NEW YORK – A small academy in Manhattan is teaching students as young as five years old how to practice witchcraft and become full-fledged Wiccan sorcerers.
The Wiccan Family Temple Academy of Pagan Studies (WFTAPS), founded six years ago, is the first school of its kind in the New York City area, and offers a three-year witchcraft program. Topics covered in the academy’s biweekly classes include “Moon Magick,” “Pagan Parenting,” “Psychic Self-Defense,” and “Becoming a Wealthy Witch.”
Even though most courses are designed for adults, the school also offers a “Dragon Academy” for elementary and middle school-aged students who are interested in witchcraft. According to the school’s website, Dragon Academy participants learn how to perform a variety of pagan practices, such as altar-building and spell-casting.
WFTAPS was founded by Starr RavenHawk, a Wiccan “priestess” who regularly teaches classes at the school. RavenHawk claimed in a New York Times interview that witchcraft is very similar to other religions.
“I know that sounds shocking to most people because witchcraft is usually thought of as evil,” she stated. “But if people really knew what we are about, they would know that studying to become a good witch is no different than studying to become a good Catholic.”
Although witchcraft has a long and tumultuous history, the modern Wicca movement is now recognized in the United States as an official religion, and those who practice it enjoy full legal and tax-exempt privileges. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that nearly 350,000 adults identify themselves as Wiccan today, which is a 4,000% rise from just over twenty years ago.
According to the Times, fifteen students are currently enrolled at WFTAPS, where yearly tuition rates are around $600. One such student at the academy is Shantel Collins, a Bronx resident who was raised in a Baptist church. Collins said she was attracted to the “live as you choose” mentality that paganism offers.
“My mother knows that I am a Wiccan witch,” she told the publication, “but most of my family does not. People like my grandmother who are not as open-minded and do not believe in diversity, they just wouldn’t understand, but this is not an evil religion. We do not worship the devil—we do not even believe in the devil. This is about connecting with the natural forces to advance yourself spiritually.”
Though the witch school is only a few years old, RavenHawk has been organizing sorcery-related programs for nearly two decades in New York City, and was largely responsible for founding the New York City Wiccan Family Temple in 2006. WFTAPS is considered a subsidiary of the Wiccan temple.
Although thousands of people are turning to Wicca and sorcery for mystical enlightenment, Bible-believing Christians contend that the occult is spiritually bankrupt. Don Delzell, a columnist for the Christian Post, once shared a testimony from a former Wiccan who decided to turn to Christ.
“I wanted to have power over the things that scared me,” the former Wiccan shared. “I thought that Wicca would give me that. After practicing magic for over 20 years, I never encountered any power like the power I’ve encountered since I have been a Christian.”