This week I’m doing a special 5-part series of spooky Halloween-related myths.
Today’s myth: Wicca and witches are evil.
Witches have been described as people who cast spells, use natural herbs/spices/roots/etc to make potions and elixirs, place hexes on people, worship the devil, engage in “deviant” sexual behaviour, sacrifice animals, eat children, and all sorts of other wild behaviour. They are depicted as old, mole-covered, black-robed women in various movies, television, and books (ex: the wicked witch of the west in The Wizard of Oz). Sometime they are depicted as mighty and beautiful (ex: the white witch in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). And, to be fair, sometimes there are also “good witches” (ex: Glinda in The Wizard of Oz).
Typically there is a negative connotation to the word “witch”. Some people are afraid of witches and there has been a history of “witch hunts” to this effect. The Salem witch trials are the most famous in North America, where various women were hunted and subjected to inquiry after being accused of practicing witchcraft. Incidentally, there are male witches called warlocks (= way cooler name), but the stereotype is that witches are women.
Most people that call themselves witches today do not possess the typical characteristics of the traditional witch. These people are part of a philosophical/spiritual group called Wicca.
Wicca is essentially a pagan “religion”. The quotes are because it is more of a spiritual group as there are no rigid commandment-like rules, so practicing Wiccans have more freedom in their pursuit of the philosophy. There are many variations of Wicca, but a common theme (which is similar to other more widespread religions) is their own version of the to “do unto others” rule (i.e., “do as ye will, as long as ye harm none“). They do have rituals, but they are usually centered around nature, love, spirituality, contacting the dead, fertility, blessings, charms, etc. They don’t even believe in the devil, let alone worship him.
The traditional view of witches makes an untenable assumption that people have supernatural powers. People are afraid of witches because they assume that the spells and hexes have effects on people. But spiritual groups such as Wicca are pretty harmless, based on their own rules. Either way, there is no method by which a person can have an effect on another person using mental powers. There is no evidence to support telekinesis, ESP, or mind control — as such, there is no mechanism by which a spell could work. Some may argue that it is prayer to certain gods that yields particular results, but again there is no evidence that prayer has any effect on daily events.
So even if witches were the demon-worshiping, baby killing monsters that they are made out to be by (usually) conservative religious groups such as Christians, they wouldn’t be any concern to the rational thinker because their method is ineffective. It’s impossible to hurt or kill someone with a spell.
People are also afraid of the terrifying “blood rituals” and killings. However, you don’t have to be a witch to be a murderer. Prisons are filled with murderers of many religions, so why do witches get all the flack? Also, correlation does not equal causation. It is possible for someone to be a murderer and a witch without being a murderer because they are a witch.
People have no more to fear from a witch than anyone else. They can’t kill us with spells and if they want to kill someone the traditional way, then they are just ordinary murderers who are not worthy of such “supernatural” attention. There may very well be disturbed people that kill and torture animals/people as part of rituals, etc. But the facts are: Wicca does not equal “evil”, there is no spell that could harm anyone, and save some members who go heavy on the eyeliner there is no difference between a witch and any other spiritual person other than semantics (i.e., what they are spiritual about).