Volume 6, Issue 3, 2018
New Religious Movements and Violence
Chas S. Clifton
A Texas Witch On Trial
Although Wicca, or contemporary Pagan witchcraft, is by all definitions a new religious movement, it lacks many of the characteristics the NRMs often display, such as a charismatic founder(s), millenarian prophecies, or new forms of social order. Nor have Wiccans been identified with commonly studied forms of violence with NRMs, such as mass suicides, violence against former members, or attacks on surrounding populations. In 1980, however, as Wicca was on the verge of both a growth spurt and increased media attention, Loy Stone, a leader of one organization, the Church of Wicca, was tried for murder in Texas. The victim, a fifteen-year-old girl, was one of a large group of teenagers who had been committing acts of harassment and vandalism during October 1977 at the farm inhabited by Stone, his wife, and his elderly mother, actions I would categorize as falling into the folkloric definition of “legend trips.” The Stone case makes clear the persistence of abusive stereotypes of “devil-worshipers” in America. Finally, it challenged members of the Wiccan community to decide whether the Stones should be supported or rhetorically cast out.