or hold your interest. He said “Sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society.” The omnipresence of stimulation for our sexual desires speaks to the pervasiveness, not of our perversity, but of our belief only in the visible or measurable quantities of matter and energy and our thinking of man as a physical body whose thoughts are entirely a function of brain chemistry.

In this world, a little witchcraft goes a long way. If little Johnny believes in the supernatural, even a wrong-headed one, I confess, again, I see cause to feel hope at least as much as I do alarm. As C. S. Lewis wrote in Weight of Glory:

Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of the worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.

Until the Mrs. Harveys of the world see through the pornography around us and see its cause in a materialist worldview and understand the attraction of magical, fantasy fiction as being imaginative satisfaction of a spiritual need in the desert of the cultural Waste Land of our times, their objections to Harry Potter, Twilight, and the like will strike me as critics swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat. Distracted by and choosing to focus on the supposed dangers or spiritual illegality of superficial magic in entertainments, they miss both the quality of the magic (incantational, not invocational), its effect on a reader’s heart, and, most importantly, the cause of that reader’s fascination with the supernatural, i.e., its near total absence from his or her waking reality and conception of reality. This last is the problem of which supernatural fantasy is only a sign or symptom, for good or ill.

Your comments and correction, please.

Anyway, a portion of the interview for your comments and correction:


  1. It’s always interesting to hear the latest news from an alternate universe. At least, that’s what I assume she’s describing– a universe where children embraced real witchcraft because of Harry Potter, where “Conservative parents did not rise up in rebellion (!)”… and where Sabrina was in Charmed.

    Proposition: If children are not allowed to read fantasy literature, they grow into adults who cannot tell the difference between real and pretend.

  2. The portrayal of magic makes a HUGE difference– it can be positive towards sorcery and blur lines of right and wrong, it can be negative towards socery (I’m reading a great fantasy novel called The Anubis Gates where sorcerers are calling upon Anubis et al successfully, but they’re not portrayed as good), and neutral, as in Harry Potter where it’s as much a part of the overall setting as is England.

    Personally I think Charmed got a major pass– I know it fostered an interest in the occult in me and I had to cut off watching it for that reason.

  3. Emily Strand says

    Ms. Harvey doesn’t really answer the first question, does she? How IS witchcraft affecting the youth of today? She answers as if the question was “how is secularism affecting the youth of today?” It seems like perhaps she is equating the two, which I find problematic.

    I’m with you, John – the young adults I teach/minister to who enjoy fantasy literature are often the ones with a deep, experiential understanding of the sacramental life of the Christian faith. They get metaphor. They’re better at articulating what an incarnational religion is and means. Which in fact gives me great hope!

    The only people I know who seem obsessed with the occult are those like Ms. Harvey who like to talk about it in reference to Harry Potter.


  4. what I find amusing about the whole thing, is that I would argue that according to her own definition of witchcraft – Harry Potter has nothing to do with witchcraft! But I’m sure she will never see that…

  5. Justin Clarke says

    “What’s happening today is that our kids don’t know Scripture or Christian doctrine because so many of them don’t go to church.” Mrs Harvey

    The truth is its most Christians who don’t know scripture or Christian Doctrine.

  6. And she missed the whole critique of materialism/technology by magic, too. She is not a Harry Potter reader, I would wager. She is certainly not a perceptive one to set Harry up as a shill.

    Oh, well, she might object to Dante on the same grounds!

  7. They never are – I have found very few people who were anti-Harry Potter who had actually read the books… in fact I can’t even think of any off hand… Almost all of them are going based simply on the fact that Harry is a wizard and goes to Hogwarts school of “Witchcraft and Wizardry” – they see no reason to read it. And even if they do – if they go into it wanting to find evil at every turn – you know what – they probably will… Same as my teacher who liked to find Christian symbolism in everything could find tons of symbolism that wasn’t intentional in Jesus Christ Superstar – it works both ways – you see what you think you will see…

  8. Well, that’s a pity. The article seems to be gone from the TFP web site. But it was interesting finding out just who they are. Sounds to me like they are likely to be BFF with the birthers and the town hall disrupters that we saw all summer. I’m not surprised, given the organization’s focus, that they posted an interview with someone who didn’t like anything in Harry Potter.

    The most interesting thing, though, is their banner: red background, rampant gold lion. Odd one, that.

  9. Very interesting! Not only does that description match the house standard of Griffyndor, it also exactly matches the standard of Haldanes, the royal family line in Kathrine Kurtz’s Deryni novels — some of the first fantasy writing I really loved. Gold lions on a red background isn’t that original. However, the really interesting thing is the major conflict in Kurtz’s plots are the tensions between the magical race of the Deryni and the anti-magic fanaticism of the State Church (which she copied largely from high Anglicanism.) The earliest books in the series were first published in the 1970s, so much of it was probably a way to get at racism more than anything else.

    I do find her treatment of magic and faith to be reflective of the “anti-Harry” hysteria in some Christian circles today. The anti-magic fanatics in the novels miss the point of the gospel and do some horrifying and unChrsitian things to defeat what they define as evil.

    Some of her characters strike me as more authentically Christian than characters in “Christian fiction” that I’ve encountered. In her later books, some character (major or minor) at some point says something that’s “gospel truth” in a powerful way. The spiritual aspects aren’t exclusively Chrsitian, though; she borrows from a number of sources. However, great sacrifice for the cause of righteousness or justice or the well-being of the people is a frequent element to the stories. Evil in these books is human sinfulness writ large — not some non-human/spiritual force. Greed and lust for power are the engines that drive the evil doers to their terrible acts.

    They’re great reads. I’ve introduced my Harry-loving son to them, and he’s enjoying them as much as I do. If you (or anyone you know) is into Christopher Paolini and the “Inheritance” cycle, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni works are a good companion read because I see her as being one of his several influences (in addition to the obvious JRR Tolkein, Anne McCaffery, and “Star Wars” …)

  10. Rik Potter Butler says

    Witchcraft has nothing whatsoever to do with “the demonic realm” or “evil spirits”. Ms. Harvey is ignorant and uninformed, speaking only from her personal opinions and and false assumptions.

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