No one gets too worked up about witches anymore. They’ve gone mainstream, even in the fairly conservative world of Mormonism. Check out this FMH post and its comments, for example, or this weblog. US Army chaplains now apparently get training in basic Wicca beliefs. Beliefnet even added A Pagan’s Blog to its wide-ranging blog lineup. So … is this a good thing or a bad thing? Progress or decadence?
On the one hand, this looks like a triumph of tolerance over sectarianism. As a Mormon, I’m all for tolerance: If people are less likely to burn witches, they are also less likely to shoot Mormons. It’s not like Wiccans were ever really a danger to society — they didn’t rob banks, start wars, or lynch Christians. Historical studies on the Salem episode have shown that those most likely to be accused of witchcraft were generally outspoken women, often single and often owning property or a business of their own. This certainly raises suspicions about the motives of the accusers.
On the other hand, one of the reasons few people now have a problem with witches (or Neopagans or worshippers of the Divine Feminine, etc.) is that this is a secular age when fewer people take religion seriously. Many people who don’t take Wicca seriously also don’t take hell or Satan or God seriously. [It's not quite clear whether such people have a philosophical basis for taking anything seriously, but that's for another post.] Others take God seriously but have edited hell and Satan and stereotypical witches from their personal theology.
So I’m fairly certain the recent mainstreaming of Wicca means something. I’m just not sure what that is.