Wicca from a Unique Christian Perspective

(written 10/6/97)

“The moon is full.  We meet on a hilltop that looks out over the bay.  Below us, lights spread out like a field of jewels, and faraway skyscrapers pierce the swirling fog like the spires of fairytale towers.  The night is enchanted.

Our candles have been blown out, and our makeshift altar can not stand up under the force of the wind, as it sings through the branches of tall eucalyptus.  We hold up our arms and let it hurl against our faces.  We are exhilarated, hair and eyes streaming.  The tools are unimportant; we have all we need to make magic: our bodies, our breath, our voices, each other.”

This is how Starhawk chose to begin the first chapter of her book titled The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (Starhawk, 1989, p.15) The “ancient religion” referred to in the title is called Wicca, the religion whose followers call themselves Witches.

As a former Witch who has accepted Christ as his personal savior, I understand the attraction Wicca holds for people.  I will describe Wicca, its history and worldview.  I will also explore some of the attractive points of Wicca and some reasons why people might choose to not follow Christ.  Lastly, I will offer ways for Christians to address these.

Wicca is an earth-based, magical religion that views the universe in terms of cycles and polarity.  By earth-based, I mean the earth is revered, often as a goddess.  As Starhawk put it, “the Goddess is first of all earth, the dark nurturing mother who brings forth all life” (Starhawk, 1989, p. 92).  Witches feel that nature teaches that we are connected to the rest of the world (Members, 1994).

Some Witches believe that the use of magic enables them to connect to “a shared universal consciousness” (Ravenswing, “Path”, 1997).  Most Witches use some sort of divination, cast spells, and contact spirits to improve their lives.  The methods used to accomplish these things vary from tradition, the Wiccan term for denomination, to tradition, and even from Witch to Witch.  Methods used include high ceremonial magic, candle magic, color magic, psychic powers, creative visualization, and herbal magic.

Witches look for, and find, cycles and duality everywhere.  As Sybil Leek said in John Godwin’s book Occult America, “Basically [Wicca] is absolutely designed to be in tune with the components of the universe – male, female; positive, negative; action, reaction.  Our rituals are linked with the seasons – spring, summer, autumn, and winter.” (Godwin, 1972, p. 63)

The belief that there are cycles everywhere lends itself well to the belief in reincarnation that many, though not all, Wiccans hold.  As Starhawk said, “Not all Witches believe in literal reincarnation.…But in a world view that sees everything as cyclical, death itself can not be a final ending, but rather some unknown transformation to some new form of being” (Starhawk, 1989, p. 112-113).

The cycle of birth, growth, death, and renewal, is a common theme in Wicca.  This is seen, in some traditions, in the belief that the god dies, sometimes because a younger god kills him, and is reborn.  With some Witches, this cycle is recognized and honored in various rituals – some of which include sex.  As Ravenswing says, “Wicca is a frankly sexual and sensual religion.”  Sex is used in some spell work and in some rituals, especially fertility rituals that further honor the cycle of life.

Just as Witches look for, and find, cycles everywhere, so too do they see duality in everything.  This is most obviously made manifest in the Witch’s choice to view their personal version of deity through the duality of a god and goddess.

Though they may choose to interpret their deity concept in terms of a god and goddess, that view may not be their personal belief.  I know some Witches who are monotheists, believing in only one god – often in the form of a goddess.  I know other Witches, who are pantheists, believing everything makes up god.  Other Witches are polytheists in that they believe in many gods, often more than a just a single god and goddess.  The person who instructed me in Wicca told me that a person could be both an atheist and a Wiccan or even a Christian and a Wiccan at the same time.  Of course, I have never met anyone who would fit into the last two categories.

The one common rule among Wiccans is known as the Wiccan Rede: “If it harm none, do what thou will.”  This is reinforced by the belief that whatever one does, good or bad, will return to that person threefold (Members).

The problem with this rule is that no one defines harm.  For some it means manipulating someone’s free will, for still others, it means causing emotional damage or even physical or psychic damage.  And not all Wiccans follow what they preach.  Bob Larson, in his book Satanism: The Seduction of America’s Youth, relates a part of an interview with a prominent Wiccan couple, Gavin and Yvonne Frost, as follows: “when I debated the Frosts on ‘Larry King Live’, they admitted that it is alright to inflict physical harm on an enemy if by doing so a Witch may be able to educate that person’s soul.  They even acknowledged that on the way to the television show they had put a hex on a taxi driver who had irritated them.” (p. 169)

Even though most Witches do magic and some do not follow the Wiccan Rede, almost any Witch would be quick to point out they are not Satanists.  Indeed, many would say that Satanism “relies upon the Christian mythos for both its deity and its practices” (Members).  Wiccans are quick to point out that satanic beliefs are contrary to Wiccan beliefs.

A final common theme among Wiccans is that of personal power.  They believe they have a direct connection with their version of deity and will have no one try to interpret or control that for them.  As the members of Dancing Buffalo Circle stated: “Wicca is not a hierarchical religion; there is no need for one person to have control over others” (Members).

Witches have no written sacred texts that have been handed down from generation to generation, although some will claim to have such.  Most Wiccans have access to oral traditions and rituals hand-copied into individual Books of Shadows (Larson, New Book of Cults, p. 467).  This lack of written history has led to the history of Wicca being disputed among its followers. Some claim to be able to trace its history to 7000BC and to places that are now known as Italy, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Ukraine (Grimassi, pp 4-5). Others say the true history of Wicca may never be known.  As Julia Phillips said in a speech at the 1991 Wiccan Conference, “…we can never really know the truth about the origins of Wicca.  Gardener may have been a complete fraud; he may have actually received a traditional initiation [into the religion], or, as a number of people have suggested, he may have created the Wicca” (Phillips).  What is not in dispute is that Gerald Garner wrote a book titled Witchcraft Today and revived Witchcraft.  He claimed he was initiated into Witchcraft, suggesting the beliefs were handed down from pre-existing traditions, hence the name “Old Religion” that Witches like to call Wicca.  Gardner was an occultist long before he was supposedly initiated.  He was an initiate of Ordo Templi Orientis and a “friend of [Satanist] Aleister Crowley, from whom he borrowed certain practices.”  Regardless of what Gardner claimed, the tradition he founded called Gardnerian, is a mixture ceremonial magic, or occultism, as Larson called it, and Eastern mysticism (Larson, Satanism, pp. 163-164).

People choose to follow Wicca for a number of reasons.  One reason is that its worldview fits the religious and philosophical system they labored years to build (Ravenswing, Wiccan).  This leads to feeling of acceptance.  Another reason people are attracted to Wicca is that our children are being taught it by authority figures in school.  Witches go to schools are “provide information about Witchcraft” as Dave Seemann said in his introduction of Witch Gundella to an auditorium full of school children.”  In other cases children are shown books on film about Witches, or given exercises to pretend they are Witches, write a “magical recipe for flying ointment” and to “act out a ceremony for apprentice Witches” (Michaelsen, pp. 198, 208, 211).  We see the occult on television all the time, “Power Rangers,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” “Sabrina, Teenage Witch,” “Highlander,” “X-files,” “The Profiler,” “Harry Potter,” etc. Another reason people choose to follow Wicca is that it gives them a sense of freedom.  As Ravenswing said in his “Path to the Goddess” article, “At one stroke, we’ve gotten rid of ninety-nine point ninety-nine hundredths percent of all sin…it is our own conscience and our friends’ opinions with which we must be at peace.  God, after all, is us.”

Another reason people choose to follow Wicca is the desire for control or power.  Some Wiccans have had a bad experience in Christianity where they feel controlled by someone or by God, or they feel personally out of control.  Wicca gives them a feeling that they are in control, since they can create their own god concept and can use magic to try to control their life.  The very lack of concrete definites in Wicca causes people to be accepting of others, which is another attraction for some people.

Those Witches who left Christianity did so for a variety of reasons.  Being unable or unwilling to meet the ideals espoused by Christianity is a common reason.  We all know how easy it is to say or do sinful things.  If sins are not repented from, they can fester, like wounds, and eventually cause one to harden his heart against God and leave the church.  Being condemned by Christians can cause one to run away from the church.  This is a common theme among Wiccans I have known who were gay or psychic.  Hypocrisy in the church is another common theme for why people choose to leave Christianity.  This was especially common among people who had had things occur to them and when they turned to the church, the church either turned away or ignored them.  Another reason people choose to not follow Christ is that different beliefs in denominations leads them to believe no one is right, and so they go searching for ‘truth.’ A final, and main, reason people leave the Christian church or choose not to become Christians is that God has not called them.

The reasons people choose to not follow Christ need to be addressed by the Christian church where possible.  We, as Christians, need to remain open to people in pain.  We need to be gentle and loving as we teach people how to recognize and repent from sin in all its myriad forms.  We need to compassionately hold people accountable for their actions without falling into the trap of condemning them.  We need to remember that some people have desires or abilities, such as homosexuality, psychic ability, or in some cases alcoholism, that, although the Bible teaches us are wrong, they believe are “natural” parts of themselves and that they can not change.  These people may not be the cause of their sinful nature.  In Exodus 20:3-5, God says he will visit “the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”  It is likely that without God’s help, these “natural” parts of them will always rule.  We need to model, teach, and encourage trusting God and giving him our problems.  We need to ensure hypocrisy does not plague us.  If people need help, we should reach out to them.  We need to teach that our interpretations of what the Bible says are from man, but God, and His word, simply IS. Perhaps most importantly, we need to pray for the non-believer.  Prayer is extremely powerful and only God can mold the non-believer and call him to Himself.

Just as the reasons people do not choose Christ need to be addressed by the Church, so do the reasons people choose Wicca. People build personal philosophies that do not include Christ in part because what Christianity teaches about magic, psychic powers, spirits, and demons, is all too often insufficient and lacks explanations other than “the Bible says so,” which may be sufficient for a true believer but leaves something to be desired for a non-believer who attends church. The Church needs to give examples of occult phenomena and how they are dangerous. We need to let people ask questions without fear of reprisal, but at the same time, we need to ensure there are no books on Wicca, Witchcraft, Satanism, or magic in school libraries. We need to stop schools from inviting Witches to speak without allowing Christians to address these same students. We need to try to discourage shows about the occult from television and produce shows that show the value of relying on God. We also need to teach people how having the Bible as the authority in defining right and wrong can be very freeing, rather than stifling. We need to be sure to teach that Christ died for the sins of those who choose Him as Savior and that God forgives, even if we can not. We need to ensure no one in the Church is trying to abuse or control. Lastly, We need to teach reliance on God, not on man and the things of this world, and that while we may have free will, God has a plan.

As I’ve said, Wicca is an earth-based, magical, religion with few absolutes. Wiccans do not agree on its origins nor its practices. People choose Wicca for a variety of reasons, just as they left Christianity for a variety of reasons. But there are things we can do, as Christians to prevent people from choosing Wicca over Christianity in the future, and in some cases, these things may help bring people who practice Witchcraft back to Christ.


Bibliography

 

Godwin, John (1972). Occult America. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Grimassi, Raven (1997). The Wiccan Mysteries. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Larson, Bob (1982, 1989). New Book of Cults. Wheaton, IL: Tindale House.

Larson, Bob (1989). Satanism: The Seduction of America’s Youth. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Members and Friends of Dancing Buffalo Circle (1994, June 14). “Respect of nature, love for others basis for religion of Wicca.” Daily Illini. [Available on-line 10/5/1997]: http://www.illinimedia.com/di/archives/1994/June/14/forumtue.html.

Michaelsen, Johanna (1989). Like Lambs to the Slaughter. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers.

Phillips, Julia (1991). “History of Wicca in England: 1939 – Present Day.” [Available on-line 10/5/1997]: http://www.sils.umich.edu/sjgavula/wiccahist.html.

Ravenswing (1995, 1996, 1997). “Path to the Goddess.” [on-line]. Available: http://www.voicenet.com/~reinhart/rw/path.html.

Ravenswing (1997, March 13). “Ravenswing’s Wiccan Homepage.” [Available on-line 10/5/1997]:  http://www.voicenet.com/~reinhart/rw.

Starhawk (1979, 1989). The Spiral Dance: a Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. New York, NY: Harper-Collins Publishers.

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