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 recent political controversy over United States Army permitting pagan services to be held on military bases in Texas and around world, question suddenly has more than its usual immediacy for me and for my brothers and sisters in Wicca.
First, let me get usual questions out of way. Wicca is a real religion, born in 1950s as a recreation of Old Religion of Northern Europe, which some believe dates back about 25,000 years. In mid-1980s, U.S. Courts accepted Wicca as a legitimate religion and granted us 1st Amendment rights and freedom from taxation. So point is moot, really. The same U.S. Constitution that protects Christianity protects our religious freedom – and a good thing, too. We are fastest growing religion of 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 Biblical Ten Commandments - 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 out.
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 other hand, I do not do illegal drugs of any kind. I am a computer technician working for one of largest employers in United States. I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. I am an aspiring science-fiction writer and screenwriter, actively peddling stories and novels to 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 United States Air Force, United States Air Force Reserve, and Texas Army National Guard, and during 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 United States, so why would I have enlisted voluntarily (and during Viet Nam war!) if I were a pacifist?
Why does publishing my real name on this article cause me to risk 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 knee-jerk hostility to word "witch" come from?
Not from word, certainly. "Witch" is a corruption of "witcraft," or "craft of wise." In fact, my religion is sometimes called "The Craft of 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 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 difference to me. I'm waiting . . .
Let’s get back to Craft of Wise. During Christian Inquisition, nobody really knows how many accused witches were burned at 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 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 priests?
So where did idea come from that we were (and are) Satanists?
The most obvious answer is that 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 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 claim that women practicing these cures had made a pact with Devil. Heavens, they couldn't be physicians! Medicine was firmly in hands of priests, and practice of medicine was expressly forbidden to women. At time I write of, formal medicine consisted mostly of applying leeches to sick.
Were village wise women only problem? No. During this early medieval period, when Christians were converting Northern Europe at sword point, a lot of dirty tricks were played. The country folk, whom we believe to be ancestors of modern Wicca, worshiped a Goddess we consider Mother of Life, and a God we call 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, monks who drew medieval Biblical illustrations "borrowed" our Horned Hunter when they drew depictions of Christian Devil. You needn't take my word for this. Any educated person knows that 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 Greek form of our Horned Hunter. They are one and same god. Read your mythology. Pan was never evil, just playful.
If all that weren't enough, Exodus 22:18 was horribly mistranslated in King James Version of 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 idea of sacrificing Christian babies was discarded when Nazis falsely accused Jews of it. This is more of same bigoted excrement.