The Bible’s Viewpoint
What Is Behind Witchcraft?
“WITCHES.” What does that word conjure up in your mind? Images of hags casting hurtful spells or of licentious women consorting with Satan? Contrary to that stereotype, many modern self-proclaimed witches seem like ordinary people. Some are respected professionals, such as lawyers, teachers, writers, and nurses. There has been a worldwide resurgence of religious movements that seem to border on the occult, such as nature religions and neopaganism.* “You can go anywhere in Russia these days and witchcraft is a daily part of life,” said a police officer in that country. The United States is home to an estimated 50,000 to 300,000 witches, or “Wiccans,”* as some call themselves.
Today the word “witch” is often used loosely and can mean different things to different people. The modern growth of witchcraft seems to be primarily related to a strain of goddess-worshiping, nature-based religion with a strong belief in psychic powers. Some witches are solitary—they practice their rituals alone, observing the change of seasons, phases of the moon, and other natural phenomena. Others worship and cast their spells in a coven, a group usually of 13 witches.
It is true that in the West, public perception of witchcraft today is radically different from the attitudes that fostered the witch-burning of the Middle Ages. Sporadically, however, there are still outbursts of wanton violence against witches. For example, in early October 1998 in Indonesia, machete-wielding gangs lynched more than 150 people suspected of being witches. In South Africa more than 2,000 cases of violence against witches, including 577 killings, were reported between 1990 and 1998. In the face of such extremes—ranging from interest in witchcraft to hatred of witches—how should Christians view the matter?
What impels people to practice modern witchcraft? They claim that one factor is a reverence for nature and life. Some, in fact, are eager to explain that their worship does not include the sacrificing of animals in their rituals. Others say that they dabble in witchcraft as part of a search for people with whom they can share openness, trust, and common spiritual interests. “Everyone I know in the pagan movement is so friendly and open . . . They’re wonderful people,” says a modern witch. And many deny any involvement with Satan, asserting that there is no all-evil deity in their religious structure.
For many of them, the primary reason for becoming witches is a sense of spiritual emptiness and a disenchantment with mainstream religions. Speaking of her coven, Phyllis Curott, a Wiccan high priestess, says: “All of us were dissatisfied with the teachings and practices of the religions with which we had been raised.” Modern witches, Curott explains, try to answer questions such as, ‘How can we rediscover the sacred?’ But is witchcraft the path to genuine spirituality?
True Spirituality—From Where?
The Bible clearly shows that Jehovah is the only true God and the Universal Sovereign. (Psalm 73:28; 1 Peter 1:15, 16; Revelation 4:11) He is inviting all people to seek him “and really find him.” (Acts 17:27) Hence, genuine spirituality can be attained only by taking in accurate knowledge of the true God, Jehovah. This can be accomplished by studying his Word, the Holy Bible. “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you,” the Bible writer James assures us.—James 4:8.
God’s Word, though, warns against a malicious source of evil spirituality. (1 John 4:1) It identifies Satan the Devil, the archenemy of Jehovah, and his demons as the source of much of the misguided spirituality prevalent today.* According to the Bible, Satan “has blinded the minds” of many. He actually is “misleading the entire inhabited earth,” including those who are involved in witchcraft—whether they claim to worship the Devil or not. Why is this so?—2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:9.
Many of the practices and rituals associated with modern witchcraft are strikingly similar to the uncanny aspects of Satanism. Hence, even so-called innocent curiosity can easily lead to occultism. Indeed, many have fallen prey to Satan’s evil influence in this way.
Not to be ignored is the fact that occasionally practicers of modern witchcraft are drawn to it because they are hungry for power or revenge. “There are people who can call themselves witches and use it for fiendish purposes,” said Jennifer, a modern witch. In any event, both benign and vengeful witches are in danger of coming completely under the control of Satan and the demons. Some witches may deny the existence of such evil spirit beings, but this makes them even more vulnerable to their deceptions.—Compare 1 Corinthians 10:20, 21.
The Bible condemns divination, sorcery, the practice of magic, the casting of spells, and any attempts to communicate with the dead. It clearly states: “Everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) Of course, Christians are determined to “work what is good toward all,” and in their ministry they have helped many to break free from all forms of spiritism. (Galatians 6:10; Acts 16:14-18) Nevertheless, true Christians shun any involvement with false worship, including any form of witchcraft.—2 Corinthians 6:15-17.
The term “nature religion” refers to the belief that the earth and all living things are part of the divine and share the same life-force; “neopaganism” refers to worship of pre-Christian gods.
Wiccans are followers of Wicca, which is “a pagan nature religion having its roots in pre-Christian western Europe,” according to The American Heritage College Dictionary.
“The Bible’s Viewpoint” series in the Awake! has answered such questions as “Is There Really a Devil?” (January 8, 1990, pages 12-13) and “Are Demons Real?” (April 8, 1998, pages 18-19).
[Picture Credit Line on page 26]
Picture Book of Devils, Demons and Witchcraft/Ernst and Johanna Lehner/Dover