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Warning: While it is important for Christians to understand the world of the occult, it is not our intention to stimulate anyone's curiosity to the point where interest becomes an unhealthy obsession. Humans have always had a certain fascination about evil, so it is prudent to take the advice of Paul when researching information on the occult.
I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil" Romans 16:19
C.S. Lewis once commented,
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
There have been many news articles recently that show a growing interest in Wicca in many parts of the world. Wicca is the name for a contemporary pagan revival of witchcraft. Contrary to popular stereotypes, Wicca, is not witches in black hats, riding brooms and casting spells, although I don't doubt there are some who still get involved in different kinds of sorcery. Modern day Wicca, much like other faiths and churches in the world today, has fallen in line with the new age, humanist movement. Many of Wicca's core beliefs are completely compatible with humanist, new age beliefs and have taken on the Earth worship aspect and the deification of man that all of the new age religions are known for. While all witchcraft and neopagan groups vary widely in their rituals, techniques, and some beliefs, they are consistent in their doctrine of nature worship, goddess worship, and a oneness or connectedness of the cosmos. Here we will examine in further detail some of those beliefs, and present a Christian response.
History and Background of Wicca
Wicca is a common and much older name for witchcraft. The term witchcraft has been defined in different ways. In the past it has most often referred to the human harnessing of supernatural powers for the malevolent purpose of practicing black magic. For this reason, witchcraft, sorcery, and magic are nearly synonymous. Witchcraft is not, however, synonymous with Satanism. Not all witches worship Satan, and in fact most do not believe in Satan at all. Nor do they believe in hell, evil, or original sin. These groups believe that Satan is an imaginary creation of the Christian Church. If they believe in Satan at all they will tell you that the devil is just another Christian diety. They also do not believe in demons, and their deities are considered to be "imminent", or within each of us, meaning that everyone is actually deity.
A few groups do, however, worship Satan. During the Middle Ages, witchcraft experienced a great revival. The supernatural became very popular and superstition abounded. If someone wanted to become a witch, there was an initiation process. Some of the techniques were simple and some were complicated, but there were usually two requirements. The first was that the would-be witch must join of his or her own free will. The second requirement was that the prospective witch must be willing to worship the devil. Modern day witches, however, are not typically Satan worshipers.
Much like the New Age Movement, most Wiccans do not accept the belief that there is good or evil. They argue that there are only forces that must be balanced. Evil is just a necessary part of good and the negative can be transmuted into the positive (a basic belief of medieval alchemy). While political views are not universal among witches, most support neo-tolerance. There is no absolute truth. What's true for you may not be true for me, so everything is true, just pick one. They also are strong supporters of women's rights and matriarchy, sexual "freedom" (including homosexuality, polyamory, non-monogamy, sexual activity by teens), abortion, and the abolition of Christianity from public life, especially in schools and governmental functions. In recent years there have been lawsuits filed by Pagans against such things as "In God We Trust", student-led prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments, and Christian symbols, such as the Cross, in city and county seals. However, many are also active in getting the schools to teach the Wiccan holidays (Halloween, Winter Solstice, etc.), pagan elements of "Earth Day", and Pagan symbolism. An ally in the fight to introduce pagan earth worship into the schools is found in the United Nations as they are working to promote the Earth Charter in education, a document that contains much pagan tradition and doctrine.
Modern day Wiccans tend to distance themselves from Christianity because of what they claim is the proliferation of a patriarchal male-dominated religion that has historically ignored the role of women in the church and society. Traditionally, however, there have been as many, if not more, male witches/sorcerers than female in some pagan circles (e.g., the Druids). While not a religion for women only, today witchcraft is very much a female dominated religion.
The definitive start of the modern witchcraft era began with Gerald Gardner (1884-1964). As an archaeologist, Gardner had accumulated an extensive occult background. While in Southeast Asia, he learned the secrets of the Malaysian magical knife and became a Mason and a nudist. In 1939 when he returned to England an avid occultist, he became a member of the Corona Fellowship of Rosicrucians where he met Dorothy Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck initiated Gardner into witchcraft. Gordon wrote two books, one of which he claimed was to record accurately the history and practice of witchcraft, as he felt it was dying out. J. Gordon Melton stated in his review of Gardner's book Witchcraft Today, "Research suggests that Gardner did not discover a pre-existing Witchcraft group". A paper by Gardner published by Ripley's Believe it or Not disclosed that Gardner took the magical resources he acquired in Asia and a selection of Western magical texts and created a new religion centered upon the worship of the Mother-Goddess."
This was an important beginning in witchcraft, for it is the worship of the Mother-Goddess that has become the focus of modern witchcraft. From Gardner's writings, greatly influenced by Aleister Crowley, Theosophy, Freemasonry, ritual/sex magic, and numerous other occult sources, emerged modern day Wicca.
Wicca Beliefs and Practices
There are a wide variety of beliefs and practices in modern day Wicca. However, despite the pluralism and diversity, distinct principles derived from Gardnerian Wicca are common to most modern witches. Some of these beliefs are as follows:
These beliefs will often be mixed with a combination of mystical traditions, Celtic or Norse paganism, Greek and Roman goddess worship, ancient Egyptian spirituality, Eastern Shamanism, or even Native American spiritual practices depending on the group. All of these groups revere nature, support peace, and believe society cannot be at peace if we are out of harmony with nature or are mistreating Mother Earth (also known as Gaia, the name of a pagan goddess given to Earth). This aspect of Wicca is very similar to the New Age Religion supported by the United Nations and many of it's members, NGO's and leaders. Divination techniques such as tarot cards, astrology, runes, the I Ching (from Chinese Taoism), clairvoyant or psychic readings, candle magick and other occult practices are not only common but encouraged by most groups.
Similar to Hinduism, the serpent is believed by Wiccans to be a symbol of eternal life and female spiritual awakening or power. In Hinduism, yoga and meditation results in enlightenment from awakening the kundalini, or power known as the serpent power believed to be coiled at the base of the spine. Other symbols used in witchcraft are:
One hurdle that will have to be crossed in witnessing to a person involved in Wicca is their lack of belief in a need for forgiveness or salvation. To the witch, there is no sin therefore no need for forgiveness. There is no need for salvation, as there is nothing to be saved from. The main tenet of Wicca is the "Wiccan Rede" which states "And it harm none, do as ye will". Basically, as long as you don't hurt anyone, anything goes. Of course, views of what actually causes harm vary from person to person. Most also believe that whatever you do will come back to you three-fold, so it pays to be careful. Some, however, believe that it is sometimes acceptable to cause harm as long as you are willing to accept the karmic consequence.
Views of an afterlife vary widely among groups. Witches do not believe in a heaven or hell and will usually espouse the concept of karma and endless reincarnation. Backed up by "memories" of "past lives" they insist the idea of living only once is ridiculous. Others believe in reincarnation until enlightenment, or endless rebirth until such time as the person is enlightened enough to pass on to some other existence. Again, what makes a person enlightened varies from person to person. Still others will openly admit they have no idea what will happen after death and say the will find out when they get there.
As you can see, the beliefs of Wiccans fit very well into the humanist religion that has become so widespread in modern society. As with other humanist religions everything goes as long as it doesn't oppose their claim to being god/godess or hold them accountable to a higher power. It is this point that makes Christianity the only faith they will bend the "anything goes" rule for. To them it is intolerant to believe in an absolute truth and they will often take it as an insult to be told there is evil in the world and we all sin. This is one of the biggest obstacles to sharing your faith with Wiccans and other humanist groups.
A Christian Response to Wicca
The person involved in witchcraft may claim that the Bible does not condemn witchraft, since they assert that the real interpretation of the Hebrew word for "witchcraft" should be sorcery, divination and those who practice such things.
Response: The Bible categorically denounces any and all occultic practices.
Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your god will drive out those nations before you.
The New Testament also condemns such practices (Galatians 5:20). In the city of Ephesus many who were practicing in the occult became believers in Jesus Christ and renounced their occultic practices. "Many also of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all" (Acts 19:19).
Another encounter with the occult can be seen in Acts 13:6-12
And when they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they found a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence. This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him. And he said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time." And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed when he saw what happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.
The Bible in the strongest terms condemns the occult and those who practice it. The road of the occult is broad and leads to destruction, while the way of Christ is narrow and leads to life eternal.
Other Verses: Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:26,31, 20:6,27; 1 Sam. 15:23a; 2 Kings 23:24; I Chron. 10:13; Is. 2:6, 8:19-20, 47:13-14; Ez. 13:20-23; Dan. 2:27-28, 5:15-17; Acts 13:7-10a, 16:16-18; Gal. 5:19-20; Rev. 22:15
They may argue that sorcery is black magic used for evil, and that they practice white magic, magic for good.
Response: The Bible makes no distinction between good or bad magic or sorcery. All sorcery comes from the same source and is abhorred by God. See verses above.
Many non-Christians see the return of Christ as a horrible thing. Witches will scoff at this saying "Our Goddess isn't some spiteful deity that will one day wipe out the Earth. She loves us enough to let us do what we want and make our own choices".
Response: Love implies a relationship. If the goddess is in us, if the goddess is us, and is the earth, trees and that rock over there, it is impossible to have a relationship with her and it is impossible to be loved by her. God can be separate from you and be closer than anything else. The holy spirit can be in you, yet you are not God. It is this separateness that allows Christ to strengthen us. We are weak, but through Him we have strength. Because He is distinct from us He can provide us guidance, he can listen to us, he can love us. He couldn't do this if he were only another aspect of our being or of nature.
Pagans believe there is no absolute truth, therefore, there is no right and wrong.
Response: This is immediately a contradictory statement because people who believe in an absolute truth such as the Bible must then be wrong. The pagan will admit they believe Christians are wrong, forgetting they don't believe in a right way or a wrong way. The chances of doing something in this life that doesn't affect someone else in some way at some point are very low. Without guidance or a set of moral standards, we will negatively affect someone else. This is a fact and it is sin. The pagan will argue that we shouldn't impose our beliefs on them. They will also say that we shouldn't harm the environment. But, if I'm an atheist and believe the Earth is just a rock, I should then be able to do anything I want to the environment. To say I can't, is to say my belief is wrong. The point is, it is not possible to say all ways are truth and there is no right or wrong. For the Pagan to say there is no right or wrong is to say the Earth is Goddess, but the Earth is also not Goddess because the atheist is right too. Realizing this impossibility should alert the Pagan to the reality that there is truth out there. As eternity is at stake, it is a good idea to seek it out and listen with this new appreciation for truth.
Jesus gives us a clear vision of how He wants us to live our lives. We may not always like what he says, but that doesn't mean it isn't good for us. As God gives us moral guidance, he also gives us the Holy Spirit to help us. When we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit works in us making us want to do good. Having a relationship with Christ is not a set of rules and regulations meant to punish us. It's a new life and a new appreciation for the truth. And God is there to help us.
Witches believe in endless reincarnation and Karma that is passed on from life to life as you struggle to reach enlightenment.
Response: There is no Choice in Paganism. No matter what you do or what you believe, your life is heading toward the same truth, the same goddess. This goddess offers no end to the wheel of life cycles and has nothing more to offer you than a broken record and eternal punishment for past mistakes. Jesus offers so much more. He loved us so much that He died on the cross so that we can spend eternity in heaven. He gave us choice. The choice to choose Him or not to choose to be with Him. Jesus does not demand that we spend life after life trying to improve our karma, while not remembering what we did to deserve the less-than-perfect karma rating that led us back to earth again. He does not expect you to be punished for a previous life's karma only to pass your karma on to another life for more endless punishment. All he asks is that you believe in Him and accept his free gift of an eternity with Him.
For many Pagans the Christian belief in hell is a major obstacle. They see Christians as Cruel and heartless for believing that humans would go to hell for not believing in Christ. This usually comes from an incomplete understanding of what hell is and the free will that God gave us to choose our future.
Response: First of all, Hell was created for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41, 2 Peter 2:4). The devil is a sinner and has sinned from the beginning (I John 3:8). So, hell is a place for sin and death.
Why would God create a place for sinners to go, they might ask. Why would God create sin? God didn't create sin. It is a natural result of giving us free will. We are not robots put on earth and allowed only to do what God would have us do. God gave us freedom to choose and to enter into a relationship with Him freely. A relationship is no relationship at all if a person is forced to love.
Pagans will also argue that no one would choose hell, so it is only because of a lack of knowledge that they would go there and that is unfair.
Response: Throughout our society we see many people make bad choices with severe consequences and they were fully aware of their actions. People drive drunk, do drugs, and break the law. There are consequences for those actions and we don't assume they didn't know what they were doing. It all comes back to choice and freedom, something we all cherish and wouldn't want to live without.
It is not unfair to be punished for our actions. Even nature shows evidence of consequences for our actions. Believing in Christ is an action. It is the basis for how we live our lives, and there are consequences for those who choose to live apart from God just as there are consequences for those who make bad choices in society. It really isn't so foreign. Christians are those who choose to live with Christ for eternity. Non-Christians are those who don't. Heaven is a gift to those who choose it. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life". Hell is a place for those who have chosen to live apart from God, to whom God will say "Your will be done".
Why doesn't God give us a second chance?
Response: Again this comes back to free will. If God manipulates the choice it isn't really free will is it? Choosing to follow Christ after experiencing the reality of hell is like choosing to bet on a horse race moments before the winner crosses the finish line. God made the evidence of His presence overwhelming. He gave us His Word in the Bible, He sent his Son to die for us, and he created the amazing universe we live in. He also gave us guidelines to live by because He wants peace and happiness for us. He didn't want us to live in chaos without Him, only to accept Him when the race is finished. God is a personal God who loves us and wants us to have hope, a hope that he freely gives. But, it is up to us to choose eternity with Him or apart from Him. God is honoring the right of those he created to make their own choices. We are not just a means to an end. He loves us and created us as unique individuals. He will reward us and receive us with open arms if we choose Him.
Types of Witchcraft
There are many different types of witchcraft. Not everyone calls themselves a witch and there is a lot of variety, even among people who follow the same path. The following is a list of different religions related to Witchcraft. Some of them vary greatly from that of Wicca, but they are related in one form or another.