The Satanic Panic

It’s over thirty years since the Satanic Panic in the UK. So perhaps it is fading from memory. But at the time, things were really scary — and with the current rolling back of various human rights legislation that we have taken for granted for a generation or more, in both the USA and the UK, those times could return.

When I first became a seeker of Wicca in 1989, and for quite a while after I was initiated in 1991, social workers had been rounding up the children of people who were seen standing in circles (e.g. in the Outer Hebrides, various children of Quakers were taken away) or whose kids had strange dreams (e.g. in Rochdale). Pagans and especially Wiccans could be fired by their employers for being Pagan. The tabloid newspapers were on a witch hunt. One of them (now, thankfully, defunct) infiltrated a Pagan event and published names and addresses of participants.

Art Quester was personally affected by all this, as his ex-wife denied him access to their child over his involvement in Paganism and Wicca. He had to get Michael Howard (editor of The Cauldron) to testify for him in court. I obtained permission from his daughter to mention this.

Wiccans and Pagans were afraid to be “out of the broom closet” about their religion. Many people remain in the broom closet in spite of protective legislation, where it exists, because of the general prejudice against Pagans and witches. For a long time, people would use Wiccan as a euphemism for the word witch, as that word had a huge impact on people (and still has connotations for many people who don’t know anything about Paganism and Wicca).

No children of Wiccans were taken into care on the basis of the panic in the UK, but in some cases it took years for the families of Rochdale who were affected by the satanic panic to get their kids back from social services.

We definitely need to be vigilant that such a massive injustice could happen again.

This is also why interfaith dialogue is important and we need to maintain our contact and dialogue with other faiths.

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6 thoughts on “The Satanic Panic

  1. Agree. It always seems like it only takes a few bad actors, or bad actions, to give a whole group a bad name. Then again, as soon as I type the word “bad,” I stop and observe what I intend. (Harming another is one example). No harm no foul. Live and let live. No judgment. No labels. Self governance. Freedom. ❤️🦋🌀


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