Witchcraft and other similar beliefs have long attracted negative attention. Let’s learn more about laws and answer a question – Is Witchcraft Illegal In New York?
So Is Witchcraft Illegal In New York Today?
Whether you mean the city or the state, the answer is the same — witchcraft is legal in New York.
We’ve come a long way since the mid 17th century, when witch hunts and trials were hitting their peak in the northern New England territories. Massachusetts has its infamous Salem trials. In Connecticut, you were more likely to be put to death for witchcraft than for murder.
But time, mercifully, marches on, and with it comes some level of progress. In 1735, the Witchcraft Act was passed in England — while the USA was still British colonies — that redefined the meaning of charging someone with witchcraft.
It was no longer a crime punishable by death; instead it was an offence punishable by fines or short term imprisonment. It was no longer about accusing people of being able to perform magic, but rather accusing people of believing themselves able to perform magic.
And with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, even more protections were granted.
USA Witchcraft Laws Explained
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment is pretty clear; you cannot stop people exercising their religion. Within the USA, Wicca, paganism, and all related beliefs are formally recognized, legally protected religions. You can even list it as your religion when you join the army.
New York state certainly abides by this law. However, the law is not so black and white, nor is it all-powerful. It’s not legal to discriminate based on someone’s religion — unfortunately, that doesn’t stop people.
There are still cases of people being dismissed from their workplace due to their beliefs. There are even tales of people being given a hard time gaining custody of their own children during custody disputes.
These cases typically involve invoking other laws rather than directly claiming witchcraft is the reason. It’s the practices of witchcraft which give people legal leverage, rather than witchcraft itself.
Unfortunately, this has precedent in the law across the country. You can be Wiccan, for example — but in many places, it’s not legal to read Tarot cards or sell fortunetelling services. These activities fall under the umbrella of anti-fraud laws, leaving many to advertise their services as entertainment or performances.
Likewise, selling potions and remedies could get someone caught for selling medicine without a license, or making false health claims. It’s not that the person is practicing witchcraft — it’s that particular acts intersect with broader laws.
Frustratingly, these laws are typically put into place at a municipal level. It’s not necessarily illegal on a State or Federal level to do these things — but a town, county, city, might decide otherwise.
That’s why it’s important to check with local laws to make sure that any particular practices aren’t going to fall foul of the law.