Review of two versions of an article on Wicca
published by the Watchman Fellowship, Inc.
About the Watchman fellowship:
The Watchman Fellowship Inc. is a conservative Christian counter-cult
group. 1 They have described themselves as a:
of Christian discernment."
"a nonprofit educational
organization headquartered in Arlington, TX, with additional offices in
Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.
Watchman Fellowship is an apologetics and discernment ministry that
provides research and evaluation on cults, the occult, and new religious
movements from a traditional Christian perspective." 2
By "traditional Christian" they appear to mean fundamentalist or other evangelical Christian perspective.
Their web site refers extensively to "cults."
They are not using the most common definition of the term -- i.e. a
high intensity, dangerous, destructive, doomsday faith group that places their members' lives
in danger. Rather, they define "cult" as any
group whose beliefs are:
"... a counterfeit or serious deviation from
the doctrines of classical Christianity."
They have referred to some
large, well established faith groups, such as The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), the Jehovah's
Witnesses, some Pentecostal groups, etc. as
The biography of their President, James K Walker states:
of his background and love for those lost in the cults and alternative
religions, James Walker has invested his life into reaching them with the
true Gospel of Jesus Christ. His desire is to work together with local
churches to evangelize those in the cults and to bring them into healthy,
Rick Branch's essay on Wicca, as published circa 2000:
The essay was reasonably accurate, particularly when compared to many
other attempts by Christians to describe Wicca. 3 Still, it had a few deficiencies. It is no longer available on their web site:
- At the beginning of the essay, the title "Witchcraft/Wicca" implies that the terms
"Wicca" and "Witchcraft" are synonyms. In fact,
"Witchcraft" has many different,
meanings -- some
mutually exclusive. The terms have been used to refer to such unrelated groups
as Satanists, African aboriginal traditional healers, persons
engaged in black magick for the purpose of harming others, as well as
followers of Wicca. We recommend that the terms "Witch" and
"Witchcraft" be only used if they are very carefully
pre-defined to avoid confusion. On the other hand, "Wicca" and "Wiccan" have well defined
- The essay lists two Llewellyn magazines (Llewellyn's New Worlds of Mind
and Spirit and Llewellyn New Times) as two of Wicca's key
periodicals. A better reference might
be to "Circle Magazine" 4 published
by Circle Sanctuary, or "Green Egg" originally published as a magazine by the Church of All Worlds and now appearing online. 4
- Branch's essay emphasizes the various traditions within Wicca: Gardnerian,
Alexandrian, etc. But it overlooks the fact that the largest group is
commonly called "eclectic Wicca." These are solitary practitioners and local covens who create and
follow their own path, rather than adopt one of the Wiccan traditions.
- The essay emphasizes the belief that Wiccans are members of covens. This
overlooks a very large number - perhaps the majority - of Wiccans who are
- They refer to Wicca as a "cult." Our belief is that the public and
media have so many hateful association with this word that it should
almost never be used, except perhaps when referring to dangerous doomsday,
destructive faith groups. The Watchman Fellowship does define "cult"
elsewhere on their web site as any religious group that deviates from
historical Christian belief. However, this is not the most common usage of
the word. in use today. The meaning generally attributed by the public is quite
different and extremely negative. They will
probably associate "cult" with groups like Heaven's
Gate, the People's Temple, the Solar
- The essay states that "Wiccan groups do not accept the
existence of evil." This is a confusing statement. In practice, Wiccans are very concerned with matters of ethics. They
very carefully analyze the potential future implications of any
decision, in order to avoid hurting others
and the environment. A better wording might be
"Wiccans do not believe in the existence of an all-evil deity, similar to the
Christian and Muslim Satan."
- Under the "History" section, they imply that Wiccans
were victims of mass murders during the Christian Inquisition
and Salem tragedies. That is not a valid linkage. The Christian
Inquisition and Salem murders targeted groups that were perceived to
be Satan worshipers, not Wiccans.
- Their references to blood control through binding with cords, and to
flogging with a scourge may have been true of Wicca in the very early
years and may even be still practiced by some very orthodox
Gardnerian covens. But it is not at all typical of Wicca today.
Including these references may well create unwarranted disgust towards,
and fear of, Wiccans.
- Under "Biblical Response," they state that the Bible
condemns Witchcraft. However, the original Hebrew text in the Hebrew
Scriptures (Old Testament) which are often translated into English as
"Witch" really refer to "women who issue verbal curses to
harm other people." Meanwhile, passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) which
are translated as "Witch" generally refer to homicidal poisoners. Neither of these
practices are related
in any way to Wicca and Wiccans.
- Perhaps the main deficiency in the essay is that they do not mention the Wiccan Rede or the Threefold Law. These are absolutely
key foundational beliefs of Wiccans:
- The Rede, which may be written in modern English as "As long as it harms nobody, including yourself, do what you wish." Wiccans are forbidden to use magic in a way that harms anyone, including themselves or in a way that manipulates others.
- The Threefold Law states that any good or harm that a person commit returns to them three time over.
Overall, we feel that the Watchman Fellowship had written one of the
more accurate and balanced description by any conservative
Christian group about Wicca that we have seen. However, it appears
that the essay was never critiqued by person(s) who is a Wiccan or who is familiar with the Wiccan religion. It is
almost impossible for a person to write about a religion that is not their own
and produce an essay that is balanced, accurate and clear.
On a positive note, the Watchman Fellowship does encourage visitors to its
web site to Email them comments on errors and oversights in their essays. We did
just that on 2000-MAY-29. We did not receive a response.
Rick Branch's revised essay on Wicca, as of 2014-AUG:
The essay has been rewritten and relocated on their web site. 5 It retains the same title: "Witchcraft/Wicca" which equates Witchcraft -- a term that has about 20 distinct meanings -- to Wicca, which refers to the modern-day Neopagan faith that follows elements of Celtic Pagan beliefs.
Concerning the essay:
- When discussing Wiccan organization structure, he still refers only to individual autonomous covens. In reality, many -- perhaps most -- Wiccans are solitary practitioners; they are not affiliated with a coven.
- The author appears to refer to "Neopaganism" as a separate religion that differs somewhat from Wicca in its theology. However the term "Neopaganism" (a.k.a. Modern Paganism, or contemporary Paganism) 6 is most commonly used as an umbrella term that refers to any modern faith group that is considered by its followers to be a reconstruction of an ancient Pagan faith.
- Wicca, a modern day faith reconstructed from elements of ancient Celtic belief.
- Neo-Druidism, based on Druidism,
- Jewish Paganism, a.k.a. Semitic Neopaganism, based on the polytheistic beliefs of the early Hebrews. 7
- Heathenry, a.k.a. German Neopaganism 8
- Nova Roma, based on ancient Roman Paganism 9
- Greek/Hellenic Reconstructionist Paganism based on the original Greek Pagan religion. 10
"Evil sorceress," "evil sorcery," or "black magic" would be preferable terms to translate the Hebrew and Greek terms in the Bible that are often mistranslated as "Witch" or "Witchcraft." Some Bible translation are now using these terms.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- The Watchman Fellowship's home page is at: http://www.watchman.org/
- A biography of their president, James K. Walker, is at: http://www.watchman.org/
- Rick Branch, "Witchcraft / Wicca," The Watchman
Fellowship, version as of the year 2000 at: http://www.watchman.org/witchpro.htm (No longer online)
- Circle Magazine is published by Circle Sanctuary. Their home page
is at: http://www.circlesanctuary.org/circle/
- Green Egg has a home page at: http://www.greeneggzine.com/
- "Modern paganism," Wikipedia, as on 2014-AUG-20, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Semitic neopaganism," Wikipedia, as on 2014-AUG-09, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Heathenry," Wikipedia, as on 2013-JAN-10, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
- "Nova Roma," at: http://www.novaroma.org/
- "Greek/Hellenic Reconstructionist Paganism" at: http://www.ecauldron.net/
- The World Pagan Network has a list of U.S. Pagan periodicals sorted
by state at: http://www.geocities.com/
Copyright © 2000 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-MAY-29
Latest update: 2014-AUG-28
Author: B.A. Robinson