Academic journal article Review of Social Economy

Wiccanomics?

Academic journal article Review of Social Economy

Wiccanomics?

Article excerpt

Abstract This paper looks at the doctrines of 'Wicca', or what might be termed as pagan or white magic by its adherents, in terms of the economics of religion. The primary focus of the paper is the issue of the degree of product differentiation involved from established religion in terms of two things: the concept of God (or deities) and the ideas of sin. The main contribution of the paper is that it presents (for the first time ever, so far as the author is aware) an economic analysis of the doctrine of a 'rebound' effect of any attempts to do harm to other people through the practice of magic. Some basic microeconomic concepts suggest that the moral force of this rebound law is a difficult one to sustain except under very unreasonable assumptions.

Keywords: Wicca, economics of religion, spells, distribution

INTRODUCTION

This paper looks at the doctrines of 'Wicca', or what might be termed as pagan or white magic by its adherents, in terms of the economics of religion. The primary focus of the paper is the issue of the degree of product differentiation involved from established religion in terms of two things: the concept of God (or deities) and the ideas of sin. I should stress that I am not (to the best of my knowledge) seeking to put forward any particular individual position on religious matters in this paper. I am certainly not trying to vindicate so-called 'white magic' from accusations leveled against it as one referee has claimed. Indeed if one did want to draw normative implications from what follows they would seem to be the opposite of this.

The main contribution of the paper is that it presents (for the first time ever, so far as the author is aware) an economic analysis of the doctrine of a 'rebound' effect of any attempts to do harm to other people through the practice of magic. The rebound effect (that any, magically willed, morally wrong act is reciprocated by greater suffering to the perpetrator) serves the important role of absolving Wicca (and similar religions) from accusations that it promotes a world of conflict by teaching people techniques to interfere with the lives of others. Some basic microeconomic concepts suggest that the moral force of this rebound law is difficult to sustain except under very unreasonable assumptions. In order to place this argument in context, this paper develops a certain amount of background material that has no economic content along with some basic ideas from the large and growing literature on the economics of religion.

The next section looks at the patchy data on the incidence of adherence to Wiccan beliefs and outlines the central tenets of the faith. The section after looks at the economic analysis of choice of Wicca versus other religions whilst the fourth section looks mainly at the 'rebound effect' as a deterrent to abuse of Wiccan 'powers'. The final section presents the conclusion.

EXTENT AND DEFINITION OF WICCAN PRACTICES

Before getting down to the definition of Wiccanism, we can briefly deal with the issue of the extent of people claiming to be Wiccans in self-report studies. There is a general media perception of a growth in such beliefs, especially amongst the younger population. Certainly, the internet is awash with Wiccan websites, news groups and discussion groups.

Evidence of the popularity and visibility of Wiccan doctrines is found in the large number of books being published on the subject, the amount of paraphernalia (gemstones, crystal balls, mirrors, jewelry etc.) being marketed and the attention given to campaigns for recognition as a bona fide religion, for example in the US military, and the appointment of Susan Leybourne, a Pagan Chaplain at Leeds University in Yorkshire, UK as described in an interview in the Mail on Sunday (20 August, as reproduced on a web page at: http://www.co.uk.whatthemedia/robin.htm). It is rather difficult to gain hard data on the extent of Wiccanism, not least because population censuses have been slow to include categories to record such adherence, although Canada, Australia and New Zealand have begun to include figures since the early to mid 1990s. …

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