A secretive ancient religion is on the rise, with followers joining in big numbers. Of the 20 religions with the highest growth rates from 1990 to 2001, a pagan religion, Wiccan, had the highest growth rate, 1,575 percent. CBS 5 Investigates was invited to observe a pagan ceremony and shed light on a religion some consider evil. The participants say they are witches, taking part in rituals to conjure up spells and magic.High Priestess Rosemary Szymanski said she draws power into her, and she isn't alone. Her daughter and 15-year-old granddaughter are both witches and said they are often misunderstood."They see the pentacle, they think, 'Oh, you're a satanic devil worshipper.' I don't even believe in the devil, so that's wayfar-fetched," said Szymanski's daughter, Jennifer Flohrs.
"With the word 'witch,' it comes with the green nose and the mole. Always," said Flohrs' daughter, Katrina. "'Oh, they have the green mole and they fly on broomsticks!' No. Not precisely." Despite the skeptics, the number of followers in the Valley is growing. They're regular people -- teachers, state employees, home builders. "Seems that Mesa, which, you couldn't even find anybody to admit it 10 years ago, has more pagans than anyplace else in the Valley," Szymanski said. On the night of the ceremony, Szymanski said she drew her power from the moon. Each person wanted something different. One asked for strength for a daughter about to be deployed. One wanted fortitude for his children "for the upcoming road ahead of them." The witches said they could feel the energy moving around their circle. "It'skind of like grounding yourself and just letting all the energies in your body flow from one person to another," Victoria Vaughn said. Investigative reporter Tammy Leitner and her photographer could not feel the energy. They were told it was because they were not enlightened. "I have a big enlightenment. I've been dead. I've been on the other side," Vaughn said. The witches said their belief is more than a spiritual awakening and more than a religion. It's a way of life. They said 95 percent of people practice magic in their everyday lives without realizing it. It can be as simple as making a wish and blowing out the candles on a birthday cake, but the magic comes in the believing.
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Copyright: KPHO Phoenix