In modern society, we’re totally past burning people at the stake, or dunking women in the town lake because our crops died. The tendrils of witchcraft have found their way into contemporary fashion, zine culture and sharp-tongued 90s rom-coms. Not that this change in global consciousness towards the magical practice was smooth sailing. Up until 1951, the practice of witchcraft was outlawed in Britain.
When it was finally repealed with the enactment of the Fraudulent Mediums Act, witchy practices and elements began to seep into the mainstream narrative; and so began bringing the witch out of the underground in the ‘occult explosion’ of the 1970s.
From here, witchcraft permeated popular culture, reaching its peak in the 1970s. Gary Parsons, the filmmaker behind Thelema Films and an expert in this period of the esoteric and documentary, recalls growing up at a time when it was everywhere. TIME magazine ran a cover story in 1972 that declared “Satan Returns”.
Horror mainstay Hammer Film Productions was in its heyday and Children of the Stones was a popular serial show for kids based on pagan folklore. There was children’s encyclopedia magazine Man, Myth and Magic, detailing everything from witchcraft to cults, drugs, zombies and ESP, talking about each topic on an academic level.
Mainstream cinema saw the underground rise up in the form of The Wicker Man and The Blood on Satan’s Claw – basically witchcraft was a cinema ticket or trip to the newsagents away. The prolific writings and teachings of famed English occultist , who championed the Thelemite religion, also ran rampant at the time, and similar figureheads of witchcraft and other elements of the occult found their way into daytime TV and BBC documentaries.