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,
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.
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
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
|"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."|
This menu continues below.
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:
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
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.
Copyright © 2000, 2001 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2000-JUL-7
Latest update: 2004-MAR-31
Author: B.A. Robinson