Flames shot up in the air, devouring everything they came into contact with. The air was thick with smoke. Off in the distance, sirens could be heard.
Firefighters arrived just in time to rescue a woman from inside the burning house. She was fortunate to escape with only a few minor injuries, but half her house was in smolders.
The fire had started while she was cooking. The special ingredients she was using included water, oil, alcohol, and toothpaste. What was she trying to make with this unappetizing combination? The woman confessed that she had read a story about magical powers and potions, and she had been trying to create a potion of her own.
People are fascinated by magic, sorcery, and witchcraft. At Halloween, witches crop up on lawns, in stores, and around town. J. K. Rowling?s Harry Potter series did phenomenally well, attracting readers of all ages. It?s no surprise, then, that Wicca, the modern ?religion? of witchcraft, is one of the fastest growing religions in North America.
Statistics show that women are especially attracted to this movement. The appeal seems to be Wicca?s emphasis on the power of women, as is revealed in the worship of the goddess as their primary deity. Teenagers are also drawn to this religion and obtain most of their information on the Internet.
The exact number of Wiccans, as the followers of Wicca are called, is hard to determine because many choose not to identify themselves. Yet some people believe that Wicca could soon become the third largest religious group in the United States, behind Christianity and Judaism.
Wicca falls under the category of neo-paganism, which draws from pre-Christian traditions. Although many of Wicca?s beliefs stem from ancient witchcraft, not all witchcraft is Wiccan. Also, there are many traditions of Wicca, just as there are many denominations in Christianity.
As a modern religion, Wicca began to develop in the early nineteenth century. In the late 1940s Gerald Gardner of the United Kingdom defined much of Wicca?s current structure and practices.
Beliefs and rituals
Some Christians claim that a person can be a follower of both Wicca and Christianity. But a brief overview of the beliefs and practices of Wicca show that there are too many differences for Wicca and Christianity to coexist. Aside from the biblical teachings that witchcraft is wrong (see sidebar), there are glaring discrepancies between the two faiths. Here are some viewpoints from Wicca and how Christianity relates to them.
1?We have many gods.? The primary deities in Wicca are the goddess and her consort, the horned god. Some Wiccans also worship other gods stemming from Celtic pagan traditions.
Do Wiccans worship Satan? Their answer is no, because they claim that Satan is a creation of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. Since they don?t believe in the existence of an all-evil deity, such as Satan, they maintain that they cannot worship him.
The goddess is often worshipped as the triple goddess with three aspects (or forms). The three aspects?maiden, mother, and crone?reflect the three stages of female life, with each one revered.
In the Bible, though, God clearly tells His people that He is the only God. And it grieves Him when they get sidetracked into worshipping the deities of their pagan neighbors. ?Do not make any gods to be alongside me,? He tells them (Exodus 20:23). ?I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God? (Exodus 20:5).
2?We worship nature.? According to Wicca, the goddess manifests herself through nature, and therefore all of nature, including trees, plants, flowers, animals, and the earth itself, are divine and must be honored and respected. This means that human beings, who are a part of nature, are also divine.
Wiccans highly regard what is known as the four (or five) elements of nature. The number varies according to the tradition of Wicca. The four elements are air, fire, water, and earth. The fifth is spirit. These elements are an important part of rituals.
Yet the problem with Wicca, as with many pagan and neo-pagan religions, is that they take the created and worship it as the creator. As Christians, we too believe that God reveals Himself through nature, but nature is not something to be worshipped. Rather, it reminds us of God?s love and goodness, pointing us to the Creator, the only Being worthy of our praise and worship.
God?s first two commandments say, ?You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them? (Exodus 20:3-5).
Just as a gentle reminder: We may not be tempted to worship nature as Wiccans do, but we need to remember that nothing else should take that number-one spot away from God. Remember, we worship the Creator, not the created.
3?We are divine.? Wicca places divinity upon humanity. In other words, people become God. Does this remind you of the first temptation in the Garden of Eden? Satan said to Eve, ?For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil? (Genesis 3:5). Only God is holy, which makes the following promise all the more remarkable: ?Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God? (John 1:12).
4?We are in control.? One thing that makes Wicca appealing to many people is the ability to pick and choose. They like the fact that they can decide what to do and how to do it?the spell, the magic, the ritual, the tools, even the deities they want to worship.
Christianity also gives us the power of choice. God doesn?t force us to follow Him or to do what?s right. But ultimately, God is in control. He runs the universe. And when our lives are in tune with God?s will for us, we will experience amazing things.
What is God?s ultimate will for us? ?In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will?to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves? (Ephesians 1:4-6).
5 "We tap into a mystical world.? There?s something mysterious about Wicca that draws people to it. Many are attracted to the idea of being able to tap into a mystical world.
Some Wiccans engage in rituals alone, while others form a coven, or congregation, of witches. Rituals take place in a circle, and Wiccans use special tools, such as a broom, cauldron, chalice, wand, Book of Shadows, or altar cloth, to invoke the four (or five) elements of nature and to appeal to deity.
There?s nothing wrong with a little mystery, and Christianity offers the mystery of the Godhead, the mystery of grace, and much, much more. And we can not only tap into the Deity?but Deity wants to dwell within us. The Apostle Paul states, ?I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me? (Galatians 2:20).
6 ?We don?t harm others.? The Wiccan Rede, ?If it harm none, do what you will,? sounds like a variation of the Golden Rule: ?So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you? (Matthew 7:12).
But Christianity goes one step further, beyond not harming someone else. It tells us to think about what we can do to help other people, to ?love your neighbor as yourself? (Matthew 22:39).
7 ?We suffer the consequences of wrongdoing.? At first glance, there appears to be a similarity between Wicca and Christianity in their view of negative actions. Both believe that there are natural consequences for wrongdoing. Wiccans believe in the threefold law, that the negative things they do will return to hurt them. If they create negative magic in casting spells, for instance, it will come back to them magnified. Christians believe that the penalty of wrongdoing is death??For the wages of sin is death? (Romans 6:23).
The difference is that in Wicca, wrongdoers get what they deserve. But Christianity provides an amazing alternative. The rest of the verse in Romans states, ?But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.? We get better than we deserve.
Helen Lee Robinson works as a freelance writer and editor in Thatcher, Arizona.