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References to Wicca during the 1980s &1990s.

From dictionaries, encyclopedias

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From dictionaries:

Many dictionary definitions of the words "Witch" and "Witchcraft" overlook the religious meaning of the term. i.e. they contain no reference to the Wiccan religion. However, they do include plenty of negative meanings in their definitions. Their lack of inclusiveness and their emphasis on evil probably contributes greatly to the oppression of, hatred of, and discrimination against Wiccans in North America.

bulletThe American Heritage Student Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin, 1994), P. 1071 contains one of the very few balanced definitions of "Witch." It includes an accurate definition of at least three of the 18 or so meanings for the word "Witch." They write:

"Witch:

  1. A woman believed to have supernatural powers and practice sorcery.
  2. A follower of a pagan nature religion having its roots in pre-Christian Europe
  3. A hag."
bulletHowever, Webster's who is probably the most popular publisher of dictionaries in the U.S., did not include one of most common meanings for the word "Witch" -- a reference to Wicca.
bulletWebster's Dictionary, 4th edition states: Witch:
  1. A person believed to practice magic, esp. black magic.
  2. An ugly or mean old woman; hag.
  3. To bewitch.
bulletWebster's New World Dictionary states: Witch:
  1. A woman supposedly having supernatural power by a compact with evil spirits.
  2. An ugly old hag.
  3. A fascinating woman or girl.
bulletThe Merriam-Webster Dictionary states: Witch:
  1. A person believed to have magical powers
  2. An ugly, old woman; hag
  3. A charming or alluring girl or woman.

A number of Wiccan organizations, individual Wiccans and groups like ourselves had approached Webster's with the suggestion that they update their definition to reflect current usage by including a religious definition of "Witch." These attempts were originally unsuccessful. We did not even get a response from Webster's. However, the Mirriam-Webster OnLine web site now lists four unrelated meanings for Witchcraft:

bulletThe use of sorcery or magic;
bulletCommunication with the devil or with a familiar;
bulletAn irresistible influence or fascination; and
bulletWicca.
bulletThe Canadian Oxford Paperback Dictionary defines:
bullet"Wiccan" as: "Modern witchcraft. A goddess worshiping shamanistic nature religion."
bullet"Witch" as:
  1. A person, usually a woman, who practices magic, esp. one supposed to consort with evil spirits and perform supernatural acts with their help.
  2. A follower or practitioner of the religious cult of modern witchcraft. A Wiccan.
  3. An ugly or malevolent old woman; a hag.

The second definition under "Witch" unfortunately contains the word "cult" which has many different and unrelated meanings -- mostly negative. This dictionary apparently uses the word as a synonym of "religious group." The word "cult" elsewhere in the media normally refers to evil destructive new religious movements.

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From religious dictionaries and encyclopedias:

bulletJ.G. Melton, Ed, "The Encyclopedia of American Religions", Triumph Books (1991), P. 16-21:
".....modern witches try to separate themselves from any connection with Satanism....they see themselves as an alternate faith (like Buddhism or Islam)."
 
bulletTimothy Miller, Ed, "America's Alternative Religions", SUNY Press, Albany NY (1995), P. 339-345:
"Much of the criticism leveled against neo-pagans has come from other marginalized religious groups, notably Christian fundamentalist sects that persistently link neo-pagan practices with 'Satanism'.....Neopagans are adamant about the distinctions between themselves and Satanists, pointing out that Satanism tends to focus on 'selfish' magic and certain male images of divinity, does not affirm fundamental doctrines of reincarnation and cosmic justice and bases itself on an affirmation of the Christian doctrine of the duality of good and evil which neo-pagans deny.....in one instance of which the author is personally aware, a neo-pagan was lynched by a group of fundamentalists who deemed him a danger to the community."
 
bulletDavid Crystal, Barnes & Noble Encyclopedia (Based on the Cambridge Encyclopedia), Barnes & Noble (1993), P. 1307:
"Contemporary witchcraft in the West sees itself as an alternative religion, celebrating gods drawn from various European pre-Christian religions, and exercising its magical powers in beneficial ways."
 
bulletRev. George Mather & Rev. Larry Nichols, "Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions and the Occult", Zondervan (1993), P 312 & 316:
"Witchcraft has falsely been identified with Satanism......Witches follow a principle of ethics called the 'Wiccan Rede'....Implied within this principle is the notion held among witches that to be a witch means to seek to effect harmony with the world, nature and other human beings. This principle dispels the notion that witches perceive their work as effecting evil."
 
bulletProf. Irving Hexham, "The Concise Dictionary of Religion", InterVarsity Press (1993), P 90:
"[Gerald Gardner] tried to create the type of Witchcraft discussed by Margaret A. Murray in her various books by creating rituals and beliefs to integrate occult, spiritualist and yogic religions into a Gothic type mythology."
 
bulletDonald Watson, "A Dictionary of Mind and Spirit", Optima (1993), P. 378:
"The modern practice of witchcraft, Wicca or the Old Religion, as it is also called, is a system of animistic beliefs and rituals in which the individual aims to harness natural magical powers and use them constructively..... Although the history of witchcraft was associated with devil-worship, evil sorcery and black magic, this was largely due to the propaganda of the Christian church.....Most modern practitioners of witchcraft have managed to cast off the old image and have successfully convinced the public of their harmlessness and good intentions."
 
bulletJohn R Hinnells (Editor) "The Penguin Dictionary of Religions", Penguin (1984), P. 352:
"Witchcraft as a modern Western religion was inspired mainly by the theories of anthropologist Margaret Murray....who saw European witchcraft as a survival of a benign pre-Christian fertility religion. In some places it has also absorbed surviving traditions of folk-magic."
 
bulletJohn R Hinnells (Editor), "A Handbook of Living Religions", Penguin (1985). P. 464-5:
"Witchcraft...presents a confusing picture to the average observer. The word 'witchcraft' is popularly used to describe at least four distinct phenomena, frequently if mistakenly equated with each other."

"....modern witchcraft.....is a form of polytheistic nature religion based upon the worship of the Mother Goddess.....witches view their task as reviving the old religion(s) of pre-Christian Europe..... Contemporary Neo-Pagan [witches] consistently try to separate themselves from the taint of Satanic images constantly being thrown at them."

Latest update: 2004-SEP-05
Formatting changed: 2009-DEC-28

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