Abstract

Since its genesis in the 1970s, American Witchcraft has shown itself to be one of the most forward-looking and tolerant religions in the area of women's roles and gender theory. Women leaders, gay couples, and even polyamorous relationships are all tolerated and encouraged within American Wiccan theology. Although Witchcraft was formed in England in the 1950s, with its move to the U.S. in the 1960s, it was soon appropriated by the growing American feminist movement. With this collation, Witchcraft has become one of the largest and most long-lived new religious movements in America. However, there are many differences between American Witchcraft and English Witchcraft which raise some questions as to the influence of social settings on religious traditions. These differences have led to a differing treatment of gender in both religions. Gender roles and homosexuality are treated very differently in American and English Witchcraft. This raises the natural question: are the different treatments of gender in these two traditions a result of social circumstance, or do they represent a natural theological evolution? Although other possibilities exist which could have influenced the ways in which American and English Witchcraft view gender, such as the private lives of the founders themselves, for the purposes of this paper I will examine the social situations which surrounded the development of these two traditions and the ways in which the interpretations of rituals and sacred texts changed the way the traditions operate.

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