Two Opposing Views on Being A Christian Witch
View No. 1: Can You Be A Christian Witch? Answer: No— Ellen Dugan
I am often asked about this controversial topic while I am at an author event, teaching a class, or speaking at festivals. At first I could not figure out what the fascination was with my answer , but as my quick, snarky answer never changes, and the reaction is always gales of laughter, I began to realize that folks just enjoyed hearing me say it. Can you be a Christian Witch? My standard answer is, “Can you be a Baptist Jew? No, you can’t. So get off the fence —it’s one or the other.”
Oh my , I have probably just offended someone . Well, I get offended when some chick in a white eyelet sundress wearing Halloween-costume fairy wings and sporting a big crucifix around her neck stands there simpering at me, wanting me to assure her that she won’t go to hell just because she is dabbling with a bit of Witchcraft. After all, she just loves faeries and magick. It’s all so pretty… but she can still be a Christian, right? Don’t forget, she has lots of magickal books; they are so cool. Plus she has seen every episode of Charmed. Good grief.
In my opinion, no, you cannot be a Christian Witch. Why? Because Witches are following a polytheistic religion. We believe in and worship more than one god; we believe in the god and the goddess and the many faces thereof. We believe in karma, in reincarnation, and that our actions in this life are important. We are not “forgiven” for any misdeed ; instead , we know that we are responsible. Witches work hard on maintaining their magickal neutrality. We embrace the sacredness of life and of nature, communing with spirits and believing that prophecy and visions are, in fact, not only real but a part of our spiritual rights as humans. Also, Witches do not believe in proselytizing ; we do not recruit or convert others.
There is no fear in the Craft, but it seems to me there is a very real fear at the core of Christianity— the fear of divine retribution from an angry, jealous, and vengeful god. Before someone accuses me of Christian bashing, I invite you to research the history of the church’s conversion of the masses. Countries, territories, and entire races of people were converted by force or they died. Anyone who was different or worshipped differently was branded a heretic and met with an unfortunate end. There is a long, bloody, and violent history to Christianity. Even the crucifix is a symbol of torture and suffering. Roman Christian soldiers emblazoned it on their shields and banners as they moved into and conquered new territories. This was a way to advertise just what would happen to the people if they did not fall into line. Let’s be honest here, in ancient times the common folk could not read, but they understood what that symbol meant when they saw it: death by crucifixion.
And don’t get me started on the burning times, also known as the women’s holocaust. While the numbers of the victims vary from several hundred thousand to millions, depending on who you ask, it is true that across Europe many lost their lives from being accused of practicing Witchcraft. The bottom line is those atrocities were real. The torture and murder of women, men, and children all to save their souls in the name of Christianity is sickening.
Still think you can be a Christian Witch? Then again, I invite you to take a realistic and honest look at the guidelines of Christianity. Divination, visions, a belief in reincarnation, communing with spirits, any sort of magick, and, of course, the belief in more than one god and/ or a divine feminine is frowned upon most strongly, which is a nice way of say it is forbidden. There , in a nutshell, is your answer. You cannot claim to be both a Christian and a Witch when these two belief systems are in such direct theoretical opposition from one another.
I do respect other spiritual paths. We could all stand to have an open, honest dialogue with each other. However, I am standing by— and standing up— for my spiritual beliefs. As an author, I am in the unique position of having had the opportunity to meet different sorts of magickal folks from all over North America. That whole wanna-be-Witch-chick-in-the-white-sundress scenario really happened, and I get hit up with variations of this question almost daily. How would you feel if you were confronted with that on a regular basis?
While I appreciate that Witches are so popular in our culture, thanks to television and fiction, the truth is that Witchcraft is a spiritual practice— and one that should be respected, not played with. There is nothing more dangerous than a magickal dabbler. People who play with the Craft because they think it’s romantic or cool typically cause chaos. It annoys me to no end for folks to take my religious practices and turn them into what they imagine is a sort of fun hobby because they are looking for a thrill.
You do not get to have this both ways. Embrace the spirituality of the Witch wholeheartedly or stick with your own religion and stop playing with the Craft. Witches know that our spiritual path is not for everyone, nor should it be.
View No. 2: Can You Be A Christian Witch? Answer: Yes— Tess Whitehurst
Here’s why I believe that you can indeed be a Christian Witch: when it comes to spirituality, I absolutely refuse to subscribe to rules regarding what names you can and can’t call yourself, and what those names may or may not mean to the world. I belive we’ve had quite enough of that as a culture. Not to mention, there are as many ways to be a Witch as there are Witches. And since spirituality is an utterly, utterly personal thing, I believe that there are also as many ways to be a Christian as there are Christians.
Joseph Campbell said, “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”
By “trouble,” I assume that he means everything from petty squabbles to discrimination to violence and even war and murder, which are all ridiculous ways to behave when what you’re really at odds about is a metaphor for the Divine. And the way I see it, saying you can be this but then you can’t be that is a symptom of getting stuck in metaphors and interpreting them as facts.
And so, yes, by many conventional definitions of the words “Christian” and “Witch” (of which there are many), I understand that it might not make sense to say that you’re both at the same time. But I am not interested in conventional definitions. I am interested in creative spirituality: in finding what inspires you personally and not what someone else told you should inspire you or what a narrow definition dictates. What’s more, when we’re talking about the Great Mystery (one of my favorite names for God/ dess), we are, to quote Joseph Campbell again, talking about “that which transcends all levels of rational thought.” So by its very definition , if we are actually talking about the Great Mystery or any way that we may interpret or celebrate the Great Mystery, it will almost definitely not make any rational “sense.” (If it did, it would not be the Great Mystery . Consequently, we would be talking about something else entirely.)
Now that my philosophical rant is out of the way, I’d also like to point out that where I live (California), because of the large Mexican population, there are plenty of Catholic practitioners of something that may not always be called Witchcraft but looks pretty much like the same thing from where I’m standing. I first learned about this from my visits to botanicas. Have you ever been to one? We have them in or near just about every town, regardless of size. California towns that have no New Age bookstore will quite often have at least one botanica. If you ever get the opportunity to go to one, do! They’re magical! Perhaps the first thing you’ll notice is every kind of tall jar candle you can think of, from Catholic saints to Yoruban orishas to magical intention candles of countless varieties. (Please be advised that many of these candles, like “Come to Me Lover” and “Shut Your Mouth,” do not honor the free will law and will come back to bite you in the butt if you burn them with the intention to manipulate another. I, uh, guarantee it… yup, definitely won’t ever do that again. Honestly , I’m lucky I survived my baby Witch years relatively intact.) You’ll also find herbs, statues, incense, candles, soap, rosary beads, scented waters, and pretty much any variety of spiritual or magickal supply you might need in a pinch. Often the owner of the botanica (or someone who works there) will also offer alternative healing work of some kind.
If you examine the roots of this Catholic/Yoruban/ folk mixture, you’ll see that , like many ancient and indigenous spiritualities during times of Christian conversion , South American folk beliefs were not completely eradicated but rather assimilated and syncretized to Christianity— in this case (because South America was colonized by Spain), Catholicism. And so, in much the same way that the goddess Brighid in Ireland is said to have become Saint Bridget and Avalon became Glastonbury, the Great Goddess of the Americas became Mother Mary and folk remedies and practices became infused with Christian iconography. The African influence found its way in into the mix too (via the Carribean), hence the orisha candles.
All of this just goes to show that as comforting as it may be to imagine that there are cleanly drawn lines between what constitutes a “Christian,” what constitutes a “Witch,” and what constitutes any other name you might have for any particular spirituality or cosmology, this is simply not the case. You might as well say that all Christians have to stop having Christmas trees or burning Yule logs in December , as these traditions are derived from ancient Pagan customs. You might also say that I have to stop calling on Saint Francis of Assisi every day to watch over my cats, which is something that I am absolutely not willing to do. (Incidentally , Saint Francis might be called something of a Christian Witch, although if he had declared such a thing during his lifetime, it would certainly not have gone well for him. He talked to the birds and wrote poems about the sun, moon, stars, and elements, after all.) Spirituality is fluid, words are just words, and we are all one big human family. You could get hung up on distinctions, but why?
Call yourself what you want to be called, just don’t get stuck on your chosen label( s). Interweave whatever inspires you into your spiritual path, and allow others to do the same. Do what thou wilt. Harm none.
Every Witch Way: Spells and Advice from Two Very Different Witches
Ellen Dugan; Tess Whitehurst