“I could just never use a Voodoo doll or curse someone. That’s just not me.” said the person whom I told I was Wiccan, and thus, believed in the practice of magick. I don’t know, honestly, which was more troubling to me- that she thought I did these things, or that she saw my decision to do them, if I did do them, as a personal choice, one that shouldn’t be criticized.
More people know that there are modern practitioners of witchcraft today, that the green-skinned hag cackling around her cauldron doesn’t reflect reality, that there are witches that work as accountants, as hairstylists, as police officers, as doctors, in all sorts of fields and who live all sorts of lives. And many have heard of the term Wicca, and realize it has something to do with the practice of magick and witchcraft. I’m not, however, sure that more then that has got out there, unless someone is fortunate enough to know someone who truly practices Wicca. I did not watch Charmed or Buffy, but I doubt they went into the worship of the God and the Goddess, or the reverence for nature, or the other religious aspects of Wicca, and they, by their very nature as TV shows dealing with the supernatural, dealt with a lot of evil forces, many of which Wicca doesn’t even believe in.
It can get frustrating dealing with the myths about Wicca. I decided to write this article addressing some of the most common myths I have heard.
Wicca is Satan worship– This is one of those ones that is easy to disprove and impossible to convince someone of. If the person you are talking to is a Christian who believes that worship of any other deity but their own is actually the worship of Satan and/or his demons in disguise, you will never convince them you are not worshipping Satan. If their misconception comes from the “Satanic Panic”, or the fact that Wicca worships a horned God and Satan has horns too, or something like that, addressing their specific concerns often will alleviate their fears. The superficial similarity between the horned God and Satan is a common one, but one that is very easily explained by giving some background information on the God and by explaining that the horned God predates the depiction of Satan as a horned creature. Explaning that Wiccans don’t even believe in Satan and demons and that they are a part of the Abrahamic religious structures can help some people understand why their concerns on that are groundless.
Wiccans curse/hex/perform baneful magick– This one is hard, for several reasons. For one, many of those who practice witchcraft or non-Wiccan forms of paganism may not share our views that it is wrong to perform harmful magick. It can be a difficult line to walk; to stick to our moral beliefs on this issue and yet not seem like we’re condemning those who believe differently. Indeed, many of those who do believe differently still share a great deal in common with us and we can still have a great deal to learn from them. That doesn’t mean we have to agree in every area and that doesn’t mean we have to say something we truly believe is wrong is acceptable.
Wiccans do not believe in harming others with magick. We believe magick is an amazing and life-altering power that is not to be used lightly. And most Wiccans have multiple reasons for not using negative magic. They don’t want the karmic backlash. They feel magick comes from the Divine and it would be acting against the Sacred to use it for harm. They think it’s better to deal with negative situations in a more ordinary fashion. They wouldn’t want harmful magick done to them, so they won’t do it to someone else. And so on.
I personally believe true curses/hexes are extremely rare anyways. It would take a high level practitioner of magick to hold the energy to hold a curse for that long of a period of time and to engage the level of energy needed to affect you. Most people who say they did it or threaten it don’t have the skill, the willpower, or the knowledge to do so. The strength of a curse or hex often comes in the person who tried it intimidating the one whom they tried it on. Bullying, in other words. The more you believe that you have the strength to resist a curse, that they aren’t going to affect your life, the more power you have against them. For those of who you have read or watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the scene where they deal with a boggart is a great way to deal with the threat of a curse or a hex. Bullies hate being laughed at. At the same time, you might want to examine what you did or are doing that made someone feel that their best alternative was to try to use evil magick against you. This may be very uncomfortable, because most likely you have very strong feelings of anger and maybe even hatred towards that person. But just as we are all the hero in our own story, chances are we are all the villain in someone else’s, and examining yourself and changing your own life is the best way to improve your own karma in the situation.
Wiccans don’t believe in God/don’t have a relationship with God– This is another one of those ones that may be very easy to disprove or may be impossible to disprove. Again, if you are dealing with a member of the One True GodTM school of thought, where only their belief in Deity is true and correct, you will never convince them that you have an authentic relationship with the God/s and Goddess/es of Wicca, regardless, for the same reasons as you will never convince them that you aren’t actually worshipping Satan. But there are others who have simply never thought about non-Abrahamic religious views of God. They think there is monotheism and there is atheism when in fact there is an ocean between the two. Explaning the relationship you do have with the Divine, and wording it in their own language as best as you can will go a long way when dealing with this myth.
You can believe whatever you want and still call yourself a Wiccan– *Sigh* This one will probably be controversial. Wicca is a very free-form religion. But it does still have some structure. Think of it this way. There are long haired cats and short haired cats, there are cats with bob tails and long tails, and cats with folded ears and pointed ears. And a cat can lose an ear or a tail and even a leg and still be a cat. But we know when a cat is not a cat and is actually a dog. There is a “cat-ness” about a cat, a combination of features, that have to be there for a cat to be considered a cat. Otherwise small dogs with long tails, pointed ears, and whiskers could be considered cats. That’s the case with Wicca. There is a lot of room for differences. People work with different pantheons. People even have different views as to who and what the God and Goddess are. But to not believe in them is in the “making a dog a cat” category. The practice of magick is far more important in some peoples’ practice then it is in others, and we may disagree on what magick is, but to remove magick from Wicca is removing one of those “cat-ness” characteristics. Same for a Wicca without a reverence for nature.
Wiccans rightly want Wicca to be respected under the civil rights laws of their countries. They want the right to be legally married by a practitioner of their religion, to be ministered to by Wiccan clergy (such as we have) if they are in jail or the hospital or at a crime scene, to not be discriminated against in employment and in housing and in child welfare proceedings. But with rights come responsibilities and one of those responsibilities is a willingness to say what your religion is and isn’t. That doesn’t mean we have to have the detailed theology of Christianity or Buddhism, but it does mean agreeing on some basic beliefs and principles is not asking too much. There are many forms of neo-paganism out there. There are also other religions, like Buddhism or Hinduism, that have alternative views of Divinity within a different structure that may be a better match for you. And there is progressive Christian groups that embrace a lot of what people find appealing about Wicca while still having the Bible as their sacred text and worshipping the Holy Trinity. Let Wiccans be Wiccan. Don’t try to mush the cat and the dog together. Even if you succeeded, you wouldn’t have a cat or a dog; you’d have a completely different species.
Wiccans worship grass, rocks and trees– This comes from not understanding panentheism and pantheism. Even those who directly identify God and nature don’t believe that a rock is literally the Divine, and that a rock and a human being hold equivalent value. What we do believe is that every part of nature has some of the energy of the divine. That doesn’t mean we believe that sentience is always there, nor that that energy is always the same. It simply means we believe that the Divine, the Universe, Deity, the Goddess- whatever you feel comfortable calling it- is part of everything. The term for this is called animism. There are often nuances in Wiccan belief that keep us from being strict animists, but it is the closest term I can think of to describe the view Wiccans have of the natural world.
Wicca is a religion that has existed in an unbroken line since Neolithic times: Fortunately this myth has largely died out. It was very popular at the beginning of Wicca’s emergence into the public eye, and it’s a very appealing mythology, but it’s just simply not true. It’s been quite thoroughly debunked. That being said, I have still read books and websites that talk about Wicca as if this was true. If a source of information puts forth this view, it is probably very dated and you want to read it with that in mind.
Wicca is a completely new religion: However, the idea that Wicca is completely made up in modern times is not accurate either. A lot of the larger themes of Wicca, like the Goddess’s descent into the Underworld, is in multiple mythologies. The practice of magick is mostly likely about as old as humanity. Goddess worship also goes back farther then any other religion. The pantheons we work with are ancient. The Sabbats are not celebrated as they were in older times necessarily, but we also didn’t pick dates out of thin air either. Elemental magick is another kind of magick that has been around forever, if even it had a much different ‘flavor’ and structure then Wicca does with it. Yes, Wicca is a modern religion, one that has adapted what we know of the Old Ways for the modern world, but it doesn’t mean there are no ties to various types of past worship and witchcraft.
Wicca is hereditary: This is quite simply false. Wicca is not a power that is passed on. Wicca is a religion that you choose (or that chooses you 🙂 ). That is not to say that there isn’t traditions of witchcraft that are familial, because there certainly are. Wicca is not one of them. If you are fortunate enough to have Wiccan parents who are willing to guide you on this path, thank the God and Goddess because that is extremely rare. Most Wiccans, though, place a very high priority on their children exploring religion and spirituality for themselves and making their decision based on that. A Wiccan parent is almost certainly not going to say “I’m a witch, therefore you’re a witch.” They would know what makes a witch a witch is not someone simply stating you are one.
Wicca is a natural gift: Again, false. Wicca is a religion, not a power. I have found this is usually referring to psychic gifts and magick- which is a part of Wicca but is not Wicca itself. Natural psychic gifts are neither elevated nor feared in Wicca. Everyone has the ability to do magick. Everyone has some degree of psychic gifts. But it’s like athletics. Some have more natural talent then others, but everyone has some ability, and everyone can improve their ability with practice. And the person who works hard can often end up surpassing the person who has a “natural gift” if that person just rides on that.
Wiccans never say anything is wrong or evil: Some people (especially Christians) have in their head that because we do not have a detailed ethical code or punishment set up for when we screw up that we don’t take ethics and morality seriously, and that we never discern right from wrong, good from evil, that we don’t even believe in those categories.
Many mistake Wicca’s willingness to engage with the darker sides of life (warrior goddesses, death, etc.) as a sign that we are focused on evil or death. When in reality we accept that where there is light, there is a shadow cast, and that we cannot know ourselves if we do not know our shadows as well as our light. We invoke the “dark” gods and goddesses because they help us face our shadows and come out victorious. The greatest fight of the warrior is the fight within. They also mistake Wicca’s beliefs on sexual morals as a sign of loose morality, because purity and virginity in sexual morals is highly important in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions, especially in women.
But that doesn’t mean Wiccans never make moral judgements. Wiccans believe that any sort of prejudice based on the identity of a person is wrong (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). They believe that the harm we are doing to our environment is horrible and is going to kill us as well as the earth unless we take some drastic steps now, and they believe those who are deliberately harming the earth are wrong. These are just a couple of examples. And many Wiccans are active, politically or otherwise, in trying to fix these wrongs, something they would not do if they never believed that there was a wrong and a right. “If it harm none, do what you will” is deceptively simple. What this often comes down to is that the moral code of a Wiccan is different then the other person’s moral code, so therefore the Wiccan doesn’t have one.
These are the most common myths I have heard about Wicca, either based on what people have asked me about it or the questions newcomers seem concerned about. I hope this cleared some things up if you had any questions. Can you think of other common myths about Wicca you would like to see addressed? Leave them in the comments!