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Wicca, Witchcraft or Paganism? If you‘re reading this page, chances are you‘re either a Wiccan or Pagan, or you‘re someone who‘s interested in learning more about the modern Pagan movement. You may be a parent who‘s curious about what your child is reading, or you might be someone who is unsatisfied with the spiritual path you‘re on right now. Perhaps you‘re seeking something more than what you‘ve had in the past. You might be someone who‘s practiced Wicca or Paganism for years, and who just wants to learn more. For many people, the embracing of an earth-based spirituality is a feeling of ―coming home‖. Often, people say that when they first discovered Wicca, they felt like they finally fit in. For others, it‘s a journey TO something new, rather than running away from something else. Paganism is an Umbrella Term Please bear in mind that there are dozens of different traditions that fall under the umbrella title of ―Paganism‖. While one group may have a certain practice, not everyone will follow the same criteria. Statements made on this site referring to Wiccans and Pagans generally refer to MOST Wiccans and Pagans, with the acknowledgement that not all practices are identical. Not All Pagans are Wiccans There are many Witches who are not Wiccans. Some are Pagans, but some consider themselves something else entirely. Just to make sure everyone‘s on the same page, let‘s clear up one thing right off the bat: not all Pagans are Wiccans. The term ―pagan‖ (derived from the Latin paganus, which translates roughly to ―hick from the sticks‖) was originally used to describe people who lived in rural areas. As time progressed and Christianity spread, those same country folk were often the last holdouts clinging to their old religions. Thus, ―pagan‖ came to mean people who didn‘t worship the god of Abraham. In the 1950s, Gerald Gardner brought Wicca to the public, and many contemporary Pagans embraced the practice. Although Wicca itself was founded by Gardner, he based it upon old traditions. However, a lot of Witches and Pagans were perfectly happy to continue practicing their own spiritual path without converting to Wicca. There is a great deal of debate among the Pagan community about whether or not Wicca is truly the same form of Witchcraft that the ancients practiced. Regardless, many people use the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably. Paganism is an umbrella term used to apply to a number of different earth-based faiths. Wicca falls under that heading, although not all Pagans are Wiccan. Therefore, ―Pagan‖ is an umbrella term that includes many different spiritual belief systems – Wicca is just one of many. Think of it this way: Christian > Lutheran or Methodist or Jehovah‘s Witness Pagan > Wiccan or Asatru or Dianic or Eclectic Witchcraft As if that wasn‘t confusing enough, there are a few Wiccans who embrace the Christian god as well as their own Wiccan goddess – the Christian Witch movement is alive and well! FAQs about Wicca: What is Wicca? Wicca, sometimes called "The Craft" or "The Craft of the Wise" is one of many earth- based religions. The religion which is closest to Wicca in America is probably Native American spirituality. Traditional Wicca was founded by Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant, who wrote a series of books on the religion in the 1940's. It contains references to Celtic deities, symbols, seasonal days of celebration, etc. Added to this were components of ceremonial magic and practices of the Masonic Order. A more recent form is eclectic Wicca which involves a combination of Wiccan beliefs and practices, combined with other Pagan and non-Pagan elements. The various traditions of Wicca are part of the Pagan or Neopagan group of earth-based religions Who are the Goddess and God in Wicca? According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many tens of thousands of smaller ones. Each of the 19 world religions has a different concept of deity or deities. Even among the main Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there are very different views of deity. Conservative Protestant, Roman Catholic, liberal Protestant, Islam, Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, and Conservative Judaism all call their deity God, but conceive of their God in different terms. They teach that God requires different behaviors and beliefs from his followers. Many Wiccans believe in a deity that is largely unknowable -- sometimes called "The All" or "The One." However, they believe that they can comprehend the male and female aspects of the deity, whom they call the God and the Goddess. Sometimes, they commune with "The Goddess" or "The God." Other times, they link with specific Pagan deities from the past. Instead of "the Goddess," they might relate to Athena, Brigit, Ceridwen, Diana, Hecate, Ishtar, Isis, Venus, etc. In place of "The God" they may link to Adonis, Apollo, Dionysus, Odin, Osiris, Pan, Thor, Zeus, etc. How do Wiccans worship the God and Goddess? Some Wiccans pray to their God or Goddess. More Wiccans probably feel that they have more of a partnership with the God and Goddess than the God/worshiper relationship found in Christianity and other world religions. They need the Goddess and God; the God and Goddess need them. They welcome communion with the God and Goddess; they don't really worship them in the same way as followers of other religions do. Is Wicca a form of Satanism? The short answer is "No." The long answer is "It depends." To some conservative Christians, all religions other than their own are forms of Satanism in which followers worship Satan or one of his demons. So, they view Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, and dozens of other religions as varieties of Satanism. However, most people recognize that there are over many dozens of religions in the world, with different beliefs about deity, humanity and the rest of the universe. One of these is Wicca. Another is Satanism. These two religions have entirely different beliefs about deity, different rules for ethical behavior, different expectations from their membership, different views of the universe, different seasonal days of celebration, etc. Wiccans do not recognize an all-evil deity or quasi-deity like Satan. Christianity and Islam are the main religions that teach of Satan's existence, either as an evil principle or as an all-evil fallen angel with supernatural powers. Wicca and Satanism are not at all similar religions. However, the Christian church did link them in the past -- particularly during the Witch burning times of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. They regarded Witches as Satan worshipers. Some Christian denominations have not been particularly thorough in correcting mistakes of the past. So, Wicca and Satanism continue to be linked in many people's minds. This problem is rapidly fading as more Wiccans come out of the closet and become public with their faith. Although the words "Wicca" and "Wiccan" are relatively well defined at this time, such terms as Satanism, Paganism and Witchcraft have many meanings. Confusion over the definitions of religious terms is quite common. Even the term "Christian" is defined differently by various groups. The sentence: "Ann was raised a Roman Catholic but became a Christian later in life" might be quite understandable to an Evangelical Christian, but wholly confusing and probably quite insulting and distressing to a Catholic. Some people sincerely believe that over 75% of the human race (including Wiccans) are followers of Satanism. Others, including Satanists, Wiccans, religious historians, many theologians, those mainline and liberal Christians and individuals who are knowledgeable about minority religions, etc., consider Wicca and Satanism to be two unrelated groups of religious traditions. They share few points of similarity. In fact, many of their beliefs and practices are diametrically opposed to each other. There is no right or wrong definition in these cases. Groups simply assign very different meanings to the same English words. The sentence: "Wicca is a type of Satanism" is neither right nor wrong. Debate is useless. It is a true statement to one group and false to another. Wicca, as viewed by Neopagans, etc.: Wicca is unrelated to Satanism. It is a group of religious traditions: some are highly structured, while most are eclectic. Many, perhaps most, Wiccans are solitary practitioners. They are, in many ways, directly opposite to Satanists: Wiccans worship a Goddess and her consort, a God. They do not recognize Satan or any other all-evil supernatural entity. Their prime symbol is the exact opposite to the symbol used by Satanists. It is the upright pentagram -- a 5-pointed star with two points downward and one up. Sometimes it is enclosed by a circle to form a pentacle. Their groups are called covens, not grottos or temples. Their rule of behavior is called the Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." i.e. do whatever you wish, as long as it harms no one, including yourself. Unlike Satanists, Wiccans are not allowed do dominate, manipulate, control, or harm others. They believe that they worship neither the Christian God nor the Christian devil. They worship a Goddess and a God. Neither is at all similar to Satan. Wicca, and other forms of Neopaganism, are as different from Satanism as Hinduism is from Christianity. Is Wicca a form of Paganism? "Pagan" is one of those religious terms which has so many conflicting definitions that the word is meaningless. "Neopaganism" is a better term. It refers to a group of many religious belief systems that are reconstructions of (or patterned after) ancient Pagan religions. Wicca is one Neopagan religion, as are Asatru (Norse Neopaganism), Druidism, Shamanism, and ancient Egyptian, Roman, Greek and other religions. Do Wiccans have rituals like communion, baptism, etc? Yes. However, it generally involves a direct encounter with the God and Goddess, rather than an indirect experience routed through a priest, minister or other clergyperson. Many Wiccans observe a Wiccaning service for newborns which is vaguely like a Christian infant baptism. It welcomes the newborn into the community. However, it does not obligate the infant in any way. Wiccans feel that a person must mature before they can make their own decision about religion; an infant cannot make such a choice. There are initiation rituals where a person becomes a Wiccan. Some are self-initiation rituals where a person declares themselves to be a Wiccan. There are other initiation rituals performed in a Wiccan group, often called a Coven. Many Wiccans write rituals for themselves or their coven to recognize life passages, like the onset of puberty, graduation, marriage, purchase of a house, divorce, healing, death, menopause, etc. Many Wiccans observe Esbat rituals at the thirteen or so full moons each year, and occasionally on the new moons as well. There are eight Sabbats: four minor Sabbats at the solstices and equinoxes, and four major Sabbats each year. The religion of Wicca is sometimes called "witchcraft." But the terms "witch" and "witchcraft" have at least 17 different meanings. Most of them are unrelated to each other. Witch: a follower of Witchcraft. It has so many conflicting meanings that it should be used with great care (or perhaps never at all) in public, in order to avoid confusion. 18 common meanings are: A Gothic Satanist; a worshiper of Satan who, during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, was believed to use black magic to harm others, by involving the aid of Satan and his demons. They didn't exist then and don't exist now. A Wiccan; a follower of Wicca, a recently created, benign, Neopagan religion which is largely based on the some of the symbols, deities, seasonal days of celebration of an ancient European Celtic religion. Wiccans are prohibited from using magic to harm others; they do not believe in the existence of Satan or demons. A woman of such incredible beauty that she bewitches others. A woman of incredible ugliness; a hag. A person who practices benign Magick to influence the world through rituals. A magician with unusual knowledge who can apparently perform miracles during ceremonial magic rituals. In ancient Native American usage and the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): an evil person who secretly uses evil sorcery (black magic) to intentionally harm others. In the Christian Scriptures (New Testament): a criminal who murders people by administering poisons. A follower of modern-day Religious Satanism. They recognizing Satan as a virile pre- Christian, pagan principle, but do not believe in his existence as a living entity. A member of an underground, evil religious group who worship Satan who engage in ritual abuse, murder and sometimes cannibalism -- largely involving children. During the 1980s and early 1990s, many North Americans believed that this group exists; some still do, although hard evidence is lacking. A wizard who inhabits an alternative world of fantasy and magic, filled with good and evil people with magical powers, flying broomsticks, invisibility cloaks, dragons, talking animals, magical quills, etc. e.g. Harry Potter™ books. A person, usually a woman, who was born with supernatural abilities and is capable of performing miracles by waving a wand, wiggling their nose, etc. This is often seen in TV programs, like Bewitched or Charmed. They don't exist either. Followers of a group of Caribbean religions which combine elements of tribal African religions with Christianity; e.g. Santeria and Vodun. In some African Aboriginal religions, a person who unknowingly has supernatural powers capable of hurting others. Witch doctors attempt to counteract these evil energies. An expert, as in: "She is a witch of a writer." A person who uses a forked stick or other instrument to locate sources of underground material -- typically water. A woman who is not submissive to her husband. A general "snarl" word for a nasty, vicious person, typically female. A follower of any religion other than Christianity (e.g. of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Native American Spirituality, etc.). Note: The first and second definitions are mutually exclusive; the third and fourth definitions are also mutually exclusive. Six main forms of "witchcraft" exist today; they share virtually nothing in common, except the name "witchcraft." Unfortunately, many people believe that these many practices are similar or identical to each other. Judicial and church murder, lynching, shootings, attempted mass murder, common assault, etc, have resulted from this confusion. Details of six types of witchcraft: 1. Evil sorcery in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) English versions of the Bible sometimes translate the Hebrew word m'khashepah or m'khaseph in the Hebrew Scriptures as Witch or Wizard. For example: Exodus 22:18: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (KJV) Deuteronomy 18:10-11: "There shall not be found among you anyone ....that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer." (KJV) The Hebrew words M'khashepah and m'khaseph means an evil sorceress or sorcerer; a person who uses spoken spells in secret to harm or kill other people. They were greatly feared by the ancient Israelites because they believed that there was no protective measures that a person could take against such curses. 2. Poisoners in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) Galatians 5:19-20 includes a list of "acts of the sinful nature", or "works of the flesh. One of these is, in the original Greek, "pharmakia." The English word "pharmacy" is derived from it. "Pharmakia" is the practice of preparing poisonous potions in secret, to harm or kill other people. This is often mistranslated as witchcraft in some English versions of the Bible. Other versions translate it as: sorcery, magic, magical arts, spiritism, and "participate in demonic activities." 3. Gothic Satanism during the Renaissance in western Europe In western Europe, during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Roman Catholic church taught that evil individuals, mostly women, sold their soul to the Devil, worshiped Satan and devoted their lives to harming others. They were said to worship Diana and other Gods and Goddesses. They were evil Witches who kidnapped babies, killed and ate their victims, were in league with demons, flew through the air, met in the middle of the night, caused male impotence and infertility, caused male genitals to disappear, etc. These beliefs became generally accepted by western Europeans at the time. Hundreds of thousands of individuals were condemned as "Witches." Tens of thousands were convicted of worshiping Satan and were executed during what are now called the burning times. They were executed by hanging in most Protestant jurisdictions, and were burned alive at the stake in most Catholic countries. Contrary to public opinion, most of the accused were tried and executed by civil courts, not by the Catholic Inquisition. The terror left such a mark on Christianity that many people still think that Gothic Satanists exist today. This belief had a temporary resurgence in the 1980s and early 1990s in the form of the Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) panic. These witches probably never existed, except in people's minds and nightmares. There are rumors of a Gothic Satanic group in France a few centuries ago; but it is uncertain whether they were a fable or a real group. Belief in evil witches who commit the above mentioned atrocities -- and more -- continues in sub-Saharan Africa and in parts of Asia today. 4. Wicca Wicca is recently-created religion, partly based on the concepts, deities, symbols and seasonal days of celebration of the ancient Celtic people. Some Wiccans also refer to themselves as Witches, Pagans or Neopagans. Both men and women who follow the religion are typically called Witches; the term Wizard is not used. The two laws that govern Wiccan behavior are: The Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none, do what you wilt" i.e. Wiccans are free to do whatever they want to, as long as it harms nobody, including themselves. The Threefold Law: Any evil that one does will return three times over; so too with any good that one accomplishes. The Rede and the Law obviously motivate Witches/Wiccans to avoid doing evil. "Witches" in the Bible and the "Witches" within Wicca are, in fact, totally opposite in belief and practice. They are also unrelated to the Gothic Satanism hoax created by the Christian church in the late Middle Ages. Wiccans do not believe in Satan; their pantheons of deities do not include an all-evil supernatural being. They are unrelated to imaginary witchcraft of children's literature; Wiccans very definitely live in the real world, not an alternative universe. 5. Religious Satanism Modern-day Satanists recognize Satan, either as a deity or as a life principle. Followers are usually serious adults, although a few are mature teenagers. Three main traditions exist: the Church of Satan, the Temple of Set and the Church of Satanic Liberation. One source estimated that there were 10 to 20 thousand members of the Church of Satan in the U.S. during the late 1970's. 1 Their membership has probably declined since that time. It is important to realize that the Satan that they recognize is almost completely unrelated to the quasi-deity of Gothic Satanism during the Renaissance or with the Conservative Christian concept of Satan today. The Satanists' view of Satan is pre-Christian, and derived from a Pagan image of power, virility, sexuality and sensuality. To most Satanists, Satan is a force of nature, not a living quasi-deity. Their Satan has nothing to do with Hell, demons, pitchforks, sadistic torture, profound evil, and Satanic Ritual Abuse. Unlike Wiccans, Satanists feel free to harm their enemies. We are not aware of any Satanist who has been convicted of a crime related to his religion or rituals. 6.. Sorcery and magic in fantasy novels Imaginary witchcraft often appears science fantasy and children's novels. The environment is in a type of alternative universe in which normal physical laws do not apply. Magic takes over. For example, the staircases and other structures in the Hogwarts School building in the Harry Potter™ books do not obey the laws of physics; they are constantly being rearranged by magic. In this magical world, people can fly through the air on broomsticks. They can change their shape from human to an animal. Dementors can attack people and suck their soul out of their body, leaving them joyless. The "soul suckers" and others can be defeated by waving a wand and reciting a spell. This form of wizardry/witchcraft is also seen in a delightful passage in the movie Fantasia in which Mickey Mouse plays the role of a sorcerer's apprentice. He experiments with a magical spell without permission, and gets into a lot of trouble by creating thousands of water- carrying brooms. Evil and good Witches inhabit the world of children's nursery rhymes, cartoons, and movies -- from Cinderella to the Wizard of Oz. As author Rowling says: "My wizarding world is a world of the imagination. I think it's a moral world....I don't believe in the kind of magic that appears in my books." 2 Her books are unrelated to the "Witchcraft" of the Bible, with the exception of the malicious "wizard" Lord Voldemort. His behavior closely fits that of the Hebrew word m'khaseph -- an evil sorcerer. He is consistently described throughout the book series as a profoundly evil force to be despised and fought against. Her book does describe Harry and his friends using some methods of divination which might have some vague similarities to techniques that some Wiccans also use to foretell the future. However, divination is not an integral part of the Wiccan religion; it is merely an activity which some Wiccans engage in. And, of course, most people who attempt to foretell the future are not Wiccans. Divination takes many benign forms in North America, including consulting one's horoscope, the casting of runes, reading tarot cards, interpreting tea leaves, or the observing of a groundhog's shadow to decide whether Spring will be delayed. The Harry Potter books teach a positive system of morality: They are totally non-racist. When Harry is selecting a girl to take to a dance, he tries to get a date with a number of students. From their names, we can infer that one is East Indian and one is African. Harry is Caucasian. They are quite non-sexist. The male and female students interact as equals; the boys do not adopt a position of superiority over the girls. In the first book, Harry relies heavily on the logical ability of a female student to solve a puzzle. They are moral: right always ultimately triumphs over might; good wins over evil; love over hate. Rowling's characters exhibit strong loyalty to family and friends. A visitor to this web site wrote: "Even though the various main characters have fallings out they don't engage in petty vengeance or malicious gossip. They eventually apologize and reconcile. Also, though Harry's uncle treats him badly, he is not totally evil. We see that he and his wife are motivated by fear and jealousy (and a reluctant acknowledgment that magic is a real and powerful force which must be respected) and we can maybe have some sympathy for them. ... No matter how bad the treatment, it is clear Harry must stay with them as the protection of blood family outweighs all other considerations." The "witchcraft" seen in fiction is quite different from the religion of "Witchcraft" (commonly called Wicca) in the real world. For example: Lindy Beam of Focus on the Family, commented on the Harry Potter books: "Harry‘s magic is of an entirely different nature from real-world witchcraft." Beam quotes Chuck Colson, a popular conservative Christian author: "Harry and his friends cast spells, read crystal balls, and turn themselves into animals—but they don't make contact with a supernatural world." 3 Beam also quoted Wren Walker, a Wiccan from Clearwater, Fla., who co-founded the Witches Voice, a popular source for information on Wicca and other Pagan traditions. Walker states that the Harry Potter book could never be an instructional piece for real-life witchcraft. Walker said: "Spells tend to be more like prayers for most Wiccans and witches that practice it in the religious sense...We don‘t use ‗abracadabra.‘ If somebody wanted to pick up the book and do the things in it, it wouldn‘t be Witchcraft." 3 Confusion reigns when people try to link together two of these unrelated forms of witchcraft. This most often happens when: Some conservative Christians link together Bible Witchcraft, Gothic Satanism, Wicca, and the imaginary witchcraft of the Harry Potter books as a single, forbidden entity. As described above, the witchcraft of the Bible and of Wicca are exact opposites in many ways. Gothic Satanism and imaginary witchcraft do not exist. Teenage students confuse imaginary witchcraft of the Potter books with Wicca and want to learn spells that they can use to change their environment. References: Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups" Department of the Army, 1978-APR. The section on Satanism is available on line at: http://www.algonet.se/~lottrik/satanism.htm Lindy Beam, "Exploring Harry Potter's world," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/pplace/pi/genl/A0008833.html WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT It is important to realize that: The term "witchcraft" in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) refers to (mostly) women who used spoken curses to injure other people or destroy their property. The term, "witchcraft" in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) refers to murderers who use poisons to kill people. In North America, "Witch" and "Witchcraft" most often refer to Wiccans and Wicca. Wiccans are modern-day Neopagans. They follow Wicca, a new religion that has been created, in part, from ancient Celtic beliefs, practices, Gods, Goddesses, holy days and symbols. They follow the Wiccan Rede, a rule of behavior which prohibits Wiccans from performing any activity that dominates, manipulates, controls, or injures others. Thus, in terms of behavior, Wicca is a benign and healing religion; the "witchcrafts" mentioned in the Bible are evil and destructive. The two are exact opposites. That said, it is important to remember that: The Bible contains many passages exhibiting intolerance towards other religions, and almost no passages which actively promote inter-religious tolerance. Wicca is certainly a religion that is very different from Judaism and Christianity. Wicca, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Native Spirituality, Taoism, and hundreds of other religions are thus equally condemned by many verses in the Bible. Many Wiccans engage in specific practices to foretell the future. These include scrying, tarot cards, I Ching, runes, etc. Although these practices are not mentioned in the Bible, they are similar to other divination techniques which are condemned in various biblical passages. However, not all Wiccans engage in divination. And the vast majority of persons who use divination are not Wiccans. Who exactly is a Witch? In this section, we are considering whether the Bible specifically condemns Wicca. We have not been able to find any translation of either the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures which contains the words Wicca or Wiccan. However, many translations of the Bible, such as the King James Version and the New International Version, condemn what they call "Witches" and "Witchcraft". This causes serious misunderstandings. The religion of Wicca is one of at least 18 different practices associated with the term "witchcraft." Most of are unrelated to each other. Of these 18 practices, six main forms of "witchcraft" exist today. The most popular usages of "Witch" refer to: A woman of such incredible beauty that she bewitches men. An old woman, often portrayed with an evil appearance; sometimes called a "hag." A follower of Religious Satanism who either worships Satan or recognizes Satan as a virile pre-Christian, pagan concept. They may perform evil sorcery, but only against their enemies. A person devoted to performing evil sorcery: using rituals, spoken curses, etc to injure or kill others. A Wiccan; a follower of a modern religion that was reconstructed partly from an ancient religion of the Celts. Wiccans are prohibited from harming others. In Africa, a native healer who practices alternative, holistic medicine and may engage in evil sorcery. In TV programs like Bewitched, a person, usually a woman, who was born with supernatural abilities and is capable of performing miracles by waving a wand, wiggling a nose, etc. In children's books like the Harry Potter™ series, where people live in an alternative universe with unicorns, invisibility cloaks, dragons, talking animals, magical quills, flying broomsticks, magic wands, etc. There are many additional meanings not cited above. Most are variations on the above eight. General religious intolerance in the Bible: Passages in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are quite intolerant of other religions: The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) condemn, in particular, non-monotheistic religions. One example is The Book of Joshua, where God authorizes the genocide of Canaanites because they were Pagans. Since many Wiccans believe in the existence of a dual divinity (a Goddess and a God), Wicca would fall under this general condemnation of non-monotheistic religions, as would Hindus, followers of Native American spirituality, and hundreds of other religions. The Christian Scriptures (New Testament) attack Jews as being children of the Devil. They contain many passages which condemned Gnostic Christianity -- a part of the early Christian movement which believed in the existence of two deities. The Scriptures also state that non-Christians worship either Satan or a demon. This latter condemnation would include followers of Wicca and hundreds of other religions. Together, they constitute about 67% of the human race. Various passages from the Hebrew Scriptures condemn methods of foretelling the future. Although these practices are sometime used by some Wiccans, they do not form an integral part of their religion. Many Wiccans follow their religion without using divination. These are general condemnations. They criticize a wide variety of non-Judeo-Christian religions, not Wicca specifically. On the other hand, many English translations of the Bible refer to Witches and Witchcraft by name. A careful analysis of the original passages in the original Greek and Hebrew, shows that they condemn individuals who: Use spoken curses to harm or murder others. Use poison to harm or murder others. Wiccans are prohibited from engaging in either of these activities. Wiccans are prohibited by the Wiccan Rede from dominating, manipulating, controlling, or doing harm to others. The use of the terms "Witch" or "Witchcraft" in English translations of the Bible is either a poor translation or a mistranslation. The Bible appears contain no direct references to Wicca and Wiccans. Ambiguity in Bible translations: By translating the original Hebrew and Greek text as "Witch" and "Witchcraft", translators have selected one of the most confusing words in the English language. In the case of the King James Version, this seems to have been done deliberately. King James had a deathly fear of "Witches" (in the 4th meaning above). The justification for choosing such a misleading word in a some recent translations, is less clear. The translators must be aware of the exact meaning of the original Hebrew word; yet they selected an English word which was clearly ambiguous. Further, it makes large numbers of people vulnerable to religious hatred. The only large religious group in North America who describe themselves as "Witches" are Wiccans and other Neo-Pagans. That minority of Wiccans who are open about their faith suffer extreme persecution from very well meaning, very devout but very misinformed Christians who honestly believe that they are following the guidance of various Biblical passages. In recent years in the U.S., this discrimination has occasionally taken the form of lynching, attempted mass murder by stoning, shooting, and other forms of assault. Fortunately, most modern translations have been using the slightly less ambiguous term "sorcery" in place of "Witchcraft". We expect that this change, plus accurate portrayal of Wiccans in the media, will gradually lessen the discrimination that they experience. More information about Witches. Interpretation of passages from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament): Exodus 22:18 in 19 English translations of the Bible: Various Biblical translations render this verse as: American Standard Version "Thou shalt not suffer a sorceress to live." The Answer: Put to death any woman who does evil magic. Amplified Bible: You shall not allow a woman to live who practices sorcery. Good News Version: Put to death any woman who practices magic. James Moffatt Translation: You shall not allow any sorceress to live. Jerusalem Bible: You shall not allow a sorceress to live. King James Version: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Living Bible: A sorceress shall be put to death. Modern Language Bible: Allow no sorceress to live. New American Bible: You shall not let a sorceress live. New American Standard Bible: You shall not let a sorceress live. New Century Version: Put to death any woman who does evil magic. New International Version: Do not allow a sorceress to live. New Living Translation: A sorceress must not be allowed to live. New Revised Standard Version: You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live. New World Translation: You must not preserve a sorceress alive. The Promise: Contemporary English Version: Death is the punishment for witchcraft. Revised Standard Version: You shall not permit a sorceress to live. Revised English Bible: You must not allow a witch to live. In the original Hebrew manuscript, the author used the word m'khashepah to describe the person who should be killed. The word means a woman who uses spoken spells to harm others - e.g. causing their death or loss of property. Clearly "evil sorceress" or "woman who does evil magic" would be the most accurate phrases in today's English usage for this verse. The Good News Bible uses the term "magic." This is also a poor selection because that term has been used to refer to: stage magic, sleight of hand, magic tricks. ceremonial magic used to harm other persons. ceremonial magic used to heal other persons. The King James Version and Revised English Bible use the term "witch." In North America, the term normally refers to Wiccans -- the followers of the Wiccan religion. According to the Scofield Reference Bible this verse from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) was written in the year 1491 BCE. This is some 650 years before the origin of the Celtic people circa 850 BCE from whom some elements of Wicca were taken. So Exodus 22:18 can hardly be referring to Wiccans. Alexi Kondratiev "Suffer a Witch to Live", Enchanté, the Journal for the Urbane Pagan, Mabon & Vinalia (1994), P. 11-15 Paul Hume, "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live," at: http://www.witchvox.com/words/words_1999/ Deuteronomy 18:10-11 in 19 English translations of the Bible: The word Witchcraft in the New International Version's translation of Deuteronomy 18:10-11 is a significant problem for Wiccans. Many Evangelical Christians naturally assume that it refers to followers of the Wiccan faith, since they are the only sizable group who identifies themselves as Witches. This verse is often quoted near Halloween; it has sometimes been used as the text of sermons that have triggered hatred, verbal attacks and even physical attacks on Wiccans. The first part of Verse 10 apparently prohibits the ancient Israelites from engaging in child sacrifice. The Pagan tribes around Israel allegedly murdered children by casting them into a fire. Many theologians believe that this refers to some sort of a trial by fire that would not usually result in a death. Various translations render the remainder of Verse 10 and Verse 11 as: American Standard Version: There shall not be found with thee any one...that useth divination, one that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, | or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer. Amplified Bible: There shall not be found among you anyone who... uses divination or is a soothsayer or an augur or a sorcerer, | or a charmer, or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer. The Answer: Don't let anyone use magic or witchcraft, or try to explain the meaning of signs. | Don't let anyone try to control others with magic, and don't let them be mediums or try to talk with the spirits of dead people." Good News Version: ...and don't let your people practice divination or look for omens or use spells | or charms and don't let them consult the spirits of the dead. James Moffatt Translation: There must be none among you... who practices divination or soothsaying, no augur, no sorcerer, | no one who weaves spells, no medium or magician, no necromancer. Jerusalem Bible: There must never be anyone among you who ... practices divination, who is a soothsayer, augur or sorcerer, | who uses charms, consults ghosts or spirits, or calls up the dead. King James Version: There shall not be found among you anyone ....that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. Living Bible: No Israeli may practice black magic, or call on the evil spirits for aid, or be a fortune teller, | or be a serpent charmer, medium, or wizard, or call forth the spirits of the dead.. Modern Language Bible: There must not be found among you anyone... practicing divination, or soothsaying, observing omens, applying sorcery, | a charmer, a medium, a wizard, or a necromancer. New American Bible: Let there be not be found among you anyone [who is]...a fortune- teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, | or caster of spells, no one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. New American Standard Bible: There shall not be found among you... one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens or a sorcerer, | or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. New Century Version: Don't let anyone use magic or witchcraft. No one should try to explain the meaning of signs, | don't let anyone try to control others with magic. Don't let them be mediums or try to talk with the spirits of dead people. . New International Version: Let no one be found among you who ... practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, | or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. New Living Translation: Do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, | or cast spells or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. New Revised Standard Version: No one shall be found among you who practices divination, or is a soothsayer or an augur, or a sorcerer, | or one who cast spells or who consults ghosts and spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. New World Translation: There shall not be found in you anyone ... who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer | or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. The Promise: Contemporary English Version: ..don't try to use any kind of magic or witchcraft to tell fortunes, or to cast spells or to talk with spirits of the dead. Revised Standard Version: There shall not be found among you... | anyone who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. Revised English Bible: Let no one be found among you who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, no... an augur or soothsayer or diviner or sorcerer, | none who cast spells or traffics with ghosts and spirits, and no necromancer. The original wording of these verses condemned individuals who followed practices defined by these 8 Hebrew words: yid'oni: knowers; wizards; persons who make contact with spirits who are not of God. (Some Wiccans have engaged in spiritism and have attempted to contact the dead. However, this is not necessarily an integral part of the Wiccan religion). sho'el 'ov: making forbidden contact with the dead. (Ditto) . qosem q'samim: predicting the future by using lots or a similar system. (Many Wiccans as well as Christians sometimes use tarot cards, runes, scrying etc. to foretell the future, but this is not an integral part of the Wiccan religion) . m'onen: predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature. (Ditto) . m'nachesh an enchanter (perhaps a snake charmer, because "nachash" means snake. We have never heard of Wiccan snake charmers) chover chavar: use of knot-tying to perform magic. (Wiccans sometimes engage in knot- tying, but only for positive healing magic. Again, it is a practice that some engage in, but is not an integral part of their religion). m'khaseph: an evil sorcerer (as in Exodus 22:18); a person using spoken spells to harm others. (Wiccans do not engage in this activity; they are specifically prohibited from doing so by their Wiccan Rede). doresh 'el hametim: a person who makes contact with the dead - probably by another method than sho'el 'ov. (Again, there are some Wiccans who engage in spiritism, but it is not necessarily an integral part of their religion). These verses would seem to prohibit a number of modern day activities: Harming or killing people through the use of: evil sorcery intended to harm others. knot magic (tying and untying knots while cursing someone). Engaging in methods of foretelling the future by studying nature (e.g. whether the winter will be unusually cold by studying the size of caterpillars or whether spring will be delayed by studying the actions of a groundhog). casting sticks (e.g. I Ching or perhaps runes). astrology. Raising ghosts or spirits through the use of spiritism (a.k.a. spiritualism) by a medium. Channeling; this is a New Age practice in which a spirit speaks through a person. Snake charming. Wiccans are prohibited from harming, dominating, manipulating or controlling people by any means. Some use various methods of foretelling the future, as do members of other religions. Some engage in spiritism, so do followers of other faiths. The latter two practices are not necessarily an integral part of their religion. In our opinion, none of the eight Hebrew words should be translated as Witch or Witchcraft. None of the eight words refers to the religion of Wicca. Precise terms that accurately describe the activity should be used. We suggest: yid'oni: acting as a medium; sho'el 'ov: communicating with the dead; qosem q'samim: predicting the future using lots; m'onen: predicting the future by interpreting signs in nature; m'nachesh snake charming; chover chavar: using knot-tying to perform magic; m'khaseph: evil sorcery; doresh 'el hametim: channeling. References Used Alexi Kondratiev "Suffer a Witch to Live", Enchanté, the Journal for the Urbane Pagan, Mabon & Vinalia (1994), P. 11-15 Paul Hume, "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live," at: http://www.witchvox.com/words/words_1999/ Galatians 5:19-20 in 22 English translations of the Bible: Various translations of the Christian Scriptures render this verse as a list of "acts of the sinful nature", or "works of the flesh" and specify the following practices: American Standard Version: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery..." The Answer: "being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins, worshipping gods, doing witchcraft...." Amplified Bible: "immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, sorcery..." Authentic New Testament: "adultery, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery..." Good News Version: "immoral, filthy and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft..." James Moffatt Translation: "sexual vice, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, magic..." Jerusalem Bible: "fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery..." King James Version: "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft..." Living Bible: "impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism (that is, encouraging the activity of demons),..." Modern Language Bible: "immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, magic arts...". New American Bible: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery..." New American Standard Bible: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery..." New Century Version: "being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins, worshipping false gods, doing witchcraft..." New International Version: "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft..." New Living Translation: "sexual immorality, impure thoughts. eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities...." New Revised Standard Version: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery..." New Testament & Psalms: An Inclusive Version: "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery..." New World Translation: "fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism..." The Promise: Contemporary English Version: "immoral ways, impure thoughts, and shameful deeds. They worship idols, practice witchcraft..." Rheims New Testament: "fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts..." Revised Standard Version: "fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery..." Revised English Bible: "fonication, indecency, and debauchery; idolatry and sorcery..." The reference to adultery was not present in the earliest manuscripts. It was apparently added later by an unknown Christian forger. The key word of interest here is the Greek word "pharmakia" from which the English words "pharmacy" "pharmaceuticals," and "pharmacology" are derived. Interpreted literally, it refers to the practice of preparing poisonous potions to harm or kill others. In the above English translations it has been called: sorcery: 10 times; witchcraft: 7 times; magic, magical arts: twice; spiritism: twice; participate in demonic activities: once. The most likely meanings do not appear in any of the Bible translations that we have checked: A poisoner: a murderer who uses toxic potions to kill humans by stealth. A person who goes around spreading dissention - poisoning people's minds. Of the terms that are actually used in English translations: Sorcery is inexact because current usage sometimes refers to white magic, for healing purposes, as well as black (injurious) magic. The use of witchcraft is particularly unfortunate. The word is hopelessly vague. It has at least 18 different meanings - some quite contradictory. The largest group whose members describe themselves as Witches are Wiccans and other Neopagans. They are prohibited from dominating, manipulating, controlling or harming others by their Wiccan Rede. Thus, they do not engage in any form of black magic. They are restricted to what the public refers to as "white magic;" they use spells to promote healing and positive outcomes. The use of the word spiritism is similarly unfortunate, because the Greek word does not seem to have any connection with the practice of contacting spirits. This term is used by Spiritists who form the Universal Church of the Master. (Spiritists are called Spiritualists in the UK). They use mediums to contact the spirits of the deceased, in order to grow spiritually and intellectually. They currently have about 10,000 members in the US. The New Age practice of channeling is very similar to Spiritism. We would recommend that readers of the Bible cross out the words "witchcraft," "spiritism," etc. and substitute "poisoning", because Galatians 5:19-20 has no connection with any of the words, even though they appear in popular translations of the Christian Scriptures. Alexi Kondratiev "Suffer a Witch to Live", Enchanté, the Journal for the Urbane Pagan, Mabon & Vinalia (1994), P. 11-15 Paul Hume, "Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live," at: http://www.witchvox.com/words/words_1999/ Interpretation of Revelation 21:8 About Revelation 21:8: This chapter deals with life after death. Some people will attain Heaven; others are sent to Hell, which is here described as the lake which burns with fire and brimstone (sulfur). In his commentary on this verse, Matthew Henry refers to the horrors of Hell as involving the: "...far greater terrors and agonies of eternal death..." Its victims will: "...die and [continue] to be always dying." 1 Verse 8 describes various groups who will automatically be relegated to Hell. In a typical biblical display of religious intolerance, the verse defines one group of victims as consisting of "unbelievers" -- apparently those who follow a non-Christian religion, or no religion at all. This would involve more than two thirds of the human race. How the verse is translated: There is no consistency in the translations of this verse, as they appear in various English versions of the Bible. The sixth group which is destined for Hell has been identified as: 21st century King James Version: "sorcerers" American Standard Version: "sorcerers" An American Translation: those who "practice witchcraft" The Answer (New Century Version): those "who do evil magic" Amplified Bible: "practicers of magic arts" Authentic New Testament: "sorcerers" Darby Translation: "sorcerers" Good News Version: "those who practice magic" James Moffatt Translation: "sorcerers" Jerusalem Bible: "fortune tellers" King James Version: "sorcerers" Living Bible: "those conversing with demons" Modern Language Bible: "those practicing magic arts" New American Bible: "sorcerers" New American Standard Bible: "sorcerers" New English Bible "sorcerers" New International Version: "those who practice magical arts" New Living Translation: "those who practice witchcraft" New Revised Standard Version: "sorcerers" New Testament & Psalms: An Inclusive Version: "sorcerers" New World Translation: "those practicing spiritism" Phillips Modern English "those trafficking...in sorcery" The Promise: (Contemporary English Version): "uses witchcraft" Rheims New Testament: ""sorcerers" Revised Standard Version: "sorcerers" Revised English Bible: "sorcerers" Today's English Version "those who practice magic" Today's New International Version: "those who practice magic arts" Tyndale's New Testament: "sorcerers" World English Bible: "sorcerers" The translation has a footnote: "The word for 'sorcerers' here also includes users of potions and drugs." Young's Literal Translation: "sorcerers" Conclusions: In the 31 translations studied, the original Greek has been translated as: Sorcerers, or those practicing evil magic: 19 times. These are people who engage in black magic to harm or murder others. Those who practicing magic: 6 times. This would presumably include people who either try to hurt or heal others through spells, incantations, etc. It is unclear whether this would cover Christian clergy who conduct healing services. Witches: 3 times. This presumably includes people performing at least one of the 18 different practices that have been referred to as "witchcraft." It is not clear to which of the 18 practices the passage refers. Fortune tellers: once. Presumably this would include tea-leaf readers, palm readers, preparers of horoscopes, people who predict the weather based on the actions of a groundhog, or the diameter of caterpillars, etc. Those who contact demons: once. Spiritists: those who contact the dead: once. The latter two categories may include channeling by New Age practitioners. It would seem that this verse has traditionally been translated incompetently. It appears that the translators simply selected their favorite evil, and inserted it into the text. This is seen throughout many translations of the Bible, particularly with passages that refer either to homosexuality, poisoning, or evil sorcery. Some commentaries on Revelations 21:8: Clarke's Commentary: defines "sorcerers" as "Persons who, by drugs, philtres, fumigations, &c., pretend to produce supernatural effects, chiefly by spiritual agency." This would appear to refer to persons performing magic. 2 John Gill's Exposition of the Bible defines sorcerers very broadly. He includes: "conjurers, dealers with familiar spirits, necromancers, and such as use the magic art...and poisoners of kings and princes; whoredoms and witchcrafts..." (Bigoted statements against Roman Catholics deleted). 3 It is unclear how he can derive so many varied activities from a single Greek word. Wesley Notes comments "...whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters - These three sins generally went together; their part is in the lake" of fire. 4 What does the original Greek text imply? The critical word here is "pharmakeus" pronounced <far-mak-yoos'>. It is derived from "pharmakon," which means a drug. It is commonly believed to have two meanings: A person who uses magical potions for to poison others. A person who engaged in black magick to harm others -- a sorcerer. A few commentators suggest a third meaning: A person who goes around spreading dissention - poisoning people's minds. Of all of the translations, the word "sorcerer" is probably the best. Unfortunately, while this term usually refers to a person who casts evil spells to harm others, it is occasionally used to refer to any spell caster, whether the intent is to harm or to heal. So the optimum translation would probably be "evil sorcerer." Since the Wiccan Rede specifically prohibits Wiccans from harming, dominating, manipulating or controlling others, Wiccans could in no way be covered by Revelation 21:8. References Used "Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible," at: http://www.ccel.org/h/ "Clarke's Commentary - Revelation 21," at: http://www.godrules.net/ "John Gill's Exposition of the Bible: Revelation 21:8," at: http://bible.crosswalk.com/ "Wesley Notes on the Revelation of Jesus Christ: Chapter XXI," at: http://www.ccel.org/ The confusion about "witchcraft" Meanings used by Wiccans and Cowans (non-Wiccans) Religious terminology is often quite ambiguous, unlike words in other fields, such as medicine, science and engineering. There is general confusion in North American over the meanings of certain religious terms, such as Christian, cult, hell, heaven, occult, Pagan, salvation, Witch, Witchcraft, Unitarian, Universalist, Voodoo, etc. In the newsgroup alt.usage.english, terms like this one are often called "skunk words." They have varied meanings to different people. In fact, they have so many meanings that they often cause misunderstandings if they are used. Unfortunately, many people do not know this, and naturally assume that the meaning that they have been taught is the universal definition of the term. This section addresses the turmoil generated by multiple definitions of one term: "Witchcraft." There are at least 17 different meanings to that word: some are opposites of each other; others hold fairly similar shades of meaning. Meanings of "Witch" and "Witchcraft" in society generally: When a person hears or reads some material on "witchcraft" it is quite important that they identify what kind of activity is being referred to. The six most common sources of meanings of the term "witchcraft" are believed to be: From the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament); From the Christian Scriptures (New Testament); From the "burning times" when the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches and civil courts were executing heretics; From a modern-day religion, like Wicca. Wicca is a faith group which derives a major part of its inspiration from beliefs, practices, symbols, and seasonal days of celebration of the ancient Celtic people; From a very different modern-day faith group: religious Satanism; or From modern-day fantasy novels, like the extremely popular Harry Potter series, or in TV programs like Sabrina, Bewitched, Charmed, etc. 2 These six types of "witchcraft" are definitely not referring to the same beliefs and practices. At best, they have only tenuous connections to each other. Turmoil reigns when a person assumes that two of the above forms of "witchcraft" are are similar or identical. Meanings of "Witch" and "witchcraft" among Wiccans: There is no consensus within the Wiccan community about the precise meaning of "Witch" and "Witchcraft." The most popular usages are: "Wicca" and "Witchcraft" mean the same thing and are synonyms and can be used interchangeably. "Wicca" refers to a recently created Earth-centered religion that is partly based on ancient Celtic deities, symbols and seasonal days of celebration. "Witchcraft" refers to a different Pagan spiritual path: a group of traditional practices, often passed down from parents to child. "Witchcraft" is the religion of "Wicca." Recommendations: We recommend that the words "witch" or "witchcraft" never be used in sermons, speeches, articles and essays unless they are carefully pre-defined -- and perhaps not even then. In place of these terms, we recommend specific and unambiguous words and phrases. For example, use: "Evil sorcerer" or "evil sorceress" when referring to "witchcraft" as mentioned in Exodus 22:18 or elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament.) "Poisoner" when referring to "witchcraft" as mentioned in Galatians 5:19-20 or elsewhere in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) "Heretics" or "Satan worshipers" when referring to the religious beliefs that the victims of the Burning Times were originally believed to follow. "Wicca" and "Wiccan" when referring to the modern religion of Wicca and its followers. "Earth-Centered Religion," when referring to modern-day Pagan, earth centered religions. Even better, use the exact name of the religion, like Asatru or Druidism. "Satanist" when referring to followers of religious Satanism. "Wizard," "ceremonial magician," "sorcerer," "sorceress" when referring to Harry Potter or similar imaginary characters in creative fiction. "Traditional Witch" when referring to a follower of traditional witchcraft. When discussing "witchcraft" as it appears in children's nursery rhymes, the Harry Potter books, and other imaginative fantasy novels, use terms like evil (or good) wizard, magician, sorcerer or sorceress -- depending upon which is the closest match. Later in the conversation or writing, when the precise type of activity has been identified, then perhaps the "W" word can be introduced. But, even then it is a dangerous term to use. People have attached much fear and emotional baggage to the word.
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