I have already discussed magic a little bit in my post on magic and Christian objects. To give a little bit of a refresher, the Bible condemns witchcraft and any other sort of magic, from talking to the dead to seeing the future. But like many things in the Bible, this rule is contradictory to other things in the Bible and other practices in both Jewish and Christian traditions.
For example, most churches will say, even today, that seeing the future or talking to the dead could make you a prophet. If it’s a gift that you have no control over, it would make sense that your creator blessed you with it. On top of this, there are certain practices that seem to rely on magic. Ancient Jews used to put magical amulets near the beds of their babies to ward off the demon Lilith, who was said to kill children. In the Acts of the Apostles, there is a passage that introduces Simon the Magician, who wowed the people with his magical abilities. However, when the Apostles showed up, everyone converted to Christianity, even Simon. In this passage, Simon is never condemned for using magic; what he is condemned for is offering the Apostles money in order to gain the same gifts granted to the Apostles by God. Peter condemns Simon for thinking he can buy God’s gifts and urges him to repent, but he is never condemned for using magic specifically.
Despite these contradictions and varied ideas about magic, the Bible still condemns all magic and witchcraft, which causes tension between Christianity and Wicca to this day. That’s reflected in our pop culture.
The movie Hocus Pocus, while still a hilariously good movie, does portray witches as evil beings who suck the life out of children so that they can live forever and look beautiful. The witches are portrayed as sexy, goofy, and evil. All three witches in the movie claim Satan as their master and comment that hell is “lovely”, enforcing the stereotype that people who practice magic worship Satan and have their powers because of a deal with the devil. The fact that the movie is set in Salem is especially atrocious, considering the history of persecuting and murdering innocent people for witchcraft that took place there.
The movie Stardust, based on the book by Neil Gaiman, follows a similar vein of thinking. Three witches capture the stars that crash into their realm and make them feel loved and comfortable so that their hearts shine as brightly as possible. The witches then cut out the heart of the star and eat it so that they can remain young and beautiful.
In Supernatural, despite the fact that both Sam and Dean use magic, actual witches, who—with maybe a few exceptions—are almost all women, are portrayed as evil people who have gained their powers from demons. Or who have at least been tricked by demons into thinking the spells they do are harmless, when they aren’t. Dean expresses a special distaste for witches because they are “disgusting”, due to the various gross ingredients needed for spells. I find Supernatural’s portrayal of witchcraft especially terrible because Dean and Sam use magic themselves. They use a pentacle, a Wiccan symbol, to ward off possession by demons. Bobby, Sam, and Dean have used magic to summon demons, angels, and even to get rid of ghosts. They also use various forms of Christian magic, from holy water to the Seal of Solomon, to trap demons. But you know, when it’s specifically called witchcraft then it’s evil and comes from hell and stuff.
And then of course there is almost every Disney movie that portrays witches as evil hags out to take over the kingdom and stop the prince and princess from being together. Even Once Upon a Time portrays almost every user of magic that isn’t a faerie as someone evil or at least addicted. As if magic is some sort of drug or something.
These portrayals of witchcraft and witches are especially silly when you actually know anything about Wicca. The Wiccan Rede, which is the ethical code that most Wiccan traditions follow, states “An it harm none, do what ye will,” which in essence means that you can do what you want as long as you harm no one. That’s a pretty good rule to live by if you really think about it. I think there is a reason that witchcraft is portrayed as evil. One, witchcraft is most often associated with women and with images of the divine feminine, which men historically were afraid of and viewed as evil. Two, Wicca is often duotheistic (worshipping a God and Goddess figure) or polytheistic, and Christianity, especially in the Middle Ages, demonized every religion that wasn’t Christianity by claiming that other gods or goddesses were actually demons. This is most likely where the idea that witches worship Satan and get their powers from demons come from.
However, Wiccan isn’t an evil practice, and Christians use magic, too, in the form of holy water, protective amulets, and blessing the home. In my last post, I mentioned that many Christians do things like burying a statue of Saint Joseph upside down in the back yard, which is supposed to help you sell your house. All these things are very similar to Wiccan practices of magic. So this Halloween, when you are watching movies about evil witches, try to think a little about the actual beliefs of Wicca instead of just what pop culture tries to tell us.