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     Neo-Pagan Witchcraft vs. Satanism:Confusions and Distinctions 
                    by Otter and Morning Glory Zell

     It seems to be necessary to preface every discussion of Witchcraft
with an explanation that, no, Neo-Pagan Witches aren't Satanists.  The
Christian anti-God, Satan, has no place in Pagan pantheons, either
mythologically or theologically.  Plainly and simply, Satanism is the
dark side of Christianity, and Satan is nothing other than the collec-
tive Id of Christendom.

     Even today, Witchcraft is frequently misrepresented by being
confused with Satanism.  Often the word Witchcraft is used to represent
two wholly opposite phenomena: the survival of ancient Paganism in one
instance, and the inversion of Christianity in another.  Let us make it
clear:  a Satanist is a renegade Christian, who, in his rebellion
against the authority of the church, worships Satan rather than Christ. 
Such people are at times called witches and warlocks in popular books
and movies but they have little to do with Pagan Witches.  Satanists,
for one thing, accept the Christian duality between good and evil;
Pagans do not.  Satanists may choose to worship evil rather than good:
but they have utterly bought the Christian world view".1

     The word Pagan derives from the Latin paganus, meaning "peasant" or
"country dweller".  It is correctly  applied to indigenous (native)
pantheistic folk religions and peoples.  The term "Neo-Paganism" is
applied to the current revival of ancient Pagan religious values,
including the sacredness of all Life and the worship of Nature.  Modern
Witchcraft has been a major component of the Neo-Pagan resurgence since
England repealed its anti-Witchcraft laws in 1951.The Goddess and the
God of Witchcraft   The many traditions of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft have few
universal theological precepts, but one of them is certainly the
veneration of the Moon Goddess, known most commonly by her Roman name,
Diana.  She is perceived as manifesting in triple form: as Maiden,
Mother and Crone.  These triple aspects are identified respectively with
the waxing, full, and waning moons.  Witches gather at esbats every full
moon, to sing and dance in Her moonlight, share cakes and wine, and work
magic to heal each other, their friends, and the Earth.  Many modern
Witches expand the concept of the Goddess considerably, and see Her also
as Mother Earth and Mother Nature.

     Most traditions of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft also honor the Consort of
the Goddess in the form of the Horned God, who is seen as Lord of
Animals as well as seasonal ruler of the Underworld.  The most familiar
version of the Horned God is the Greek Pan, goat-horned and goat-hooved,
playing His panpipes, guzzling wine from His freely-flowing wineskin,
and seducing nymphs in the woods.  He is regarded as lusty and jovial,
epitomizing masculine attributes of ideal father, brother or lover.  As
the Goddess of Witchcraft is closely identified with the Moon, so the
God is identified with the Sun.  In this way He may be seen mythologi-
cally as the lover both of the Moon and of the Earth.  Another of His
many epithets is "Lord of Light".  Every light casts its shadows, and
the Lord of Shadows is the other face of the Lord of Light.  Lord of the
Underworld is the title of the God in Winter when He goes underground
with the animals to hibernate.  Some traditions had Him alternate with
His brother as husband to the eternal Goddess.  Others, as in the Greek
Hades, had a year-round God of the Underworld, "The Devil."

     It is essential to clarify the historic relationship of Pan and the

Devil, as Christianity has tended to confuse the two, giving rise to the
accusation that Pagans are Devil-worshipers because some Pagan gods have
horns.  Once and for all, the Christian Devil is not the God of the
Witches!  The genesis of the Devil comes from a merging of two concepts: 
Satan and Lucifer.  The original meaning of the word satan is "adve-
rsary", and his inclusion in the Bible represents an attempt by later
apologists of the Old Testament to justify the more negative actions of
a benevolent God (such as the persecution of Job) by attributing the
actual dirty work to a testing spirit; the original "devil's advocate". 
This entity was not considered evil until after the Persian conquest 
introduced the Hebrews to the Zoroastrian dualism of Ahura-Mazda (the
good God) vs. Ahriman (the evil God). This later manifested in Chris-
tianity as Manichean dualism.  The Manichean equation was brutally
simple:  God=Good; Devil=Evil.  But it was not until the year 447 CE
that the Council of Toledo declared the legal existence of the Devil as
an actual entity, though he was still not thought of as necessarily
manifesting in human form.

     The Lucifer story is a mish-mashed retelling of the Canaanite myth
about the overthrow of Baal by Mot and the usurpation of Baal's throne
by Athar, the god of the morning star.  The original Hebrew name for
Lucifer was helel ben shahar  meaning "son of the day star" (the planet
Venus).  The name Lucifer ("light bearer"), a Romano-Etruscan title of
the Sun God, was erroneously used when the Bible was first translated
into Latin.2

     Various shadow gods or divine adversaries contributed to the
creation of the Devil, including the Canaanite Moloch or Mot, the
Egyptian Set or Suteck and the Roman Saturn.

   Judeo-Christian theologians placed all Pagan gods and goddesses in an
adversary position to Yahweh, the god of Israel, who, as a monotheistic
deity, cannot share a pantheon.  This is a profound cultural difference
from Pagan pantheons and polytheistic peoples who co-existed together,
whether or not in harmony.  Also since unbridled sexuality, especially
for females, was defined by Judeo-Christianity as evil, Pagan gods and
goddesses who were especially sexual or sensual garnered the new sect's
particular hatred.  Pan (who instills panic) and Dionysus were neither
evil nor adversary deities, but because of their riotous celebrations
the Devil acquired Pan's horns and hooves and Dionysus' ambiguously mad
and bibulous nature.  This final equation of the Pagan Horned God with
Satan was not established, however, until the year 1486, when the
Dominicans Kramer and Sprenger published the Malleus Malificarum, or
"Hammer of the Witches", wherein they gave the first physical descrip-
tion of the Devil as he is commonly depicted today, declaring that this
was the god worshiped by those they wanted to call "witches", thereby
justifying the centuries of terrible persecution inflicted upon those
who clung faithfully to their worship of the elder gods.  
     Witchcraft and Shamanism Witches were the shamans, or medicine men
and women, of the tribal Celtic peoples of Europe, and they functioned
in  the same fashion as shamans of any other tribal culture, be it
American Indians, Africans, or Australian Aborigines.  In fact, and in
time-honored tradition, shamans are still commonly referred to as "Witch

     Shamans are specialists in herbal lore, and the Witches of Pagan
Europe were no exception.  Usually, but not exclusively, women, they
practiced herbal medicine, midwifery, augury, spellcasting, and 

counseling.  Often dwelling alone out in the woods, Witches lived close
to Nature, and attuned to Her cycles.  Their gardens grew not only food,
but also many kinds of herbs, including those valued for their medic-
inal, anesthetic and hallucinogenic properties.  In a period of time
when good Christian folk maintained only those domestic animals that
could be considered "livestock" (i.e., useful to humans), Witches
frequently kept wild animal pets:  foxes, ferrets, owls, ravens and of
course, the ubiquitous cats. Such became known, appropriately enough, as
familiars.  When Witches came to be persecuted, so did these familiar
animals, and the brutal capture, torture and burning of millions of cats
that accompanied the Witch burnings begat the horrible Black Plague that
devastated Europe in the 14th century, for the cats had kept the rat
populations under control, and it was rat fleas that were the carrier of
the bubonic plague bacillus."The Burning Times"

     It is sadly ironic that, though  the practitioners of Witchcraft
have historically suffered real abuse and persecution, the Witch has
somehow continued to be misrepresented as the villain.  Christianity did
not become the world's dominant religion by peaceful conversion, but by
the sword and stake.  As the legions of Caesar had forged the Roman
Empire over the dead bodies of countless tribal peoples of Europe, so
did its heir, the Holy Roman Empire, continue the tradition.  Declaring
them "heresies", agents of the Holy Inquisition hunted out and ruth-
lessly exterminated every religion, sect or tradition that would not
convert to "The One True Right And Only Way".  Witches, however, lived
outside of any organized religious structure and were largely ignored
until the 13th century, when the Church had finally gained enough power
to deal with grass-roots Paganism. "In the 13th century the Church
opened its long-drawn-out conflict with Paganism in Europe by declaring
"Witchcraft' to be a "sect' and heretical.  It was not til the 14th
century that the two religions came to grips. . . In 1324 the bishop of
Ossory tried Dame Alice Kyteler in his ecclesiastical court for the
crime of worshiping a deity other than the Christian God. . .

     "The 15th century marks the first great victories of the Church. 
Beginning with the trials in Lorraine in 1408, the Church moved
triumphantly against Joan of Arc and her followers in 1431, against
Gilles de Rais and his coven in 1440, and against the Witches of Brescia
in 1457.  Towards the end of the century the Christian power was so
well-established that the Church felt the time had come for an organized
attack, and in 1484 Pope Innocent VIII published his Bull against
"Witches.'  All through the 16th and 17th centuries the battle raged. 
The Pagans fought a gallant, though losing, fight against a remorseless
and unscrupulous enemy; every inch of the field was disputed, but the
Christian policy of obtaining influence over the rulers and law-givers
was irresistible.  Vae victis ["woe to the conquered"] was also the
policy of the Christians, and we see the priests of the Papacy gloating
over the thousands they had consigned to the flames while the ministers
of the Reformed Churches hounded on the administrators of the law to
condemn the "devil worshipers.'  What could have been the feelings with
which those unhappy victims regarded the vaunted God of Love, the Prince
of Peace, whose votaries condemned them to torture and death?  What
wonder that they clung to their old faith, and died in agony unspeakable
rather than deny their God".3 It should also be pointed out that the
court recorders at the Witch trials were specifically instructed that,
whatever gods or goddesses the accused actually claimed to worship, what
went into the record was "Satan" or "The Devil".  And what wonder if
some of those who had come to believe the Biblical history taught them

by the missionaries, monks and priests of the conquering faith,
concluded that the story must have gotten it wrong somehow?  That if
there had indeed been a rebellion in heaven, it was clearly evident that
the winner had not been the God of love and peace, as his propagandists
claimed, but rather a God of cruelty and evil; of war and violence,
wrath and jealousy.  (This had, in fact, been an old Gnostic tradition.) 

     The clear implication was that the defeated Lucifer must have been
the good guy, and surely many must have swarmed to his allegiance in
this belief. While true adherents of the Old Religions certainly knew
better, and continued their faith entirely distinct from Christianity,
there were surely, then as now, many ignorant people who were simply too
unsophisticated or too illiterate to question the Christian paradigm
once it became established.  And thus did Satanism as a belief and a
practice come into being, spawned by the Church, and forever to be
locked together with it in a fatal embrace of mutual antagonism.

     Whether or not the persecuted peasantry who came to side with Satan
against their oppressors thought of themselves as "Witches", the Church
and the authorities of the Holy Inquisition certainly identified them as
such:     "The heart and centre of the persecution of Witches was that
they were Satanists, that they had rejected the rightful God and given
their allegiance to his arch-opponent, and that in their "sabbaths' or
meetings they worshiped the ruler of evil, carnality and filth.  Some of
those accused as Witches do seem to have taken the Devil for their god,
worshiping him as an equal opponent of the Christian God, over whom he
would eventually triumph.  They looked to Satan for power and pleasure
in this world and for a happy future in the next, and they vilified
Christ as a traitor and a cheat, who had made promises which he did not
keep, and who had gone away to live in heaven while Satan remained with
his faithful on earth".4 "The Witches and sorcerers of early times were
a widely spread class who had retained the beliefs and traditions of
heathenism with all its license and romance and charm of the forbidden.
. . in their ranks every one who was oppressed or injured either by the
nobility or the church.  They were treated with indescribable cruelty,
in most cases worse than beasts of burden, for they were outraged in all
their feelings, not at intervals for punishment, but habitually by
custom, and they revenged themselves by secret orgies and fancied
devil-worship, and occult ties, and stupendous sins, or what they
fancied were such.  I can seriously conceive: what no writer seems to
have considered: that there must have been an immense satisfaction in
selling or giving one's self to the devil, or to any power which was at
war with their oppressors.  So they went by night, at the full moon, and
sacrificed to Diana, or "later on' to Satan, and they danced and
rebelled.  It is very well worth noting that we have all our accounts of
sorcerers and heretics from Catholic priests, who had every earthly
reason for misrepresenting them, and did so.  In the vast amount of
ancient Witchcraft still surviving in Italy, there is not much anti-
Christianity, but a great deal of early heathenism.  Diana, not Satan,
is still the real head of the Witches".5

     Since Witchcraft is still little understood by the general public,
whose images are shaped mostly by the popular media, Witches continue to
be easy targets for persecution.  It must be remembered that, in the
previous episodes of Witchcraft persecution hysteria, it was the Witches
who were the victims, not the Christians.  Witches, and those con-
veniently accused of being Witches, died by the millions during the
terrible centuries of the holocaust they remember as "The Burning 

Times".  They do not wish to repeat that experience today.6

                         Notes and References: 

1.  Jong, Erica, Witches (New American Library, New York,1981) p. 52
2.  Zell, Morning Glory, "The Lord of Light", Green Egg, Vol. XXI, No. 
    82; Aug. 1, 1988 (POB 1542, Ukiah, CA 95482) p. 12
3.  Murray, Margaret, The God of the Witches (Oxford Univ. Press, NY,  
   1931)  pp. 21-22
4.  Cavendish, Richard, "Satanism", Encyclopedia of Man, Myth and      
   Magic, Vol. 18 (Marshall Cavendish, NY, 1970) p. 2479
5.  Leland, Charles Godfrey, Legends of Florence, (David Nutt, London, 
6.  Guiley, Rosemary, Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft (Facts on 
    File, NY, 1989)

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