Apologetics Index

The Modern World of Witchcraft

A threatening storm is brewing on the religious horizon: the winds of occultism are blowing ever more strongly across the land. In the past two to three decades, America and much of Western Europe have seen a resurgence of paganism and witchcraft.

This article was first published in 1990.

Paganism is attempting a resurrection from the dead, a revival of the old gods and goddesses of pre-Christian polytheistic nature religions and mystery cults (e.g., Celtic, Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Roman, and other traditions of the Western world).

Additionally, Sumerian mythologies, extant tribal religions (e.g., Native American religions and shamanism), new religions largely inspired by science fiction and fantasy, and amalgamations of diverse occultic traditions join the list as well.

Astaroth, Diana, Hecate, Cernunnos, Osiris, Pan, and others are being invoked anew, feeding an intoxicating discovery of and journey into a universe inhabited with gods and goddesses.

Although their practices and beliefs diverge significantly at points, many of these individuals and groups proudly identify themselves as pagans or neopagans. Among them can be found a diverse group of people who style themselves as witches or wiccans: followers of the "Old Religion" of the great Mother Goddess and her male consort, the Horned God.

The Pagan Next Door

Many of today’s witches want to remove their traditional cloaks of secrecy, dispel the confusion that surrounds their religion, and address the hostility and suspicion they perceive as directed toward themselves and their craft. They desire that their views and practices be considered an alternative religion, a viable world view.

At the very least they seek the right to follow their chosen path without being hindered, harmed, or discriminated against.

Pagan PR

Indeed, with increasing vigor, witchcraft is coming "out of the broom closet." Many witches are actively seeking public understanding and acceptance, cultivating an image as the "pagan next door." After all, they claim to embrace a life-affirming, family religion.

From media materials to books for children, such as The Witch Next Door and The Witch Family (which portrays witchcraft in a positive family setting), the campaign is on.(1) 

The cover of one book on witchcraft has an attractive female witch dressed in a fashionable, well-tailored business suit — as if she were walking down Madison Avenue. (2)  This is far removed from the stereotypical image of witches as ugly old hags with warts on their noses, decked out in black capes and cone-shaped hats, riding their favorite broomstick on a moonlit night.

This two-part series is presented with a view to

  1. understanding, analyzing, and critiquing contemporary witchcraft, and
  2. promoting biblical and thoughtful evangelism of people involved in this religion

It is not presented as a complete treatment and refutation of witchcraft, much less of the larger and more diverse neopagan movement. However, much of what is said about witchcraft herein can also be said of the neopagan movement as a whole.

Likewise, the refutations applied to witchcraft doctrines apply to neopaganism as well. (The differences between witchcraft and the various other religions within neopaganism are important, but not so significant as to negate most of the critique presented here.)

The background information on modern and contemporary witchcraft that will be found in this article is necessary because so few "outsiders" understand what it is. This material should clear away many misconceptions and help bring the issue into proper focus.

We will not spend time on the disputed ancient or medieval history ("herstory," as most witches like to call it) of witchcraft, as this will not necessarily promote an accurate understanding of contemporary witchcraft. Besides, there are numerous works available touching these concerns, and a world view’s validity does not depend on its longevity (this is the fallacy of argumentem ad antiquitum); it depends on whether it is internally consistent and "fits the facts." (3) 

After giving a brief history of modern witchcraft, we shall proceed to examine its contemporary expression.

Modern witchcraft is far  removed from what is usually depicted in fairytales [a]

Modern witchcraft is far removed from what is usually depicted in fairytales [a]

Which is Witch?

It is extremely difficult to define with precision the beliefs and practices of contemporary witches. This is because of the elasticity of the terms "witch" and "witchcraft" as they have been applied to people and practices both today and throughout history.

It is also due to the great diversity that exists within the contemporary movement itself. Witches disagree among themselves as to what constitutes a witch. (4) 

Muddled thinking, misunderstanding, and confusion have been the result of Christians, witches, and others not adequately defining their terms. For instance, it is not just believing in and practicing magic and divination (the occult) that makes a person a witch. There are millions of people who do this but are not witches. Contemporary witchcraft involves these practices, yes, but others as well (e.g., the invocation and worship of the Mother Goddess).

An oft-suggested definition for what constitutes a witch is, Anyone who is involved in some form of the occult (e.g., palm or tarot card readers, ritual magicians/sorcerers, Satanists, Voodoo practitioners — everything from alchemists to xylomancers and astral projection to visualization). The primary reason for this is that the English words "witch" and "witchcraft" are variously employed in the most commonly used English translations of the Bible to designate different types of occultists and occultic practices.

However, in accord with the meaning of these words in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek, and in light of the changing definitions of these words throughout history, we shall use the terms "witch" and "witchcraft" only for the particular religiomagical belief system delineated below. (This should in no sense be seen as an endorsement of other types of occultism, as they are equally condemned in God’s Word, the Bible.)

Witchcraft (also known as wicca, the craft, or the craft of the wise) is a generic term covering differing approaches to the subject. And the terms for followers of witchcraft — "witch" or "wiccan" — apply to both genders. The widely believed notion that a female is a "witch" whereas a male practitioner is a "warlock" or "wizard" is a misnomer.

To help set the stage for our discussion of contemporary witchcraft, it will be beneficial to take a brief tour of the modern history of this fascinating phenomenon.

Once Upon A Time

Many people contributed to the growth of modern witchcraft in Western Europe and America, such as folklorist and occultist Charles G. Leland (1824-1903) and novelist and occultist Robert Graves (1895-1985). As much as we might like to discuss these interesting personalities and their part in the forging of contemporary witchcraft, space compels us to limit our consideration to a few key individuals.

The Murray Myth

The ideas of anthropologist, Egyptologist, and occult dabbler (and perhaps witch (5)  Margaret Murray (1863-1963) were popularized in two of her better-known works, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) and The God of the Witches (1933). The latter eventually became a best seller in England.

The "Murrayite theory" stated that witchcraft could be traced back to pre-Christian times, having been preserved through the centuries by witches. Not only does witchcraft predate Christianity, Murray affirmed, it was once the ancient pagan religion of Western Europe. (6)  It supposedly survived in small scattered groups who practiced the "Old Religion." But by this time it was fragmented due to persecution from the dominant Western religion — Christianity. Thus, the "Old Religion" was the surviving pre-Christian religion of Western Europe, still practiced by the faithful — but only clandestinely.

The history of ancient witchcraft and witchcraft in the Middle Ages (and Satanism for that matter) is a very convoluted and confused subject. (7)  Still, there is little doubt that small pockets of various types of paganistic beliefs and practices persisted up through the medieval period, particularly in rural regions.

Thus, by way of local familial agricultural/fertility traditions and superstitions, numerous folks really were involved in forms of occultic beliefs and practices. (8) 

However, these medieval remnants of pre-Christian paganism were not the remains of an elaborate, matriarchal Mother Goddess mystery religion, as many contemporary witches would have us believe. The Murrayite theory is thus unsupported by the facts. (9) 

Contemporary witchcraft is quite different from its medieval and "enlightenment" period counterparts. That is, the agricultural/fertility traditions that survived from ancient times through the Middle Ages and into the early modern era are not the same as modern witchcraft, except that they are both forms of the overarching category of occultism. Nonetheless, Murray’s views influenced many — including one Gerald Gardner, to whom we now turn our attention.

The Gardnerian Garden

Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) almost single-handedly revived (invented) and popularized witchcraft for the modern world. Based on his associations, experiences, extensive occultic background, studies, travels, and familiarity with magical texts (grimories) and Margaret Murray’s works, he "crafted" modern witchcraft.

Indeed, Gardner was a man with many occultic connections. He was a member of Freemasonry, the Rosicrucians, and a VII degree initiate of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.). He was an acquaintance of Mabel Besant-Scott (daughter of leading Theosophist Annie Besant) and of the infamous Aleister Crowley. (10) 

A British civil servant, Gardner spent much time in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) and worked and traveled throughout India and Southeast Asia, as well as visiting the Middle East. While in Ceylon he was initiated into Freemasonry and became a nudist. An accomplished amateur anthropologist and archaeologist, Gardner’s interests gravitated toward the religions and religious paraphernalia of native societies. He even wrote a book on Malaysian ceremonial weaponry, and participated in an archaeological excavation in Palestine of a center of worship of the goddess Astaroth. (11) 

Upon his retirement and return to England, Gardner became involved with the Corona Fellowship of Rosicrucians, founded by Mabel Besant-Scott. Here he contacted numerous occultists and allegedly some witches, including Dorothy Clutterbuck ("Old Dorothy"), who supposedly initiated him into witchcraft (the "Old Religion"). He revealed some secrets of the coven to which he claimed to belong and its Mother Goddess in a novel entitled High Magic’s Aid in 1949. This was written under a pseudonym (i.e., his magical name, "Scire").

Gardner’s Witchcraft Today was published in 1954, after the witchcraft laws in England were rescinded (in 1951). The Meaning of Witchcraft followed in 1959. In Witchcraft Today Gardner further unveiled his Goddess religion as he described the survival of this "old pre-Christian religion" (Murray’s theory) and his initiation into it.

In his writings Gardner drew upon his occultic experiences, travels, the writings of Murray, the help of Aleister Crowley, and his knowledge of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Western ritual/sex magic, magical texts (e.g., the Greater Key of Solomon), and various native Asian and near Eastern religions and their occultic paraphernalia. Borrowing from these and other sources, Gardner invented his own religion — founding it upon the Mother Goddess.

To this witches’ brew he added the doctrine of reincarnation. Thus, rather than merely revealing and reviving an ancient Goddess religion as he claimed, the resourceful Gardner actually created modern witchcraft. (12) 

Ironically, the purported purpose of Witchcraft Today was to describe an allegedly dying Goddess religion. Instead, it birthed one, resulting in the rise of a generation of would-be witches who looked to Gardner for initiation. A new form of "Goddess worship," modern witchcraft (wicca) grew as people became familiar with and initiated into the teachings and rites of this exotic faith. From this concoction sprang what is now known as Gardnerian witchcraft, and with it all or nearly all of the contemporary witchcraft movement. (13) 

Among the early converts who fell under Gardner’s spell and who became influential in their own rights were Alex Sanders (d. 1988), Sybil Leek (d. 1983), and Raymond and Rosemary Buckland.

Witchcraft Goes West

Sybil Leek was greatly influenced by Gardnerian witchcraft, although she modified his rituals and teachings. She brought these with her and popularized them when she moved to the United States in the late 1960s. (14) 

The persons primarily responsible for the introduction and growth of modern witchcraft in America, however, were Raymond and Rosemary Buckland. They traveled to England during the mid-1960s to be initiated into Gardner’s Goddess religion, and after obtaining their desire, brought their religion back to America with them.

The Contemporary Craft

Stemming from the ideas and persons described above (and, of course, other relevant persons and factors), witchcraft has proliferated into the variegated expressions and traditions that comprise the contemporary scene. It is a highly decentralized, eclectic, creative, mix and match (use what exists or make your own as you go) movement. This is evidenced by the numerous covens, associations, and types of witchcraft to which individual covens belong: Algard, Alexandrian, the American Order of the Brotherhood of Wicca, Church and School of Wicca, Church of Circle Wicca, Covenant of the Goddess, Cymry Wicca, Dianic (feminist), Gardnerian, Georgian, Seax-Wica, and the Witches International Craft Associates. (15)  Some of these covens are feminist, others lesbian or homosexually oriented, and still others a mixture of males and females.

The major spokespersons for witchcraft today are even more diverse than the types. Besides Raymond Buckland, predominant voices in the witchcraft (and neopagan) world include Margot Adler, Jim Alan, Jessie Wicker Bell (Lady Sheba), Zsuzsanna (or simply "Z") Budapest, Laurie Cabot, Scott Cunningham, Selena Fox, Gavin and Yvonne Frost, Judy Kneitel (Lady Theos), Leo Martello, Miriam Simos (Starhawk), and Doreen Valiente.

Aside from the various covens and solitary practitioners of witchcraft, there are too many of the following to list individually: associations, centers, festivals and gatherings, newsletters, magazines, journals, books, bookstores, and shops. All of these are devoted to teaching, defending, and networking the ideologies of witchcraft (and/or neopaganism). (16) 

For various reasons, it is difficult if not impossible to assign a number to the witches in North America. "Ballpark" estimates on the conservative side, however, would place the figure approximately between 5,000 and 10,000. More liberal estimates range between 30,000 and 50,000 for witches, and upwards of 70,000 to 80,000 for all neopagans. The actual number is probably at the lower end of the conservative scale. But witchcraft is growing at a steady pace, and unless something drastic happens to reverse the spiritual climate in America and the trend toward occultism, the witchcraft community will become an increasingly significant minority — a sobering possibility the church cannot afford to ignore.

Pagan Principles

Witches do not view their religion as a reaction to or reversal of Christianity, as is the case with much of Satanism(17)  Rather, they prefer to see it as an independent tradition, an alternative religion or faith — like Hinduism or Taoism. Indeed, they see witchcraft as being pre-Christian and not arising as a backlash to it. Witches view themselves as fun-loving, life-celebrating and affirming folk who worship the Mother Goddess (in all her many facets of revelation via creation) and her consort, the Horned God.

Contemporary witchcraft is so diverse and eclectic (as we shall see presently) that it is extremely difficult to accurately identify and define. In fact, it is almost impossible to state that all witches believe "this or that." No sooner will this be uttered then someone will speak up and assert that they are a witch and "do not believe what you just stated." There are, however, commonalities shared by most who appropriate the word "witch" for themselves. It is important to keep in mind that the following tenets do not necessarily apply to all witches, but on the whole they are valuable general guidelines for defining witchcraft.

The Creed of No Creed

First among the beliefs of witchcraft is the "creed of experience." Experience is exalted dogmatically above, and often set in opposition to, creeds or doctrines. In short, experience is superior to doctrine. Aidan Kelly, who was formerly involved in neopaganism, noted: "What really defines a witch is a type of experience people go through. These experiences depend on altered states of consciousness. The Craft is really the Yoga of the West" (emphasis in original). (18)  The witchcraft experience is often expressed as a mystical experience, "that feeling of ineffable oneness with all Life." (19)  Witchcraft is therefore a religion based first and foremost on the sense of being one and in harmony with all life.

Tolerance is another highly-touted value among witches. Diversity of belief and practice is viewed as not only healthy but essential to the survival of humanity and planet earth, and to spiritual growth and maturation as well. Independence, autonomy, and the freedom to experience, believe, think, and act as one desires are defended as if they were divine rights. Witches do become intolerant, however, when they perceive intolerance and authoritarianism in other individuals and faiths (which they would term "religious imperialism"). So we have statements like number 10 of the Council of American Witches’ "Principles of Wiccan Belief": "Our only animosity toward Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be ‘the only way’ and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief."

These beliefs stem from the notion that ultimately there is no right or wrong religion or morality. Relativism in all areas of life, including ethics and metaphysics, is the rule. Truth is what is true for you; right what is right for you; but neither are necessarily so for me. The only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Thus, all have the right to believe and practice "what they will." In this context, one often hears the story of the three blind men who have all grasped different parts of an elephant (tusk, trunk, and tail), and, in describing it, each man thinks he alone has the truth.

This view of life derives from an "open" metaphysical concept that "reality is multiple and diverse." (20)  There is no single logic or view that is complete or adequate to handle the complexity and multiplicity of reality. Therefore, we should not limit ourselves to the narrow purview of one person or religion, but be "open" minded and tolerant of differing views. This understanding of reality is closely associated with three key concepts: animism, pantheism, and polytheism.

World Alive: Three Pillars of the Witches’ World View

Animism is an important pillar of the witches’ world. As used by them, the word means that the "Life Force" is immanent within all creation: rocks and trees, deserts and streams, mountains and valleys, ponds and oceans, gardens and forests, fish and fowl; from amoeba to humans and all things in between. All is infused with and participates in the vital Life Force or energy, and therefore the entire earth is a living, breathing organism. All is sacred; all is to be cared for and revered. The earth is a (or the) manifestation of the Goddess (and God). "Sacredizing" the world and animating nature, witches view all reality as a continuum of consciousness and being. Thus, they seek to live in harmony and be psychically in tune with nature. (Incidentally, whatever else witches may believe and do, because of these views they are not involved in animal or human sacrifices.)

For many witches, the second pillar of their world — implicit in their version of animism — is pantheism. Not only is the Life Force pervasive throughout our world, but all the world is divine. Divinity is inseparable from, and immanent in, nature and humanity. Since most witches teach that we are divine (or potentially so), it is clear why someone like Margot Adler, a witch herself, approvingly quotes a particular neopagan group’s greeting to its female and male members respectively: "Thou art Goddess," "Thou art God." (21)  Most are not this brash but nevertheless hold that we, like nature, are divine.

The third pillar is polytheism. As defined by many witches, however, polytheism is not merely the belief in multiple deities — a pantheon of gods and goddesses — but also the belief that there are multiple levels of reality (i.e., the "open" metaphysics referred to earlier). According to this view, there are an infinite (or at least incomprehensible) number of levels of meaning and explanations about our world. These allow not only a multitude of gods, goddesses, and religions to exist simultaneously, but also views of reality that would otherwise appear to be mutually exclusive; all are true as far as they go. (22)  Hence, witches can align themselves with a particular Goddess and/or God, or group thereof, and still grant the validity of other "alternative" religions.

The Mother Goddess and the Horned God

Most witches experience, believe in, invoke, or worship the Mother or "triple Goddess" and her male consort, the Horned God. Both are believed to be immanent deities accessible to humanity.

The Mother Goddess — whose three primary roles are mother, maiden, and crone — is represented by and associated with the moon and its three phases: waxing, full, and waning. She is invoked by a variety of names: Aphrodite, Artemis, Astaroth, Astarte, Athene, Brigit, Ceres, Cerridwen, Cybele, Diana, Demeter, Friga, Gaia, Hecate, Isis, Kali, Kore, Lilith, Luna, Persephone, Venus, and more. She is believed to be eternal.

The Goddess’s consort, the male Horned God, is associated with the sun. According to most witches, he dies and is reborn every year. He too is called and invoked by many names, including Adonis, Ammon-Ra, Apollo, Baphomet, Cernunnos, Dionysius, Eros, Faunus, Hades, Horus, Nuit, Lucifer, Odin, Osiris, Pan, Thor, and Woden.

Different witchcraft traditions and solitary practitioners diverge in the importance they attach to the Mother Goddess and the Horned God. Some emphasize the Goddess, some the Horned God, while many seek a balance between the two.

Differing Views of the Goddess(es) and God(s)

How do witches themselves view and experience the Goddess(es) and God(s)? Do they really believe they exist? As one might expect from an eclectic religion that highly values autonomy, there are multiple views as to who or what the Goddess and God are. (23)  Be that as it may, there are some commonalities. Let’s look at the six primary views.

First (but not foremost) is the idea that the deities of witchcraft are simply symbols: the personifications of universal principles, or of the life forces and processes of our world (e.g., the ebb and flow of life as seen in the seasonal changes), and nothing more. They are symbols used to help conceptualize the cyclical pattern of birth, life, death, and birth again.

Second, they are Jungian archetypes: universal symbols of processes and events of nature and of actual potentialities within all humans, springing from the common pool of the "collective unconsciousness" from which we all allegedly drink. Therefore, they exist in the sense that any archetype exists. They are more than "just" symbols, but do not exist externally to, or independently of, humanity. (24) 

Third, they are dissociative or dislocative psychological states. That is, they are a split or spin-off from a person’s own psyche or being (like a multiple personality state). They have a "life of their own" in that sometimes they can seemingly manifest themselves outside of the person: reason, talk, give advice, travel about, and so on. However, they are dependent on a given person’s psyche for their existence.

Fourth, and apparently the most predominant view, the Goddess and Horned God and/or other gods and goddesses are personifications of the monistic, genderless, universal, and eternal Life Force — the divine primal energy or principle. This source of all life and consciousness, which in this life and mode of existence is unknowable and incomprehensible, is personified by the Goddess and Horned God. They are myths, legends, or metaphors that are used in an attempt to explain or grasp the ineffable absolute One that is all, and gives life to all. This ultimately indescribable Force is primarily manifested in polarities — female and male, light and darkness, Goddess and God, and so forth. Scott Cunningham tells us that "in wiccan thought the Goddess and the God are the twin divine beings: balanced, equal expressions of the ultimate source of all….They are dual reflections of the power behind the universe that can never be truly separated." (25)  Thus, according to this view, they can be described either as personifications of the ultimate Life Force or emanations from or manifestations of it, but they nonetheless can be literal conscious entities. (That is, as literal as you or me.)

Fifth, multiple combinations of the above views are often held, depending on the individual’s orientation. For example, some believe that the above four views are all true at one time or another.

Sixth and lastly, we have the agnostic "who cares" view. That is, in working magic or just in everyday life, invoking the Goddess and God seems to work. Thus, because of pragmatic and aesthetic reasons, some who are skeptical about (or even flatly deny) the Goddess’s and God’s existence still practice witchcraft. (26) 

In addition to these varying views of the Goddess and God, some witches believe in good and bad extra-dimensional or intermediate beings, including other goddesses and gods, higher life forms, spirit guides and teachers, elemental spirits, and departed human beings who exist as manifestations of the One and/or are individual literal entities in their own right.

While some witches may be skeptical about the existence of the Goddess and God, they all emphatically deny the existence of the Devil and hell. Therefore, they vigorously reject the charge that they worship the Devil, which many Satanists would admit to.

Magic Makes The World Go Round

Magic is another key component of the witches’ world. The working of magic and diverse techniques of divination are part-and-parcel of their religion. Astrology, astral projection (out-of-body experiences), incantations, mediumship (channeling), necromancy, raising psychic power, (for many) sex magic, spell casting, trance states, and so forth, are all tools of their craft. Indeed, "psychic" development (i.e., training for proficiency in magic and divination) is a critical concern. (27) 

Altered states of consciousness are another integral part of many witchcraft practices and rituals; these are induced to facilitate the working of magic and divination. Much of a witch’s training is with a view to enabling him or her to enter these states at will. This is done by means of chanting, (for some) drugs, ecstatic dancing, hypnosis, meditation, rituals, sex magic, visualization, or a combination of these and a host of others. (28) 

For many witches, trance states are the high point of their religious practice. Especially important are the type termed "drawing down the moon [Goddess]" or "drawing down" the Horned God. These involve the Goddess or God entering or possessing a priestess or priest respectively during a ritual with mediumistic utterances given or magic worked. (29) 

As elsewhere in the kingdom of the occult, the old occult has been given a new face-lift in witchcraft. The occultic realm is now described as simply beyond-the-physical, but still a part of nature. Thus, Sybil Leek is able to affirm: "I can see little difference in Magic and science, except to have the opinion that Magic is one step ahead of science." (30)  Leo Martello says that as a witch he makes no claims to "supernatural powers," but he does believe in super powers that reside in the natural. (31)  Many witches share this view: divination and magic are not "supernatural," but supernormal or paranormal, because the processes by which they work are contained within the nature of the universe. This is as opposed to the view that occultism works through the intervention of supernatural beings — the Devil, demons, or spirits. (32)  The current sentiment is conveyed in the attitude that "yesterday’s occultism is today’s science."

Moreover, witches maintain that magic is a "neutral" power. Like electricity or a gun, it is not morally good or bad in itself. Its moral quality depends on how or for what purpose it is used — good or evil.

Working Magic

Just as there are many explanations as to who or what the Goddess and God are, so there are various views among witches as to how and why divination and magic work. We’ll survey the four most common.

First is the belief that the ability to work magic or perform divination is due to latent psychic abilities or powers that we all have. Some either have more of these natural gifts than others, or else they have developed them to a greater degree. Others may not even realize they have them. But they are nonetheless inherent within us all. (33) 

The second view of magic appeals particularly to those who espouse the fourth view about the Goddess and God mentioned above (i.e., the view that the Goddess and God are personifications of the monistic Life Force). It holds that the working of magic is much like tapping into an electrical current. The "current" is the monistic universal energy or Life Force. Since this primal energy composes, interconnects, and flows through all (though manifested in myriads of forms), one merely has to learn how to "plug into" and harness some of this power for his or her own purposes. Thus, it can be manipulated toward the desired goal of the witch. (34) 

The third view is that divination and magic are accomplished by the intervention of interdimensional entities such as gods and goddesses, higher life forms, spirit guides, departed humans, and so forth. They can be communicated with, and will supposedly aid us in our quest for "spiritual" growth, knowledge, and all things occultic. (35) 

Fourth, the above theories can be found in varying combinations, such as one and three; one, two, and three; and so forth.

In the second and concluding part of this series, we will look further at the beliefs of witches, including reincarnation, their view of sin, and their ethic or "Wiccan Rede," "An it harm none, do what you will." A critique of the witches’ world view and practices — on biblical, metaphysical, logical, and ethical grounds — will also be presented.


  1. See Raymond Buckland, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1988), 210. (Back)
  2. Scott Cunningham, The Truth About Witchcraft Today (St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1988). (Back)
  3. References concerning this point are available on request. (Back)
  4. See, for example, Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today, rev. and expanded ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), 66-72, 99-107; J. Gordon Melton, "Witchcraft: An Inside View," Christianity Today, 21 Oct. 1983, 24; and Marcello Truzzi, T"owards a Sociology of the Occult: Notes on Modern Witchcraft," in Religious Movements in Contemporary America, ed. by Irving Zaretsky and Mark P. Leone (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 633-45. (Back)
  5. Alleged by Leo Martello in Witchcraft: The Old Religion (Secaucus: Citadel Press, n.d.), 59. (Back)
  6. Actually, she was not the first to formulate and advance this thesis, but her views had the most impact. (Back)
  7. For information on the background and development of witchcraft and Satanism, see J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions, 3d ed. (Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1989), 142-47. Though we do not endorse all of his conclusions, he provides valuable background and bibliographical material. (Back)
  8. 8Ibid., 142. (Back)
  9. See Adler, 45-56, for a refutation of, and specific information on, Murray’s theory; and 45-72 for other theories and general information on the history of witchcraft. For additional argumentation against Murray’s theory and other pertinent information, see: Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons (New York: Basic Books, 1975), 107-20; Mircea Eliade, Occultism, Witchcraft, and Cultural Fashions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), 57-58, 71-73; J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia, 142; Elliot Rose, A Razor for a Goat (Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1962), 14-21, 40-53, 56-79, 130-31, 200; Jeffrey B. Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 36-37. (Back)
  10. Doreen Valiente, An ABC of Witchcraft: Past and Present (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973), 184-89. (Back)
  11. Melton, Encyclopedia, 144; see also Melton’s Biographical Dictionary of American Cult and Sect Leaders (New York: Garland Publishing, 1986), 96-97. (Back)
  12. See Adler, 62-66, 81-85, 93, 560; T. M. Luhrmann, Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 42-43; Martello, 69-71; Melton, Biographical Dictionary, q.v., "Gardner, Gerald Brosseau," 96-97; Melton’s Encyclopedia, 144; and his Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (New York: Garland Publishing, 1986), 212; and Truzzi, 636-37. For even stronger charges, consult Francis King, Modern Ritual Magic: The Rise of Western Occultism, revised (Dorset, Great Britain: Prism Press, 1989), 179-80. (Back)
  13. Melton, Encyclopedia, 144-45. (Back)
  14. Ibid., 144, 789; Encyclopedic Handbook, 212. (Back)
  15. For additional information on various types of witchcraft, see Adler, 68-80, 113-30; Melton, Encyclopedia, 777-801; and Buckland, 225-28. (Back)
  16. For a detailed list, consult Adler, 475-544. (Back)
  17. See the author’s article, "The Many Faces of Satanism," in Forward, Fall 1986, 17-22. For instance, if a Jehovah’s Witness believes what the Watchtower teaches, they cannot be saved. Likewise with a Mormon who subscribes to what Mormonism teaches. Nonetheless, the Mormon does not believe what the Jehovah’s Witness does, and vice versa. The same is true with witchcraft and Satanism and/or other forms of the occult. (Back)
  18. Aidan Kelly, quoted in Adler, 106. For further material on this point and other beliefs, see 99-135. (Back)
  19. The Covenant of the Goddess information packet, Northern California Local Council Media Committee, n.d., "Basic Philosophy." (Back)
  20. See Adler, 25, 29, 172. (Back)
  21. Ibid., 25, 166. (Back)
  22. Ibid., 24-38. (Back)
  23. Ibid., 20, 112. (Back)
  24. Ibid., 28, 160, 172. (Back)
  25. Cunningham, 76, 117. Also see 4, 62-64, 69-77. (Back)
  26. See Adler, e.g., 169, 173. (Back)
  27. See, e.g., Buckland, 101-34, 155-74; Justine Glass, Witchcraft, The Sixth Sense (California: Wilshire Book Co., 1974), 20, 94; Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 37, 108-58. (Back)
  28. See, e.g., Adler, 106, 153-54, 157, 163; Starhawk, 7, 18, 46-53, 110. (Back)
  29. See Adler, 109, 142, 166, 168-69; Buckland, 101; Cunningham, 91; Farrar, 67-68; Leek, Diary, 151, 159-60, 202-206; Starhawk, 46-54, 139-58. (Back)
  30. Sybil Leek, Diary of a Witch (New York: Signet Books, 1969), 144. (Back)
  31. Leo Martello, 12. (Back)
  32. See, e.g., Adler, 7-8, 102, 153-75; Cunningham, 23-24; Leek, 13-14; Truzzi, 630-32, 635-36; Simos, 132. (Back)
  33. Buckland, e.g., 101; Cunningham, 19. (Back)
  34. See, e.g., Cunningham, 3, 17-25, 105, 109, 111; Simos, 108-38. (Back)
  35. See, e.g., Buckland, 155, 157; Stewart Farrar, What Witches Do: The Modern Coven Revealed (London: Sphere Books Limited, 1973), 81-84, 141-43, 151-52, 156, 158-63; Leek, The Complete Art of Witchcraft (New York: Signet Books, 1973), 43, 45; Valiente, 152-58. (Back)


"The Modern World of Witchcraft: Part One of Two"
release A, April 20, 1994
Rich Poll, CRI

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

© Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research InstituteOff-site Link

This data file is the sole property of the Christian Research Institute. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware", without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute"). This data file may not be used without the permission of the Christian Research Institute for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words.

If you desire to reproduce less than 500 words of this data file for resale or the enhancement of any other product for resale, please give the following source credit: Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-7000.

Note: References to "limited space" reflect the fact that this article was originally published in a printed magazine. For a more indepth treatment of the material discussed here, see Craig Hawkin’s books on the subject:

bullet Goddess Worship, Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism
bullet Witchcraft: Exploring the World of Wicca [Kindle edition]

About this article

This article was first published in the Winter/Spring 1990 editon of the Christian Research Journal. It is published here by permission.

While some comments in the article are dated, this respectful critique of Witchcraft remains highly informative.

The author, Craig Hawkins, is the founder and President of Apologetics Information Ministry (A.I.M.)

bullet The photo depicts a detail of a ride at a fairground in Catalonia.

See Also

Apologetics Index research resource Neo-Paganism
Apologetics Index research resource Neopaganism: Is Dialogue Possible?

Article details

Category: Witchcraft
Related topic(s):

First published (or major update) on Sunday, May 4, 2014.
Last updated on May 04, 2014.

Original content is © Copyright Apologetics Index. All Rights Reserved. For usage guidelines see link at the bottom.

Ad: Do you wish to visit the world's foremost religious and spiritual sites? Or do you simply want to experience wonderful places like Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, the Grand Canyon, Mexico ... the world?

Apologetics Index: Research resources on religious movements, cults, sects, world religions and related issues

Leave a Reply...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This comment form is enhanced by Jetpack. By posting a comment you indicate that you have read, understood, and agree to our Privacy Policy. Jetpack describes which information is used, tracked and synced.

Our website includes some affiliate links. That means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each purchase you make. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Apologetics Index earns from qualifying purchases. Your support helps us provide this site free of charge. Naturally, as our Editorial Policy states, our content is never influenced by our advertisers or affiliates. Details.