(What Christians Don't Understand about Neopaganism) by J. Brad Hicks

Q: Are you a witch?

A: That's actually a tricky question to answer, so let me go about it in a
round-about way. What I am is a Neopagan. Neopaganism is a beautiful, complex
religion that is not in opposition to Christianity in anyway - just different.
However, some of the people that the Catholic church burned as "witches" were
people who practiced the same things that I do. In identification with them and
the suffering that they went through, some of us (Neopagans) call ourselves
witches. One expert, P.E.I. Bonewits, says that there are actually several
kinds of groups who call themselves "witches." Some are people whose ancestors
were the village healers, herbalists, midwives, and such, many of whom had
(or were ascribed to have) mental, psychic, or magical powers, which were
passed down through the family in the form of oral tradition, and Bonewits
calls them "Traditional Witches." Some are people who have deliberately used
the term to oppose themselves to Christianity, are practicing "Satanists," and
practice (deliberately) most of the practices invented by the Inquisitors.
Bonewits calls them "Gothic" or "Neo-Gothic Witches." Of a different kind are
some radical feminist groups, who call themselves witches because they believe
that the original Inquisition was primarily anti-female; some of these also
practice magic, many of them do not - Bonewits calls them  "Feminist Witches."
But the vast majority of modern witches are harmless people who worship God in
many forms, including the Lord of the Dance, the Lady, and the Mother Earth.
These are the people that Bonewits (and I) call"Neopagan Witches" - and this
is what I am. I hope that this helps more than it confuses

Q: Are you a devil worshipper?

A: I'm tempted to just say, "No!" and leave it at that, but that probably
isn't enough. Devil worship (including Satanism) is really a Christian
heresy.  (If you don't believe me, ask an expert - say, any well-read pastor
or theology professor.) In order to worship Satan, you have to believe in him
- and there are no references to Satan outside of the Christian Bible.  So to
be a Satanist or a devil worshipper, you have to believe in the accuracy of
the Christian Bible, then identify yourself with God's Enemy, proclaim that
you are "evil," and then try to "fight against Jesus" or similar nonsense.
Neopagans do not accept the Christian Bible as a source of truth.  As a source
of some beautiful poetry, sometimes, or as a source of myth, but not as a
source of truth.  Emphatically, we do not believe that God has an Opposite,
an evil being trying to destroy God, the world, man, or whatever.  So it is
non-sensical to say that Neopagans worship Satan. Of course, many people
insist that any god other than JHVH/Jesus (and his other Biblical  names) is a
demon or an illusion created by Satan.  Well, you're welcome to believe that
if  you like - but over half of the world's population is going to be unhappy
at you. Jews and followers of Islam are just as confident that they worship
the True God as you are, and resent being called devil worshippers.  So do I.

Q: What do Neopagans believe about God?

A: Neopaganism is a new religion with very, very old roots.  It harks back to
the first religions that man ever practiced (based on the physical evidence).
Neopagans worship a variety of symbols from the Old Religions - the practices
of the ancient Celts, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Romans - and differ with
each other over what those symbols really represent. What I (and many others)
believe is that they are all aspects of God (or maybe, the Gods) - some kind
of beautiful, powerful, and loving being or force that ties all of life
together and is the origin of all miracles - including miracles such as
written language, poetry, music, art ...

Q: Do Neopagans have a Bible?

A: Not most of us.  The closest analogue would be a witch's Book of Shadows,
which is a sort of notebook of legends, poetry, history, and magic ritual
which is copied by every newly-initiated witch, then added to. But on the
whole, even a Book of Shadows isn't what Christians think of as a Bible.
It's not infallible (couldn't be, they've been brought to us via hastily-copied
texts under trying circumstances), it doesn't prescribe a specific code of
morality (except for a few general guidelines), and it doesn't claim to be
dictated by God - except for a few, debatable parts. Those of us who aren't
witches don't even have that much. Neopaganism is a religious system that
relies more on the individual than on the Book or the Priest.  One of the
principal beliefs of Neopaganism is that no one, not Pope nor Priest nor
Elder, has the right to interfere with your relationship to God. Learn from
whomever you want, and pray to whatever name means the most to you.

Q: Did you say magic?  Do Neopagans believe in the occult?

A: Cringe.  What a badly worded question - but I hear it all the time.
Neopagans as a rule don't "believe in the occult" - we practice magic. Magic
is simply a way to focus the mental abilities that you were born with, and use
them to change the world in positive ways.  Magic can also be mixed with
worship; in which case it differs very little from Christian prayer.

Q: But I thought that you said that you didn't worship <*MISSING*>

A: <*MISSING*> convinced that his Name was Jesus. But seven years later, I had
to admit to myself that Whoever God is he answers non-Christians' prayers as
well as those in the name of Jesus.  In either case, true miracles are rare.
In both cases, the one praying has a devout experience with God. After
searching my soul, I admitted that I could not tell that I was better off than
when I believed in the Old Gods. And in the mean time, I had found out that
other people also loved the Old Gods - and that they call themselves
Neopagans. When I realized that what I believed was little or no different
than what they believed, I called myself a Neopagan, too. The common element
for nearly all of us is that nearly all of us already believed these things,
before we found out that anyone else did.  "Becoming" a pagan is never a
conversion.  It's usually a home-coming.  No one ever "brainwashed" me.
I finally relaxed, and stopped struggling against my own self.

Q: I've heard about witches holding orgies and such.  Do you?

A: No, that sort of thing doesn't appeal to me. Most of the crap that you've
heard about "witch orgies" is nonsense made up by the National Enquirer to
sell magazines.  But I shouldn't be flippant about this, because it underlies
a serious question - what kind of morality do Neopagans hold to?  "Eight words
the Wiccan creed fulfill: 'An it harm none, do what thou will!' " (from an old
Book of Shadows) That about sums it all up. Neopaganism teaches that it is
harmful to yourself (and dangerous) to harm others.  It also teaches that
trying to impose your moral standards on somebody else's behaviour is (at
least) foolish - and probably dangerous, as you run some serious chance of
hurting that person. Perhaps in a sense Neopagans don't have morality, for as
R.A. Wilson said, "There are no commandments because there is no Commander
anywhere," but Neopagans do have ethics - standards for behaviour based on
honor and mutual benefit.

Q: I saw on the news that Neopagans use a star in a circle as their emblem.
Isn't that a Satanic symbol?

A: A pentacle (that's what it's called) is a Satanic symbol in precisely same
sense that the cross is a Nazi symbol. The German National Socialist Party
used an equal-armed cross with four flags attached to it as their emblem.
(Yes, I know - that's a swastika. Well, before the Nazis made the word common
knowledge, people just called it a "bent cross" -it's an old heraldic symbol,
and it means the same thing that a  normal cross does).  That doesn't make the
Nazis good Christians, and it doesn't make Christians into Nazis.  In the same
sense, Satanists (and some rock groups) use a type of pentacle as their emblem.
That doesn't make them Neopagans, nor does it mean that Neopagans are
Satanists (or even rock-and-rollers).

Q: Are Neopagans opposed to Christianity?

A: Some Neopagans are ex-Christians, and I'm not going to deny that some of
them have a grudge against the Church because of what they perceived as
attempts to control their minds. Further, many Neopagans are suspicious of the
Church, because it was in the name of Jesus Christ that nine (9) million of
our kind were murdered. Neopagans are opposed to anyone who uses force to
control the minds of others.  Does that include you? If not, then it means
that neopagans as such are not opposed to you. Do you work for the benefit of
mankind, are you respectful to the Earth? Then it makes us allies, whether or
not either of us wants to admit it.


There are many other misconceptions in the popular mind about the Neopagan
religion.  Unless you've studied it, read about it from sympathetic sources,
then you really don't know anything about Neopagan history, beliefs,
practices, customs, art, science, culture, or magic. But it would take several
entire books to teach you, and I already fear that I will be accused of trying
to win converts (despite what I've said above).

If you are curious and willing to learn, try some of the following books:

Margot Adler - Drawing Down the Moon
Starhawk - The Spiral Dance
P.E.I. Bonewits - Real Magic
Stewart Farrar - What Witches Do


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