Over the past centuries there has been a lot of misinformation given out about Paganism, Witchcraft and Wicca. For one, none of these spiritual groups are Satanic; no form of paganism, whether it be Neo, Paleo, or Meso-paganism, believes in any form of a “Devil.” Sure, in ancient religions there is a god or goddess of the underworld but that is nothing more than a title. They don’t even believe in a “Hell” per se, in fact the word hell comes from an ancient Norse goddess called Hel, who was the goddess of the underworld.
Ok, Wicca first. Wicca comes from the Gaelic word Wicc pronounced Wich, which means healer/ worker of magic, which funnily enough is where our word witch comes from. Wow, don’t get lost on me here guys, that’s it for the linguistics for now. Wicca as the new religion is only about 50-100 years old, it is founded upon the same belief system of most ancient religions; its just a new take on the old ways. Wiccans believe in the power of the Earth Mother and the Horned God, they are their deities. They believe in the power of nature and that in helping our Mother Earth she will grant them the power to become one with her.
Most witches or pagans believe in the old ways, the ways of our ancestors – believing in more than one god/goddess. This is called a polytheistic religion – as opposed to monotheistic religions that only believe in one god. Basically any of the ancient religions are polytheistic; Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece, Celt, Norse (Viking), Indian, Hinduism (before the influx of Islam into India) Taoism (before the arrival of Buddhism), Shinto (again before Buddhism), the Aztecs, Mayans, American Indians, and Australian Aboriginals. Wow, would you look at that! That’s almost every religion isn’t it?
So what happened? The Crusades, from 1095 – 1291 were a series of wars waged by the pope to regain control of the “Holy Land.” They were fought mostly by Roman Catholics, against Muslims and Greek orthodox Christians (all monotheistic religions), but smaller campaigns were waged against the pagan Slavs, pagan Balts, Mongols and “Christian Heretics”.
Another example of aggression against paganism is the witch trials, where people who were believed to be ‘witches’ were put on trial and executed. Everyone in modern times has heard of the witch trials, I mean we still use the expression “a witch hunt” this very day. The witch trials started in south-eastern France during the 1400’s before spreading like a plague through central Europe and then to other parts of the continent and in some of the Eastern European colonies in North America. The peak of the witch hunting years was between 1580 and 1630 AD. Over the entire duration of the phenomenon (some four centuries), there was an estimated total of 40,000 – 60,000 executions. Many of these people actually just followed pagan religions.
The next misconception about witchcraft is the pentagram. First of all the typical pentagram with a circle around it, as seen in movies, is wrong; a pentagram is a 5 pointed star with no circle surrounding it. OK, some more linguistics: ‘penta’, as most people know means 5 and gram is ancient Greek for “something written” or “drawing”. So together they mean five picture – a.k.a. a five pointed star. Pentacle, on the other hand, means five-circle, you can see where the misconception lies. A pentacle is the five pointed star with a circle around it, a pentagram is the one without (although they’re similar concepts).
Another misconception is that the pentagram is the symbol for the devil; the symbol of Satanism is actually an inverted crucifix. Why is this? Because Satanism is considered the opposite of Christianity. The pentagram is the symbol for the five natural elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. Whether it be upside down or not, it means the same thing, although in some areas of paganism if the top or spirit point is facing down then it is used for ‘dark’ magick rather than ‘good’ magick (although in other sects it is just another symbol for the horned god).
Is there another word for male witches? No, a witch is a witch no matter which witch is which. A wizard should more often than not be called an alchemist or a warlock (Honestly, the semantics are pretty varied). The term wizard was most likely manufactured for fantasy literature, and it doesn’t really have any bearing on paganism.
I am a convert to paganism myself, I was born and baptised a Roman Catholic, but I couldn’t deal with what I saw as the use of fear to intimidate people into belief, using it as a tool to make people be good. Most Middle Eastern monotheistic religions make heavy use of the image of hell; where if you are a ‘sinner’ you will suffer for all eternity. Its just something I can’t really believe – why would an all knowing being send the creations that he loves to a place where they will be tortured for all eternity?
I have found that the clergy themselves do not necessarily follow these ideas – there are many different interpretations of the bible. But I just couldn’t take some of the interpretations in, so I did some research and eventually found my way into Paganism, and all the witches I’ve met so far, including one of my aunts, have been really nice.
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For information about the Crusades and Witch Trials: