Glinda: Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?
Dorothy: Oh, but I’ve already told you, I’m not a witch at all — witches are old and ugly…
Dorothy: What was that?
Glinda: The Munchins. They’re laughing because I am a witch…
Dorothy: You are! Oh, I beg your pardon! But I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before.
Glinda: Only bad witches are ugly.
-The Wizard of Oz1
It is a common trope in modern entertainment that witches (were they to exist) could be either good or bad. Certainly some evil magic-wielders do harmful things, those like Voldemort or the Wicked Witch of the West, but these are held in contrast to the likes of Harry Potter and the Good Witch, Glinda. We like to relegate our view of witchcraft to that of fantasy and leave it there. Oftentimes, we restrict our understanding of magic to the most preposterous extremes so that we don’t have to take it seriously and we can regard it merely as a silly myth that people once believed in. Unfortunately, even for those of us living in the modern age of secularism, materialism, and naturalism – this simply is not an option.
Getting exact demographics of modern witchcraft practitioners is impossible at the present, however, the late Dr. Walter Martin noted that “[i]n 1972, there were approximately twenty thousand organized coven members in the United States, with the number increasing to approximately fifty thousand members in 1982.”2 In 1996, it was estimated that the number of Wiccan witches alone was anywhere between 50,000 to 800,000 members worldwide.3 The numbers continue to grow.
What is a Witch?
It is important at the outset of this article to discuss definitions. To be clear, the term ‘witch’ will be used to describe both males and females. Distinctions of gender such as ‘witch and wizard’ or ‘witch and warlock’ will not be used. While in some witching communities gender affects the label,4 historically and even predominantly today, the term ‘witch’ refers to both genders, therefore, I will do likewise.
The term ‘witch’ itself can be problematic and difficult to define given many connotations as well as much poorly understood history and theology. In discussing demonic activity (specifically ‘spiritism’) in his book Satan Cast Out, Fred Leahy opts to not use the word ‘witch’ at all in regards to the discussion saying:
The person referred to in the Old Testament as ‘having a familiar spirit’ corresponds to the ‘medium’ of modern spiritism, with her ‘control.’ The word translated ‘witch’ in the Bible really means sorceress or medium.5
Nevertheless, it is the term often used by the pagan and witching communities themselves, as well as the most common term used by those outside these communities. Therefore, it is the phrase deemed most suitable here. All in all, the term ‘witch’ as used in this article could just as well refer to sorcerers, mediums, diviners, necromancers, or spiritists. A witch is simply someone who practices any form of witchcraft.
What is Witchcraft?
When we here the word “magic” or “witchcraft” the picture that comes to mind is one of pointy hats and magic wands that shoot beams of light that can move objects or paralyze opponents. Fictional stories and superstitions have created parody upon parody of what witchcraft is. Exaggerations are taken to such a length that saying you believe in ‘magic’ is likely to get you laughed out of whatever room you’re in. So, it is important to understand what I mean by ‘witchcraft.’
Absolutely, there is a lot of witchcraft and other occultic practices that are not real or effectual. While we do not deny the existence of some real witchcraft, there is a lot that is total garbage done by charlatans or people who are self-deceived. However, the fact that some witchcraft is fake does not mean that it all is. Moreover, despite the efficacy of an act of witchcraft, we still have to evaluate the practices themselves.
Those that practice witchcraft typically say that when they are casting spells or divining, they are using universal energy or elements, (which relates heavily to many Eastern ideas). These supernatural practices are said to harness and focus this energy in order to accomplish a specific goal. Some of these goals include healing, fortune-telling, finding love, hexing, and cursing. Some witches go beyond this and appeal to their gods (many witches are polytheistic) for their desired ends. These interpretations are not universal within witch communities, but they are the most common. The actual practice of witchcraft looks more like ritualized prayer than anything you see in the movies.
The White Witch
Often times, a dichotomy is made in the realm of magic. There are white witches and black witches; white magic and black magic; good witches and evil witches. In these distinctions, white magic sits at one end of the magic spectrum with black magic at the other end as its counter-part.
In his book, The Witches Book of Spells, R Marten breaks down the dichotomy.
The philosophy of white magic is simply this: magic is to heal and to help, not to harm and to create hardships.
Regardless of what the ritual looks like and what it can do, every spell is part of white magic if it does no harm to anyone or anything….
Black magic is the practice of magic that draws on assumed malevolent powers. This type of magic is invoked when attempting to perform a spell that is evil in nature…6
Black magic is mostly viewed as magic used for evil and selfish purposes, while white magic is magic used for good and altruistic purposes. White magic is also referred to by other names, such as natural magic or high magic.
Common examples of white magic include spells of healing and protection. Love spells are also included in this category. On the flip side, black magic contains examples such as hexes or curses. As stated in the above quote, all magic is considered white magic unless it harms or is intended to harm.
Do No Harm
White witchcraft has a kind of karmic mentality (though it is somewhat different than traditional Eastern ideas of karma). Do good to others and good will come to you, do ill towards others and ill will return to you. For many white witches, there is a fear associated with doing ill to another whether through natural or supernatural means. The Three-Fold Law or the Rule of Three found in Wicca and other pagan religions demonstrate this well. The law states:
Ever mind the rule of three,
What ye send out comes back to thee.
The idea is that if you do something that will harm another, you will get repaid that harm with more added to it. This is not exactly a doling out of divine retribution by a higher power, rather, it is considered simply as an universal spiritual principle. It is the natural effect of the threads of the universe. The reverse is also thought to be true. If instead of harm you do something that will aid another, that aid will be repaid to you with more added to it.
On this topic, one Wiccan, going by the name Erin Dragonsong, advises against the use of “hostile magic” (magic used to harm another) says:
Witchcraft is not a game. If you think you can hurt someone without harming yourself . . . you don’t really understand Witchcraft. Or reality for that matter.
When you open to the elemental or spirit realm, and attempt to command those forces in a negative cause, you open yourself first to all harm that will be caused.
The destructive force comes through you. It fills and becomes you, before it can go anywhere else!
How could you not be harmed by that?…
Just like protecting yourself from the dangers of suicide attempts, there’s a simple way to protect yourself from the repercussions of hostile magic . . .
Don’t Do It!7
Community and helpfulness are often the intent of many who claim the label white witch. They have a desire to help others and they seek to heal and protect. Their goal is often one of harmony with others and with nature. One website advocating the use of white witchcraft echoes this point:
First of all, we should forever strive to increase our personal wisdom and inner morality, so that we are able to create only things, which support us and not something that will go against us.8
From a collection of interviews of witches done by Jack Fritscher (from which many of the quotations in this article are derived) we find similar sentiments:
White witchcraft exists so that men can ask the powers that be to bring good, healing, and peace of mind to man. The powers that be behind black arts bring evil to humans. We must serve the Father. Everyone of us must attempt to benefit mankind, as this force when used or misused is magnified a hundredfold.9
As we can see with the above quotation, there is often an attempt on the part of white witches to distance themselves from black witchcraft. The association between white and black witchcraft is seen as undue and misguided to many white witches as they attempt to do the opposite of what they think the ‘black arts’ attempt. This idea is repeated by many other witches:
All the candles, oils, and associated animal parts which I sell mailorder have special meaning in good witchcraft. I am a white witch, like my grandmother, and I follow nature…Black witches follow the ethic of the Seven Deadly Sins. Evil deeds are repaid in evil multiplied three times. I don’t believe in Satanic ritual like inverting the crucifix and saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards.10
Black magic isn’t really magick.[sic] Not in the sense of spiritual Wicca – the practice of aligning with infinite Power. Black magic is sorcery, manipulation, and force. It is more destructive to the practitioner than it can be to anyone else.11
Within the witching world, another similar yet slightly different approach to labels is right-hand-path (RHP) and left-hand-path (LHP). This distinction is much more widely accepted and more nuanced than black vs white. However, the general jist is the same. LHPs focus primarily on the self, while RHP are more focused on community and altruism. LHP’s practices are more likely to be somewhat taboo while RHP’s are more likely to be in the mainstream of what is considered ‘good.’ As an example, generally speaking, Satanists are LHP while Wiccans are RHP.
Lack of Biblical Distinction
The problem with this categorization of some magic being white or black is that such a distinction is completely foreign to the Scriptures of God. Over and over again, in both the Old and the New Testament we see a strict forbidding of all witchcraft, no matter the intent. Though by no means an exhaustive list, some clear examples of this are: Lev. 19:31, Lev. 20:6, Deut. 18:10-14, Gal. 5:19-20, and Rev. 21:8.
The fact of the matter is, Scripture is explicit that all witchcraft is sinful and it must be repented of. This is for many reasons (which will be expanded on in a future article), but is primarily because the source of this magic (whether it is labeled white or black) is from the realm of the demonic and it all seeks to bypass a sovereign and holy God.
While Christians must reject outright any consideration of such a thing as a white witch, we are not alone in our conclusions. Even among witches, the dichotomy of white vs. black magic is not looked upon kindly by many.
Dichotomy Rejected Within
As we have seen in quotes above, a large portion of witches attempt to distance themselves from Satanism. Nevertheless, Satanism should not be disregarded as a force within the witching community. To that point, Anton LaVey, founder and former high priest of the Church of Satan (prior to his death) has commented several times on white witches.
White witchcraft groups say that if you curse a person, it will return to you three- fold, come home to roost, or in some way boomerang back to the sender. This is yet another indication of the guilt- ridden philosophy which is held by these neo- Pagan, pseudo- Christian groups. White witches want to delve into witchcraft, but cannot divorce themselves from the stigma attached to it. Therefore, they call themselves white magicians, and base seventy- five per cent of their philosophy on the trite and hackneyed tenets of Christianity. Anyone who pretends to be interested in magic or the occult for reasons other that gaining personal power is the worst kind of hypocrite.12
All magic is the realm of the Devil, no matter how righteously you dress it up. The claims that ‘black’ magic is only for destruction and ‘white’ for healing is bunk.13
There are a slew of things that all Christians should vehemently disagree with LaVey on, but the above quotation is not one of them. For those dabbling in witchcraft, the true source of any power they might be able to conjure up is demonic. The Church of Satan may have a different idea of who (or more precisely what) the Devil is, but it is right on in demolishing any distinction between a white witch or a black witch on the basis of their source. They both draw water from the same well.
LaVey and other Satanists are not the exclusive source of this condemnation. As we can see from another quotation of Fritscher’s interviews:
I make no distinction between white and black witches. Essentially,
white and black magic? What’s the difference? The power is neutral, colorless, and works under spiritual laws man yet does not understand, much less control. Have you ever heard of “black” or “white” electricity?14
What is Good?
Another flaw in the distinction between white and black magic is that it is based on ideals of good and evil in communities that generally hold to subjective morality. Witches are often instructed to ‘do good’ to others (or at least not to do harm), but who determines what ‘good’ is? What one witch considers good may differ from what another witch considers good. Likewise, what one witch considers evil or even harmful may differ between witches.
In a book of collected essays on the rise of paganism entitled On Global Wizardry, Linda Harvey comments on this in her chapter “The Global Mainstreaming of Witchcraft,” saying:
Witches believe in ‘good’ and ‘evil’ spiritual powers – ‘white’ and ‘black’ magic. Their ethic espouses the ‘threefold law’: whatever one does returns to the person in triple strength…’An ye harm none, do what ye will.’ But what are the parameters of ‘harm’?
Despite the threefold law, spiritual power is often abused. Revenge and jealousy can inflame witch emotions and produce hexing or cursing, and the ‘goddess’ accommodates this through one’s own ‘divine’ impulse.15
As Christians, we recognize the objective standard morality that flows from an infinite, holy, and perfect God and that morality is revealed in his Word. To be sure, Christians often act in an immoral manner, we are by no means without ethical blemishes. However, even in those times we can point to our standard revealed in Scriptures and see where we err. Labeling something as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ (or white and black) becomes arbitrary once an objective standard for what is deemed ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is lost.
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One criticism often leveled against the white/ black dichotomy is that it is a label used by white witches in order to distance themselves from practices they don't like. Even the more commonly accepted RHP/LHP distinction has its critics and is dying out in its usage. Diane Vera, a Theistic Satanist who, though not completely opposed to the this distinction, expresses this concern by discussing the terms' origins:
The terms "LHP" and "RHP" were originally borrowed from Tantrik Hinduism, in which "Right Hand Path" refers to the more respectable forms of Tantra, closer to orthodox Hinduism in their beliefs and practices, whereas "Left Hand Path" refers to the more heretical forms of Tantra, those whose practices have a reputation for being wild and dangerous.
Among Western occultists, the terms "LHP" and "RHP" have historically meant essentially the same thing, substituting the Western occult subculture's own orthodoxies in place of orthodox Hinduism.
Among Western occultists until at least the 1960's or so, "RHP" basically meant "that which the speaker approves of," and "LHP" meant "that which the speaker disapproves of." Nearly everyone in the occult scene considered themselves to be RHP and their enemies to be LHP.16
Going beyond that, even if you intend to do good (assuming that we can agree on what 'good' is and that we have a consistent basis for that agreement), it still may result in evil or use evil as its means to achieving its goal.
One witch says it well:
There is obviously no such thing as black magic or white magic; for I ask you, how many people have done evil while trying to do good? The art itself—and I’m sure that the notorious Merlin or any of the other Magi would stand behind me to admit—that white and black are both reciprocal part of one art, the most sublime art of all: the art which identifies itself with the real and the unreal, the art of metamorphosis.17
It is foolish to think that those that would be characterized as black witches or Left-Hand Path do not also attempt spells or rituals for the purpose of doing good to others that they care about. Likewise, it is foolish to think that a white witch, even while attempting to do good, cannot cause harm. Furthermore, from a Biblical standpoint, we see that by drawing from the sources they draw from, inevitably, it is all harmful. Every act of witchcraft is an act of defiance against the Creator and thus an act of evil.
Entertainment industries as well as various shops have taken a firm grasp on the culture's fascination with the occult and in many ways it has helped to perpetuate this myth of a white witch. For clarity's sake, this article is not arguing that a Christian ought to be condemned because they watch the Wizard of Oz or read the Harry Potter series. However, it is important that we are sober in our approach to these things and that we keep our mentality in check. We must hold every thought captive and not allow poisonous misconceptions to seep into our subconscious. Witchcraft is dangerous and pop culture should not make us forget that.
For a number of reasons, we must be careful not to accept these delineations, but one of the largest risks we face is that of letting our guard down. Through entertainment and other means, we risk the normalization of witchcraft. Through constant and unchecked exposure to the myth that witches can be good or that magic can serve an altruistic purpose, we leave ourselves open to the unwitting cultural acceptance of witchcraft.
This danger of acceptance is realized for us quite well by a witch who runs a business that sells witchcraft items. See what she has to say concerning her involvement in selling ocultic goods and the relation to white witchcraft:
The pulse of witchcraft is stronger than ever. I run a small business
called The House of Kirch. We sell through mail order: white magic rituals, spells, charm bags, herbs, and whatever you can imagine. Our items are merchandised as curios. Quite frankly, I commercialize by selling white magic. I don’t see why not. Isn’t commercial TV’s Bewitched an enjoyable program that shows a witch as an everyday person? Elizabeth Montgomery is no hag. She’s a charming young housewife. She makes white witchcraft more acceptable. Because of television and movies like Rosemary’s Baby, I think Americans by the end of this century will accept white witchcraft. The majority, however, will never accept black magic.
After all, white witchcraft cannot be bad because it helps others. Helping others is a form of love. Most white witches and warlocks endeavor to help rid man of problems like the facing of death and illness. Many old white-witch remedies, in fact, have helped modern medicine.18
Through commercialization and entertainment, witchcraft sneaks into the culture and the doorway that it walks through is that of white witchcraft.
Some may find it oddly timed for an article like this. You may be wondering if you've somehow traveled back in time to the 80's during the Satanic Panic, only a slightly better version of the 80's that has high-speed internet. Why talk about this subject now? Especially since witchcraft is so clearly condemned in the Bible? Most Christians don't question the explicit forbiddings of witchcraft in Scripture. So, what am I hoping to add to the discussion?
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that paganism and witchcraft is on the rise with no signs of slowing down. In their current state, these things are still fairly hidden beneath the surface and many are unaware that underneath that surface is bubbling. While the rise of actual witches remains somewhat off the radar of public focus, media condoning and promoting the idea that 'witches can be good' is prevalent. Again, this article is not meant to be a condemnation for Christians who read or watch entertainment with aspects of this content. Rather, I hope it reinforces that what is on the pages or screens is a false and glorified depiction and that we need to separate what is fiction from the real concerns.
The time may be coming where it will not be strange for people to be publicly proud of their witchcraft and where it may be seen as a good thing by the general public. It is important for Christians to not be caught off guard by this. We must be prepared so that we can properly respond to witches when they tell us that they are only seeking to do good and that only some magic is bad. All witchcraft is condemned by God and we should consider these things that are being said by those in witching communities in order to properly respond being equipped with the Gospel and in grace, peace, and love.
Another concern is that as witchcraft becomes more prevalent, it creeps more and more into the church. We are at an especially dangerous point because of the lack of recognition of witchcraft by the church today. Occultic practices creep in much easier when we don't realize that they are occultic.
An easy parallel to this is the creep into the Church happening with the New Age Movement which, though distinct from our focus here of witchcraft, shares many overlapping values, practices, and worldviews. Many people recognize the New Age influence in churches today and it is being pointed out more and more. However, this creep in did not happen overnight, nor is it done creeping.
The infiltration into the Church of witchcraft is something we are already seeing. Self-proclaimed "Christian Witches" are already on the scene. While it is a small movement, it will likely continue to grow as witchcraft becomes more common place. Certain practices are being implemented by professing Christian churches that mirror pagan witchcraft much more than Biblical worship.
The Church has much to be vigilant against as these old and tired practices are being revived and stepping through the doors of our churches.
It does not matter whether you consider yourself a white witch or a black witch; whether you seek another's good or their harm. It does not matter whether you are left-hand-path or right-hand-path; whether you are focused on yourself and self-realization or community and humanity. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet and its thorns are just as sharp.
Regardless of how some try to pretty up witchcraft, it all boils down to practices forbidden by God - and therefore evil - and drawing from dangerous sources. There is no such thing as a 'good witch,' only a person deceived by sin and the evil forces they have opened themselves up to. There is none good but God (Mark 10:18) and so we must all turn to him (pagan and non-pagan alike) if we are to escape his just wrath. This God, being the arbiter of what is good has revealed to us that witchcraft does not make the list of "good" and that it is in fact wicked. From a Biblical worldview 'white magic' is an oxymoron.
Severe danger exists for any who dabble in witchcraft. Temporally, this danger can range from demonic oppression to possession. The danger here is from the sources that witches consult, wittingly or unwittingly. But ultimately, the greatest danger is the condemnation that will come from God on judgment day for those who have not repented of their sins and accepted the free gift of Christ's grace.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ can save witches, and indeed, many witches have been saved and come to trust in the Lord. We should all be diligent in our prayers for them and speak with them in kindness, that they may come to their senses and be freed from the captivity of the Devil (2 Tim. 2:25-26). These are men and women who are being drawn away from God even further than what they were by both the flesh and the Devil. They need our grace and our patience.
In closing, I leave you with the words of Dr. Walter Martin on this subject:
The Christian reason for rejection of both white and black Witchcraft is its opposition to God's word (Deut. 18:9-12). In order to battle effectively in the spiritual realm, Christians must purge their minds of the cartoon images of good witches and bad Witches, such as found in L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz, with the pointed hat, shiny shoes, and broomsticks...and think of Witches as real individuals lost in a dark, spiritual world carefully crafted over thousands of years by Satan and his angels - desperate souls, absorbed by the hidden or secret mysteries of the occult.19
- The Wizard of Oz. Directed by Victor Fleming, performance by Judy Garland and Billie Burke, Loew's Inc., 1939.
- Martin, Albert. Kingdom of the Occult. Edited by Jill Martin Rische and Kurt Van Gorden. Thomas Nelson, 2008, pp. 435-436. As an important side-note, it is very likely that these numbers quoted by Martin are also only in regards to Wiccans, meaning that the number for witches in general in the US at this time would be much higher.
- "White Supremacist Groups - Other, Continued" Adherents, April 23, 2007. http://www.adherents.com/Na/Na_666.html#4222 demographics. Accessed May 3, 2019.
- LaVeyan Satanism is a good example of this. There is a clear distinction between a 'witch' (female) and a 'warlock' (male) and those distinctions are important for the kinds of magic they use as well as their rituals. For example, women serve as altars being the "receptacle or passive carrier of life," which is something men cannot do. (see: Jack Fritscher's interview with LaVey. http://jackfritscher.com/PDF/Witchcraft/PopWitchcraft_Chap4_StraightWitchsMouth-Web.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. p.19)
- Leahy, Frederick. Satan Cast Out. 1975. The Banner of Truth Trust, 2015, pp. 64.
- Marten, R. The Witches Book of Spells. Ebook. The Vintage Archives, 2016. pp. 22.
- Dragonsong, Erin. "The Wiccan Three-Fold Law." Wicca Spirituality. https://www.wicca-spirituality.com/three-fold-law.html. Accessed May 1, 2019.
- Malenky, Palov. "To learn White Magic: White Magic Rituals & Tips & Tricks." To Learn Magic. https://www.white-magic-help.net/About_White_Magic/white_Magic-general_advice_and_help.html "First of all." Accessed March 29, 2019.
- Jack Fritscher, "Straight From the Witch's Mouth: Personal Interviews with Witches." http://jackfritscher.com/PDF/Witchcraft/PopWitchcraft_Chap4_StraightWitchsMouth-Web.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. pp. 221.
- Jack Fritscher, "Straight From the Witch's Mouth: Personal Interviews with Witches." http://jackfritscher.com/PDF/Witchcraft/PopWitchcraft_Chap4_StraightWitchsMouth-Web.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. pp. 222.
- Dragonsong, Erin. "The Effects of Black Magic" Wicca Spirituality. https://www.wicca-spirituality.com/three-fold-law.html. Accessed May 1, 2019.
- LaVey, Anton. The Satanic Bible. Avon Books, 1969. https://archive.org/stream/pdfy-S7Va9xWFV5XFybhK/The%20Satanic%20Bible_djvu.txt. Accessed May 2, 2019.
- Johnson, Bob. "Dinner With the Devil: An evening with Anton Szandor LaVey, the High Priest of the Church of Satan." High Society Magazine. Aug. 1994.
https://www.churchofsatan.com/interview-high-society. Accessed May 2, 2019. As a word of caution for brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a Satanic website and it does contain graphic content.
- Jack Fritscher, "Straight From the Witch's Mouth: Personal Interviews with Witches. http://jackfritscher.com/PDF/Witchcraft/PopWitchcraft_Chap4_StraightWitchsMouth-Web.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. pp. 208.
- Harvey, Linda. "The Global Mainstreaming of Witchcraft" On Global Wizardry. Ebook. Edited by Peter Jones, Main Entry Editions, 2012.
- Vera, Diane "LHP and RHP: What Are They?" Theistic Satanism. http://theisticsatanism.com/pagan/LHPvsRHP.html#difference. Accessed May 3, 2019.
- Jack Fritscher, "Straight From the Witch's Mouth: Personal Interviews with Witches." http://jackfritscher.com/PDF/Witchcraft/PopWitchcraft_Chap4_StraightWitchsMouth-Web.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2019. Accessed May 2, 2019. pp. 217.
- Jack Fritscher, "Straight From the Witch's Mouth: Personal Interviews with Witches." http://jackfritscher.com/PDF/Witchcraft/PopWitchcraft_Chap4_StraightWitchsMouth-Web.pdf. Accessed May 2, 2019. pp.219
- Martin, Albert. Kingdom of the Occult. Edited by Jill Martin Rische and Kurt Van Gorden. Thomas Nelson, 2008, pp. 28.