“What’s Wrong With Wicca?”

Hang in there. This is a long one.

I was surfing around the net for an article about something entirely different and stumbled upon the Christian Research Institute’s article “What’s Wrong With Wicca?”[1] under their “Expertly Researched” articles, alongside a colonialist (at best) article on “Shamanism”[2] which reminded me of my Godmother, a missionary.[3] There was yet another, “Homosexuality Facts and Fiction,” that boasted a circumlocution of logic that I have only ever seen homophobic Christians manage.[4]

Let me put on my old lawyer hat one more time and disclose[5] that I was raised in an Evangelical background and retain a great deal of reverence for The Christ, I have a degree in religious studies from a Jesuit university and had my sights set on Episcopal seminary in the 90s,[6] I hang out with Christians (and love them dearly) and go to church with my momma when I visit her, I teach World Religions as part of a number of college level courses, I teach (or have been hired to teach in the Fall) at a leading Pagan seminary,[7] I believe in one Creator (but that’s just me), I do not worship The Satan,[8] and I have a PhD from a pretty decent university. In other words: I know my shit – and I know Christians’ shit too. So, when I poke a few holes in this article by the Christian Research Institute, I hope you won’t resort to Straw-Man-in-a-Pointed-Hat shaped ripostes.

The article starts out fairly enough, stating that Wicca has its origins in Gardner’s work. And that Wicca rejects, “Christian paternalism, homophobia, and insensitivity to the environment.” However, the author diminishes this sensitivity to humankind and Creation by relegating it to the realm of teen rebellion. Where I begin to part ways with the author on more significant grounds than on a rhetorical situation of terms is in the claim that “the worldviews of Christianity and Wicca are . . . worlds apart.”

I had just spent a wonderful evening with some of my aforementioned Christian friends when I found this article.[9]Whenever I am together with this

“Walking a Blended Path”

group, we end up having some wine and discussing hermeneutics. We fascinate each other.

There was a newbie in the group this week and she asked me the perennial question: “So, what do you [Pagans] believe?” After the lawyer-hat moment of explaining that Paganism is not a homogenous belief system and that I spoke only for myself, I proceeded to explain my take on deity, creation, prayer, Christ’s human-divinity (and how that relates to our human-divinity as children of God), what it means to be created in the image of God, angels and demons – well, we didn’t get into demons too much – and the designations of the material and the ethereal, and I talked about Kabbalah without actually talking about Kabbalah. Her continual response was that there didn’t seem to be any incompatibilities between my belief system and her belief system.

Except “Grace.”

Her one qualm was that I did not have a place for Grace. “Ah,” I explained, “I also don’t have a concept of sin.” After explaining The Law of Return and The Law of Attraction (using terms like “Karma” to help move things along), I went on to clarify that, as I was taught it (under the dogma of The Church of God), Grace is God’s love and mercy spontaneously and inexplicably given to us unearned and without condition. Therefore, “I live under perpetual Grace; my Creator loves me for reasons I have yet to understand and I find blessings in the most unlikely places.”

She then asked about the “end questions” and I explained that I do not believe in a finite existence. I explained my stance on recurrent incarnations and the support for continued consciousness. After resorting to terms like “Nirvana” for the sake of comprehension, we had to agree to disagree on Heaven and Hell. But that’s OK. Theologians do it all the time.

All of this is simply to discount the statement that Pagan and Christian worldviews are unharmonious. Aside from eschatological issues like eternal damnation, I’d say we have a lot of the same pages.

The CRI article defines Wicca as “distinctively feminist form of neo–paganism” where adherents “worship creation rather than the Creator.”

First off, when did “feminism” become an anti-Christian sentiment? Oh, right, The Dark Ages. I am under the impression that Mary, Deborah, Judith, Susanna, and Junia are all female names. But right, they were cut from the Bible (4th Century), relegated to the hidden places, and then Mary (one of them, anyway) was transformed by Pope Gregory (6th Century) into a prostitute and Eve was . . . . Nevermind, we know how that goes.

More importantly, I don’t know any Pagans who “worship nature.” I mean, unless I’ve been misunderstanding y’all for a quarter-century.[10] I know plenty who revere nature; but s’far as I know, there’s a whole lot more “god” and “goddess” being venerated. And I’ve heard a whole lotta “Nature is God is Nature is God” and I agree. As for me, I pray to intercessory gods, but I worship The Creator. Granted, I am panetheistic (with a li’l pandeist for flavor) and believe that all of Creation is inseparable from The Creator and that there is a Divinity that extends beyond what is immediately and logically perceptible. But that’s me. I don’t speak for y’all and your interpersonal experiences with The Divine. I mean, who does that?

Next, the article goes off on the Wiccan Rede, claiming that “Wiccans hold that moral and religious truths are ultimately relative” and that “the Wiccan worldview stands in direct opposition to the biblical notions of absolute moral truth.”

Um, really? The Bible has “notations of absolute moral truth.” OK then, all you theologians can go home now. Those who study Biblical hermeneutics and Midrash are done for the day. Lose your WWJD? bracelets and take five; The Christian Research Institute has it all in hand.

Besides that ridiculousness, I don’t think we practice “moral relativity.” Do you? Most Pagans, in my experience, have a sense of right and wrong which is, in my opinion, much stricter than the modern interpretation of Biblical ethics. My understanding of The Law of Return (also taught as a parable by The Christ in Matthew 13) involves a far more complexly nuanced set of values and responsibilities than the simplistic absolutist teachings of the Christian Church. None of these value judgments conflict with the Red Letters of the Bible, but rather run up against the authoritarian Medieval and Moral Majority enforcement of the post-Crucifixion Church-Building gospels. Mostly those involving folks’ sexuality and the “place” of women. No one seems to want to discuss Christ’s definition of all humanity as equal “children of God,” his prohibitions against material greed, or his admonitions to love unconditionally, maintain a sense of humility, and create and preserve peace.[11] All very Pagan values.

The article wraps up with the complaint that, “Wiccans practice magick (spelled with a k to differentiate it from conjuring for entertainment) in an attempt to manipulate the natural world and alter mental and material conditions. As such, Wicca is an esoteric occult practice designed to manipulate reality in concert with the Wiccan’s will.”

A) Don’t get The Bad Witch going on that K. All of Gardner’s texts spell “magic” without the K. That was Crowley and an entirely different religious system.

B) This author’s definition of magic sounds an awful lot like “prayer” to me.

C) Wicca is a religion, not a practice. I know plenty of Wiccans who don’t “do magic.” Just like I know lots of Christians who don’t pray.

The argument seems to be that “Scripture unequivocally condemns all occult practices as detestable to the Lord,” citing Deuteronomy 18:10–12; Acts 13:6–11; 16:16–18; and Galatians 5:19–21.

First, let me say that the article’s author used The King James version of the Bible.[12] There is no mention of the Apocrypha or the Gnostic Gospels. There is no mention of translations in the Septuagint or the Vulgate or any translation prior to James’ – written during The Inquisition and European Witch Hunts. The history of the relationship between James and the persecution of Witches is well known (but in case you missed the memo, here’s a summary article) and most people understand that the KJV statement that none should “suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22.18) really refers prohibitions against poison, but because of personal obsessive fears, King James changed “poisoner” to “witch.”[13] Look it up.

Sure, there are Biblical prohibitions against sorcery. But then again, the Torah was all about establishing a new community with a new religion. Of course the rules are going to be, “Don’t do what the Egyptians did.” (There are over 600 commandments, btw. Not just 10. ) The rules prohibiting Ov and Yidoni have very little, if anything, to do with Gardnerian Wicca.

Besides, of all of the prohibitions against Witchcraft-y things in the Bible, some of our greatest heroes employed them. I’m getting long-winded here, so I’ll save this part for another post. For now, just have a looksee at this and this and this and this book (which I plan to review for you soon( and this book (which I have to finish so I can include it in said review).

Finally, I’d like to talk about the “exclusive salvation through Jesus Christ who alone is ‘the way and the truth and the life.’”

Now, I’m a Johnian when it comes to Christology. But John 14:6 really rubs me the wrong way. Mostly, because, all too often, it is used to “prove” that Christianity is the *only* way to God (“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”). But, nowhere else in all of the gospels does Jesus speak of himself with exalted titles or of “one exclusive way.” I mean, The Christ tells us how we may not have access to the divine,[14] but other than in John, he never says – “only one path to the divine.” The statement is very unlike the Jesus who said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” and “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (Matthew 25:40 & 45) and “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). To use John’s verse to justify exclusivism is, in my opinion, grossly simplistic. After all, when you sin against your fellow human, you sin against Christ (1 Corinthians 8:12). Look at it this way too: the Gospel of John (typically attributed to the “beloved disciple” of Jesus – John of Zebedee) was written around 100 CE, more than 50 years after John of Zebedee was beheaded by Agrippa I (in 44 CE). So, we have to understand the quote as one of “church-building” not one of Christ’s actual propensities toward elitism. (Christ the Snob, can you imagine?)

But moreso than Jesus’ persona, logical apolitical translation dictates that we not understand John’s statement as exclusivity. Can I get an Aramaic dictionary please?[15] The word translated into the Greek to mean “I” is, in the original Aramaic (which John (ironically) used so fitly to make Christ less snobby), “ena-ena.” The problem is that ena-ena does not actually connote a singular individual “I” but rather a “comprehensive-universal I” – more like ʾehyeh ʾašer ʾehyeh or “I am that I am” (Exodus 3: 13-14). Further, the word for “comes” is “erchetai,” a present tense verb. Jesus, talking to his disciples after telling them he would soon die, was comforting them in the now – not prescribing limitations for all time.[16] So, to understand it properly,

John: 14:6 actually says: “The Great I Am is the truth, the way, and the life. I’ll show you how to get there.” Therefore, if you know El, the God of Israel, or if you know Brahman, or the Tao, or Ahura Mazda, or Wakan Tanka, or The Great Creator, The Almighty, The Alfather, or any Divine essence representing The Logos of the Greek philosophers, then you know The Great I Am. After all, it is John who points us to the Logos as Creator, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). When it comes to the Divine, we have to concede that, “Ultimate Reality is beyond all cultures and the human capacity to know, it is in the broad, fundamental identity of apprehension that all cultures across the world find” (fausto. “Reinterpreting John 14:6.” the Socinian 24 September 2005. Web. 23 June 2012).

So, in the end, this is The Bad Witch’s response to some of Christianity’s misapprehensions concerning Witchcraft. While the CRI article addresses Wicca by name, I assume it intends to challenge all forms of Witchcraft and Occult Practices. Most of what I’ve said here applies broadly to my understanding of Wicca, Druidry, Heathenry of all flavors, Witchcraft of all shapes and sizes, and Ceremonial Magic(k) (which often calls directly on the Judeo-Christian God) of all sorts.

I’ll give Satanism its own post – someday.

May God (by what ever name you call upon) Bless You, Introduce You to the Infinite Magic of Quarks, and Remind You that Love is the Law (aka: BB, Quarks, and 93),
TBW

[1]               “What’s Wrong With Wicca?” Christian Research Institute. CRI, 15 December 2010. Articles. Web. 18 June 2012.

[2]               Ritchie, Mark Andrew.  Christian Research Institute. CRI, 10 June 2009. Articles. Web. 18 June 2012.

Ritchie, Mark Andrew. Christian Research Journal 25. 4 (2003). Print.

[3] I can recall being ten or eleven when she came home from a “mission trip” lauding her apostles for having converted Indians. I asked her, as ingenuously as I could muster: “Do you mean they aren’t Indian anymore?” Even when I was ten, no one mistook The Bad Witch for naive.

[4] The attempted enthymeme ran like a bit like this:

Premise: homosexuality is an “unhealthy” and “unnatural” lifestyle.

Primary rationale: promiscuity is unhealthy and homosexuals are promiscuous. (Disregard everything involving (specifically late-twentieth-century-American) acculturation and stereotyping.)

Secondary rationale: we may disregard all science showing that homosexuality is a naturally occurring (in 10% or more of the human population) orientation whenever we are able to terrorize a population into recanting their expressions of self-identity. Use only the grossly outdated and outmoded (and therefore attackable) Kinsey Report as evidence to the contrary.

Ta-da!

[5] Because I have a feeling this article will have readers that don’t bother to go back and check my credentials before attacking them.

[6] Until the whole “women should not handle Eucharistic wine” brouhaha which split my local parish into warring factions separated firmly by a stone aisle and disrupted my discernment committee to the point of dysfunction.

[7] The Bad Witch is *not* my legal name.

[8] And I have a pretty clear, theoretical, intellectual, and spiritual understanding of the mythological-historical figures Lucifer, Mephistopheles, Beelzebub, and the concept of Satan as opposed to The Boogie Man.

[9] Hear me on this – these are some of the most God-fearing Christian women in Alabama. They are, however, non-judgmental, open-minded, loving women. They are also business-owning, PhD toting, pro-weed, pro-choice (though also predominantly pro-abstinence), tattooed, drinking, swearing, smoking (and smoking-hot) women. One is recently married to a man who good-humoredly refers to them, not as Christians, but as “Christ-y” to differentiate their Christ-like belief system from what has become of the institution of the Pauline Church.

[10] And if I am, please tell me. I need to know these things.

[11] No one but The Bad Witch and a few of us Wicked Pagans.

[12] I can remember a recent conversation with The Bad Husband, woefully miseducated by Carmelites, which ended with his interjection: “There’s more than one version?!” According to one of the aforementioned Christian women, a staunch Catholic raised on the Douai Bible (a not apolitical version itself), “The first time [she] read the King James Bible, [she] said, ‘What is this shit?’”

[13] In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew word for such an individual is m’khashepah / m’khaseph. In the New Testament, a criminal who murders people by secretly preparing and administering poisons, “pharmakia,” from which we derive “pharmacy,” was translated as “witchcraft.” Burn her, she’s a . . . pharmacist!

[14] “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” and the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:14-31) and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24 likewise Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25).

[15] This is where The Bad Witch rocks – wrote a whole thesis on John’s use of “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?”

[16] Historical decontextualization is my hermeneutic pet-peeve.

12 comments on ““What’s Wrong With Wicca?”

  1. wow I’ve been making this argument for ages but this is way more intelligent than anything I have been able to put together. mind if I share it?

  2. This was very educational! I grew up in a Catholic home and went to Catholic school and didn’t know have of the things you did…although to be fair I didn’t really pay that much attention 🙂

    • I know how that goes. My husband calls himself a “recovering Catholic” in that he has decided to learn more about religion – including his own. (He and I went to the same Catholic grammar school, btw. So I know what he learned.) His (and to some extent, my) biggest qualm is that we were taught that there were no other religions aside from the Roman Catholic Church. And, in my family life, the Church of God. Everything else was “devil worship” and “witchcraft.” Synonymous, of course.

      Glad you picked something up from TBW!

      • I was lucky in the fact that my mom, although a cradle Catholic, is too much of an “Irish witch” as I call her to not be at least tolerant. My father never knew about my religious choices and that is probably for the best. I didn’t come out of the broom closet until after he died but my mom, while not thrilled said as long as I was a good person that was all that mattered. It made my transition to Wicca and out of the broom closet easier.

      • Cool! I love those stories. Good for you and good on your momma. My Pentecostal momma said: “Baby, s’long as you know God.”

        Daddy just says, “Hrumph.”

  3. Neferet says:

    Very well thought out and informative! I was entranced the moment I began reading! 🙂

  4. Celt Wiccan says:

    A thought provoking article. A few comments and questions:

    I could as easily ask “What’s wrong with mainstream monotheism?” For me that term includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I’d answer it succinctly by saying their religions/followers through their history and current state of wars present the biggest threat to mankind and the earth in history. How can not recognizing the concepts of grace or original sin be on par with that?

    On Wicca’s similarity to Christianity – Wicca is more similar to Hinduism and Voodoo than to Christianity, and Christianity is more similar to Judaism and Islam than to Wicca. The former are Pagan religions, the latter are mainstream monotheist religions.

    So Gerald made up Wicca? The man was a genius, but he didn’t create Wicca. Wicca isn’t even a single codified path, but a collection of various related paths (denominations) including Eclectic, Traditional, Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic (the list goes on) Wicca. Gerald never used the spelling “Wicca” or the term “Gardnerian”. An article on the subject is at http://www.thewica.co.uk/wica_or_wicca.htm Look at the work of Roy Bowers, Joseph Wilson, and Charles Cardell. Their paths Clan of Tubal Cain, 1734, and Cult of Atho are all denominations of British Traditional Witchcraft (AKA Wicca) today and Gardner clearly had no role in creating them or their formative influences.

    On Jehovah/Yahweh vs. Satan: Remember Epicurus’ paradox?
    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” – Epicurus [341–270 B.C.
    The paradox is solved if you consider that Jehovah/Yahweh and Satan are light and dark aspects of the same deity.

    On The Christ – I still like the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were priesthood of the Essene cult of Isis, pagan “missionaries”, and that Jesus died a pagan martyr through the influence of the Sadducees and Pharisees on the Roman occupation of Israel.

    One last question: How can you be Pantheistic and Pandeistic when Pantheism is the belief that God is (and always was) the universe, and Pandeistic means God preceded and created the universe, then assimilated into it?

    • My dear friend,

      I hope to answer you with all of the love and affection I actually feel for you.

      • First, you have to realize that *I* did not ask the question, “What’s Wrong With Wicca?” I responded to it.
      • And I never said Gardner made Wicca up. I quoted someone who did.
      • Nor did I say he used the K in magick. As a matter of fact, I said he didn’t.
      • Finally, never once did I ever place Jehovah in binary opposition to Satan. I wouldn’t do that as I do not believe it.

      I ask that you do me the honor of reading what I actually wrote.

      Second, you have to recognize that I have *repeatedly* identified myself as non-Wiccan, in my blog and in person. I clarified above that I answered questions posed by my interlocutors’ from *my* perspective, not from a Wiccan perspective. The author of the article in question conflated Wicca with all Pagan paths. I (and it seems most of my readers) understood this oversimplification to be an error on his part – therefore we disregarded it. I was answering him as though he had asked, “What’s Wrong With Paganism in General,” since so much of his commentary had little or nothing to do with Wicca in specific. Therefore I was not comparing *actual* Wicca with Christianity, I was answering his misunderstandings about Wicca.

      And I might add that I did so in a way that was very respectful to Wicca, despite the CRI’s misinterpretations and bothersome conflations.

      As for Wicca’s similarity to Hindusim or Voodoo, we’ll just have to part ways on that. My education says something quite to the contrary. Simply because a set of religions are not monotheistic does not mean they are “similar.” I see almost nothing in common between Wicca and Hinduism and very little between Wicca and Voodoo. Some surface things – sure. But at their root, no. If you’d like my extensive “comparative religious studies” take on this, buy me a cup of coffee and we’ll chat.

      Christianity, Judaism, and Islam *are* the same – they are all Abrahamic.

      As for Bowers, Wilson, Cardell, Tubal Cain, 1734, and Cult of Atho (if you want to get into pedantics of spelling, these are “Wica” with one C – I think that’s what you were getting at when you posted the weblink which I was, perhaps ironically – perhaps not, surfing all day today), of course they are separate from Gardner. Where did I state otherwise? As a matter of fact, go back and remember – my training is from a proto-Tubal Cain perspective. (For those of you less familiar with my “Witchy upbringing” than Celt Wiccan, my mentor learned concurrently with Cochrane, but from a different “Plant” or family-group.) Sir, you tell me what I already know.

      On your version of The Christ – it’s a lovely theory.

      Finally, you ask, “How can you be Pantheistic and Pandeistic when Pantheism is the belief that God is (and always was) the universe, and Pandeistic means God preceded and created the universe, then assimilated into it?”

      Notice, I said that I am pan*e*theistic. Panetheism is distinctly different from pantheism (that one little vowel makes a difference). Panentheism is a belief system which posits that The Divine – ANY sense of The Divine – permeates every aspect of nature and timelessly extends beyond it. (Panentheism differentiates itself from pantheism, which holds that the divine is synonymous with the universe.) I said that I was “a li’l pandeist for flavor” because I also believe that God created the universe on purpose and that there is a demonstrable logical order to creation.

      I hope to talk to you in person soon, my dear brother.

      XO – Ehsha

  5. Celt says:

    Actually I was not attacking you or your article, and I did read the entire thing carefully. I appreciate and support what you were trying to do with it, and realized you were defending Wicca against a critical article… my apologies on not making that clear.

    You wrote: “As for Bowers, Wilson, Cardell, Tubal Cain, 1734, and Cult of Atho (if you want to get into pedantics of spelling, these are “Wica” with one C…” actually you have it backwards… Cardell called them “Wicca”, Gardner used the term “Wica” not “Wicca”.

    Please allow me to publicly express my appreciation of your work. The magickal religions ( including Wica, Wicca, Ceremonial Magick, Voodoo, etc are SO very fortunate to have a gifted writer with your credentials in our corner. Keep on performing The Great Work! Love and blessings of the Gods my sister!

    • Awe, Shugah. I didn’t feel threatened. 😉

      I appreciate your lauds, Friend, but we all do our part, no? Writing is simply the lot I was given. I do it to the glory of that which is beyond myself. . . . plus it keeps me off the streets.

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