Misconceptions about Wicca and Witchcraft? Oh, there are many. I'll try to address as many as I can, both from what I've heard myself and from what other slightly uppity Pagans have collected in lies.

"Wiccans worship the devil." You probably know by now that's not true, especially if you're a practicing Pagan of any sort. "The Devil" is a Christian concept. I'm not sure if Christians began to believe Witches and Wiccans worshipped Satan because the representations of Pagan Gods are often shown with horns . . . or if the Christians of the day decided to make their concept of evil so similar-looking specifically so that people would believe that and convert, much the way the Pagan holidays were given new names and attached to saints to encourage conversion. I really don't know, since I wasn't there. The fact remains that the consort of the Lady does indeed have horns in most of the mythology. He is not by any stretch of the imagination any Christian fallen angel or anything like it . . . Satan is "evil," and the Great Horned God is NOT. There is no concept of evil in most Pagan religions, really . . . there is acceptance of the dark sides of all life as well as the bright, but there is no "God of Evil," nor would we worship anything that we thought to be so. Some "Satanists" do exist as far as I know, but Satanism is not another term for Wicca or Witchcraft.

"Wicca/Witchcraft and Christianity are opposites." Slightly different, but not opposite in the least. We hold a lot of the same beliefs, and you'll find when poking your nose into Christian mythology that about twenty BILLION things are the same. And I have heard plenty about Christians being "against" Wicca and Witchcraft because of their interpretation of a verse or two in the Bible, but there is no doctrine in our beliefs that outlaws Christianity. (Remember, we have no Bible, only somewhat individualized "Books of Shadows" which are not gospel but just informational.) Some people actually are practicing Wiccans or Witches that trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. They are obviously people who can pick what feels "right" out of any religion, and that is highly respected in the Pagan community. There is no renouncing of Christ at initiation into Wicca; there is no crusade against Christianity; at the most there is a bit of bad feeling. Since hostile Christians were responsible for Witches being persecuted in the "Burning Times" and because some hostile Christians still insist on picking on Wiccans, Witches and Pagans, many of us dislike Christians in general. I prefer to see people individually. I understand that Christians usually feel that they need to spread their word and feel there is only one "truth," but most of us believe all paths lead to Summerland and/or reincarnation and should not be "attacking" Christians, either in response or of their own initiative. Just as it is not basic Christian practice to burn Witches, it is not our basic practice to harass Christians or do anything else to them but let them be.

"The pentagram, a symbol Witches use, is symbolic of Satan." No it's not! Some Satanists DO use it, but to understand why, you have to know what it stands for. Each point of the star stands for an element, the fifth element being spirit. Satanists adopted it in order to show that the spiritual life is less important than the earthly life; they put the four points of the elements above the top point to show the earthly life's mastery over spirit. Wiccans in general and most Witches and Pagans like to use it right-side-up in order to show that the spirit is most important, though in some types of traditional Wicca the upside-down pentagram is used as a second-degree initiation symbol, to show the elements still have mastery over the mind until third degree initiation. The pentagram is a very inspiring symbol because it is a shape that shows the interlocking nature of all five elements (the spirit includes the God and Goddess). It is NOT evil.

"Witches have naked dancing festivals under the moon, cast spells, and chant over fires to honor their gods." Yeah, sometimes. But I'll have you know that MOST Witches do not practice naked (or "skyclad"), that there are a LOT of Witches that practice by themselves and indoors (although it's great to be outdoors!), and though fire is often present it is only one of the elements. And no, there's not a big sex orgy after every one, either, so don't try joining a coven because you think you'll get laid.

"Female Wiccans are Witches and male Wiccans are Warlocks." Nope nope, especially that part about the Warlocks. See, sometimes the word "Wiccan" and the word "Witch" are used interchangeably, and some people don't like that but it's so complicated I'm not getting into it here. Whatever female Wiccans are, male Wiccans are the same thing, there is no division. There might be slight differences in how males understand the religion from females, but there are individual differences anyway in everything. The word "Warlock" is generally considered offensive! From what I've read it is actually from a Celtic or Old English word meaning "traitor" or "oathbreaker." I can see why the definition got a li'l scrambled in translation but now that you know, don't go around using it.

"Witches dress all in black." Well, some do, some don't. There are lots of gothic people around who wear all black who aren't Wiccans or Witches, and there are plenty of us around who are just as brightly colored as can be. Black is a "color" that is really not a color at all, but the blending of all colors. (I know that all put together all the colors are WHITE, but do you get white when you mix all the paint together? You see what I'm saying. Both white and black are kind of like symbolic of all the colors in a way.) Since colors are symbolic a lot in our practice, it seems to me that the "color" black is symbolic of "everything," or as a general magickal or ceremonial color. It is also sometimes the color of a candle used to represent the Dark Crone, which as you may know is synonymous with wisdom, and those who wish to be part of the Craft of the Wise find the color very appealing. Black can mean a lot of things, but it is not the only important color in Witchcraft, and it certainly isn't "evil."

"Witchcraft is a cult, not a religion." Wrong again. It is a recognized religion, and you can even be prosecuted in the United States for discriminating against someone for being Wiccan or a Witch. It is also not a cult, because . . . let's just say it's totally unlike the definition of a cult. (Cults usually focus around the fanatical worship of a central figure, hide away from the outside world and live just with each other in an attempt to be uncorrupted, and are encouraged to give their earthly possessions and other valuable things like time and services to the service of their specific organization. In this respect, Christianity is more of a cult than Witchcraft, though neither fits the definition--because it has Jesus as a central figure to worship, and some forms of it encourage giving up possessions and money to churches, and some weird strands of it try to remain uncorrupted by disallowing contact with the outside world.) Just because Pagan religions are not in the majority and you don't generally see cards for Yule in the Christmas card aisle does not mean it's really a cult.

"Wiccans are into sacrificing. They kill animals and sometimes people." WHAAAT?? Um, can you say "harm none"? A disproportionate number of Wiccans and Witches are vegetarians (myself included!) and wouldn't even kill animals to eat, much less to sacrifice. And murder is out of the question. Sometimes "sacrifices" are made, such as burying part of a meal or burning something or even just symbolic sacrificing, but no one is hurt, not even animals . . . Perhaps this myth comes from old practices in ancient times of sacrificing humans, but we get the bad rap for it because our religion draws so heavily on ancient practices in general. Every religion, if it's old enough, incorporated very primitive practices, and since ours is one of the ones that goes back the farthest, we seem to get stuck with a lot of those stupid misconceptions. Christians of the past were responsible for the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the Burning Times, but we don't pin on them the label of being bloodthirsty baby-killers. Give us the same credit.

Feel free to suggest misconceptions or questions, or to add your own writeup!

It's a Celtic thing. Actually...no. The main reason why witches are associated with the Celtic fringe is that there were more witch trials in the hinterlands than in England. The Scottish and Irish courts, unlike the English ones, allowed torture to force confessions, and an accused witch was far more likely to be convicted there (through the vagaries of coerced confession) than in England. The greatest number of witches tried, however, were in France and Germany, though there were witch trials throughout Europe.

It's a medieval thing, and reflects the power of the Catholic Church. Actually, the "Burning Times" were contemporary with the Protestant Reformation, when the Catholic Church was relatively weak. The Inquisition was more interested in Jews and heretics, not witches. Both Protestants and Catholics persecuted witches, just as they persecuted each other, and often, themselves, in the form of splinter groups. In an era where some towns (such as Amsterdam and Leyden) made large amounts of money harboring religious fugitives, no group of witches has been known to have applied for amnesty, or acted in ways that suggest an organized religious group, unlike Jews or Cathars.

It's a feminist thing, with a Mother Goddess, and all. Not according to historic witchcraft. Although there were woman healers, and midwives, some of whom were prosecuted as witches (although many more were prosecuted for knowingly selling poison as an accomplice to murder, which was also considered "witchcraft") there were male witches prosecuted as well, and there is no explicit mention of a Goddess in any surviving grimoires. Witchcraft was never, until modern times, considered a separate religion -- the crime of witchcraft was defined as apostacy (hence warlock -- oath-breaker, as in reneging on one's confirmation--as a term for witch), not paganism. To be prosecuted as a witch, the suspect must have been recorded as baptized.

It's a working-class thing: the witches were respected in their villages, and persecuted by the professional and ruling classes. Nope again. Mostly, "the authorities" in many cases, were loath to prosecute; many witch trials were at the hands of free-lance "witch hunters", who traveled from town to town and specialized in detection, interrogation, and eradication of witches, or the neighbors of the suspect her/himself. A witch, after all, was a dangerous creature, as anyone who has read more than a few fairy tales will attest -- which is why few of the villagers around her/him would try to drive the pest out themselves -- but there are cases on record where villagers petitioned many times to have a witch tried, and it was considered simply too trivial a matter to deal with. (This courtesy of a very good book, "The Witch and the Neighbors".) For what it's worth, Wicca, the modern faith, was originally supposed to reflect the beliefs associated with old aristocratic families, as in the H.P. Lovecraft story "The Rats in the Walls".

It's a traditional thing -- Wicca equals historic witchcraft. Sorry. The oldest "traditions" in Wicca have been dated with certainty only to about the late 1940's or so -- many of the phrases and ceremonies typical of witchcraft are taken from modern translations of Greek and Latin, with liberal interpolations from Aleister Crowley and some forms of Freemasonry. (Historic witchcraft, itself, was syncretic, and drew as heavily from contemporary Christian practises as it contributed to them -- yes, there are pre-Christian practises in the grimoires, but also please remember that Christianity in those parts in some places predated the arrival of some pagan groups.) My opinion is that even though one might claim that "even though it's not factual, it's still my religion, and you shouldn't criticize it", my own belief is that religion itself is weakened, not strengthened by false claims. If you wish to follow a set of beliefs that you think MIGHT have been espoused by the Celts living after Roman Britain and before the Celtic Church, it's better that you label them as a "reconstruction", or "supposition", and emphasize that their formulation is modern, and subject to revision.

But then, that's just my own belief.

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