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[For those of you who might be new to my world religion series, the purpose of this series is to help Christians be better informed about others’ beliefs in order to have more productive conversations. As you engage with others on these topics, be sure to do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).]

[Part 2 of this series (a vlogcast with Lindsey and Amy) can be found here.]

If you’re a child of the 90s, you probably remember the film The Craft (starring Party of Five’s Neve Campbell). If you haven’t seen it (and honestly, I’m not sure you should), it’s about a teenager who moves to a new town and strikes a friendship with a group of young women who call themselves witches. They profess to use their spells for good (e.g., using it to heal burn scars on one of them), but they also wreak havoc on their enemies. For example, the main character curses a girl and causes her hair to fall out, and another member of their coven curses her stepdad, and he dies from a heart attack. The movie climaxes with the three good-witches binding the fourth, keeping her from causing harm to others.

The film was wildly popular (so popular, in fact, that a reboot is coming out this week), and it made witchcraft enticing to a whole generation of teenagers. Covens were “cool” and the friendships forged there strong. What teenage girl doesn’t want to be part of a super-secret and exclusive club? Especially enticing to “outcasts,”  here was a way to regain your dignity and power that the pretty girls refused to grant you. Thought #Wicca was just a 90's fad from the movie 'The Craft'? Think again. It's on the rebound... and here's why. Click To Tweet

Our original plan for the world religion series didn’t include Wicca, but that changed when I had a conversation with Mama Bear’s very own Amy back in July. She shared some of her experiences with Wicca with me (I had no clue!), and based on the newly rising popularity of Wicca, we thought you Mama Bears could use a heads-up. (And instead of a Q and A article, we’ve got a Q and A podcast coming out later this week!)

In preparation for this series, I read a few books about Wicca, including a beautifully illustrated book that came out in August called A History of Magic, Witchcraft, & the Occult (Penguin Random House, 2020). But don’t add this to your library. We do the research so that you don’t have to. And this is not one of those books you’d want lying around the house. It’s far too pretty and tempting for little eyes.

 

A History of Wicca (in about 400 words)

Some form of witchcraft has been around since the Fall. Magic and witchcraft are even mentioned in the Bible (Micah 5:12, 1 Samuel 28, and Deuteronomy 33:8-10). Whether it was wearing amulets to keep evil spirits away or performing spells and rituals to cure the sick, there is evidence to support the use of magic from very early on.

Witchcraft has evolved with time. For example, although modern Muslims reject the occult, they once used astrolabes for timekeeping and astrology for horoscopes. The astrolabe pictured to the left was discovered in Spain and dates back 1345-1355 C.E.

Wicca as we know it today came to the forefront in the early 1900s because of an Englishman named Gerald Gardner (d. 1964), who is dubbed the Father of Wicca. He was a member of a coven and spent his life promoting witchcraft.[1] He was director of a witchcraft museum in the United Kingdom until his death, fully committed to making witchcraft not only culturally acceptable but attractive for those seeking meaning in their lives.

The modern witch is someone who embraces paganism. This may include casting spells, meeting with a coven, performing rituals in the woods, and wearing a robe, but sometimes none of them. The main takeaway for Wicca is best explained by Deborah Blake in her book, Modern Witchcraft. According to Blake (a self-proclaimed witch), the appeal of modern-witchcraft is that it is “eclectic” — that is, “we take the bits and pieces from various different origins and put them together to make a spiritual and magical pat that works for us. There is no one ‘right’ way to be a modern Witch— only the way that is right for you.”[2] In other words, Wicca is a choose-your-own-adventure type of spirituality. We can quickly see the appeal for this up and coming “I’m living my truth” generation.

What do Witches Believe?

This can be tough to nail down since Wiccans choose their own path, but this list of beliefs will give you a pretty good idea of what most modern witches believe.

Goddesses. Wicca is a dualistic religion, but not in a good-versus-evil sense. There isn’t really a supreme force of evil in Wicca. Rather, they believe there is a balance between a female goddess and her polar opposite the Horned God (typically divine lovers). Since most of their worship centers around female deities, there are more women than men who ascribe to Wicca. Some of the goddesses you might recognize include Aphrodite, Demeter, and Hera. Witches can choose which goddesses and gods they want to worship.

Karma. Typically, a Wicca will subscribe to the “Rule of Three,” which says that whatever energy you put out into the world will be returned to you three times. This becomes especially important when they are performing spells and is why most Wicca books talk about the importance of good spells, not evil ones.

Crystals and runes. The use of crystals and gems in witchcraft dates all the way back to the ancient Egyptians, who believed that crystals could be used in healing rituals. This is similar to what crystals are used for in the New Age Movement. Runes (which are a type of alphabet carved in stones) were used by Vikings to tell fortunes or cast spells, and they are still used today.

Spells. This is probably what you think of first when you think of witches. Witches use spells for anything from healing to prosperity, and it doesn’t necessarily involve a cauldron or a fire in the woods. Remember, Wicca is what you want it to be, so your ritual practice looks however you want it to look. Some modern witches even use emojis (e.g., ) to conjure and send nonverbal spells.

The elements. Earth, water, fire, and air. Witches believe the natural world is divine, and often you’ll see witches surrounded by nature, whether that’s the woods, mountains, or the beach. They believe that the universe is a magical place. Typically, their altars will be made with flowers and seasonal foliage.

Astrology and Tarot. It will likely not be a surprise to you that witches believe in astrology and reading the stars. They also use Tarot cards in their divination practices. Tarot is made up of 22 different cards, called the Major Arcana, and each one has a specific meaning. If the card is placed upside down, the meaning is reversed.

Feminism, Social Justice, and Witchcraft

Wicca is making a comeback, and a recent article in The Atlantic describes why — it boils down to the relationship between feminism and witchcraft, particularly in the United States. The #MeToo Movement has propelled witchcraft back into the mainstream.[3] This makes sense because Wicca is a female-dominated religion, “where women are powerful and men are secondary.”[4] Since modern witches consider themselves social warriors, it’s no wonder Wicca is on the rise in 2020 (and why you might want the heads-up if you have a social-justice teenage girl in your house). Witches are typically defiant against a male-dominated society (as you can see from their panoply of goddesses), and they work to create an all-inclusive society where anyone can be what they want to be, especially if they are female, homosexual, or a person of color. Deborah Blake says that the personal empowerment aspect of Wicca is “the best part of being a Witch.”[5]Why is Wicca on the rise? Four words: feminism and social justice. Click To Tweet

Five Misconceptions about Wicca

1.  Men are called wizards or warlocks. Nope. They are still called witches. And it’s okay to refer to witches as pagans. That used to be offensive, but not anymore, for the most part.

2. All witches have a coven. False. A group of witches who worship together is called a coven, but not all witches belong to a coven. In fact, many prefer to worship alone, which as an introvert, I can kind of relate to.

3.  Witchcraft is the same as Satanism. This is actually really important for us to understand because making this assumption will be viewed as super offensive to a witch and will likely burn bridges rather than build them. Remember, bridges are necessary for sharing the gospel, Mama Bears.

Satanism is its own belief system (they often don’t worship the devil either, by the way). Witches are not Satanists, and Satanists are not witches (in general, of course, because there could be exceptions). Many witches don’t even believe in Satan. Though the Wiccan Horned God looks like the devil, they don’t see him as that. [One could still argue that if they aren’t worshiping God, then it’s by default Satan, but I would never lead with that in a conversation if you want to have a second conversation.]

4.  Witches sacrifice animals. Not generally, or at least not Wiccan witches. (Ha! That sounds like “wicked witches”… but I digress.) As Blake describes it in Modern Witchcraft: “Maybe a chicken breast for a feast, but otherwise, Witches tend to be animal lovers who collect too many cats and feed the birds in the winter. Any ‘sacrifices’ placed on the altar are likely to be symbolic, such as a piece of fruit, a loaf of bread, or some flowers.”[6]

5.  Magic and Wicca are the same things. We’ll often see these words used interchangeably, even by modern witches, but what’s the difference? Put simply, Wicca is a religion, and magic is not. You don’t have to be a witch to do magic (Penn Jillette, for example, is an atheist who performs magic).

Three Things We Can Learn from Wiccans

1.  The spirit world is real. The Bible tells us that our battle “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Denying the existence of demons or the possibility of spells is denying what we’re told in Scripture. It’s real, and there are real consequences to dabbling in the spiritual realm.

2.  Pentagrams have meaning (and one that might surprise you). Many witches wear pentagrams for protection, but the symbol can also be used in spells. Something you might not know about the pentagram is that it was once used by Christians to represent the five wounds of Christ on the cross. Today, though, we more frequently are known for wearing a cross. It’s probably not wise to try and retake the pentagram, but it’s a fun fact nonetheless.

3.  We should care for the earth. Wiccans care for the earth because they worship the earth. As Christians, we do not worship the earth; rather, we worship its Creator. But we are commanded to care for His creation in Scripture (see Genesis 2:15).

How Should You Talk to Your Kids About Wicca?

Amy and I will cover that a lot in the podcast we’ll post later this week, but let me address some simple ways to talk with your kids. A lot of times, it can come up naturally when you’re watching t.v. shows or films. For example, if you watch the Smurfs, and Gargamel is performing a spell, you could simply call it what it is — witchcraft. But, I also want to note that often what we see in entertainment isn’t necessarily what happens in the real world.

Could a group of teenage girls get together and start hexing their classmates like we see in The Craft? Yes, but that doesn’t really seem to fit the norm. Instead, talk to them about the things they’ll actually encounter, such as astrology, Tarot cards, and crystals. When you see witchcraft in movies, don’t avoid the conversation. Instead, ask them about what they are seeing. Talk about witchcraft and magic with your kids so that they have an understanding of what it all means. They need to know that whatever power they think they might get in witchcraft comes with a very dangerous price of opening themselves to the demonic realm. From what I’ve heard from people who dabbled, it’s not an easy door to shut.

If you want to learn more about Wicca, stay tuned for the upcoming podcast/video with Amy about how the Lord saved her from becoming a witch!

 

 

 

[1] A History of Magic, Witchcraft, & the Occult (London: Penguin Random House, 2020), 264.

[2] Deborah Blake, Modern Witchcraft: Goddess Empowerment for the Kick-Ass Woman (New York: St. Martin’s Publishing, 2020), 11.

[3] Bianca Bosker, “Why Witchcraft Is On The Rise,” The Atlantic, March 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/03/witchcraft-juliet-diaz/605518/.

[4] Elizabeth Shuler, “A Balancing Act: A Discussion of Gender Roles Within Wiccan Ritual,” IMW Journal of Religious Studies 4 (no. 1), 2012, 48, https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1020&context=imwjournal.

[5] Deborah Blake, Modern Witchcraft: Goddess Empowerment for the Kick-Ass Woman (New York: St. Martin’s Publishing, 2020), 15.

[6] Deborah Blake, Modern Witchcraft: Goddess Empowerment for the Kick-Ass Woman (New York: St. Martin’s Essentials, 2020), 4.