References to Wicca during the 1980s &1990s.
From dictionaries, encyclopedias
Many dictionary definitions of the words "Witch" and "Witchcraft"
overlook the religious meaning of the term. i.e. they contain no reference
to the Wiccan religion. However, they do include plenty of negative meanings
in their definitions. Their lack of inclusiveness and their emphasis on evil
probably contributes greatly to the oppression of, hatred of, and discrimination
against Wiccans in North America.
The American Heritage Student Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin, 1994),
P. 1071 contains one of the very few balanced definitions of "Witch." It
includes an accurate definition of at least three of the 18 or so
meanings for the word "Witch." They
- A woman believed to have supernatural powers and practice sorcery.
- A follower of a pagan nature religion having its roots in pre-Christian Europe
- A hag."
However, Webster's who is probably the most popular publisher
of dictionaries in the U.S., did not include one of most common
meanings for the word "Witch" -- a reference to Wicca.
Webster's Dictionary, 4th edition states: Witch:
- A person believed to practice magic, esp. black magic.
- An ugly or mean old woman; hag.
- To bewitch.
Webster's New World Dictionary states: Witch:
- A woman supposedly having supernatural power by a compact
with evil spirits.
- An ugly old hag.
- A fascinating woman or girl.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states: Witch:
- A person believed to have magical powers
- An ugly, old woman; hag
- A charming or alluring girl or woman.
A number of Wiccan organizations, individual Wiccans and groups like
ourselves had approached Webster's with the suggestion that they update
their definition to reflect current usage by including a religious
definition of "Witch." These attempts were originally unsuccessful. We
did not even get a response from Webster's. However, the Mirriam-Webster
OnLine web site now lists four unrelated meanings for Witchcraft:
||The use of sorcery or magic;
||Communication with the devil or with a familiar;
||An irresistible influence or fascination; and
From religious dictionaries and encyclopedias:
J.G. Melton, Ed, "The Encyclopedia of American Religions", Triumph
Books (1991), P. 16-21:
".....modern witches try to separate themselves from any connection with
Satanism....they see themselves as an alternate faith (like Buddhism
||Timothy Miller, Ed, "America's Alternative Religions", SUNY Press,
Albany NY (1995), P. 339-345:
"Much of the criticism leveled against neo-pagans has come from other
marginalized religious groups, notably Christian fundamentalist sects that
persistently link neo-pagan practices with 'Satanism'.....Neopagans are
adamant about the distinctions between themselves and Satanists, pointing
out that Satanism tends to focus on 'selfish' magic and certain male images
of divinity, does not affirm fundamental doctrines of reincarnation and
cosmic justice and bases itself on an affirmation of the Christian doctrine
of the duality of good and evil which neo-pagans deny.....in one instance
of which the author is personally aware, a neo-pagan was lynched by a
group of fundamentalists who deemed him a danger to the community."
||David Crystal, Barnes & Noble Encyclopedia (Based on the Cambridge
Encyclopedia), Barnes & Noble (1993), P. 1307:
"Contemporary witchcraft in the West sees itself as an alternative religion,
celebrating gods drawn from various European pre-Christian religions, and
exercising its magical powers in beneficial ways."
Rev. George Mather & Rev. Larry Nichols, "Dictionary of Cults,
Sects, Religions and the Occult", Zondervan (1993), P 312 & 316:
"Witchcraft has falsely been identified with Satanism......Witches follow a
principle of ethics called the 'Wiccan Rede'....Implied within this principle
is the notion held among witches that to be a witch means to seek to effect
harmony with the world, nature and other human beings. This principle
dispels the notion that witches perceive their work as effecting evil."
||Prof. Irving Hexham, "The Concise Dictionary of Religion",
InterVarsity Press (1993), P 90:
"[Gerald Gardner] tried to create the type of Witchcraft discussed by
Margaret A. Murray in her various books by creating rituals and beliefs to
integrate occult, spiritualist and yogic religions into a Gothic type
||Donald Watson, "A Dictionary of Mind and Spirit", Optima (1993),
"The modern practice of witchcraft, Wicca or the Old Religion, as it is also
called, is a system of animistic beliefs and rituals in which the individual
aims to harness natural magical powers and use them constructively.....
Although the history of witchcraft was associated with devil-worship,
evil sorcery and black magic, this was largely due to the propaganda of the
Christian church.....Most modern practitioners of witchcraft have managed to
cast off the old image and have successfully convinced the public of their
harmlessness and good intentions."
||John R Hinnells (Editor) "The Penguin Dictionary of Religions",
Penguin (1984), P. 352:
"Witchcraft as a modern Western religion was inspired mainly by the theories
of anthropologist Margaret Murray....who saw European witchcraft as a
survival of a benign pre-Christian fertility religion. In some places it has
also absorbed surviving traditions of folk-magic."
||John R Hinnells (Editor), "A Handbook of Living Religions", Penguin
(1985). P. 464-5:
"Witchcraft...presents a confusing picture to the average observer. The word
'witchcraft' is popularly used to describe at least four distinct phenomena,
frequently if mistakenly equated with each other."
"....modern witchcraft.....is a form of polytheistic nature religion based
upon the worship of the Mother Goddess.....witches view their task as
reviving the old religion(s) of pre-Christian Europe..... Contemporary
Neo-Pagan [witches] consistently try to separate themselves from the taint
of Satanic images constantly being thrown at them."
Latest update: 2004-SEP-05
Formatting changed: 2009-DEC-28