Wiccan Ceremony - Magic - and where it all started.

Discussions into the history as well as the ceremonies involved in the practice of wiccan magic!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Why Do Some Christians Fear Witches?

During my 28 years as a practicing Wiccan, or "witch" if you
prefer, I have had occasion to ask myself this difficult
question many, many times. With the recent political controversy
over the United States Army permitting pagan services to be held
on military bases in Texas and around the world, the question
suddenly has more than its usual immediacy for me and for my
brothers and sisters in Wicca.

First, let me get the usual questions out of the way. Wicca is a
real religion, born in the 1950s as a recreation of the Old
Religion of Northern Europe, which some believe dates back about
25,000 years. In the mid-1980s, the U.S. Courts accepted Wicca
as a legitimate religion and granted us 1st Amendment rights and
freedom from taxation. So the point is moot, really. The same
U.S. Constitution that protects Christianity protects our
religious freedom – and a good thing, too. We are the fastest
growing religion of the 20th Century.

We do not believe in an evil deity, and would not worship one if
we did. We do not practice human or animal sacrifice. The most
sacred commandment our religion demands of us is to harm no one.
If you think about that last statement carefully, it pretty well
covers most of the Biblical Ten Commandments - the important
parts, anyway. Even more important, we do not attempt to convert
our friends and neighbors to Wicca. Our faith teaches us that
when they are ready for what we have to teach, they will seek us

What about me, personally? Am I a New Age nut? Well, that
depends on what you mean. I'm an environmentalist, certainly. I
am also a feminist. On the other hand, I do not do illegal drugs
of any kind. I am a computer technician working for one of the
largest employers in the United States. I am a Microsoft
Certified Systems Engineer. I am an aspiring science-fiction
writer and screenwriter, actively peddling stories and novels to
the publishing industry in New York and motion picture scripts
to Hollywood. I am a licensed pilot and a licensed aircraft
mechanic. I am a licensed private investigator. My favorite
hobby is reading physics textbooks, and I apply such knowledge
to my science fiction. I am a veteran of the United States Air
Force, the United States Air Force Reserve, and the Texas Army
National Guard, and during the time I served, I held a
top-secret security clearance. I served my country well and was
honorably discharged. I've been arrested only once in my entire
life, as a 17-year-old runaway, and I've had a grand total of
three traffic tickets in almost thirty years of driving. In what
way am I such an evil and dangerous neighbor?

Why have I been forced to practice my religion in secret for
most of my life? Why, during my active duty years (early to mid
1970s), was I forced to record "No Pref" on my dog tags? Am I a
pacifist? Hardly! Women have never been drafted in the United
States, so why would I have enlisted voluntarily (and during the
Viet Nam war!) if I were a pacifist?

Why does publishing my real name on this article cause me to
risk the loss of my job, vandalism to my home and my car, harm
to my animals (and children if I had any)? Does this make any
sense to a rational human being?

Where does the knee-jerk hostility to the word "witch" come

Not from the word, certainly. "Witch" is a corruption of
"witcraft," or "craft of the wise." In fact, my religion is
sometimes called "The Craft of the Wise," or just "The Craft."
There is nothing sinister there. Do we practice magic? Yes, most
of us do. Do we have supernatural powers? Of course not. Oddly
enough, those who believe the practice of magic is so evil are
often those who most sincerely believe in faith healing. Just
think about that honestly for a moment, and try to explain the
difference to me. I'm waiting . . .

Let’s get back to the Craft of the Wise. During the Christian
Inquisition, nobody really knows how many accused witches were
burned at the stake. It is known, however, that a number of
village wise women were accused of witchcraft and burned for
curing fevers with nasty stuff like moldy bread. Were they
followers of the Old Religion? Probably - although I wasn’t
there, and I honestly have no idea. Were they wise? You bet they
were! Did you ever hear of penicillin? How many centuries of
medical knowledge were lost because of a bunch of frightened

So where did the idea come from that we were (and are)

The most obvious answer is that the moldy bread cure worked, and
was unexplainable. A number of other herbal and common sense
remedies were surprisingly effective, as "alternative" medicine
is re-discovering today. The only way the church could admit
these cures worked (and it was a little too obvious to deny)
without admitting this was a really good thing was to make the
claim that the women practicing these cures had made a pact with
the Devil. Heavens, they couldn't be physicians! Medicine was
firmly in the hands of the priests, and the practice of medicine
was expressly forbidden to women. At the time I write of, formal
medicine consisted mostly of applying leeches to the sick.

Were the village wise women the only problem? No. During this
early medieval period, when the Christians were converting
Northern Europe at sword point, a lot of dirty tricks were
played. The country folk, whom we believe to be the ancestors of
modern Wicca, worshiped a Goddess we consider the Mother of
Life, and a God we call the Horned Hunter, or God of Death. For
us, death is merely a door to rebirth, so there is nothing at
all fearful for us in a God of Death. In an effort to make
non-Christianity something horrible, the monks who drew the
medieval Biblical illustrations "borrowed" our Horned Hunter
when they drew depictions of the Christian Devil. You needn't
take my word for this. Any educated person knows that the Greek
Pan predates Christianity by some considerable period of time.
Take a good look at a drawing of Pan in your nearest
encyclopedia. Look familiar? He should. You've been looking at
him in biblical illustrations dating back to your first Sunday
school. Pan is the Greek form of our Horned Hunter. They are one
and the same god. Read your mythology. Pan was never evil, just

If all that weren't enough, Exodus 22:18 was horribly
mistranslated in the King James Version of the Christian Bible.
The original "Suffer not a poisoner to live among you" became
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Some pretty
bloodthirsty fundamentalist preachers want to enforce that
mistranslation literally, even today. In August of 1999, Rev.
Jack Harvey of Killeen, Texas, was quoted as stating publicly
that all witches should be killed. He organized a “March Against
Wickedness” for that Labor Day Monday in Killeen (which flopped
pitifully), and I believe he was hoping and praying it would
erupt into real violence, because he advised members of his
congregation to carry guns, in case some of us witches decided
to snatch his kids.

Can you spell “bizarre?” We would never, of course, kidnap
children, but could someone please explain to me why we are
supposed to want them? And, in particular, why we would want his
offspring? I thought the idea of sacrificing Christian babies
was discarded when the Nazis falsely accused the Jews of it.
This is more of the same bigoted excrement.

In terms of our current century, Hollywood hasn't helped us
much, either. Sick, twisted individuals who worship evil have
always existed, and sadly, I'm afraid they will for a very long
time to come. They pervert the Christian cross by inverting it,
and sometimes, they invert our sacred symbol, the pentagram, as
well. Hollywood directors just can't seem to get it right,
though. They consistently show evil ceremonies prominently
displaying the pentagram right side up.

When the pentagram is displayed properly, the symbolism is that
of a man standing upright within a circle, meaning uprightness
and spirit over flesh. In other traditions, the five points
represent the four elements (fire, air, earth, water) surmounted
by aether – or spirit. In any case, spirit is on top. Needless
to say, the symbolism of an inverted pentagram is obscene to us,
just as the symbolism of an inverted cross is obscene to you if
you are a Christian. Because most Christians have seen movies in
which evil ceremonies were presided over by an upright
pentagram, they are upset and frightened when they meet a Wiccan
wearing one. That's understandable enough, but it should be
corrected by education.

Other reasons for fear again date back to medieval times. The
reasons have mostly been forgotten, but the fear remains. During
medieval times, life was unpleasant. In fact, it was downright
horrible for the peasants. Christianity taught the peasants that
it didn't matter, that the material world was to be shunned in
favor of a reward in the Christian Heaven. Wiccans did not, and
do not, agree. I can still remember my first teacher telling me
that it would be difficult to cultivate my spiritual nature
until at least my basic physical needs - as in food, shelter,
warmth - were met. We are taught that achieving success at
another's expense is wrong (remember we are permitted to harm
none!), but success in itself is actually a virtue. In medieval
times, daring to hope and work for success was dangerous
thinking. It might even have led to a collapse of feudalism. So
the Christian hatred of that tenet of Wicca was one part envy,
one part fear.

Another envy/fear combination had to do with the fact that Wicca
is fun. The Old Religion is filled with laughter and
playfulness. Our ceremonies are wonderful parties, full of happy
tipsiness and flirtation. By comparison, medieval Christian
practices were rather grim. Somehow, the Christians who were
trying to convert us had to convince us that slipping off into
the woods for a bonfire and a roaring good time wasn't such a
good idea. Do what they would, though, they couldn't get us to
give up our fun. Quite logically under the circumstances, they
"borrowed" from us. The use of song and chants in ritual
(although why the church couldn’t manage happy song, I can’t
say), incense (borrowed from Mithraic ritual)– even some actual
elements of ritual itself. You can hear echoes of our cakes and
ale ceremony in Christian Communion. Oh, I don't doubt that
Jesus of Nazareth had bread and wine during his Last Supper!
That's as may be, but I don't think the contents of his last
meal became a central part of Christian ceremonies until
Christianity clashed with the Old Religion in Europe.

Where did Jesus get the idea in the first place? Mithras, who
died following a ritual meal of bread and wine? Or the cakes and
ale of the Old Religion? Scary question, isn't it? For the
record, I believe it was Mithras, as he was the secret god of
many of the Roman troops occupying Palestine at the time of
Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless, enough Roman troops were
European “barbarians” that it is just possible that some
elements of our faith were known to Jesus himself.

20th Century Christian practices never struck me as being a
barrel of laughs, either. Wiccans are still having fun. So there
is bound to be some ongoing envy, if not outright fear.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not bashing Christians! Those
who practice their faith honestly have no part in this hatred
and fanaticism. Most are decent men and women, and I am proud to
call many of them my friends. When the Rev. Jack Harvey called
for a Christian boycott of the Armed Forces over this pagan
worship controversy, Rev. Pat Robertson had the courage to
publicly withdraw from the boycott and state it was wrong. I
refer only to the dignified lack of humor in the Christian faith
as it has been practiced down through the centuries. It does not
speak to my heart at all.

Also, if I am to be completely honest, I must admit that pagans
aren’t completely innocent in the dirty tricks department. The
so-called Cult of Mary, which existed within Roman Catholicism
for so many centuries, was actually a secret form of “safe”
Goddess worship.

I wonder how many Christians know how many of their holidays
were originally ours?

Samhain, our New Year celebration, when the walls between the
worlds are at their thinnest and our beloved dead walk and feast
among us, became Christian All Hallows or Halloween. One
ceremony used by pagans to encourage a rich crop (although not
at Samhain, which is after the harvest) was the sweeping of
brooms over the planted fields. To early Christians watching
from a distance, it must have looked like the witches were
riding on the brooms or trying to do so. Since Samhain was known
to be the witches’ most important holiday, witches riding on
broomsticks became the symbol of Halloween. Not so surprising at

Yule, or the winter solstice, when we celebrate the birth of the
Sun God to Mother Earth and Father Time, was borrowed for the
birthday of the Christian Jesus. Most Christian scholars agree
that Jesus was actually born in the spring. The Yule log, the
tree, and even the Nativity Crèche were originally pagan
customs. If you have Wiccan friends, and you thought they were
only protecting themselves by displaying a Nativity Crèche at
Christmas, you were wrong. We had Nativity Crèches long before
you came along to convert us!

Imbolc, our festival of light, when we celebrate the start of
the Mother's return to us, along with the birth of new lambs and
flowers awakening under the snow, became Christian Candlemas.

Beltane, our famous (and infamous) fertility celebration when we
leap the bonfires in joy at the arrival of summer, became May
Day, famous for playful fertility celebrations throughout the
Christian world.

Lammas, or August 1st, when we celebrate the fruitfulness of the
land - well, how many Christians have celebrated the rich
harvest to come down through the centuries?

There are many, many more examples of "borrowing."

And therein lies the real root of the problem.

The thing a few fanatical Christians fear most of all is being
forced to admit our kinship, because after nearly 2,000 years of
borrowing, we aren’t so very different anymore.

About the author:
At a tiny 5'1", Kathryn A. Graham is a licensed private
investigator, pilot, aircraft mechanic and handgun instructor in
Texas. Also a prolific author, she has written numerous
articles, short stories and a science fiction novel.


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