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Denise Zimmermann's Biography (Books)

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Denise Zimmerman - is a musician, performer, occultist and spiritual writer, author of book "Complete Idiots Guide To Wicca And Witchcraft". Denise Zimmerman is a practicing witch and the co-owner of a Wiccan store in Baltimore, Maryland. She has been featured on the front page of the Baltimore Sun's Lifestyles section as well as other periodicals. She teaches courses on Wicca and other esoteric arts.

Denise Zimmermann and her co-authors of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft emphasize, "Witches don't believe in Satan!... The all-evil Satan is a Christian concept that plays no part in the Wiccan religion... Witches do not believe that negativity or evil is an organized force.... Neither do Wiccans believe there is a place (hell) where the damned or the evil languish and suffer" (13).

Denise Zimmermann and Carol Swartz opened Bell Book & Candle in a Belair Road shopping center June 1999, they didn't predict the overwhelming response to their fragrant emporium of oils, texts and birthstones, where customers can experience past-life regression or have their Tarot cards read in a candle-lit chamber. "I thought we would be OK, but I had no idea we would be this welcome," says Zimmermann, a practicing witch with a broad sense of humor.

Not only did nature-worshiping Neo-Pagans flock to the new store to peruse crystal balls, caldrons and books like "A Kitchen Witch's Cookbook," but about 50 people also signed up for Zimmermann's course on becoming a witch; professionals, truck drivers, teen mothers and women in their 70s among them.

Students filled a back room in the store for their monthly Belair Road witch project, taking a break for bag lunches and to chuckle over a member's gift to Zimmermann: a replica of a Halloween witch, complete with broom, pointy hat and cackling grin. Then it was time to return to class for their divination lesson.

No, it's not Hogwarts, the school where Harry Potter and friends are wizards-in-training, but Zimmermann's overflowing class signifies the escalating appeal of witchcraft, which she calls the "fastest growing religion in the country."

Zimmermann's contention is not easily proved. One conservative estimate puts the population of Pagans, of which Wicca and witchcraft are rather like denominations, at 150,000 to 200,000; author and Wiccan high priestess Phyllis Curott places it in the 3 million to 5 million range. But on the eve of Samhain, the Celtic New Year holiday that witches celebrate, also known as Halloween, finding examples of witchcraft as a hot topic across the popular and high culture spectrum is as easy as winning a Quidditch match with a fleet of Nimbus 2000s.

From Professor McGonagall of Harry Potter fame to the Blair Witch, from Silver RavenWolf's "Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation" to a witch-hunt conference at the University of California at Los Angeles, from Wiccans in the military to the Dragon Heart Coven in Middle River, from movies "The Craft" to "The Crucible," there is a witch for all seasons and all stripes.

Long time coming

For longtime practitioners, the popularity of witchcraft is not an out-of-the-blue phenomenon, says National Public Radio correspondent and practicing witch Margot Adler, whose 1979 book, "Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshipers, and Other Pagans in America Today," is a landmark work for those who practice the rituals of Wicca and other forms of benign magic.

"I'm not sure how much bigger it is," Adler says. "In fact, I think that there's been a huge movement in publishing books and scholarly papers for quite a long while."

The difference, Adler says, has more to do with Sabrina and her telegenic counterparts' influence on teen-age girls and less with the gradual growth of the modern Wicca and the Pagan movements, which began in England in the 1930s and spread to the United States in the '60s.

Another difference, Adler says, is that books about witchcraft "are being marketed in a mainstream way." She cites as an example Curott's "Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess," published by Broadway Books and as available in larger, general-interest bookstores as in smaller New Age and women's bookstores.

Adler explains witchcraft's appeal as "a desperate search for roots. If you think about where all Americans have come from, every single one of us, there are three paths. African Americans have usually come here through slavery, and their traditions were destroyed. For Native Americans, traditions were destroyed through colonialism and the practices of white folks. And the rest of us, immigrants, wanted to Americanize, so we threw away all the songs and stories -- the `juice' of our religions."

Adler says the thrust of the Neo-Pagan movement is "to get back the juice."

The juice is squeezed from ingredients drawn from pre-Christian religions around the world, resulting in any number of witchcraft blends: Eclectic Wiccan, Dragon Wicca, Druidry, Cat-Based Magick/Shamanism, Celtic, to name a few.

For the most part, witches, no matter what path they take, no longer hold that a "universal old religion" once existed, but the notion still serves as a working metaphor in their beliefs and rituals, Adler writes.

This "pick and choose" approach to creating the form of witchcraft right for you leads to wildly disparate interpretations concerning witches' heritage, purpose and credibility -- and to passionate debate. Naturally, not everyone sees eye to newt on this subject, as discussions in recent issues of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New Yorker, History, the National Review and numerous witchcraft Web sites reveal.

Source: wikipedia, articles.baltimoresun.com

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