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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology

WITCH

A person of either sex who practises the art of Witchcraft.   The term derives from the Indo-European root weik which infers something concerned with Magick or religion.   This provides the basis for the Old English nouns wicca (pronounced witeha) meaning a male witch and wicce (pronounced witeheh) meaning a female counterpart.   According to some sources, the verb wiccian means to cast a spell, to bewitch or to work sorcercy.

The term witch is considered by modern etymologists to have no connection with the Old English verb witan meaning to know or to be wise.   The Old English root weik may also be found in a separate context to mean bending and thus gives rise such words as weak and witch elm in modern English usage, none of which have any link with witches or Paganism.

James I of England was strongly antagonistic towards witches and witchcraft.   According to some Wiccan apologists, he authorized corruptions in the translation of the King James Version of the Bible (I6ll) so as to provide Biblical sanctions to justify the execution of witches under civil law.   However, this belief is based on fantasy rather than fact (see THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER A WITCH TO LIVE? in the ARTICLES Section of this Site).

The desire to become a witch during the medieval period probably stemmed from various sources, but one of the most frequent was that of extreme poverty with the promise that, if one liaised with Satan, he would provide much needed material comforts and betterment of living conditions when all else had failed.   This alliance was highly ambivalent since few of those indicted would have claimed themselves to be engaged in diabolical pacts.   Witchcraft provided a sense of power to the under privileged and was also an escape for a person who had been branded a sinner by the Church, on the maxim of 'in for a penny in for a pound'.

Irrespective of good or evil intent, he or she was regarded by the Christian church as a heretic who practised diabolism and who had rejected Christ for Satan.   The Church orchestrated a great fear and hatred of witches in the minds of the public that resulted in the Witch-Craze of the 17th Century.

While there are many forms of Witchcraft in modern Neo-Paganism, Wicca is by far the best known and predominant form.

The modern Wiccan neither practises nor recognizes diabolism but is involved with a revivalist religion drawn from various sources including the ancient cults of nature.   He or she may or may not be a member of a Coven (many practice a solitary form of Wicca) and, if Coven trained, is be involved in initiatory rituals (see INITIATION) and Sabbats.   Witches still have no corporate identity, other than a commonality of belief, and the practices of individual Covens vary widely.   Some are hierarchical in their organization, others espouse a more anarchic approach.

see also: PAGANISM; NEO-PAGANISM; WICCA; WICCAN BELIEF, Thirteen Principles of; WICCAN MYTHOS; WICCAN REDE; THREE-FOLD LAW OF RETURN, The; CAULDRON MYSTERIES; TRANSFORMATION MYSTERIES


OTHER RESOURCES:
THOU SHALT NOT SUFFER A WITCH TO LIVE? in the ARTICLES Section of this Site.


RESOURCES FROM OTHER CHRISTIAN SITES:
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WICCA: A BIBLICAL CRITIQUE at Probe Ministries


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PLEASE NOTE:
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc



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