ARE ALL WITCHES EQUAL?
Topics in this essay:
Some conservative Christians, and others, have concluded
that two of the many forms of witchcraft are related -- or even identical.
This is not true.
Some people assume that Biblical witchcraft in the
Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are in some way connected with the
Neopagan religion Wicca. Since the King James Version (and some other
translations) of the Bible calls for the extermination of "witches,"
these people may be motivated to oppress Wiccans. In one recent case, a
Texas pastor demanded that the U.S. armed forces napalm Wiccans in his
area. In fact,
Biblical witchcraft and Wicca are not only unrelated, they are
completely opposite from each other. Biblical witchcraft involve
spoken curses or poisoning in order to kill or injure others. Wiccans
are prohibited from harming others.
Some people assume that the imaginary witchcraft in
the Harry Potter books is similar or identical to Wicca. They feel
that a public school teacher reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in class may be violating the principle of
separation of church and state, as defined in the First
Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Again, the two forms of
witchcraft are unrelated. This author has read the first Harry Potter
book. The book contains no usage of Wiccan beliefs, rituals, tools,
symbols, practices, principles, or sayings. There is absolutely no
Wiccan content in that book at all.
religious references in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone were:
Recognition of Christmas, a Christian holy day.
A reference in the fourth book to "Yule,"
a term used by both Christians and Neopagans.
The use of the term "Transfiguration".
This is a Christian term that describes Jesus' appearance on one
occasion when he was said to be in the company of Moses and Elija.
Rowling uses the term in an entirely different sense to refer to
shape shifting. e.g. the conversion of a match into a needle.
A brief mention about a Wizard and his wife who
were anticipating death as the next "great adventure." But there was
no indication whether he was referring to a destination or state
after death in the form of the Christian Heaven/Hell, or a Wiccan
reincarnation, or Nirvana from various Eastern religions.
Similarly, there is no Harry Potter content in
Wicca: no dragons, trolls, unicorns, three-headed dogs, flying
broomsticks, talking hat, owl mail service, transfiguration, cloak that grants invisibility,
wands that shoot stars, flying keys, etc. The only significant factor that Harry and Wicca
share is the word "witchcraft."
Definitions of 17 types of Witches/Witchcraft:
The following 17 common meanings have been derived from our glossary
of religious terms [W]. Some are positive; others neutral, many negative.
"Witchcraft" can be:
- In the Hebrew Scriptures and ancient Native American usage: an
malicious person who
secretly uses evil sorcery (black magic) to intentionally harm others.
- In the Christian Scriptures: a criminal who murders people by
- 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.
- A Wiccan; a follower of Wicca, a benign
reconstruction of an ancient European Celtic religion. Wiccans are
prohibited from using magic to harm others. No all-evil deity -- called
Satan, the Devil, or by any other name -- exists in their hierarchy of
Gods and Goddesses.
- A follower of modern-day Religious Satanism
who recognizes Satan as an earthy, virile pre-Christian, pagan
- A wizard who inhabits an alternative world of fantasy and magic,
filled with good and evil people with magical powers, flying
broomsticks, dragons, talking animals, magical quills, etc. e.g. in Harry
- 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. This is often seen in TV programs, like Bewitched or Charmed.
- A woman of such incredible beauty that she bewitches others
- A woman of incredible ugliness; a hag.
- Followers of a group of Caribbean religions which combine elements of tribal African religions with
Christianity; e.g. Santeria, 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; e.g. "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,
- A follower of any religion other than Christianity (e.g. of Buddhism,
Islam, Hinduism, Native American Spirituality, etc.) The Christian
Scriptures state that people who pray to other Gods are in fact
worshiping Satan or demons. Many conservative Christians, believing in
the inerrancy of the Bible use this
description of non-Judeo-Christian religions.
- A ceremonial magician with unusual knowledge who can apparently
perform miracles during magic/magick rituals.
An example of garbled thinking:
The two main publications of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society
of Pennsylvania (the Jehovah's Witnesses) are the Watchtower
and Awake magazines. Their articles about non-Christian faith
groups and about religious history have an excellent reputation for
accuracy. However, they were victims of semantic confusion while writing
two articles on Witchcraft for their April Fool's day edition of 2000.
|Their article "What do you know about Witchcraft"
denigrates Wicca. 1 It begins by repeating some of
the beliefs and myths about evil sorcery. "...more than half
the world's population believe that witches are real and can influence
the lives of others. Millions believe that witchcraft is evil,
dangerous, and to be greatly feared." It then suddenly
switches to modern-day Wicca, defined as: "a pagan nature
religion having its roots in pre-Christian western Europe and
undergoing a 20th-century revival." They do not mention that
evil sorcery (sometimes called Witchcraft) and Wicca (sometimes also
called Witchcraft) are unrelated to each other. They are, in many
ways, opposite from each other. The article also deviated from the
normal practice of showing respect for religions by capitalizing their
names. They spelled "Pagan" and "Neopagan"
in lower case letters, while capitalizing "Christianity."|
|Their article "What you should know about Witchcraft"
confuses the nature of truth and the meaning of Witchcraft. 2
|They criticize the broad spectrum of beliefs between different
traditions of Wicca, which are sometimes contradictory. They state
that "truth is fact, that which is real." The
implication is that if two beliefs contradict each other, only one
can be true. They then give an example from medical science to
illustrate that some beliefs can be proven to be untrue. They fail
to realize that religion and medicine use the term "truth"
in different ways. Medical truths can be analyzed scientifically
and incorrect beliefs disregarded. For example, it has been shown
that sacrificing chickens in order to cure pneumonia is an invalid
treatment. But many religious truths are not open to to scientific
analysis. They are not "true" in an objective
sense, but only in relation to a religion's
fundamental assumptions. Many Christians believe the
Bible when it says that a sick person anointed by elders from
their congregation will be healed. Wiccans generally believe that
rituals inside a Neopagan healing circle are effective against
disease. These are religious truths, accurate with respect to the
religions' fundamental beliefs. But, they are not necessarily
|The article continues: "Many people in both ancient and
modern times believe that the magic practiced by witches is
performed to bring harm to others. Witches are credited with the
power to inflict severe pain and even death by means of magic.
Traditionally, witches have been blamed for an almost limitless
array of misfortunes, including illness, death, and crop failure."
As in the previous article, the author is confusing evil sorcery
(sometimes called Witchcraft) with modern-day Wicca (also
sometimes called Witchcraft) -- two unrelated practices and belief
|The author quotes an unidentified "promoter of
witchcraft" without identifying which variety of
Witchcraft that the latter represents. The "promoter"
apparently believes that some mental illness can be caused by
indwelling demonic possession. This is not a belief generally held
- "What do you know about Witchcraft?," Watchtower
Magazine, 2000-APR-1. Online at: http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2000/4/1/
- "What you should know about Witchcraft," Watchtower
Magazine, 2000-APR-1. Online at: http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/2000/4/1/
Copyright © 2000 & 2001 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-JUL-7
Latest update: 2001-DEC-26
Author: B.A. Robinson