Click the image to learn more. Members of Milwaukee's pagan community participate in their annual Beltane Celebration, held each May.

Wiccans, some of whom self-identify as witches, and other Pagans are a small but growing presence within the United States. Many Wiccans practice their faith individually or in small groups.[1] Although estimates of the number of Wiccans are unreliable, a 2014 Pew Research Center survey found that roughly 0.3% of Americans identified as Wiccans or Pagans.[2] Twenty-first century estimates for Wisconsin have ranged as high as 5,000 to 10,000 practitioners.[3]

While many Wiccan groups, sometimes called covens or churches, in the Milwaukee area have historically remained hidden for fear of persecution, other groups have had a visible presence.[4] Circle Sanctuary, founded in 1974 and located near Madison, is among the nation’s most influential Wiccan churches.[5] Since the 1970s, many Milwaukee-area Pagans have been members of Circle Sanctuary, benefitted from its resources, or participated in its events.[6] In Milwaukee, congregations have included the Temple of the Wyccan Rede, First Wiccan Temple of Our Lady, and the Temple of the Four Winds.[7] Groups often meet in homes or parks.[8] The Milwaukee Pagan Unity Council and the Fellowship of Alternative Beliefs sponsor events and festivals for the broader Pagan community.[9]

Many shops in the Milwaukee area have served the Wiccan and Pagan communities. Historically, these stores have been located in many parts of the city (including downtown, the East Side, South Side, and Bay View) and suburban Waukesha.[10] Often these shops provide spiritual services and introductions to local Pagans.[11] Since the advent of the Internet, local Wiccan and Pagan communities also have formed online.[12]

Footnotes [+]

  1. [1]What Do Pagans Do?” The Pluralism Project, accessed January 30, 2017.
  2. [2]Other Religions,” Pew Research Center, December 12, 2012, last accessed June 6, 2017; Pew Research Center, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” May 12, 2015, 159, last accessed June 6, 2017.
  3. [3] Tom Heinen, “Pagans Ready to Put Pride on Display,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 20, 2003; Tom Heinen, “Finding Faith in the Longest Night,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 21, 2001; Nahal Toosi, “Rite of Passage: Wiccan is New State Prison Chaplain,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 6, 2001.
  4. [4] Molly Snyder, “Interview with a Witch,” OnMilwaukee.com, October 31, 2006, last accessed June 6, 2017; Murphy Pizza, Paganistan: Contemporary Pagan Community in Minnesota’s Twin Cities (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2014), 3.
  5. [5]History of Circle Sanctuary,” Circle Sanctuary, accessed January 30, 2017; “Circle Sanctuary,” Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca, ed. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, 3rd ed. (New York: Facts on File, 2008), 65-66.
  6. [6] For examples, see posts and comments on “In Memoriam: Bruce Parsons (1947-2010),” Circle Sanctuary, accessed January 30, 2017; “In Memoriam: De-Anna Alba (1952-2012),” Circle Sanctuary, accessed January 30, 2017; “In Memoriam: Gloria Villanueva (1948-2008),” Circle Sanctuary, accessed January 30, 2017; “In Memoriam: Julie Wichman (1963-2012),” Circle Sanctuary, accessed January 30, 2017.
  7. [7] Aidan A. Kelly, A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America (Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2014), 123; “Wiccan Believers to Mark Spring Festival This Week,” Milwaukee Journal, April 26, 1980; Jo Sandin, “No Candy, No Brooms,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 31, 1997.
  8. [8] Sandin, “No Candy, No Brooms;” Snyder, “Interview with a Witch;” Jackie Loohauis, “Milwaukee Witches,” Milwaukee Journal, October 28, 1986; Jo Sandin, “Two Made One in Eyes of Goddess and Man,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 20, 1998.
  9. [9] Milwaukee Pagan Unity Council, accessed January 30, 2017; Fellowship of Alternative Beliefs’ Facebook page, accessed January 30, 2017.
  10. [10] Molly Snyder, “New Occult Shop Crystallizes on East Side,” January 20, 2009; Selena Fox, comp., Circle Guide to Wicca and Pagan Resources (Madison: Circle, 1980), 103; Kathy Flanigan, “Charm School,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 25, 1999; “About Us,” Ascended Gifts, Llc., accessed January 30, 2017.
  11. [11]Contemporary Resurgence in America,” Pluralism Project, accessed January 30, 2017; Kelly, A Tapestry of Witches, 123; Snyder, “New Occult Shop;” Jonathan Nightshade, comment on Aidan Kelly, “The Gardnerians, 1963-1972,” Aidan Kelly: Including Paganism (blog), Patheos, November 10, 2012.
  12. [12]What Do Pagans Do?”; for examples of local Internet groups, see “Milwaukee Eclectic Pagans,” https://www.meetup.com/Milwaukee-Eclectic-Pagans/, accessed January 30, 2017; “Wiccans of Wisconsin,” Wiccan Together, accessed January 30, 2017; Milwaukee Pagan Alliance’s Facebook group, accessed January 30, 2017.

For Further Reading

Fox, Selena. “Women in the Wiccan Religion and Contemporary Paganism.” In Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, edited by Rosemary Skinner Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether, 809-818. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Kelly, Aidan A. A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America. Tacoma, WA: Hierophant Wordsmith Press, 2014.

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