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Article ID: 6644
Age Group: Adult
Posted: August 3rd. 2003
Breaking the Spell: The Hidden Traps of Wicca
by Kerr Cuhulain
One of my alert readers brought a booklet by Catherine Edwards Sanders on the Focus on the Family web site (family.org) to my attention the other day: Breaking the Spell: The Hidden Traps of Wicca (http://www.family.org/pplace/youandteens/a0018257.cfm).
Catherine Edwards Sanders is a journalism fellow at the Philips Foundation in Washington, D.C. where she writes about Wicca and social issues. She used to be a reporter for The Washington Times' Insight Magazine and the producer for the nationally syndicated radio program "Janet Parshall's America."
Sources that Sanders uses for her article include the article "Witch Path Would You Choose?" by Sarah Hinlicky, listed on www.boundless.org in 1999 and the book "Goddess Worship, Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism" by Craig S. Hawkins (Zondervan, 1998).
The opening paragraphs of Breaking the Spell document the growing popularity of Wicca amongst teens. The statistics that Sanders presents are accurate and relatively detailed. The only clearly Christian statistics that Sanders presents us are from an organization that you will recognize from earlier articles in this series. Sanders tells us that the "Christian-based Spiritual Counterfeits Project hotline in Berkley [sic], Calif., reports receiving more inquires about Wicca in the last 10 years than any other religion. The callers are nearly all teenage girls." You'll recall that SCP was an organization whose purpose in life was to try to convince us that anything not Christian was a "spiritual counterfeit". Sanders goes on to say that her booklet will "help you discover the truth about Wicca, what its followers believe, why it's so appealing and how it's at odds with God's Word." As you will soon see, Sanders from this point on Sanders dispenses with statistics and facts and falls back on a testimonial and Scripture to make her case.
In a section with the caption "What is Wicca?" Sanders begins by giving us some basic and reasonably accurate definitions of simple terms, including the Wiccan Rede and the Three Fold Law, that have been taken from sources such as the Encarta on-line encyclopedia. She comments that "What's important to notice are the common themes of worshipping nature and using spiritual forces to get results. Most anyone who calls himself or herself a Wiccan, goddess worshipper or witch practices these things. Another important thing to remember is that Wicca is not the same thing as Satanism. In fact, most witches don't believe in Satan at all." Keep this comment in mind because in a moment you'll see her singing an entirely different tune.
In the following section, "Bewitched Teens", Sanders explains that many women turn to beliefs like Wicca in order to empower themselves. So far so good. But then Sanders pulls out an argument that we've seen all to often from the people that I've written about earlier in this series:
"Wicca has no set rules or absolute standards. Think back to The Rede, which tells followers to 'Do what you will.' In Wicca, each individual gets to decide on his or her own rules. As one Wiccan high priestess notes, 'Within the circle there are no absolutes -- no rights and wrongs.' Since most teens don't believe in truth or absolute moral standards, Wicca can appear to be the perfect mix-n-match religion."
The high priestess that Sanders is quoting here is Vivienne Crowley, specifically her essay "The Initiation" in Jones and Matthews, Voices from the Circle, p 82. Sanders is using this out of context. Crowley is referring to creativity in ritual in her essay, not moral absolutes. Note how Sanders only focuses on the first part of the Rede here, ignoring the second and equally important second part: As long as it harms none. The last comment is interesting: Look at the vast number of differing Christian denominations out there and tell me if Christianity isn't a perfect example of mix and match religion too.
Like a lot of the others that I've examined in this series, Sanders relies heavily on a single testimonial of an alleged former Wiccan in an attempt to make her point that Wicca is dangerous. "Unfortunately, though these things may sound good," Sanders claims, "they're just deceptions that lead followers down a path to destruction." In a section with the title "In Over My Head: A Former Wiccan Tells Her Story", Sanders introduces Kathy, a teen from Salem, Massachusetts. Kathy's surname and other identifying information are withheld as is common with testimonials like this. Kathy tells us that she was attracted to Wicca as she was a "non-conformist". She tells us that a Wiccan high priestess (unnamed) took her in and "taught her how to be a witch". "But after a few years, things turned sour," Kathy claims, "The more I learned, the more things started to spiral downwards, deeper and deeper into darkness and black magic. I became very good at what I was being taught. My teacher never acknowledged Satan but did say that there was something called 'the abyss' that we should avoid."
Note how Sanders earlier made it quite clear that Wiccans don't recognize Satan and that Wicca was different than Satanism earlier in her booklet. Yet here she is using Kathy here to infer just that. It gets worse. Like so many of the other testimonial examples that I showed you earlier in this series, Kathy claims to have been visited by demons:
"One hot summer night I was lying awake in my bedroom, when all of a sudden the room became very cold. I started to shiver and broke out into a cold sweat, although it was the height of summer. A cold wind blew in through my windows, startling me. Now I was terrified. I hugged my knees to my chest and gasped as a legion of what can only be described as black demons encircled my head, all laughing at me. I started screaming out my Wiccan spells to rebuke them, hoping they would disappear. That only made things worse. The laughter escalated with each spell I tried. Then all of a sudden I remembered my days in Sunday school as a child and the teachings of Jesus. I hadn't thought about that in a long time, but something inside of me told me to. In a loud voice I called upon Jesus Christ to rid the room of this dark presence. Instantly they were gone, and my bedroom was once again calm and warm. My life was never the same after that."
Sanders tells us that Kathy converted to Christianity and "warns women who think that Wicca is harmless". "A lot of women think that by practicing Wicca, worshipping this so-called goddess, that they are celebrating their womanhood," Kathy claims, "I am here to tell them there is a lot more to it than that. Lots of them haven't had the experiences I have. But they can and will if they stick with it. It's like the warning on a pack of cigarettes: 'Wicca is dangerous and could be hazardous to your health.'"
From here Sanders launches into a section with the title "What Does God Think About Withcraft?" in which Sanders goes on to tell you what God thinks. "The spiritual world is real and so is Satan" Sanders warns us. "One thing Wiccans have right is that there is a supernatural world that interacts constantly with the world we see, touch and smell. Unfortunately, they believe that it's okay for humans to interact with spirits and spiritual forces any way we choose. To the contrary, the apostle Paul writes that the spiritual realm is potentially dangerous. Therefore we need to treat it the way God tells us to and be prepared for spiritual battles of good versus evil." There's that theme of spiritual war that we keep seeing in literature of this sort.
Sanders then throws a typical selection of Biblical passages at us from Ephesians, 2 Corinthians and Luke. She makes the following arguments:
"Many Wiccans say that Wicca is harmless and nature-loving -- that it has nothing to do with evil, Satanism and darker forces. But that is exactly what Satan wants them to believe! Intent on deceit, 'Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light,' says Paul. 'It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.' Paul says that if they don't turn toward God and repent, 'their end will be what their actions deserve'".
NOTE: All Wiccans say that Wicca is harmless and nature loving. Here Sanders is contradicting her earlier statement about Wiccans not recognizing Satan again.
"We should worship God, not His creation. Wiccans are also right to care for and appreciate nature. But they go too far when they start worshipping it."
NOTE: And there is that recurring preoccupation with anything ecological being evil that we see in literature of this sort.
"Don't try to contact or control supernatural forces. Magic and spells depend on what Wiccans call a psychic link. Psychic development can involve training in divination -- the attempt to obtain information about the past, present or future by occultic means or one's own psychic abilities. The Bible is very clear that divination and any other form of supernatural contact (other than prayer, of course!) is forbidden, since it relies on a supernatural power apart from God. In other words, there is no such thing as 'white magic.' The source that Sanders cites here is a Christian author: Craig S. Hawkins's book Goddess Worship, Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism (Zondervan, 1998. pp 21). She also cites Deuteronomy 18, the one that condemns any form of divination, and Leviticus 19, which condemns "divination or sorcery".
NOTE: You see how the only form of "supernatural contact" that Sanders et al want us to recognize is Christian prayer. They don't want us to have any power other than that which they dole out to us.
"Jesus is the Source of real girl power. Many Wiccans are critical of the church's view of women. They claim that Christianity does not empower women where Wicca does. While it's true that some Christians have distorted God's Word and not honored women, the Bible says that men and women are equally important in the eyes of God... Because of the high value God places on women as bearers of His image, Christianity honors women in a way that's unique. That's why women were often with Jesus during His ministry. And in John 4 we see Jesus treating a Samaritan woman with utmost respect, even though men weren't supposed to talk to women and Samaritans were considered outcasts in Jewish society."
NOTE: I wouldn't call the patriarchal empire created by the Church over the past few centuries an example of empowering women. Sanders hints at this when she states that "Christianity honors women in a way that's unique". That's for sure: Many churches treat women as second class citizens.
"We don't need to make up our own rules. In Wicca, each follower is told to do as she wills. Their only standard is that no one should do harm. In other words, there is no absolute truth. But this presents several problems. First, how can one be sure that no harm is being done? Is there any way to know all the consequences of an action? No way! And aren't personal feelings an awfully wishy-washy method of determining right and wrong? After all, Alex Sanders, a well known Wiccan who died in the 1980s, wrote, 'A thing is good for me until I feel it is not right for me.' Another witch named Stewart Farrar elaborates, 'The witch's own conscience must be the final arbiter.' What if a witch one day feels that incest or murder is the right thing to do? Is there anything to stop him? Even though most Wiccans would say that these things are wrong, they have no firm basis for saying so. Christianity, on the other hand, provides a powerful authority for denouncing racism, crime or any other moral wrong: God's holy character and His Word, the Bible."
NOTE: Here is that "Wiccans are immoral because they don't have a list of rules" argument again. Wiccans are expected to take responsibility for their actions. This is what the Wiccan Rede is all about. You are supposed to use your mind and think about what you are doing instead of blindly following rules made by someone else. Note how Sanders is objecting to Farrar's comment about being accountable to your conscience. Obviously her suggestion that the Rede would not prevent incestuous or homicidal behavior is absurd. Either instance would be a clear violation of the latter half of the Rede. If Sander's Christianity "provides a powerful authority for denouncing racism, crime or any other moral wrong" then why do we read so many stories in the papers these days about Christian ministers committing sexual offences against their parishioners? Sander's Christian morality doesn't seem to have prevented the people that I write about in the Witch Hunts series from disseminating misinformation and hate literature.
"Wiccans do not believe in sin as Christians do. They see sin as an outdated, constraining concept. Therefore, they see no need for God. Wiccan high priestess Starhawk says, 'We can now open new eyes and see there is nothing to be saved from, no struggle of life against the universe, no God outside the world, to be feared and obeyed.' Through spiritual self-improvement, Wiccans hope to reach their equivalent of heaven, called the Summerland or the Land of Eternal Youth. On the other hand, the Bible tells us that no amount of good work can get us to heaven. Through Christ alone we are saved."
NOTE: It would be more accurate to say that Wiccans don't use guilt to control their followers the way the Christians do. That is what the concept of sin is all about. Sanders completely misunderstands Wicca if she believes that the Wiccan Summerland is an equivalent concept to the Christian heaven.
Sander's concludes by stating:
"It's Your Choice. God has made clear that Wicca is dangerous and incompatible with Christianity. He made His creation for us to enjoy as a reflection of His character but not to be worshipped instead of Him. Wicca may seem attractive, magical and different, but it does not give eternal life and a relationship with the God of the universe. If you choose Wicca, you cannot choose God as well, because He will not tolerate worship of anything but Himself. He is perfect and holy. Study God's word and you will find that a life centered on the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us at Calvary is better than anything we could ever find here on earth."
This isn't about any god's word. It's about words being put into some God's mouth in order to justify someone's actions. People like Sanders have put their words into Jehovah's mouth. This statement by Sanders reflects the old Christian adage that God is the potter and the world his pot. Wiccan's don't separate divinity from the mundane they way Christians do. We believe that the world is the cloak that the divine puts on in order to be seen.
| ABOUT... |
Location: Surrey, British Columbia
Bio: Kerr Cuhulain the author of this article, is known to the mundane world as Detective Constable Charles Ennis. Ennis, a former child abuse investigator, is the author of several articles on child abuse investigation that appeared in Law & Order Magazine. Better known to the Pagan community by his Wiccan name, Kerr Cuhulain, Ennis was the first Wiccan police officer to go public about his beliefs 28 years ago. Kerr is now the Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon. Kerr went on to write four books: The Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca (Horned Owl Publishing), Wiccan Warrior and Full Contact Magick: A Book of Shadows for the Wiccan Warrior. (Llewellyn Publications), as well as a book based on this series: Witch Hunts: Out of the Broom Closet (Spiral Publishing).
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