Witchcraft: America’s Neo-Pagan Movement
Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. These lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth portray what most of us believe witches to be: crazed, ugly old hags chanting senseless rhymes over a boiling black cauldron. Most people still relegate witches, their ceremonies, incantations and spells to the realm of fairy tales or horror stories. Some would find it easy to believe some odd, offbeat or weird person to be a witch.
But did you realize that many seemingly normal people today consider themselves to be practicing witches? Doctors, lawyers, nurses, laborers—think about any job out there—the person you would least expect might be a practicing witch. Did you know that we even have witches in our U.S. military?
Practice of the “Craft,” nearly stamped out over 400 years ago, is making a big comeback. Although the number of practicing witches can vary significantly depending on the source consulted, it is estimated that in the United States alone there are over 50,000 people—women and men—who claim to be witches! Some scholars studying this modern religious movement estimate the number to be 300,000.
No matter how many there may be, the number of people interested in witch rituals is growing daily. And we should become most alarmed at the high number of teens interested in practicing witchcraft. Adult practitioners have come out of the broom closet and are opening the door to the youth of this country. Young girls are encouraged to believe that practicing witchcraft is a wonderful means of developing and strengthening their girl power.
Parents, some school officials and clergy are rightfully concerned. But as a society, we are demonstrating little upset over this fast-growing movement. As a people and a nation we should be more concerned.
Historians tell us that a man named Gerald Gardner founded the modern witchcraft movement in Britain in the 1940s. Based on information gathered during his travels in the Far East and the writings of Margaret Murray, an anthropologist who had traced the existence of the old pagan religions in Europe, he revived and formalized ancient ceremonial rituals. Gardener called his movement Wicca. This word is taken from a Celtic word that means wise ones.
After catching hold in Britain, the movement moved to the United States in the early ’60s, embraced by the American counterculture movement as an alternative to Christianity. It then began sinking roots into mainstream American culture in the late ’60s. People such as Sybil Leek and Raymond and Rosemary Buckland, publicly proclaimed witches, did much to promote interest in Wicca at that time. Since the ’60s, interest in Wicca has expanded with each passing decade. It is now commonplace to find classes on witchcraft at many colleges and universities. There is a special school established for the study of Wicca in New Bern, North Carolina. Although there is no one central organization for witches, Wicca is recognized as a religion by the irs. Many Wiccan covens enjoy tax-exempt status. And there are some 3,000 covens in the United States.
It is the ardent desire of ’90s witches to make witchcraft a popular and accepted alternative to established religion. An effective job of promoting the Craft is being done. Its rising popularity can be clearly seen in the publishing industry. Many bookstores feature a large selection of books on the study of witchcraft. There are books for both adults and teens.
The television and movie entertainment industry also appears to be lending full support. In fact, the entertainment business is helping to put a new and younger face on witches. One of the most popular shows on the WB network is Charmed. Popular with teens, weekly episodes feature stories about three pretty teenage sisters, all witches, and how they use magic, charms and spells to solve supernatural problems. ABC airs the popular sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch. This year, Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s bookworm friend, turned herself into a cool Wiccan. Felicity’s Goth roommate began casting spells in mid-season.
Several witchcraft movies have topped the popularity charts in the ’90s. Hocus Pocus, released in 1993 by Disney, was a comedy spoof about three witch sisters brought back from the dead on Halloween. The only way they could live forever would be to suck the life out of the town’s children. The Craft was released in 1996 and featured Neve Campbell, a teen heroine. This year Warner Brothers released Practical Magic, a love story about two witch sisters played by Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Remakes of older movies, I Married a Witch and Bell, Book and Candle, will be released soon.
The TV and movie industry is doing more than entertaining us. They are promoting the Wicca movement. On TV and in movies, witchcraft is made to look exciting, thrilling, romantic and good. Can we begin to see that the entertainment experts are making the practice of witchcraft all the more acceptable?
In the Military
The practice of witchcraft has already become somewhat of a national issue, though not yet widely publicized. In August 1997, Fort Hood, near Austin, Texas, became the first military base to sanction the practice of the Wicca religion. Since then several other installations have also agreed to allow Wiccans to practice their rituals. Among them: Fort Polk, La., Fort Wainwright, Ark., and Kedena Base in Okinawa. It its June 14 edition, U.S.News and World Report reported on the trouble boiling over at the federal level on this issue. Representative Bob Barr of Georgia became incensed at the military allowing witch rituals to be practiced on American bases. Mr. Barr is determined to stop the practice.
Fort Hood’s Wicca group is called Open Circle and claims 200 members. The Sacred Well Congregation of Texas sponsors the group. David Oringderff, a retired major who served 22 years in the army, founded Sacred Well. Open Circle conducts its monthly rituals at a Boy Scout camp on the base. At this point in time, the U.S. Army does not plan to stop the Wiccans. U.S. News quoted a Fort Hood spokesman, Lt. Col. Benjamin Santos, as saying, “As far as we are concerned, they are a religious organization providing for the needs of our soldiers.” In other words, the witches will stay active at Fort Hood.
In a letter to the Fort Hood commander, Barr stated that supporting Wiccans may win the approval of liberals, but “its effect on the combat readiness of your troops may be far less spectacular, to say nothing of its detrimental effects on our society more broadly speaking, which has heretofore looked to our military as epitomizing the American spirit of ‘for God and country.’”
Mr. Barr’s rational comments have created a stir among high-ranking witches in the military. Oringderff is demanding a formal apology. He stated, “As a psychologist and sociologist, I am painfully aware that, despite constitutional guarantees and protection under law, intellectual and spiritual bigotry is alive and well in this country.” Military Wiccans are working diligently to seek protection under the U.S. Constitution to continue practicing their religion. Spells are being cast, incantations mumbled. A real confrontation is brewing. Military witch groups in Georgia have already staged marches against Barr in his district.
U.S. News also reported that a Defense Department official stated that it would be unconstitutional for the department to “evaluate or judge the merits of specific faiths. The only ground rules: that all religious services adhere to health and safety standards and maintain good order and discipline.” Mr. Barr vehemently disagreed: “This move sets a dangerous precedent that could easily result in the practice of all sorts of bizarre practices under the rubric of religion.” Recently, Barr attempted to amend a defense authorization bill to prohibit the practice of Wicca or any other form of witchcraft at Defense Department facilities. The measure was stopped on procedural grounds. Barr intends to keep trying to stop witchcraft from being practiced on military bases. He will probably not make much headway. Why? Wiccan experts tell us that the interest in witchcraft is growing the fastest among our nation’s military personnel!
Where will you stand if this issue becomes a widely publicized U.S. debate? Could we really believe that when the fathers of the United States drafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution they ever intended witchcraft to be practiced openly on military bases or anywhere in this country? If we fully understand what Wicca is all about, we must shout a resounding no!
Here is how Covenant of the Goddess, the largest California-based witch organization, defines the Craft on their website: “Wicca, or witchcraft, is an earth religion—a re-linking (re-ligio) with the life-force of nature, both on this planet and in the stars and space beyond. In city apartments, in suburban backyards, in country glades, groups of women and men meet on the new and full moons and at festival times to raise energy and put themselves in tune with these natural forces. They honor the old goddesses and gods, including the triple goddess of the waxing, full and waning moon, and the horned god of the sun and animal life, as visualization of immanent nature.”
Of course this well-written definition puts a positive spin on Wicca. But what is really being said? Wiccans worship the pre-Christian fertility goddesses and gods. In fact, Wiccans are proudly pagan.
Most well-versed Wiccans refer to their movement as the neo-pagan movement. Wiccans avidly study Druidic, Celtic, Norse and ancient Greek mythology for inspiration and direction. Witches believe in reincarnation and karma and that spiritual power comes from the sun, the moon and the earth rather than from the personal Christian God. One of the main tools of Wiccans is divination.
In their worship rituals, witches use the circle and pentagram, brooms, the wand, candles, crystals and a knife known as athame. Although not always required, those participating in the rituals are unclothed—or, to borrow a witch term, skyclad! This fact alone has caused law officials to become concerned over the potential sex abuse of children during witch celebrations.
Herbs and other items are often brewed together to cast spells. Even though many men participate in witch rituals, a coven is most often led by a high priestess. Most Wiccan groups claim to use white magic rather than black magic. Wiccans insist that white magic provides benefits for all humans. All Wiccan groups insist that they do not worship the devil. (Those who know their Bible well know witches are deceived on this point.) Wiccans claim they have a positive religion that promotes growth and self-fulfillment.
Witches celebrate the changing of the seasons at the solstices, equinoxes and the midpoints between them. Witch festivals are known as sabbats. Some of their most important worship festivals include: Samhain, in honor of the lord of the dead, held on October 31; Yule, in honor of the sun god, held on December 21, and Ostara, in honor of Eostre, goddess of the dawn, held on March 21. If not now obvious, let me point out that the traditional Christian festivals of Halloween, Christmas and Easter have their roots in these same pagan festivals (see below).
We should not view this subject casually or lightly. Wiccans take their religion very seriously. We should give it somber consideration. Wiccans are in fact anti-Christian. Their beliefs and practices undermine Christian belief, values and morality. We must understand that witches view solid, Bible-based Christianity as a threat. But even more, we must come to see that the rise of witchcraft represents a grave sickness in our society. Wicca is a problem.
Listing the “Thirteen Witch Principles of Belief,” Silver RavenWolf, in her book, Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation, states: “Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that these institutions have claimed to be ‘the one true right and only way’ and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practices and belief” (p. 7). Animosity is hostility. Wiccans hold hostility for Christians.
RavenWolf further states, “Witches are sick and tired of people in other religions passing judgment and spreading lies about our belief system just because they are either insecure in their own faith or don’t realize that many paths to God exist in our universe. These unenlightened people think that hurting us is better than admitting that people should be free to believe as they want to believe. Witches do not hate Christians, or Jews or followers of Islam; however when people from these structured groups try to hurt us with lies, gossip or physical force, they can expect the witches to be upset and to fight back” (p. 8). Notice carefully. Witches intend to fight back if any measure is taken to stop them. If the number of estimated witches is close to correct, then those who oppose them can expect considerable resistance.
But to confront the problem, we must understand the cause of the problem.
Why has witchcraft gained such a hold in our Christian-based society? Certainly there are several factors. Many witches are fervent feminists. This is probably the main contributing factor to the rapid growth of the movement. Following ancient rituals faithfully, the Wiccan religion is female-dominant—the high priestess leads the ritual ceremonies. The fertility goddess always receives the primary worship. Wicca is tailor-made for women who desire power and authority over men. True Christianity is solidly patriarchal. This fact grinds away at feminist philosophy. Feminists who have not been able to successfully change Christian teachings to their own liking have embraced Wicca.
The rise in witchcraft also reveals the ineffectiveness of ’90s Christianity. Christian leaders have lost both their backbone and their teeth. Chas S. Clifton, editor of the book Witchcraft Today, states: “Some Christian clergy, no doubt, are convinced in their own minds that we are going to their hell in a handbasket, but they are courteous enough to keep the thought to themselves and not bother us with it” (p. 152). Desiring the praise of men and wanting to be politically correct, most clergy will not speak out against the Craft. However, there is a voice willing to call the Craft what it is—rebellion against Almighty God.
What the Bible Says
Witches boldly proclaim they have no Bible or revealed scripture. Christians do. Although few rely on it, the Bible is the revealed word of an almighty and very personal God. He states authoritatively: “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:5-6). In the pages of the Bible, God reveals Himself as the Creator of the earth, sun, moon, stars and the entire universe. God has a great purpose for all men. He wants us to live exciting, abundant and happy lives. But to obtain God’s intended happiness, He demands that we live our lives His way!
Witchcraft is the very opposite of God’s way of life. It is a religion inspired by Satan and his demons. Realize, the Bible is not a book written for the distant past. It is revealed knowledge for today! The Bible is very clear on the subject of witchcraft. People ought to look to the Bible for the answer on the Wicca issue. The Book of books states, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (I Sam. 15:23).
According to the Bible, witchcraft is sin. What sin? It is idolatry, pure and simple. Worshiping the goddess and horned god represents great disrespect and grave dishonor to our holy Creator. Wiccans openly admit their idolatry. They claim this makes them happy. Yet, idolatry will never bring happiness. Witchcraft is nature worship. Worshiping the earth, sun, moon, stars or animals can never bring a person true spirituality. Only worship of the true God can bring the spiritual growth men and women need and desire. Idolatry will bring God’s wrath.
Paul taught the Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever” (Rom. 1:18-25). Although liberals and Wiccans scoff at Paul, he does sum up and answer the entire issue related to witchcraft.
End of Foolish Religion
Paul shows that those women and men who began the religion of witchcraft millennia ago refused to glorify God. When God revealed Himself and His knowledge to mankind, they were not thankful for His efforts toward men. Wiccans today refer to themselves as the wise ones. So did their ancient counterparts (v. 22). But Paul states clearly that they became fools. Isn’t giving up the knowledge of the true God and His ways stupidly foolish? God, watching it all take place, gave the people anciently over to uncleanness and lust and allowed them to dishonor their own bodies. Certainly, God is allowing witches to do the same today. Can’t we all agree that performing ritual ceremony “skyclad” is a shame and dishonor to the people involved? Witchcraft is a work of the flesh and will keep a human being out of the Kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). From God’s perspective, witchcraft is not good for the individual. Neither is it good for the nation.
Moses, instructing the ancient Israelites, stated, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exod. 22:18). This God-inspired judgment was based on the Ten Commandments. Moses was not just singling out witches. Any person in Israel who committed idolatry was subject to the death penalty. Why? Left unchecked, witchcraft or any other pagan form of worship would turn the nation away from God. This would cause God to turn away from them.
In today’s perilous times, can America’s military afford to be alienated from God? Can our nation long stand without God’s divine protection? After Moses and the other great leaders in Israel died, few followed what the nation had been taught. Ancient Israel’s history shows that the northern tribes did fully embrace paganism. The nation suffered siege, capture, captivity and slavery as a result. Ancient Israel suffered horribly for their idolatrous Wiccan practices.
If modern Wiccans have their way, that is precisely what they will do to our nation—turn everyone to paganism. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the same sad shape as our ancient forefathers. Where are the leaders today who can see the modern Wiccan movement for the idolatrous religion it is and stand up to stop it?
Soon Jesus Christ will return to this earth. He will establish His kingdom based on the laws of Almighty God. He will put a complete end to all myths, fables and false religion of men (Rev. 21:8). All idolatry, including witchcraft, will be taken away from the earth. At that time all individuals will be taught properly how to achieve amazing spiritual growth. That time will be truly glorious. May that day hasten quickly.