by Anna Kitko, Ratio Christi Regional Director for Tennessee and South Carolina

There have been numerous articles circulating about the resurgence of “Wicca,” a modern-day twist on an ancient practice. But what exactly does that mean and why should we care? And is it Witchcraft? What’s the difference?

Fear not, loved ones. Your trusty Cults and New Religions Specialist has got you covered.

First things first: understanding definitions. In a Postmodern culture that loves to define and redefine words subjectively, it can get a little hairy speaking with practitioners of this ancient ritualistic tradition. “Wicca” is a new religion. Its introduction to the world came from the British Isles midway through the 20th century. But wait Anna, you said “ancient” earlier. How does that work? Well, there was a man by the name of Gerald Gardner who first began writing what he considered secret teachings and oral traditions to members of his new witchcult or “craft of the wise.” It was not until a few years later that the term “Wicca” was employed by his practitioner’s newsletters.

The term “Wicca” comes from the Old English term for witch.

Wicca attempts to resuscitate the Pre-Christian period in British religious history. This is where the ancient ritual practices come in. In what is typical in Anglo-Pagan worship, the intention of the individual moving through a ritual is what is focused on rather than a consistent or formal theology. This is why people often conflate Wicca and Witchcraft. Wicca employs Witchcraft. But you can practice Witchcraft without being a Wiccan. Make sense? Let’s move on.

Check out Anna's article on Oprah's New Spirituality

Typically, Wiccans will make reference to deities: a Mother Goddess figure, and a masculine Horned God. These two figures likely date back to the Stone Age in human history so adaptations depend upon which coven a Wiccan belongs to. We can think of each coven as an autonomous denomination of Wicca. Witchcraft, or the science and art of causing control over the secret forces of nature, is employed in order to cause changes to the physical world. The intention of the practitioner over the ritual spells determines whether the magic is harmful or helpful. You will oftentimes hear this distinction being phrased as “White magic vs. Black Magic.” And since there is no official moral or ethical code to dissuade the practitioner from the use of Black Magic, you will often see the pentagram (a symbol that represents the five elements: Spirit, Water, Fire, Earth, and Air) on Wiccan altars in both White and Black Magic rituals. This altar will also be surrounded by talismans, herbs, and candles, all of which play a role in ceremonial magic dating back to the time of the Druids. Interestingly enough, if you invert the Pentagram, most Wiccans will disavow that usage because of its association with evil. The Wiccan Rede, which expresses their moral system, states, “An it harm none, do what you will.” This is also why Satanism inverts this symbol of ceremonial magic before a ritual begins. 

So, let’s say you find yourself in a secluded wood during a full-moon during Beltane (Beltane is around the beginning of the month of May in Gaelic Paganism). How are you going to be able to tell whether or not the group that is chanting and dancing around a magic circle are practicing White Magic or Black Magic? Well, take a look at the tools that are being used: is there a small dagger (called an “Athame”) and chalice on an altar inside the circle? If yes, chances are you are witnessing what is called the “Great Rite” which is where a Priest and Priestess symbolically (and in some cases literally) invoke sex magic possession by the God and Goddess in order to raise the energy of the area. Someone is being initiated into a coven in this case. And depending upon the coven, this is either Black or White magic. In the case of the New Forest Coven, you’re probably pretty safe.  However, if they call themselves “The Clan of Tubal Cain,” then you best high-tail it out of there.

Congratulations! You can now read Shakespeare’s famous Witchcraft scene in Macbeth with a new appreciation,

“Double Double Toil and Trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble.”

Because now you know by more than just the pricking of your thumbs that with this stuff something wicked this way comes.


Anna Kitko is a Christian Apologist who specializes in Cults and New Religions. Her writing ranges from solving biblical difficulties to training people how to avoid coercive persuasion from aberrant Bible-based groups. She is an avid reader of Christian history and loves to point out ancient heresies being re-packaged and re-distributed in our culture. In addition to being a Regional Director for RC, she personally directs the chapter at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Anna can be contacted at annakitko@ratiochristi.org.

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