What comes to mind when you hear the word “witch”? Perhaps an old hag bent over a pot mumbling something like “bubble, bubble, toil and trouble” or flying on a broomstick. Or you might conjure up images from any of the myriad of television shows and movies such as Charmed, Sabrina or Bewitched. In fact, none of these images are even remotely accurate in portraying what is becoming one of the fastest growing religions in the United States.
In actuality, Wicca is a complete worldview with very complex and at times seemingly contradictory beliefs. The religion is known by many names such as Wicca, Paganism, Neo-paganism, the Old Religion, and the Craft. Some practitioners insist that there are distinct differences between Wiccans, Pagans and Neo-Pagans. However, there is little agreement on exactly what these differences are. For the purposes of this paper, the terms will be used interchangeably. There are definitely different strains within the Wiccan community. Essentially, Wicca has its own denominations such as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Thessalonican, Deboran etc.1 Still, despite the different varieties of Wicca, there is a core set of beliefs that is held by most practitioners of the religion.
View of Deity
In Wicca, God is conceived of in impersonal terms. This impersonal force is often referred to as the Absolute or Spirit. Raymond Buckland’s comments are typical. He writes, “This higher power—the “Ultimate Deity”—is some genderless force that is so far beyond our comprehension that we can have only the vaguest understanding of its being.”2 This impersonal force however is expressed in male and female polarities often referred to as the Lord and the Lady. The goddesses and gods are all manifestations of the Lord and the Lady. All of these goddesses and gods therefore are merely different ways of viewing the One Absolute. Thus Pagans believe that all religious paths are equally valid. Within most Wiccan groups, the Goddess (often referred to as the triple goddess because of the three phases of femininity: maiden, mother and crone) is the primary focus of worship with her male consort being of secondary importance or absent completely.
The Wiccan view of deity incorporates other concepts as well. These include:
Pantheism. This is the view that all is God and God is all. Everything that exists is seen as either a manifestation of God or as containing God. This belief can be seen clearly in the “Charge of the Goddess” written by Doreen Valiente, which has been described by some as the closest thing that Wicca has to scripture. One pertinent section states:
“Arise and come unto me, for I am the souls of Nature who gives life to the universe. From me all things proceed, and unto me all things must return. And before my face, beloved of Gods and men, thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.”3
Panentheism. Though God is all, God is still transcendent beyond creation. The relationship between God and creation can be conceived of in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is pictured like a drop of water from the ocean. The drop has the same elements in it as the ocean but it is not the entire ocean. Other writers use the illustration of the soul and the body. The soul rests within the body but transcends beyond it.
Polytheism. Wicca recognizes many gods and goddesses. Each follower is encouraged to choose the deity and the path he/she wishes to follow. Covens may be classified by the pantheon of deities they recognize or the traditions they follow. Yet each of these deities is seen as a mere manifestation of the one Absolute. Therefore, every path to god is equally valid. Wiccans are the ultimate relativists in this regard.
Christian occult expert Craig Hawkins notes another distinguishing characteristic of Wiccan polytheism. He writes that for witches polytheism also means, “…there are an infinite (or at least incomprehensible) number of levels of meaning and reality….This belief allows not only for a multitude of gods, goddesses and religions but also for views of reality that would appear to be mutually exclusive. All are true as far as they go.”4 So one “truth” may be true at a particular level and a contradictory “truth” can be true at an entirely different level of reality.
Wiccans also disagree in their understanding of the reality of the deities. For some Wiccans, the gods and goddesses are merely symbols of universal forces while for others they are real manifestations of the impersonal Absolute. This latter view seems to be the most common.
View of Man
The Wiccan view of the human condition could not possibly be further from that of Christianity. As we have already seen, Wiccans believe that all that exists is a manifestation of the Divine. This would include human beings. Human beings, therefore, are Divine at their core. Wiccans reject the concept of the sinfulness of man and Christian doctrines such as original sin and the Fall. Since mankind is not sinful, there is no need for a savior. Valerie Voigt’s words are particularly blunt in this regard. She states, “We are aware of our own goodness and strength, and we are not afraid to admit it. We are not sinners and we know it. We don’t have a Devil to blame our mistakes on and we need no Savior to save us from a non-existent Hell.”5
One will also note in Ms. Voigt’s comments that Wiccans deny the reality of Satan and the concept of eternal punishment. Silver Ravenwolf writes, “We do not worship the Devil nor do we believe in the Christian concept of Satan. We believe that to give evil a name is to give evil power.”6 As will be discussed momentarily, many Wiccans deny the very existence of evil.
Instead of a belief in an eternal afterlife in heaven or hell, Wiccans hold to the concepts of reincarnation and karma. In between incarnations, the soul is believed to go to Summerland. In Summerland, the soul continues its education and spiritual path. It is refreshed and prepared for the next incarnation on earth. Ravenwolf describes Summerland in almost poetic terms when she writes, “From the Spirit that moves and flows through the Lord and Lady, we continue to learn the mysticism of the universe so that we may return, life after life, to serve our brothers and sisters.”7 Missing completely from the Wiccan view is any kind of end or goal. Unlike Hinduism, which seeks to free one from endless cycles of birth, death and rebirth, Wiccans seem completely stuck on the wheel in an infinite number of cycles for no apparent point. Some even postulate that the soul must be reincarnated on other planets within the Universe after it graduates from this planetary existence. The highest goal appears to be being reborn among other Wiccans and loved ones for the continuation of spiritual progress.
View of Creation
Wicca is a nature-venerating religion. Most Wiccans do not worship nature, but view it with great reverence as a manifestation of the goddess. In order to fully understand the Wiccan view of creation, one must understand a few key concepts that undergird the belief system.
Animism. In Wicca, animism is fundamentally the belief that everything is imbued with a life force or energy, whether the entity is animate or inanimate. Rocks, trees, streams, literally everything that is, all share in this life energy. As Hawkins writes, “[T]he entire earth is a living organism.”8
Monism. Monism implies that all that is can be reduced to one essential source. This mystical force connects all things. It is this belief that allows for magick to operate.
Magick. Magic is essentially the idea that forces or Spirit can be manipulated to accomplish personal objectives. Buckland uses Aleister Crowley’s definition, “the art or science of causing change to occur in conformity with Will.”9
Ritual. Ritual is extremely important in Wiccan practice. Rituals exist for everything including preparing the worship area, encountering the goddess, personal growth and practicing magick. Wicca is a very experience-oriented religion. Some witches believe that Wicca cannot even be explained but must be experienced in order to be understood. Ritual is therefore more important than specific doctrinal beliefs.
Wiccan’s are relativists. Each person is free to pursue his/her own path. Your truth is true for you but may not be so for me. Wiccans appear to value tolerance to the extreme.
However, despite the claims to the contrary, there are absolutes within Wicca, just as there are in every worldview. The most succinct statement of the Wiccan ethic is what is known as the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do what ye will.” This statement can be found in almost all Wiccan literature and on the vast majority of Wiccan websites. There seems to be no attempt at relativism when it comes to this principle.
In addition to the Wiccan Rede, most Pagans hold to the law of retribution or the “Rule of Three.” This is the Wiccan version of karma. Plainly stated, it is the belief that everything one does in this life, whether in the material world or the magickal world, will come back threefold, whether good or bad. Ravenwolf states the principle thusly, “Ever mind the rule of three, what you give out comes back to thee.”10 It is for this reason that witches claim never to perform black magick.
Some witches will go so far as to deny that real evil exists at all. Instead, whatever happens to each individual is necessary for the soul’s development. Buckland is indicative of this position when he writes that
“for its own evolution, it is necessary that the soul experience all things in life. It seems the most sensible, most logical explanation of much that is found in life. Why should one person be born into a rich family and another into poverty? Why should one be born crippled, another fit and strong…if not because we must all eventually experience all things.”11
Buckland does not carry this to its ultimate conclusion but this would of course include things such as rape, murder and a host of other horrors if the soul is to truly experience all things. Weinstein is even more direct stating, “Human perception may have decreed that the Universe is a battle ground of good versus evil, but this is perception only. As we readjust our perception back to the holistic pagan view, we can see that THERE IS NO EVIL POWER TO COMBAT. There is simply neutral energy, once colored negative, now to be redefined.”12
A Christian Response
There is no silver bullet method of sharing Christ with a Pagan. However there are some suggestions that may help open the door to a presentation of the Gospel. Additionally there are several places within the Wiccan worldview that present opportunities for the thoughtful Christian to ask probing questions that may assist the Wiccan to see the inconsistencies in his/her worldview.
1. Make sure that the Wiccan understands what true Christianity really teaches. Many people are not rejecting Christianity per se but rather a negative experience within the church. Additionally, there is a great deal of misinformation within Wiccan literature concerning Christianity. Because many Wiccan books attack the integrity and preservation of the Scriptures, a basic apologetic for the Bible is very helpful.
2. Use your personal testimony. Because Wicca is an experiential religion, one’s personal testimony is particularly meaningful to those within the Craft.
3. Deal with the concept that there are no absolutes. Relativism is a position that is simply impossible to hold consistently. After all, is the Wiccan Rede absolute or is it just their truth? What if my truth is to burn witches? Am I wrong absolutely or is that just the Wiccan’s truth? What about the rule of three and the laws of karma? Are these absolute? The fact is that everyone is an absolutist in their heart of hearts. Witches know that some things, such as the Inquisition, are wrong absolutely.
4. Discuss the cruelty of the Wiccan view of evil and karma. If the particular Wiccan to whom you are speaking denies the existence of anything actually evil (and they should in order to be consistent with the worldview), ask them why Wiccan’s universally condemn the Inquisition. After all, according to Buckland, it was necessary that those souls gain that experience. In fact, carried to its logical conclusion, there is absolutely no reason (other than a selfish one) to help another person who is the victim of misfortune, crime or injustice. One might actually find oneself interfering with the erasure of that individual’s karmic debt or the evolution of his/her soul. Additionally, consider that this view mandates that everything that happens to each individual is the individual’s own fault. In some way, the person either deserved the action or needed it for the soul’s progress. Thus, the millions of Jews and Slavs murdered by Hitler actually received exactly what they deserved. Apply this belief to an infant who is abused or molested. The infant both deserved and needed to experience the horror that was perpetrated upon it. This is a truly ghastly belief.
5. Demonstrate the fallen nature of man. G. K. Chesterton said the doctrine of sin is the one religious doctrine that can be seen every day. Why is it that children need not be taught to lie or disobey?
6. Deal with personal sin. The Wiccan Rede is perhaps one of the most pliable ethics in the entire religious world. Yet despite its relatively low standard, no one is able keep the Rede perfectly. We all harm others. We all say things and do things that cause pain in other people. How does the Wiccan deal with personal sin? Reincarnation and karma only increase the individual’s sin debt with each passing lifetime. The burden becomes heavy indeed.
Most of all, pray. Salvation is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit as He convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment. As a former Jehovah’s Witness once said, “Talk to God about the person as much as you talk to the person about God.” Advice worth remembering.
Keith Gibson is founding pastor of Word of Life Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri, and the director of ARC’s Kansas City office.
1 A more complete list can be found in Appendix A of Raymond Buckland’s book, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2005).
2 Ibid., 19.
3 Doreen Valiente, “The Charge of the Goddess” found at https://paganwiccan.about.com/library/texts/blgoddesscharge.htm
4 Craig Hawkins, Witchcraft: Exploring the World of Wicca (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 35.
5 Valerie Voigt, “Being a Pagan in a 9-to-5 World” in Witchcraft Today, Book One: The Modern Craft Movement, ed. Charles S. Clifton (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1992), 173.
6 Silver Ravenwolf, Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation (St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2003), 8.
7 Ibid., 25.
8 Hawkins, Witchcraft, 33.
9 Buckland, Complete Book of Witchcraft, 222-223.
10 Ravenwolf, Teen Witch, 13.
11 Buckland, Complete Book of Witchcraft, 25-26.
12 Marion Weinstein, as quoted in Hawkins, Witchcraft, page 167 (Caps and emphasis in the original).