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The connection between Wicca and Witchcraft

Wicca is a modern, reconstructed Neopagan religion largely based upon elements of a pre-Christian faith of the Celtic people. Followers of Wicca generally call themselves either Wiccans or Witches. Unfortunately, the terms Witch and Witchcraft have at least 13 different meanings. Most of them are negative; some are even mutually exclusive. This has prompted some Wiccans to discontinue use of the term Witch entirely. However, other Wiccans see this as abandoning the memory of the multiple tens of thousands of innocent people who were individually tortured and executed during the European "burning times" circa 1450 to 1792 CE. 

In some documents, Witchcraft is used to refer to evil sorcery - black magic intended to hurt or kill other humans. This does not have the remotest connection to Wicca. In other writings, Witchcraft refers to a contemporary Neopagan religion. This is referring to Wicca itself. In still other places, one of the remaining 11 definitions of Witchcraft is intended. The potential for confusion is obvious. Next to the word cult, Witchcraft is probably the most misunderstood religious term in the English language.

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Oppression of Witches in the Bible

The Bible contains many religiously intolerant passages that condemn all religions other than Christianity. This, of course, includes Wicca:

bulletMany passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) condemn:
bulletAll faith groups that are different from Judaism. In particular, the Scriptures frequently attack the religious practices of Pagan tribes which surrounded the ancient Israelites. 
bulletVarious Pagan beliefs and practices that the Israelites picked up from their neighbors.
bulletCertain forms of foretelling the future or communicating with the dead.
bulletEvil sorcery (i.e. issuing verbal curses to harm others).
bulletThe Christian Scriptures (New Testament) contains passages which condemn:
bulletThe Jewish religion as practiced both by the Pharisees and Sadducees prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.
bulletRabbinic Judaism as was widely practiced throughout the Roman Empire after the destruction of Jerusalem
bulletAll religions other that Christianity. Followers of other religions were described as praying to Satan or his demons during their religious services. 

Thus, it can be concluded that the Bible condemns all religions other than Christianity. This includes Wicca as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and a few hundred other religions, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism. 

There is an additional complication regarding Witchcraft in some English translations of the Bible. Many versions translate the Hebrew word for evil sorceress or evil sorcerer as Witch. Some versions also translate the Greek word for poisoner as Witch. Unfortunately, many Christians read these mistranslations and assume that the Bible is condemning modern-day Wiccans. This is an invalid conclusion, because Wiccans are prevented by their main rule of behavior (the Wiccan Rede) from harming others. Thus they are not permitted to engage in black magic, curses or spells which harm people, or poisoning people. 

Exodus 22:18 may have caused more murders of innocent people than any other passage in the Bible. Among the 20 versions of the Bible that we sampled, 14 used the term to sorcery; 2 to evil magic, 1 to magic and only 3 to Witchcraft. The latter were:

bulletKing James Version: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
bulletThe Promise: Contemporary English Version: "Death is the punishment for Witchcraft."
bulletRevised English Bible: "You must not allow a witch to live."

Some Christians will read these passages and assume that the Bible is referring to sorcerers. Others will assume that Wiccans are being targeted. Still others will interpret the passage as referring to one of the more than 10 other definitions of Witch. There is always the possibility that a mentally unstable person might be motivated to develop homicidal thoughts against Wiccans after reading this passage in one of these three translations.

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 The "Burning Times"

All kinds of religious heretics, non-conformists, and devout Christians were targeted as Satan worshipers, individually tortured and burned alive during the Burning Times (circ 1450 to 1792 CE) in Europe. This extermination was facilitated by a book: Heinrich Kramer & James Sprenger, "Malleus Maleficarum" (The Witches' Hammer), published about 1490 CE. This book was extensively used as a reference text by judges, the clergy, and torturers during the subsequent Witch trials. The authors claimed that Witches flew through the air on broomsticks, caused lightning and hail storms, changed from humans into animals, become invisible, etc. In Part II, Qn. 1, Ch. 2 the authors state that Witches:

offer to devils, or otherwise kill, the children that they do not otherwise devour...[they] cause abortion, kill infants in the mother's womb by a mere exterior touch.

Kramer and Sprenger claimed that Witches were motivated by:

bulleta desire to reduce the number of people entering Heaven and thus delay the Final Judgment when Satan, his demons and the Witches would be cast into Hell.
bulleta need to "confect from the limbs of such children an unguent which is very useful for their spells".

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Legacy of the Burning Times

Most people realize today that Kramer and Sprenger's beliefs were false, groundless and based solely upon fear, misogyny, myth, rumor, and a pre-scientific understanding of the world. But these same (or similar) beliefs continue to be promoted today. James Clement Taylor, a conservative Christian has commented: "these people of Wicca have been terribly slandered by us. They have lost jobs, and homes, and places of business because we have assured others that they worship Satan, which they do not. We have persecuted them..." 1 To date, all of the sources for this misinformation that we have been able to locate come from a small minority of authors within the Fundamentalist/Evangelical and Roman Catholic communities. Generally speaking, they relied upon other conservative Christians for source material, rather than using primary sources. 4,5,6,7,8 Fortunately, during the late 1990s and into the 21st century, many books have been written by religious conservatives about Wicca which are far more accurate.

On the other hand, some Christian groups have published accurate descriptions of Wicca, based on primary sources. 2,3 For example, Dr. John Norris, Chair of Theology at the University of Dallas once wrote: "I do think there are ways in what Wicca does is channeling good energy...[P]ractitioners of Wicca have a noble responsibility to care for the world of nature." 10 In the same article he said: "[T]he Occult, I associate it with black magic, a belief in an evil spirit that one worships and one aligns oneself with in order to gain advantage in the world. Wicca, from my perspective, is not part of the Occult because it considers itself part of an alignment with the good force of nature."

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Effects of misinformation on the religious conversion of Wiccans

Most conservative Christians, those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, also accept the concept that any person who is "saved" is rescued from an eternity of punishment in Hell. This heavily motivates them to convert the "unsaved" to a saving knowledge and trust in Jesus Christ. Occasionally, they try to convert a Wiccan. This is almost always a failure. One main reason is that they approach the potential convert armed with a great deal of misinformation about the Wiccan's faith. 

Gwydion is a Wiccan from Elkhart, IN. He was once a proselytizing Christian. He has written an excellent article "How to Share the Gospel with Pagans" which gives advice to Christians who are attempting to convert Neopagans. 9

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Related essays on this web site: 

bulletReligiously intolerant passages in the Bible
bulletWhat the Bible says about Wicca/Witchcraft
bulletConservative Christian program to terminate Neopagan rights in the military
bulletThe 1st "Burning Times" award given to Governor Johanns (NE)
bulletThe 2nd "Burning Times" award given to Rep. Barr (GA)
bulletHatred and misinformation about Wicca:
bulletOn the Internet
bulletOn radio

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  1. J.C. Taylor, "A Christian speaks of Wicca and Witchcraft," at http://www.wicca.com/
  2. Rick Branch, "Witchcraft / Wicca," Watchman Fellowship Profile, at http://www.watchman.org/
  3. Phillip Johnson, "The Way of Wicca," New Age Mission, at http://www.shootthemessenger.com.au/
  4. "Witchcraft" at: http://www.farsinet.com/ This is a view of Wicca by a Persian (Farsi) Christian who appears to have used conservative Christian sources.
  5. "David Ragland's hatred of Wiccans and Pagans: 'Explained'," at http://www.skeptictank.org/  This is a rather amusing interchange between a Christian and Wiccan.
  6. C.G. Reckart, "An extremely silly (and lengthy) hate rant against Wicca," at http://www.holysmoke.org/
  7. F.L. Rice, "'A letter to Witches' revised: Deceptions get corrected," at http://www.holysmoke.org/ This is an analysis of an anti-Wiccan article.
  8. Herne, "Herne's ramblings: 'An open letter'," at http://www.wicca.com/ This is a letter by a Wiccan which is directed to Christians who had written her "inspired by hatred, intolerance and complete misconception."
  9. Gwydion, "How to Share the Gospel with Pagans" is at: http://www.witchvox.com/ 
  10. Dr. John Norris, University News, University of Dallas, 2001-NOV-21.

Copyright date: 1999 to 2002 incl., and 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-SEP-19
Latest update: 2004-APR-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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