Teenage girls are falling under the spell of witchcraft. Nadene Ghouri reports
TEENAGE girls are abandoning girl-power for witch-power.
One hundred teenagers a month are asking how they can become witches, according to the Pagan Federation. The group, which represents Britain's estimated 100,000 witches and druids, says many would-be witches are inspired by television programmes such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Witch Academy and Sabrina the Teenage Witch - an all-American high-school girl who has a talking cat and can tidy her room with a twinkle of her nose.
A new book, Spells for Teenage Witches, which includes charms to help with school work and deal with bullies (see below), is expected to fuel the craze when it is published next month.
Rose, 13, who took up witchcraft, or wicca (a term from the Old English for a witch) six months ago, said: "I was always interested in mystical things but watching Buffy got me wondering. Now, when I go for walks, I feel at peace with nature and more conscious about the environment."
Rose says many of her friends share her interest but said: "I could never let my parents know, because they are Catholic and wouldn't let me carry on with it."
A recent attempt by the Pagan Federation to appoint a youth officer backfired when the man, a geography teacher, was sacked after an outcry from parents at the school where he works.
He has since been reinstated to his job but only on the condition that he does not use his real name, or name the school which he works at, in relation to his pagan activities.
"It's such a shame those attitudes remain," said Marina Baker, author of Spells for Teenage Witches. "We only have one rule, which is 'do as you will, so long as it harms no one'."
Ms Baker insists her book will "empower little girls" and stresses it will not "encourage them to sit in a room wearing black robes".
Kate West, one of the UK's best-known witches, has been commissioned by HarperCollins to write The Young Witches Handook.
In the United States, teenagers are queuing to buy books by Silver Ravenwolf, author of 14 titles, including Ride a Silver Broomstick and Stir a Magic Cauldron.
Ms Ravenwolf was the first to spot this lucrative niche in the market with her book Teen Witch - Wicca for a New Generation - which has spells for being the most popular girl in school and persuading your parents to buy you a car.
She has just published Witches' Night In, the first of a series about four high-school witches, to be followed by Teen Witch Kit, which, for pound;15, includes a cardboard box which turns into an altar, salt and a some lucky charms.
"That kind of rampant commercialism fills most of us wiser and more practised pagans with horror," says Andy Norfolk, of the Pagan Federation.
Kate West disagrees. She says: "If we want people to find out about our craft and not see us all as evil and riding broomsticks across the sky, then I think we have to accept that commercialisation can only help.
"I think Sabrina the Teenage Witch is dreadful and totally unrealistic but, if I was 11 years old, I would probably love it. " THE WICCA WAY OF DEALING WITH BULLIES
You will need: a piece of red felt, black embroidery thread, a black marker, an empty jam jar with lid and scissors.
By the full moon, go to a "sacred", or special, outdoors site (it could be your garden or a forest). Cleanse, consecrate and empower the items listed.
Cut a tongue out of the red felt and write on the tongue the name of the gossip or bully.
While sewing with the black thread along the lines of writing, say with each stitch "I tie your tongue, you nasty one, so you can harm no more."
When you have finished, cut the thread and say "I push your evil away from me. Whatever you sent to me, goes back to thee."
Tie the tongue in a knot and say: "Guardian angel, please protect me from this person's gossip."
Send back their negative energy. Put the tongue in a jar, seal, and keep it in a safe place.